CJC Interview: Emily Grady Dodge, Artist & Surface Pattern Designer

Emily Grady Dodge.jpg

Where do you hail from/live currently? "Winter Park, Florida/Greenpoint, Brooklyn."

Where do you find inspiration? "When I’m painting and feeling stuck, going outside definitely helps. I like to walk around my neighborhood for 30 minutes or so just to get some fresh air and see the sky. Since I’m a surface pattern designer, I’ll also pop into a local boutique to see what color palettes or trends stick out to me. For me, painting is more than just my own personal expression; it’s designing something that will make a product more beautiful or exciting. I love the William Morris quote, “If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” Also… who am I kidding, Pinterest is such a good source of inspiration for me!”

How would you describe your personality? “I’m that “introverted extrovert” type - I need a balance of socializing and solitude. I tend to say yes to too many things and then I end up very burnt out. It feels very indulgent to me when I have a night or weekend without plans. Laughter is very important to me, which is hard when I’m working alone on something. But on the flip side, I like being in control so it’s nice to work alone and only have myself to rely on. Good thing I can make myself laugh!”

What does being an ‘entrepreneur’ mean to you? “I didn’t start out painting with the intent of making money off it, or falling into the surface pattern aspect of it, but it was like a magnetic course of events that has played out better than I could have ever imagined. I think I’m just hitting the tip of the iceberg of entrepreneurship, but to me it means acting on your dreams, knowing your worth, and adapting as you go.”

Who was the last person that inspired you and why?  “This is so cheesy, but my husband inspires me all the time. He’s very comfortable with who he is, and he’s kind to himself and to other people. Whenever I’m being too hard on myself (which is pretty often), he helps cheer me up, but more importantly, he really leads by example. He’s great at going with the flow and being happy in the moment. That is not my strong suit, so it’s good that he’s the opposite.”

What’s your favorite ‘me-time’ or ’self-care' activity? “Does ugly crying while watching This is Us count? Ha! Well, other than that, I love going on long walks and listening to a good podcast (all about The Lady Gang right now) or playlist. I stopped getting manicures/pedicures this year because I decided it isn’t how I want to spend my money, so doing my nails myself is also a nice way to pamper myself at home. I have to focus (especially when painting the right hand… ugh!) so it’s almost meditative.”

What is the biggest lesson you learned in your 20s? “I learned that if you put yourself out there, great things will start happening. The paintings I’ve shared on Pinterest over the years have led to some amazing projects! No matter what your current skill level is, you can benefit from sharing the fruits of your labor with the world. I’ve been pushed to learn new things by saying yes to things I didn’t think I was ready for. It’s always a little uncomfortable to grow, and there’s always that moment of panic when I ask myself “WHY did I say yes to this? I can’t do this!” and then it’s followed by a moment when I say “look, I did it. I figured it out!” and nothing can beat that feeling.”

What is your outlook on your future career? Your career industry?  “I’m really focusing right now on developing my pattern portfolio and working with clients on surface pattern design. I think there are a lot of companies who are interested in working with artists to make their product or packaging feel more handmade or, for lack of a better word, artisanal. Not to take anything away from all the talented graphic designers out there, but I think my niche of patterns made from original art is in a really exciting place right now. Who knows what client I’ll have the chance to work with next! My goal is to start approaching people by the end of this year, since until now I’ve waited for people to approach me. I’m looking forward to seeing how that goes.”

Would you ever go back to a corporate career? “My answer to this one might be a little different from most people interviewed, but I think this might strike a chord with some readers out there! I have a full time job in sales (I sell custom carpeting and flooring in the hospitality industry), and I have my own art business. I resist the terms “day job” and “side hustle” because I don’t think it needs to be defined in that way. I find value in each pursuit, and there is nothing wrong with having your own business or taking on projects outside of the job you have working for someone else, unless there is a conflict of interest of course. You aren’t a failure if you work for yourself and someone else. I think there is a lot of shame around this, especially on social media. People don’t want to mention their “day job” because there is fear that they’ll be taken less seriously, but just know that whatever your situation is, there is a place for you. It’s ok to go back and forth as well - there is a season for everything, and life is a journey. You might work for yourself for years, then a great opportunity working for someone else could come up. It doesn’t have to be so black and white.”

What’s your favorite quote?  “”Done is better than perfect.” I say this to myself every day.”

What is the biggest contributor to your personal, inevitable self-doubt? “It’s hard to pinpoint! I think I question my motives too much. I start picking apart the “Why do I spend so much time on art projects? Will this ever realistically be my only source of income? Do I even want it to be? Is this silly? Is this self-indulgent? Why can’t I just have a weekend to do nothing?”… it goes on and on. But then I have to remind myself to stop over thinking it, and just take life day by day. Things will unfold in a way that I could never predict, and I just have to keep saying yes to the projects and opportunities that feel right at the time. Self-doubt isn’t going to protect me from anything, so I have to tell that inner voice that she’s not welcome here."

If you could give one piece of career advice what would it be? “Do what you love every day, put your work out there, tell people what your dreams are, and be a nice person.”

Who do you find in business, a personal mentor or celebrity figure to be most intriguing? “Some public figures are really good at showing their quirky sides, and I’m so fascinated by that. One example is Happy Menocal - she’s an artist, perhaps most famous for her custom wedding invitations and family crests - and she has such an irreverent, fun, chic, and quirky business and brand. I don’t know if that can be consciously developed, or if you just have “it” - but it’s something that I admire and appreciate. To have someone describe me the way I just described her someday would be the ultimate compliment in my book.”

If you weren’t pursuing your current career, what would you want to be doing? “If I could go back in time, I would have gone to interior design school. But then, my life would be completely different, so I don’t really want that. I do love good interior design though - it makes my heart beat a little faster.”

 If you could give younger self any piece of advice what would it be?  “Don’t stop doing the things you loved when you were a little kid. Keep drawing, keep creating, keep painting, keep daydreaming.”

How do you define success?“Doing what I love and treating other people well while I do it. Also, I’m new at this, but empowering myself by investing and saving for my future instead of spending too much on material things.”

What is your favorite Instagram to follow? Favorite brands on social?@HappyMenocalStudio, @ToriMellott, @TeakAndTwine, @HoveyDesign, @Elizabeth_Roberts_Architecture - these are my go-to inspiration and eye candy!”

What’s something few people know about you?  “I’m an open book, so this is hard! Ok, here’s a funny one - I’m fully convinced that I’m “aesthetically sensitive.” If something about a space or object bothers me, I have to fix it. I can’t stand overhead lighting, I peel labels off everything (you’ll never see an apple with a sticker on it in my fruit bowl!), and I fluff the pillows on my sofa every night before I go to bed because if I wake up and see unfluffed pillows, I start the day off in a bad mood. My husband once put a magnet on our refrigerator and the first thing I said when I came home was ‘What’s that magnet doing there!” - he was like, how did you notice that so quickly?? My spirit animal is definitely Monica from Friends, ha.”

Discover Emily's work on her website here.

The Crackerjack Collective is a series of informal interviews for These New Walls, featuring my entrepreneur and/or work from home network that continuously inspires me. These interviews are meant to, in turn, inspire others looking for similar insight on what we do and the motivation to get started. x Kate, Founder, TNW