I call January 1, 2000 my “day of freedom”. After spending nearly the entire decade of the 1990s learning and saving and preparing, I fulfilled a dream when, for the first time in forever, I stayed home to go to work.
Even considering the wild ride these years have been I wouldn’t reconsider my decision. I love everything I’ve had the chance to do, all the people I’ve met, and all the businesses and organizations I’ve helped to succeed. In return they’ve helped me, too, as every assignment has also been a lesson, and every accomplishment another level of confidence and credibility.
Needless to say, my cats also approved of the decision. And distinctly benefited from it as well.
Starting in 1992…
I’ve actually been “in business” since 1992 when I applied for a “license to collect sales taxes” and registered the fictitious name “Artworks G.F.A.” (Graphic and Fine Arts) with the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue, not knowing exactly where I’d end up. I had been freelancing since college in the early 80s, and after I had bought my little house in 1990 and done a good bit of fixing-up, all I wanted to do was stay here and enjoy what I’d accomplished so far. When I left for work each day I’d stop at the door and look at this room with its new windows, new paint, my art on the walls and carry that vision with me as I left for another day of unknown length and content working as a typesetter for a direct mail company.
I changed my mind from trying to work my way up to management or trying to find a career creative position with an in-house or freestanding agency; I knew I’d never be happy with this and even higher wages were not likely to be good enough for me to really focus on a demanding career while saving and dreaming of something else.
Managing repetitive strain injuries
But what really made the decision for me was that with all the physical stresses constantly working on a computer I had developed minor but irreparable repetitive strain injuries in my hands, wrists and arms, even to my shoulders. If I could manage what I did and how I did it, I could manage any future stress injuries; if I did not, I would repeatedly injure my most valuable tools for nearly everything I did—my hands, and by the time I’d worked to save enough to stay at home and do my artwork I might not be able to.
At that time much of typesetting was still done pre-personal computer, by typing coding to create a layout without the benefit of being able to see your layout as you typed in the coding, and I would sometimes spend 14 to 16 hours a day typing to design ads. The resulting design was printed onto film that needed to be developed much as photographic film with developer and fixer and these machines needed regular maintenance and were noisy, smelly and highly polluting.
I’d seen the newer Macintosh computers with keyboards and mice you could switch and adjust to avoid repetitive strains and visited my local Kinko’s to learn to use their very first Macs with Aldus Pagemaker and Freehand and Adobe Photoshop. I found them very easy to use and actually very exciting—my design right there before my eyes, scanned images and all, no paste-up of photostats on smelly typeset film, and all printed out on regular old paper!
Of course the idea began to dawn that if I could get one of these things at home, I could increase my freelance and do my art and writing at the same time, and from then on, through a sabbatical from that day job to focus on my art for a while and to work at another company and more fully learn desktop publishing, I got my first real computer in 1994 and went back to my day job with the resolve to build my own business.
What I wanted to do was create a life’s work, to make what I loved what sustained me including both the commercial art and my fine art and writing, as well as illustration and photography and anything else I could find to do, with a lot of variety and opportunities to learn more.
The internet, websites and cats
And I would do that, but only after eight years, a few dozen workshops and classes, purchasing all my furniture, computer hardware and software and peripherals for both Mac and PC and lots of technical preparation on how to run a business. With a full-time day job and full time freelancing as well as creating and showing my art I didn’t have much time for learning new things. But in 1996 I took the time to learn about the internet and began using e-mail to benefit my business and my art and also my Kublai, who was ill with an autoimmune condition we never did diagnose. Yet I could and did research homeopathic and naturopathic treatments that were very beneficial to him and me, and though I lost him and Allegro in September and October that year the knowledge and ability to find more changed how I worked with my household and rescue cats.
During the “slow time” in January 1997 I built my first website to display my art, in part in dedication to those two, under the patient tutelage of long-time friends who have also adopted several cats from me—I guess teaching me was fair payback for the adoption of…at least a half dozen good cats over the years (would you say so, Aunt Amby?). And I also attempted to find homes for cats via e-mail and the internet for the very first time that year when a person I worked with as a freelancer at one of the book publishers told me about her opportunity for a master’s degree and I helped her look for a foster or adoptive home for her two cats, Namir and Kelly…and you know how that one worked out!
The past 13 years have been full of as much growth and change as those initial eight, both in business and in cats. As I’d mentioned in other posts, Cookie and Kelly were the last of those who’d been with me during those years of preparation, and I feel I’ve lost a connection with that time, not having my tortie girls as witnesses moving along me. But they are so firmly entwined in all I’ve done since then, along with all the others you fine readers never had the chance to know “in the flesh”, that I needn’t worry they’ll be forgotten, or that I’ll forget those late nights with cats all over my desk. Whatever the next 13 years bring they will be a part of it, watching over my continually-changing household of cats and body of work.
Whatever it is you do each day, I hope you love it as much as I love my job, and I hope you have cats and/or any other pets to supervise you while you do it!
All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.