Maître D’ By Day, Jewelry Designer by Night
11:00 am, April 19th | by Colette McIntyre
Nowadays it seems like every young, working lady we meet has some creative pursuit on the side. Assistants-slash-dancers, part-time comedians, aspiring entrepreneurs — these ladies aren’t defined by their 9 to 5; they’re actively pursuing careers that they are passionate about while holding down jobs that ensure the student loans, monthly rent, and the cell phone bill all get paid. But how do you put in your hours at the office andmuster up the energy to go on auditions? Where do you draw the line between your job and your dreams? In Day Jobs we talk with these multitasking creatives about how they make it all work.
Karina Abbaj is a jewelry designer from New York. You can check out her designs at Karina Tea Jewelry.
What’s your full time job, and how did you get it?
What is your ultimate career goal? (Or, how is it different from what you’re doing now?)
My ultimate career goal is to work at a fun marketing agency in New York or Europe where I can do something creative (blogging, editorial work, event planning, etc) and utilize my degree. Then when I’m forty and awesome (and hopefully have a little money in my pocket) I would love to open a cute tea shop — I have a teapot tattoo on my ankle to keep reminding myself that I need to push for that.
How do you balance doing your job and working on projects/pursuits outside of your fulltime work?
I look at my job as a job: something that pays the bills, needs to be done. My creative work and design is something I do more for myself, to keep my brain happy I guess, so I don’t really look at it as “working,” even though I can be getting paid for it or have a deadline.
How do you stay motivated to work on those things?
I started making bridal and somewhat conservative jewelry when I was twelve and at most points from twelve to fourteen made more money from it then than I do now at twenty-four. But I tend to change my aesthetic to create what I love or want to wear. So even though making a ton of money would be nice, my motivation really stems from experimentation and thinking out-of-the-box — which doesn’t always work with wearable art but keeps things exciting and helps me figure out what kind of line I want to put out next.
I also have decided that having a partner in crime would really keep me on my toes. Having interned for the menswear company Brooklyn Dry Goods, I saw what a partnership between two very different people can do for a company. So lately I’ve been putting my company on hold and working with another designer, Veronica Heras. In the upcoming months — hopefully by July — we’re going to put out a new line called Golden Fleece which I’m insanely excited about! It’s a bit more polished, dainty, and grown up than what I was doing before. I think it’s something very chic and wearable and that we’re both going to be really proud of.
In what ways has your day job positively impacted your creative work? (You know, besides keeping your rent paid.)
I’ve seen how successful businesses run and not-so-successful businesses fall. I came to the conclusion that everything works better with a team. So in that way it’s led me to find a design/business partner and not be afraid to ask for help.
As for helping my creativity, if I have a really shitty day at work, I’ll pour a glass of wine or make a cup of tea and work in my PJs until I create something/put an idea to paper that makes me feel better.
Has it made you approach your creative pursuits any differently?
I think if I didn’t have any structure or time constraints I would actually be working less on my designs. I find the more free time I have, the more free time I waste. When designing is something I can do to escape and relax it is much more enjoyable than a 9-to-5 scheduled designing session. That is probably something that doesn’t work for everyone but I’m a stubborn person. Having to do something usually makes me blow it off. Having an idea come to you and staying up til 3AM to figure out how to execute it is always more fun.
Do you think there’s value in having a separation between the jobs that pays your bills and the work that nourishes you creatively? If the goal is to eventually have those be one and the same, do you think there’s anything that is lost when you turn your passion projects into a career?
Yes and no. I originally attended the Fashion Institute of Technology to pursue a degree in Jewelry Design and I HATED it. Having someone tell you want needs to be done, in what time constraint, or how a piece should look was torturous for me. So in the past, yes, the separation was vital. But as I get older and see that I can use my Marketing Communications degree to profit from something I love to do then it’s satisfying in a way that is different from the creative satisfaction. I do think at some stages the passion is lost when you try to turn creative pursuits into a career. You need to focus on the consumer rather than yourself, which isn’t always a bad thing, I guess…
It’s a hard thing to explain or to figure out: what is better, money or design freedom, looking inwards or paying attention to what the outside world wants? It’s something I’ve struggled with for years and in that respect, I don’t know if a full-time career as a jewelry designer will ever be in the cards for me. For now, I’m excited for the future, my new line with a good friend and designer, and hoping to get a real fucking job that will fund my life and love of fancy dresses, Europe, and afternoon tea.