060 : Becca Feld & UX : Quarterlife Career Changer

Becca Feld Post

During and after college Becca had no idea what she wanted to do for her career.

After working four years at a non-profit she still didn’t know what she wanted to do.

That all changed when in May 2013, Becca discovered the tech concept, User Experience Design (UX) and fell in love.

Literally four months later, Becca landed a full-time job in UX as she now works as a Digital Optimization Analyst at the Soho-based agency, Maxymiser.

You’ll hear Becca discuss her journey from career frustration to no hesitation, the power of networking, and that maybe the most important meetings you can have are the ones with yourself.

“Back then I saw that this is where I wanted to be – and it’s where I went – and now I’m there.” – Becca Feld

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059 : Paul Jarvis : Web Designer & Author

Paul Jarvis Post

After college Paul (@pjrvs) worked up the ranks at a web design agency and hit a wall – he wanted out.

Based in Vancouver Island Canada, Paul now works on his own terms with his own web design business and on top of that makes the time to write and self publish books based on what he loves which happen to sell thousands of copies.

At the time of our interview a few months ago Paul had released his 3rd book, Everything I Know about the entrepreneurial life. This June he’ll be releasing his latest book, The Good Creative where he shares “the 18 habits of the world’s most respected artists.”

On this Skype interview you’ll hear Paul discuss his path to creating a business he loves – which involved creating one he hated – the power of saying no, and that what lies outside your comfort zone is what you want.

“I just want to be valuable.” – Paul Jarvis

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Dave Kyrejko : Engineer & Distiller : 056 : Transcript

Dave Kyrejko Transcript

Please enjoy the transcript of Episode 056 with the co-founder of The City Foundry/Industry City Distillery, Dave Kyrejko:

Dave (@drinkicd) just wants to make things.

And he’s figured out a way to do just that.

Dave is the co-founder of The City Foundry, an R&D shop based in Sunset Park, BrooklynThe City Foundry’s primary focus is Industry City Distillery which has found a way to engineer their own beet sugar based vodka, Industry Standard, which is now available in over 120 locations across the country (including Astor Wines).

Industry Standard

You’ll hear Dave discuss how he engineered his life to match his engineering ambitionsthe inspiration of curiosity, and that what you believe you can or cannot do is up to you:

“It’s all about deciding where you want to be.” – Dave Kyrejko

Dave: Hi, this is Dave Kyrejko. I’m an engineer & distiller and you’re listening to Prologue Profiles.

[Intro Music]

Dave: I liked mud.

I liked mud and I liked playing with things.  If I got a new car, it was probably taken apart the next day – a model car, not an actual car – but that would’ve been cool too – and I also loved to read.

Dan: What were your books?

Dave: I was a big National Geographic fan. And as the libraries would throw them away, I’d pick them up and keep them.  I have a pretty large collection these days. [Dan laughs]

But I wound up really loving ‘Build Your Own Greenhouse’ books, ‘Build Your Own Boat’ books, that sort of thing.

Dan: So we’re now in the lab of City Foundry. I’m trying to like think of what cartoon I feel like I’m in right now…

Dave: [Laughs] We get Inspector Gadget, we get Breaking Bad, which isn’t exactly a cartoon.  Willy Wonka, a lot of Willy Wonka.

Dan: So what goes on here?  What is The City Foundry? 

Dave: So The City Foundry is a research and a development group specializing in…well, making shit. [Dan laughs]

And then it put together this project which became the distillery as a way of proving different ideas.

Dan: What are some of the ‘ish’ [Dave laughs] that City Foundry makes? 

Dave: The City Foundry’s been working specifically for the distillery, bringing a whole bunch of new technologies and new techniques to create the distillery.

One of our most interesting things is ultraviolet sterilization.

So we’ve been developing these ultraviolet sterilizers to dramatically reduce energy consumption in making alcohol.  By using ultraviolet we use a huge, huge, huge amount less energy.

Dan: I made some pasta for dinner one day. [Dave laughs]  

What does your team consist of right now? 

Dave: Right now it’s just myself and Zachary Bruner, who’s our machinist.

Industry City Dave Zac
(Zachary left, Dave right, East River center)

He’s the guy that makes the things that you see around you.  If it’s made out of stainless steel, if it has a very artfully done weld on it, if it looks like it probably shouldn’t exist, Zach probably built it.

Dan: And what’s your role?

Dave: So I’m the engineer and distiller.  I come up with the processes, I’m in charge of the distillation, I’m in charge of the blending and, ultimately, what the vodka winds-up tasting like.

Dan: And where does Industry Standard, your vodka, available? 

Dave: In about 120 locations around the city right now.  We’re just moving into New Jersey soon.  You can get us upstate. And I believe we’re going to be in California in a couple of months.

Dan: So Dave let’s talk about how you got here.  What was the path you took to get to this point?

Dave: I went to Cooper Union for school and I studied fine arts. And I was able to take classes like precision machining or I was able to just sit in on a physics class.

Dan: Did you know what you wanted to do, like while you were in school?

Dave: Oh yea. I want to build a sailboat, so I did!

I graduated from Cooper Union and I bought a destroyed sailboat and spent time between building websites, I did front-end design and coding, and building a sailboat.  I did that for about two years.

Dan: Why’d you want to build a boat?

Dave: It was my rusty car project.  Everybody’s got a rusty car project.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but because I liked building things so much, I liked engineering so much…I wasn’t building a boat anymore.  I was building…I was like, “Oh, well this is a stupid design.  I’m just gonna cut this whole section off the boat and put it on.”  If I really wanted to sail the boat I could have just left it in place and sailed the boat.

So the boat is actually more of a metaphor than anything else for just a project that…it was not about a boat anymore, it was about building things.

Dan: Where were you living at this point?

Dave: I was living all over the place.  I lived in New York, I lived in New Jersey, my boat was in New Jersey.  I pretty much lived on that.

Dan: And so how’d things play out with the boat project? 

Dave: I had an unfortunate run-in with disaster.

I broke my leg in a couple of places on a biking accident.

And that actually was one of the crystallizing points for me, where I realized I can’t be doing stuff by myself. There’s got to be other people out there that like crazy shit.

And I started keeping a record of all the weirdos that I’d met and made like scribblings down of like, “This guy likes metal, okay, so if I have any metal projects then I’m gonna call up this guy.” [Dan laughs]

Dan: “I know a guy.”

Dave: Yea, “I know a guy, I know a guy.”

And I realized that I was passing up all of these fun, weird projects.

People would ask me, “Hey, could I build a 30-foot long popcorn cannon?” or something like that. And I’d be like, “Well, I could, I just…I can’t, because it’s just me”.

Dan: Who was asking you this? 

Dave: You know you go to art school, and you meet interesting folks. [Laughs]

Dan: And so in 2010 you created The City Foundry. 

Dave: At the time The City Foundry was a larger idea.  It was not an on-site idea.  It was more like, ‘you have your shop’, ‘I have my shop’, ‘our shops can team up together.’  It was just more of a collective.

Dan: And so how’d the idea to make vodka come about? 

Dave: I was working on a different project than just web design and stuff.  And I was building these fishtanks and the fishtanks that I was building were pretty much 90% plants.  And to support that kind of plant load, you need to supplement the CO2.  And so one of the ways to do that would be to get welding gas and inject it into the water.

Dan: Obviously.

Dave: Or you can get into fermentation…

So I started experimenting in fermentation and I realized I had a byproduct from that, which was alcohol.

What clicked was, “Huh, so there you go.  There’s a project that could make money.  That the money could then power the research that went into the project to begin with.”

So there was this idea that the booze could pay for the science.

So…this isn’t a distillery.  We are a research and a development firm that started a distillery as a way to make science, paid for by booze.

Dan: …I’m starting to get it. [Laughter]

Dan: And you had never have really made vodka before – so what was your approach to making vodka? 

Dave: There was already an idea of what vodka is: It’s a colorless, odorless, flavorless, burning beverage.

And there’s very little that goes into, “Well what makes that flavor?  Why does it smell that way?”

Unless you look at it from a chemistry perspective.

And in that case you realize that your flavors have names.  They all have chemical compounds.  They all have boiling points. And to realize that you’re talking about now making a vodka that has a flavor.  It’s not a flavored vodka.  You’re using the components of the vodka, but you’re just removing the ones you don’t want.

There was no research on that.  Nobody’s done that.

So the closest thing I had was, “Well what are you doing with Scotches?  What are you doing with wines?  What does that blending look like?  What are the flavors that you guys are after when you make a blended wine or a blended Scotch?”

And there were all the names that I was looking for.  The names of these esters, the names of these aldehydes. And these are your flavor components.

Dan: How’d you know that you had a product that you were proud of? 

Dave: Rigorous testing.

Before we came out with Industry Standard we went through a numbered series. So we had four releases that were different formulations that correlated to different iterations of equipment, different biological steps that we were taking in our fermentation, and that was our research and development period for the product.

We have friends that hopefully enjoy drinking and then you just say, “Hey, what do you think of this?”

Dan: So your first product trial was in 2012, and so how did the trial process go?

Dave: The trial told us key things. People liked the slight sweetness that we were able to develop.  They really loved the fact that our product has very little burn.  People taste the vodka and they go, “This is actually really good.”  And I go, “You realize you’re drinking it at room temperature, right?”  They go, “Oh, my god! I’m drinking vodka at room temperature neat!”  And I go, “Uh-huh… It’s good, right?”

And the feedback from that was, “Guys, this is really tasty, could you just make it in bigger bottles now?” [Laughs]

Industry City Distillery
(The pretty decent ICD Rooftop)

Dan: And how have you gotten your product into stores?

Dave: We teamed up with a distributor.  They’re actually a wine distributor and they’ve been great.

Dan: How did you find them?

Dave: They found us.

One of their reps was working with this one store and got a chance to try our product and basically hunted us down and was like, “Okay we’re starting a spirits division and we want you guys”. [Laughs]

Dan: That’s sweet.  How’d that feel? 

Dave: A little confusing.  I mean I’m still in ‘build-it mode’, so when somebody comes up to you and is like, “I wanna buy it.  I wanna buy it.”  And you’re just like, “But I’m building it still.  What are you talking about?”

Dan: What would you say you love about what you do? 

Dave: The fact that I can come up with a crazy idea, go running into the shop and just be like, “I just have this crazy idea! I want to do this thing, and this and that.”

And Zach and I can talk about it and yea, “You want to build that engine that runs on alcohol and it’s a reserve generator for the distillery? Yeah, let’s do that!  That sounds awesome!”

The fact that I can just do that and it’s not a joke, that’s great.

Industry City Dave Zac
(Installing equipment I can’t explain)

Dan: And so what would you say you dislike about what you do? 

Dave: I dislike how hard it is to choose.

You can’t work on everything at the same time.  That’s difficult.

There’s a couple of evolutionary branches that we’ve had to prune-off just because we don’t have time.  I mean if we wanted to, we could just go into the ultraviolet sterilizer business.  I’d love to spend just a year working on that. Or I’d love to do small-batch yeast propagation for some of the local breweries, but it’s a matter of focusing and evolving in a singular path at the moment.

Dan: And so what character trait would you say has helped you get to this point?

Dave: Uh, masochism. [Dan laughs]

Just being willing to follow-up on a notion or an idea and you see the sun coming up and your hands are still shaking and your pencil’s still going and you’re just like, “What the hell are you doing?”  But sometimes in those semi-delirious states you have the best ideas.

You do learn never to do wiring or plumbing in that state, though.

Dan: [Laughs] Is that a whole ‘nother story?

Dave: Yes.

Dan: Did people ever tell you to not go for it, to not start the foundry, to not go into creating alcohol? 

Dave: [Laughs] There’s always a point where people that have a more traditional path are going to go, “Are you sure about this?  You got a good thing going with the website business.  You’re making money.  You have time.”

And it’s all about deciding about where you want to be.

I want to work on experimental turbines one day.  I need the time to do that.  I need the capital to do that and sure I could apply to a grant or something, or I could take on investors, but that’s not a commercial venture.  That’s I want to work on something.  I want to do these things.

So I have to find a way to do that.

Dan: Is that something that costs a lot of money to do? 

Dave: It’s very dangerous.  The engineering behind engines and turbines and things that spin fast, that’s a whole different…I haven’t even started getting there yet.  I’m not allowed.

Dan: Gotcha. [Laughter]

And what would you say inspires you? 

Dave: Hm, that’s a good question.

Seeing things done simply that you can’t understand.

Expediential cell growth? What the fuck does that mean?

And then you figure it out and then over several weeks or months of hammering through it you just get it and it’s like, “Oh! I see how that works!”

And then something else slams you in the face of, “Now how does that happen?”

And every time you see that, “How the hell does that work?”  It means it exists, so it is not unobtainable.  It’s not magic.  Somebody did it. And striving to that is not only there for obtainable, but your only limit to whether you can obtain it or not.

So, there you go.  There’s your inspiration.  You can do that, just don’t be a shit-head.  Just strive for it. 

[Outro Music]

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Dave’s episode page

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Tirtzah Bassel : Visual Artist : 055 : Transcript

Tirtzah Bassel Transcript

Please enjoy the transcript of Episode 055 with visual artist, Tirtzah Bassel.

Born and raised in Israel, going into college Tirtzah was planning on becoming a social worker.

During a heightened period of terrorism in Israel, Tirtzah took on a new perspective of how she wanted to spend her time on Earth.

Tirtzah now works as a visual artist based in Brooklyn who has developed her own form of painting using duck tape and has her New York oil painting exhibit debut opening this week through May 10th at Slag Gallery in Bushwick.

2013_10_29_AG_0001
‘Trader Joe’s’

You’ll hear Tirtzah discuss her journey to becoming a professional artistthe importance of community, and that the time you spend waiting to be inspired is time you could use to do work you love:

“The trick always seems to be to switch from being inside your fear and finding something to do – even if it’s a small step.” – Tirtzah Bassel

Tirtzah: Hi, this is Tirtzah Bassel. I’m a visual artist, and you’re listening to Prologue Profiles.

[Intro Music]

Tirtzah: Ah, very nerdy.  You know, I would always do my homework.  I didn’t want to get in trouble.  I wanted the teacher to like me.

Dan: We call that a ‘goody-two-shoes’.

Tirtzah: A ‘goody-two-shoes’, is that different than nerdy?

Dan: Nerdy…they’re related. 

Tirtzah: They’re related, but they don’t overlap entirely.

Dan: Nerdy…they don’t really have to do well in school. 

Tirtzah: Oh!

Dan: And nerdy doesn’t care as much about what like authority thinks either. 

Tirtzah: That is the new nerd!  That’s like the nerd today, right?

Dan: Maybe nerd has evolved a bit. 

Tirtzah: Because nerd has become cool.

Dan: And Tirtzah you have become cool and now you are a professional  fine artist. 

Tirtzah: Correct.

Dan: [Laughs] Sweet! Got it. [Tirtzah laughs]  So, for those who don’t know, how would you describe your work? 

Tirtzah: In terms of mediums, I’m trained in oil painting. And more recently in the past two or three years, I’ve also been creating large-scale duct tape installations.

tirtzahbassel_stop and frisk 1
‘Stop and Frisk’

Dan: So you say, ‘duct tape installations’ like it is no big deal. [Laughter] Like, “Yea, this is what I do.” 

Tirtzah: Doesn’t everyone make duct tape installations?

Dan: And we say duct tape, it’s not like blue, monochromatic…there’s colors involved here. 

Tirtzah: Right – So you find out when you start working with duct tape that there are many different colors to duct tape and the truth is that I don’t only use duct tape.  I also use gaffer’s tape and painter’s tape and kind of any tape

Dan: Trade secrets here. 

Tirtzah: [Laughs] that I can find that’ll stick to the wall.

Subject matter, where do I start? I guess I’m interested in intimacy that takes place in public spaces – between strangers. So, airport security pat-downs.

One of my starting points is to look physically when do people touch? And also emotionally or psychologically how do people create a situation for themselves where they can experience intimacy or meaning in all of these places that we’re in all the time that are sort of devoid of meaning.  Like supermarkets or subway stations.

Dan: And where is your studio based?

Tirtzah: My studio is in the Brooklyn Army Terminal in Sunset Park.  A great, amazing, old army building.

Dan: You have an exhibition coming up this month. 

Tirtzah: Correct.  So this exhibition will be at Slag Gallery in Bushwick.  It’s the first time I’m showing a full body of work of paintings, here in New York.  All my previous exhibitions in New York were duct tape. [Laughter]

Dan: Well congratulations.  How do you feel about it? 

Tirtzah: I’m very excited.

Dan: So are you doing this full-time? 

Tirtzah: Three quarters time. I teach as well, so I split my time between teaching a few regular classes and workshops here and there and in the studio.

Dan: So Tirtzah, let’s talk about how you got here.  What was the path you took to becoming a professional artist? 

Tirtzah: It’s funny.  It’s the kind of thing that when you look back it seems like there was a path but as you’re going through it, some things are clear and some things really aren’t clear at all.

Dan: [Laughs] Oh…

Tirtzah: They’re only clear in hindsight.  That’s just my way of introduction.

Dan: I take my question back then.  Never mind. [Laughter]

Tirtzah: I was always interested in art and I come from a family of makers.  My dad is actually a scribe and he makes a living off of writing ancient Torah scrolls.  My mother had been a ballet dancer before I was born.

In school I actually didn’t have any art classes.  My dad taught me how to draw a little bit.

I also didn’t know any artists.  The only artists I knew were or I came across were either crazy or amateur.  [Laughter]

So growing up I didn’t think I would be an artist when I would grow up.  I just didn’t have an image of someone who did that to make a living or as a profession.

Dan: Did you have an idea of something that you would be? 

Tirtzah: So at the beginning I actually went on a track to study social work.  So this was right after my national service, when I was maybe 19, so I had been working with kids in Ashkelon, which is a small town on the coast of Israel, kids who had been removed from their home and were living in a certain institution. So I lived with them and did some education work.

And it was a very powerful experience.  It was very difficult.  It kind of burst my little bubble that I had grown up in.

But I also felt very enriched by that experience, inspired.  Like I felt like I was really having some kind of impact on peoples’ lives.

So I was basically on that track.

I signed up for university to study social work. So that was like the logical progression.

Dan: And you went to study at Hebrew University in 2000, but you had also decided to take a drawing class at night.  

Tirtzah: I had a month before school started and I had this idea that I would take a drawing class because I had always wanted to take a drawing class.

So I randomly signed up for this figure drawing class.

And I had this kind of Harry Potter moment, I think, and I remember walking into that studio and there was all the easels set up, and it had the charcoal, and the paper, and the model came out, it was the first time I had drawn a model.

And I started drawing and it just kind of felt like transfixed.  Like, “Yea, this is my world.” Like, “This is…Yea! This is what I was meant to do!” kind of thing [Laughs].

And also I met a bunch of people who were artists.  Who were serious people, really engaged in the world, really passionate about art. Some of the teachers were older and they had lives, they had families.

So I suddenly had this image of what it could be like to be an artist.  It wasn’t only crazy people or amateur.  Here were really serious people who had built their whole lives on these careers so it started to become a possible reality.

The other thing that was going on at that time in Jerusalem was the Second Intifada.

There was heightened conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.

Part of what was going on were a lot of terror attacks in the cities.  Mostly in Jerusalem where I was living.

A lot of them took place on buses, so, you know, the bus that I would take to school, um, blew up multiple times – thankfully not when I was on the bus – but these were close encounters and they were frequent.

And I think during that year at university there was a heightened sense, for me, of my mortality.

I think I reached this point where I was kind of like, “Well what do I want to do? Because I might not be around in six months.  So I’d like to spend those six months doing what I really want to do.”

On the one hand, I was registered for university, I was on this path to become a social worker – which felt like a meaningful thing to do and also a logical thing to do to get a degree and to have a profession.

And at the same time these night classes that were sort of drawing out this passion, there was this real sense of being very alive and touching something important.

But it still seemed like a crazy thing to do. [Laughter]

Dan: Yea.

Tirtzah: To go be an artist.

But there was a moment during that year, and I remember it as being related to a particular terror attack that happened that sort of just hit me like, “I have to make a decision.  I have to go for whatever is going to feel meaningful.  Because I didn’t know if I had time to go and study social work and be a social worker and then, in ten years time, become an artist.”

Like, “I have to do this now.”

So I made that decision, at the end of the year that I was going to leave university and go study…art! [Laughs]

Dan: So you dropped out of university to study art at the Jerusalem Studio School.  What did people think of your decision? 

Tirtzah: Within the world that I grew up in it was unheard of. Like, as I said I didn’t know any other artists.

I mean in Israel I would say people aren’t as rigid as they are here about career trajectories, so a lot of people will spend time after the army traveling for a few years, or just working random jobs and getting experience in different things.  So it wasn’t so crazy that I was going to go and study art for a little while, but I did find myself making a whole new set of friends who were artists.

And I still feel that that’s one of the most crucial things you need as an artist is a community of other people who are artists.

Otherwise you can come to feel crazy in a world of people who have [Laughs] like regular jobs and regular career goals.

If you don’t have other artist friends who anchor you in what an artist’s life could be, you could think that you are crazy.  [Laughter]

Dan: Were you focusing on making money from your art at that point?

Tirtzah: I made a very intentional decision when I decided to become a painter not to count on my work as my main source of income.

And I did that because I wanted to have the time to develop my work without the pressure of the market.

And I had a teacher, Israel Hershberg, who said to me something like, “You have to paint for 10 or 15 years until you hit your stride”.

Dan: Oh wow.

Tirtzah: I also remember him saying that “You have to paint a few kilometers of canvas before you make your first painting.”

And that was an image.  That was like, “Okay, this is serious.  This is…” Like, “I have to get to work.”

Dan: So what’d you do after art school?

Tirtzah: What I did was I basically figured out…you know I got a little apartment with a roommate in south Tel Aviv, in an area which at that time was very cheap.  It’s since become pretty gentrified, but when we moved in there was a brothel on the bottom floor [Laughs], which we just thought…

Dan: That’s a sign.

Tirtzah: You know it was cool, right…

Dan: I’m not sure what the sign is but yeah.

Tirtzah: You know the way I could pull it off was by having an extra room in my apartment as my studio.  And I worked it out so that I taught a few days a week – I worked on certain educational programs…

Basically my calculation was always: How can I work minimum number of hours to make like maximum amount of money that’ll allow me to be in the studio as many days a month as possible?

Dan: And you started to develop your own artistic style. 

Tirtzah: You know you learn with a certain teacher, so generally you take on a certain style that the teacher uses and you might spend a lot of time on the same subject matter that they spent.  That’s the natural way,  that’s how you learn through how your teacher learned.

But I had a clear sense of, “Okay now I have to figure out where am I in that? Where do I take these tools?  What am I really interested in looking at and doing with these tools?”

Dan: So what’d you do to that? 

Tirtzah: When I moved to Tel Aviv, I remember going on a lot of walks and just looking.  Being like, “Okay, what’s here that I never would have painted at school that my teacher would never have painted?”

And it would be these weird scenes, like just a weird person that I saw on the beach or a painting that I did of, you know…

Dan: [Laughs] “I call this, ‘Weird Person.'” 

Tirtzah: Or, I remember, like there were all these mini-dramas in my neighborhood,  like a bunch of cops arresting a guy, which technically was very hard for me to figure out how to paint because I was used to only painting a model that would sit still for six hours while I drew them.  So I had to figure out how do I paint this thing from memory.  That was a skill to master.

Dunkin Donuts iPad sketch
‘Dunkin Donuts’ iPad sketch

Dan: How’d you do that? 

Tirtzah: I made, you know, a lot of sketches.  You know, I just kept doing it until I hit something and a friend saw it and was like, “Yeah, that’s like an Israeli policeman in south Tel Aviv.” [Laughs] Like there was a certain pose there or whatever.

So yeah, it was kind of trying to have these new eyes to look at the world and ask myself, fresh, like, “What’s really interesting to me to paint?”

Dan: And in 2006 you had your first gallery show in Tel Aviv.  What was that like? 

Tirtzah: There’s the whole process I’m describing to you of that’s very internal of like figuring out what I want to paint it and how I want to paint it and working for many, many months on your own in the studio.

And then there comes a moment where you put it out into the world.

And on the one hand, it’s what you’ve been working for.  On the other hand it’s terrifying. Because it is kind of like putting your guts out to the world and being like, “What do you guys think about this?”

Dan: [Laughs] “So!…”

Tirtzah: And I remember that feeling of being very excited but very vulnerable.

It was exciting and there was a very positive response and it was one of my first experiences of feeling like, “Oh, people are excited by what I’m showing them!”

Dan: So living as an artist in Tel Aviv how were you able to keep going?

Tirtzah: Part of me just had this audacious feeling like, “I have to do this.”

It wasn’t even like, “Is this going to be good or not?”  It was just like, “I’m doing this.” [Laughs]

“And it’s gonna work out somehow and eventually I’ll hit something”.

And really I was willing to go for a long time without knowing what that thing was or what it would look like.

I just had these feelings like, “I’m drawing and I feel alive.”  “Okay, that’s a good thing.  I’m going to drop out of school and go do that thing.”

And at the same time I was making my rent and I was making a living so it wasn’t like a crazy, like we’re jumping off a cliff.  But it wasn’t, “I know what’s going to happen in ten years.”  It was like I’ve figured out how I’m going to do the next three or four months.  And then in three or four months I’ll figure it out again.

Dan: And in 2008, you decided to leave Israel. 

Tirtzah: I had reached a point where I felt like I wanted to see the world. I wanted to be in a more international setting.  I wanted to go beyond Tel Aviv.

I also felt that I wanted to have direct access to contemporary art as it’s happening.  So I didn’t want to just read about it in a magazine or see it on the internet.  When William Kentridge makes his next piece I wanna see it!

Dan: Who’s that?

Tirtzah: [Laughs] He’s one of my favorite artists and there’s an amazing installation of his at the Metropolitan Museum right now!

Dan: Oh so we could actually go and see him! 

Tirtzah: So I started to look, would I move to Europe or the United States and I realized it was important to me, again, to be in a community of artists.

And I felt that I was a little bit beyond the point in my life where I wanted to just go to New York and waitress and like see what happened. And I wanted to sort of land in a more of like an intentional fashion, I guess.

I realized that a lot of the things I was looking for in a next stage would be encapsulated in a Master’s program.

Dan: Why’s that? 

Tirtzah: It would be an automatic community of artists.  It would be an immediate context to make art in. Like I could land and be making art.

Dan: And in 2010, you finished school and you moved to New York.  How were you able to make things happen for yourself? 

Tirtzah: Basically, my goals were, again, to set up a studio, to have teaching jobs that allowed me to be in the studio a maximum amount of time and to just get to know people.  So go to a lot of openings.  A lot of art events.

Meet a lot of artists, artists know other artists, artists know galleries, artists know curators.

So, there was like no short-cut.

Like that was the strategy and just keep exposing myself to people and inviting people over for studio visits.  So really all the different shows were through connections.

Dan: You recently had an installation in El Paso.  How’d that come about? 

Tirtzah: So last March I participated in an international Jewish artists retreat, which is called Asylum. It took place in upstate New York, it was a great, a really fun retreat with about seventy artists from all over the world.

Dan: So what does that mean, a retreat? 

Tirtzah: Three days in a beautiful location, I think it was a monastery, in upstate New York.

Dan: It means paradise, Dan. 

Tirtzah: This one had a strong emphasis on providing artists with professional development. As artists we’re entrepreneurs, we’re like small business owners.  But when we go to art school they only teach us about art.  Not very much about business.   So this was a great opportunity in that we had people coming in and teaching us how to plan our life financially or how to deal with legal issues that might come up.

And along with all these new skills I met all these great people and of course we shared our work.

Peter Svarzbein is an artist who is now based in Texas.  He had seen my work which was about airport security.

Dan: Where was that?

Tirtzah: It was shown at the Chashama 461 Gallery in Harlem.

So he saw images from that.  He really liked my work and he made this connection between the airport and the border, you know, between El Paso and Juarez, and his larger project that he’s working on there to revitalize downtown El Paso and he said, “Would you come down and do a project?”  I said, “Yea!” [Laughs].

So I went down there and spent some time just learning about the border, the border town, what it means to live in that area on both sides of the border, spoke with people, listened to some of their stories…

…and some of those images fed into what became a large duct tape installation in a storefront in downtown El Paso, which is actually at street level so people, art people could come, but any random person on the street could come in.

And the images were about the border, about people who have to deal with the border every day.  So what does it actually look like, physically, to cross that bridge?  To deal with the security?

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Dan: And so how do you start making money from your work, from your pieces? 

Tirtzah: Great collectors are people who, they want to support your work. You know, they’re buying your work because they maybe want to hang your painting or your duct tape piece in their living room or in their office, but they also believe in you, as an artist and career, and often they’ll follow you.

So that’s been my experience where some people maybe met me at one point and didn’t buy work, actually at first.  Just were kind of curious and said, “Oh that looks interesting”. And then saw me again in another show and then saw me again at another show, and they were like, “We want to support her.”

Dan: So is the studio you’re in now part of some affiliation, some organization? 

Tirtzah: So I have a studio that is part of the Chashama Artist Residency.  Chashama is this non-profit organization that basically takes commercial real estate that’s sitting vacant for whatever reason, gets a long-term lease, divides it up into studio spaces and rents it to artists for very cheap.

So, since I’ve moved to New York I’ve been very fortunate to have one of their studios.

Dan: How’d you find them?

Tirtzah: Through a friend, so a friend knew about them because of a project that she’d worked on with them and she said, “They have this studio thing going and you should check it out”.  So I did! [Laughter]

Dan: So what’s a typical day like for you?

Tirtzah: So a studio day – because I have my teaching days and my studio days – my studio day I’ll get up at about 7am,  I drink coffee.  That’s a very important part.

Dan: Confession. [Laughter]

Tirtzah: And then I’ll eat some breakfast,  head over to the studio, so I’d like to be at the studio at 8:30 or 9 o’clock.

Sometimes on the way to the studio I’ll just notice people, like a guy carrying a sack of laundry to the laundromat or just a person on the street.

Dan: You’re looking for weird people again.

Tirtzah: I’m always looking for weird people…

So I get to the studio and kind of make a sketch from memory of that weird scene that just sort of gets something down.  Like gets something out quick, before I even start thinking.

And those three hours in the morning are really like my best hours.

So I’ll usually put them into a large painting that I’m working on or if I’m starting a painting usually that’s when I’ll start a painting and just put like three hours of solid work.  Stop for lunch…and more coffee, importantly. [Laughter] And then have another two-three hours in the afternoon, like of solid work.

I hardly ever go back to what I did in the morning.  It’s a bad idea for me to go back to what I did in the morning.

Dan: Really?

Tirtzah: It’s good for me to just work on something else. So either start another painting or work on another painting and then, you know, wrap up, walk home, have some dinner, [Laughs] check my email, watch a movie…

Dan: Fade out. 

Tirtzah: [Laughs] Fade out, exactly.

Dan: What would you say you love about what you do?

Tirtzah: I love having a profession where I can think through making, through doing.

So it’s about these ideas, like whatever my subject matter is, but it’s also about the paint being like gooey and red and drippy and playing with it and splashing it and pouring it all over the studio and, you know, I get to do that stuff! [Laughter]  And that’s my profession. [Laughs]

Dan: What would you say you dislike about what you do?

Tirtzah: It’s hard to have so much of your time spent on your own. And I seek out places to meet people.

I mean so I have teaching, which actually I think is important to me, partially because that is where I interact with other people, but you know at the end of that long studio day when I’m essentially on my own, you know there other artist studios around, so I might bump into someone and chat a little bit, but I’m really in my own head all day.  I get home and I’m like babbling.  [Laughter]

Or I’ll go out in the evening with friends or to an opening and really feel like, “Ah it’s really good to be with people.”

Actually when I do the installations they’re more collaborative, because I need to work with a team to set up the space and it’s a sharp contrast to the studio and it’s really fun.

Dan: So what is it about you that’s allowed you to get to where you are now, would you say?

Tirtzah: [Laughs] Uh being crazy enough to think that I could do this.

Being disciplined. Even when you weeks and weeks of not really understanding what you’re doing in the studio and it feels, actually like you have no idea what you’re doing in the studio and it’s all bullshit.  Like, “This is crap.  I’m making more crap.” Like, “I set up my whole life and I don’t have a profession in order to be in the studio and I’m in the studio and I don’t know what’s going on in the studio.”  Like there is a lot of that.

So the thing that you need there is this kind of perseverance and the discipline to go to the studio day after day when things aren’t working out.  Because eventually you’ll figure it out, but you don’t know that.  It always feel like you don’t know that. [Laughter]

Dan: Always.

Tirtzah: Even if you kind of know, like, “All right, after a month or two like something’s gonna happen.”

Dan: Do you have a vision for where do you want to take things in the future?

Tirtzah: I’d like to do installations in places that touch political nerves.

So that…

Dan: You wanna go there.

Tirtzah: I want to go there. [Laughs]  I’d like to do a piece in Israel, also about borders, and that could mean public transportation, like the buses that were bombed during terror attacks.

And in painting I want to continue to develop this kind of subject matter, like these commonplace situations, like the supermarket or IKEA.

Dan: Are you gonna work at IKEA? 

Tirtzah: So when you come to my opening you’ll see that there are a bunch of paintings in this show about IKEA.

Dan: Oh, sweet.  Which one did you go to?

Tirtzah: Uh Brooklyn.

Dan: Ok. I was hoping for a Jersey shout out somehow.  No, okay. Keep fishin’. 

Tirtzah: [Laughs] Not this time.

Dan: So what would you say inspires you?

Tirtzah: I’ve looked a lot at painters from the early Renaissance, Italian Renaissance.

Dan: What are some names? 

Tirtzah: Very early Italian Renaissance: Giotto, Piero della Francesca, Fra Angelico, Masaccio.

Specifically the reason I got interested in them is because I saw frescos of their works, cycles of frescos, in the churches that they painted them in.  And up until then I had only seen paintings in a museum or a gallery and it was very different to see it in a church or like a space that the painting had been made for that space.

And if in the painting you see a building, it is like an extension of the architecture of the church that you’re seeing it in.  So the painting and the space  are working together to create an immersive experience.

So I saw that a long time ago, but it really stuck with me, I had a very strong experience there and I thought,  “I want to do this.  I want to make paintings or images that are part of the space.”  And I never guessed that duct tape would be the way for me to do that.

Dan: How did you get into using duct tape?

Tirtzah: My friend challenged me to recreate an image that I had in a material that I’d never used before. So it was sort of, like a part of that challenge.  I picked up duct tape in my studio and I just started playing around with it.  And I was like, “Ah, this stuff is amazing!”  So I started using it.

Dan: And who are some current painters that are inspiring you? 

Tirtzah: There’s a lot of great art going on now in Brooklyn or that’s being shown in Brooklyn.

Dan: Really?

Tirtzah: Interestingly, some by young artists and some by older artists that seem like younger than the younger artists.

So I’m like a big fan of Katherine Bradford. She’s a painter who’s showing her work a lot.

David Hockney, he’s a really well known figurative painter.  He also paints people in day-to-day situations, like couples in their house, or a person taking a shower and things like that.  So I’ve also been very inspired by him.

Dan: And what fears do you have?

Tirtzah: What do you mean?  I’m invincible.  I have no fears. [Laughter]

Dan: Oh. All right, next question… 

Tirtzah: It’s the anxiety that you never let go of, like, “Will I continue to be able to make it?” In a sense of like, “Will I be able to make a living, either selling my work or doing whatever else, and be able to support the studio practice?”  That long term, like that’s just kind of always there.

To me at least it never feels like, “Oh, I’ve arrived.”  Like, “Ok this will work from now on.”  It’s always building the next step of how that’s gonna work.

Dan: Is there a dialogue that goes on with that fear?  Like is there something that you tell yourself? 

Tirtzah: Well it plays out in different ways. So there’s the like, “Shit, I don’t know what I’m doing.  How’s this ever going to work? Blahblahblah.” Like there’s that like waking up in the morning just like sheer terror like, “How am I going to get through the day?”

And then it’s just like go to the studio.  That’s your job.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to paint.  That’s your job.  You’re a painter.  Go to the studio and make something.

Which sounds simple, but it isn’t. [Laughter]

The trick always seems to be to switch from being inside your fear and finding something to do, even if it’s a small step.  That will be a practical bridge to like…like something will happen once you do something.

Dan: So Tirtzah, what advice would you give to someone who sees what you’re doing, and is wondering if it’s possible for them? 

Tirtzah: Um I can’t say.  I can’t give them an answer.  And actually I remember very clearly that one of my teachers when I first, where I was like actually considering studying painting… and he was like, “I cannot recommend this.  It’s gonna be a really hard life.” [Laughs]

And he said it seriously, like there were people around and people joked about it, but it was really a serious thing that he said to me. Like, “This is not simple.”

So I mean part of me is like that.  Like you have to really have a sense that you want to do it, because otherwise it’s not worth it.  Like there are plenty of other things that you can do – not only to make money, but also to be like a fulfilled human being.

But if you have this crazy bug or whatever, and you really think, “This is what I need to do.”  Then you have to be…you have to set up the best situation for yourself.

And I think that there are a few things that I can point to you that you need:

You need a community of artists – and you need to find them –  and they have to be real.  They can’t just be any artists.  They have to be artists that you really connect with and that you can have this ongoing thing with.

I have a few artist friends who go way back.  We don’t live in the same place.  We’re in different places in our life, but I’ll call them up and talk to them about painting or about just life, because we have these struggles, like how to figure out the day-to-day. So that’s a really crucial thing to have in the long term.

For me, like this is a suggestion I would give and it’s a tough suggestion, but it would be to find other ways of supporting yourself for as long as you need to develop your own voice in your art.  So don’t put that pressure on your art, you’ll short-change yourself.

And be honest about what are your sources of inspiration.

You know you’ll connect to artists and you’ll be seduced by the things that seduce them, but you have to find your things and you have to figure out what are the best conditions for you.  Like some people work really well at 9 o’clock in the morning.  Some people work well at midnight.  And those are the things you find out because at first you usually do what everyone around you is doing.

Dan: So what if you’re like thinking about going for it but you’re like, “I’m not sure if…” Like how do you know if it’s for you or not? 

Tirtzah: Chuck Close is a very well-known painter, has this great line that I told my student today because was saying, “I’m not inspired today.  I’m not inspired.”  And I was like, “You know what?  Chuck Close has this great saying that ‘Inspiration is for amateurs.  The rest of us just show up for work every day.'”

And I’m a big believer in that.  Like set up a routine,whatever it is, if it’s 9 o’clock in the morning, 9 o’clock at night.  If you want to be really specific I think it’s like at least a three hour block of time, but preferably five, six seven hours. And do it day after day, and show up regardless of how you feel.  Week after week after week and see if you can do that.  Like can you be in the studio for that amount of time and does it become an exciting place for you to be in.

You might be doing stuff that looks like crap to everyone else for months or years.  But you’re excited to go to the studio, there’s something that’s driving you there.  Do it.  Something will happen.  [Laughs] Something will come out of that and it’ll be like nothing anyone has ever seen before.

It’ll be yours.

[Outro Music]

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Tirtzah’s episode page

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Intern Wanted

Intern

Hey there. I’m looking for someone who would be described as “on point” to help out as a Prologue Profiles intern..

If you or someone you know is interested in working directly with me and and helping Prologue Profiles grow, send me a note to dan [at] prologueprofiles [dot] com.

Thank you very much,

Dan

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058 : Shamikah Martinez : Writer, Producer & Performer

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After college Shamikah (@smart_inez) worked as a video producer but through improv got the performance bug and hasn’t looked back.

After creating viral videos with her YouTube comedy group Candy Slice,Shamikahteamed up with friend of the show Molly Austinto createthe comedy duo,Emotistyle.

Shamikah’s continued to expand her creative palette and has written her own one act playwhich she’s debuting this month at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York City and is co-creating a short film with her boyfriend and business partner, Adam Donald (MAD Pictures).

You’ll hear Shamikah discuss her path of creative exploration, the power of joint ventures, and that it’s less about whether someone will reject you than about how you react when they do.

“Stop waiting for someone else to give you opportunities.” – Shamikah Martinez

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#noshortcuts: Humans of New York – 6 Portraits a day, every day, for 4 years

Humans of New York

Mr. Brandon Stanton the one behind the incredibleness that is Humans of New York shared his insight at University College Dublin. Lots of gems here. The biggest takeaway-slash-reminder is to *focus on the work*. 

For four years (FOUR YEARS) Brandon took 6 portraits a day (A DAY) every day (EVERY DAY) and shared them each day. He says he had a lack of social media savviness which actually helped HONY grow because instead of focusing on getting followers it was all about consistently creating awesome work. That is crazy inspiring and amazing.

#noshortcuts

Check it out here:

(thanks David Spacht for the link hookup)

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057 : The Nepotist : Alternative Soul Band

The Nepotist Post2

Originally from Ithaca NY, Chris Frank, a guitar player, spent 10 years trying to get his band IY off the ground which broke up after college. In 2012 Chris joined forces with his younger brother and bass player Hayden Frank to form The Nepotist…but something was missing. They wanted to to be a real band.

With the addition of drummer Jacob Colin Cohen this past January, The Nepotist are now a trio and are releasing their first video EP this spring.

This is also the first episode of Prologue Profiles that features multiple guests at the same time. That’s right, the band’s all here.

You’ll hear The Nepotist discuss their journey to becoming a band, the ups and downs of being a musician and that to get others to believe something about you, you first have to believe it yourself.

“This is only happening once. You’ve got this amount of time [on earth] and what do you want to look back and see when you’re older?” – Hayden Frank, The Nepotist

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Colin Wright’s Asymmetrical Press’ ‘Everything That Remains Tour’

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Colin Wright’s book publishing company, Asymmetrical Press, and its standout authors, The Minimalists (Ryan Nicodemus [pictured left] and Joshua Fields Millburn), are in the midst of a 100 city tour. 

The Minimalists “write about living a meaningful life with less stuff.”

Their “Everything That Remains” tour spans “across the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, & Australia to share their story of living with less and celebrate their new book, Everything That Remains“.

Peep their tour vid here:

More info here.

Check out Colin Wright’s Prologue Profiles here.

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