Why I Work In A Shoe Store (part time)

I recently provided an artist talk to (primarily) first year students at the Alberta College of Art and Design. I love doing these events because they force me to question my own work, although often those questions occur after talking for an hour and leave me wishing I had approached the talk differently. One of the things I wish I had spoken about this time is working a day job and its importance in my art practice. So here it goes; why I work in a shoe store (part time)…

1. For money. Yes I need money. In case no-one told you being an artist does not pay well no matter how hard you work at it.

2. For pride and money. My husband pays alot of our bills. I try to be honest about this. It is important to me that others know how I survive as an artist and this is just a fact of my life. However, I hate not being able to contribute in some small way to that effort of just living and so working a part time retail job allows us to eat out and sometimes travel.

3. For mental health. Being lonely in the studio or at home is not good for me. This has been tried and tested over the years and is a discovery of my true self. I am a better person when forced to be communicative and sociable.

4. For Fashion. There are things about retail that drive me nuts but I love getting dressed up for my job, experimenting with looks and having pretty things to gaze at all day and sometimes take home.

5. For Connection. I make art projects about place and community and so I need to make myself a part of these places. I have repeatedly found that when I engage only with the artist circle of a community my work gets less interesting to myself and others. I fully believe in the importance of staying connected with community especially those that are not invested in the arts. We cannot just exist behind shifty looking window spaces.

6. For money again. The possibility exists that I could get a full time university position somewhere and live out the faculty dream of a regular paycheque, benefits and summer holidays. But, this possibility is small and involves tying myself to a sessional pool for an extended period of time (years) with no promises. Working in a shoe store gives me freedom and time to make work, not just talk about making work. That and I don’t think I am the best educator out there and who wants more shitty profs?!

Time will tell if these reasons remain rewarding and true. But for now that is why I work in a shoe store (part time).


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