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So What Do You Do Exactly? Hair Model Edition

grace hair 1When I was a kid my favorite part of getting my hair cut was paging through those big coffee table books of crazy hairstyles. Remember when those tiny rubberbanded twists were all the rage? I always wondered, who are these people that waltz around rocking these edgy bowl cuts or mint-green stripes? Welp, turns out, I know one of them! This is Grace, and for the latest edition of my jobs series, So What Do You Do Exactly?, she will tell us a little about being a hair model.

What’s your actual job title? This isn’t so much a real job as an adult “extracurricular activity” [ed. note: Grace has a “real” job too], but when get hired for things I am either a “demo model” or a “presentation model”.  I mostly fall in to the category of “creative cut and color”, which tends to mean asymmetrical or severe looking cuts and colors not commonly or naturally found in human hair.

What would your title be if it described what you actually do? I work on event-based contract for a major salon brand as a hair “demo model.” That means I get my hair cut and colored by creative directors of different salons (basically, the top stylists and colorists, who set the tone for the styles that are “in”).

I think the most accurate descriptor would probably be “living doll”– my head and hair tend to be an experiment ground for whichever instructor is playing around with it that day. They know I’m quite open so I’ve wound up with pretty much every hair cut or color you can imagine. For public events that aren’t just in the salon, there is a makeup artist and wardrobe situation going on too.

grace hair 6How on earth did you get into this line of work? Very simply: I got my hair cut one day, and one thing led to another! A friend in college turned me on to this website where you could sign up to get a free haircut from an “apprentice” at a salon who was auditioning to be a full stylist, and one day I went to quite a fancy salon for my free haircut and the head stylist asked me if I’d modeled before, and asked me back to model for an in-salon training they were going to be having.
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From there, I wound up doing a photo shoot with the same salon (You know those big pictures of people’s heads and faces up in a lot of salons? I’m one of them!) and some work as a color model for another salon. This was back in 2010 and I’ve been working for them regularly ever since. As I understand it, I am desirable as a hair model because I amiable and willing to pull off very creative work– I have very thick, dark hair that grows in stick-straight, takes color well, and I like to keep my hair short. I can pretty easily wear the kinds of haircuts people want to see as an example of creative work but don’t want to wear themselves– super angular or asymmetrical looks and “circus colors” for the most part.
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grace hair 4How many different haircuts have you had? Best? Worst?
I honestly can’t say how many different cuts I’ve had– in fact I’m pretty much sure I’ve only had the same haircut twice since I’ve started (this December and January actually, when a stylist I was modeling for was getting really in to classic cuts “invented” by Vidal Sassoon, and I had the right hair type to show one, the five-point cut.)
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I think my favorite was a few days before I graduated from college– I did a show where the stylist asked me what my school color was (maroon!) and what color the gown was (black!) and gave me these amazing angular bangs that were dyed maroon and intentionally super awesome peeking out from under a graduation hat.
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The good thing is there’s really no such thing as a bad haircut because the haircut I get on stage will often be completely different than the one I go home with– they let me know when they’re illustrating techniques that aren’t “wearable” (say, chin-length wispy sideburns or bangs that cover the eyes) and are totally not offended if I ask them to change the cut or adjust the color afterwards.
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grace hair 3Do you get to go to hair shows like the ones Chris Rock featured in Good Hair?  I’ve actually never seen Good Hair! But, I do a show every year called America’s Beauty Show at the Chicago convention center that is huge and really over the top, where lots of different salons and brands from all over the US show their work. The group I work for tends to be one of the classier ones there– cut and color with makeup and wardrobe, but no wigs, extensions, etc– but you will see girls (and guys) working for other groups with big hair, huge added-in hairpieces, body paint, etc. Shows are actually the best, though, because you get paid the most for doing them– depending on the number of days you work it can be in the high hundreds of dollars.
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Sidenote on the money thing since I know I would wonder if I were the one reading this: There is money in doing this, but it’s not a living wage. Sometimes you’re just getting the free haircut (which if you had to pay for it, would be a $200-300 experience, so that’s nice by itself), but for more public events you do get paid a base rate per day or per event; I used my modeling money to pay for my books while I was in school, so it was useful income but not life-sustaining.
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grace hair 5What would we be surprised to know about the hair modeling industry? Most people who do hair modeling are not who you’d be looking at on the street thinking, “Wow, that girl must be a model.” Hair modeling tends to be a lot more forgiving in terms of height and body shape/size; I’m only about 5’6″ and I eat food regularly and with much gusto.
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You do need to be able to walk in heels comfortably, but the “model walk” that’s actually desirable is not so much a strut and hip-swag as an “I am comfortable walking in heels and can go in a straight line”. While I’ve seen a lot of the traditional super tall skinny model-type at hair shows working for other companies, the group I work for especially tends to just pull people that have the look they’re going for when they come in for hair cuts (like I did) or by standing outside of art schools.
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Related Post: So What Do You Do Exactly? Tween Lit Edition
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Related Post: So What Do You Do Exactly? T-Shirt Edition
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So What Do You Do Exactly? Tween Lit Edition

Liz dressed up for Harry Potter, obviously

Liz dressed up for Harry Potter, obviously

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an entry in my jobs series, So What Do You Do Exactly?  but today I’ve got a neat one from my friend Liz. For anyone that ever loved the Alanna quarter, E.L. Konisberg, Animorphs, or Laurie Halse Anderson, she has the coolest gig ever as the content coordinator for two blogs about kid and teen literature.

What’s your actual title? Content Coordinator for Teenreads.com and Kidsreads.com, two book review websites that are a part of The Book Report Network.

What would your title be if it actually described what you do? Editorial director of Teenreads.com and Kidsreads.com. Read: Queen of YA and children’s lit

Can you describe a typical day? Because I am the only person who works on these two websites (which host book reviews, editorial features, contests and a blog) I pretty much prioritize whatever I’d like to get done. Usually when I first get into the office, I’ll answer emails (these could be from reviewers looking for their books, the Teenreads.com Teen Board, authors/publishers/publicists about interviews or blog posts or industry news from my boss or from newsletters to which I subscribe). I’ll schedule social media for the two websites for the day, hopefully I found something interesting from the emails to post on Facebook or Twitter.

Three of the four weeks in the month, I send out a newsletter (two for Teenreads and one for Kidsreads) so I’ll usually make the features to then write about them in the newsletter. However, I also could be writing interview questions, editing or writing reviews, editing or writing blog posts, creating review lists to send to reviewers, requesting books from publishers, raving about a book to a publisher or coming up with my own features and pitching those. I recently created a feature for Teenreads that is about to become a big monthly feature for the site — I’ve signed up three books and am looking for more.After work, I usually take some books home and read those to see which books I may want to feature or inquire after. There are also networking events to go to and book presentations by the publisher every few months or so where I get to buddy up to publicists, editors and librarians. I’m sort of all over the place. But I get to be enthusiastic about 93% of the time.
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What’s the state of young adult and children’s literature these days? Oh man. Children’s lit is a little all over the place right now. It’s finally moving past vampires…but not really. The great thing about Young Adult is how everything is really crossover, meaning that the genre boundaries that are seen in adult lit don’t have the same bearing. Lines are always really blurred; you may think you are getting a story about a prep school girl who is finally realizing her life is privileged and isn’t the only thing out there…and then she’s talking to ghosts.

What is getting more popular right now is realistic fiction; this is the really aggressive, social issue-heavy, “life sucks but it’s okay” kind of book, which is actually my favorite. Think Perks of Being a Wallflower. You all definitely need to check out Crash and Burn by Michael Hassan. I did an interview with him a few months ago and he’s just amazing. Another book that was all the rage this year that you MUST read if you have not is The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. John Green is a huge in children’s lit; he has an enormous online following who call themselves “nerdfighters.” So is David Levithan who is the author of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (among many others) and was the editor of The Hunger Games.

What tween books should adults be reading that we’re probably missingWhat’s really becoming popular in the tween market are multi-platform books. This means that a book is accompanied by an online component, as well. There are two main series that I know of that work this angle, both from Scholastic. Check out The 39 Clues and Infinity Ring. What’s really cool about these is that they base a lot of the story on history so you get a little extra knowledge alongside action and adventure AND you have to read the books in order to play the game online. Tricky, right?
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Has the e-book revolution really tapped into the young reader market? I’m actually working on analyzing a survey that we ran a few months ago that focuses a bit on this question. The answer is…not really. What’s incredibly interesting about Young Adult lit is how many adults actually read it. So while sales of certain novels may be heavy in e-books, it may be the adults who are buying them, which is convenient if these adults don’t want anyone to see that they’re reading books written for teens. A big problem with e-books and teens is that they don’t have the means (or the desire?) to spend their precious money on an e-reader. So unless their parents buy them one, hand one down or they are a lucky enough teen to have a smart phone/iPad etc, they don’t have a convenient device to read e-books on.
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Where do you get your content from? Do you solicit from writers? Or borrow from blogs? I’d say we do a little of both. Right now, we’re working on our blog outreach so we post content from other blogs and websites through our social media accounts. But most of our content we either write ourselves, is written for us by reviewers or the Teen Board.
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We also get some of our content from authors. If I think a book is compelling, then I’ll email the book’s publicist and inquire whether the author is available for interviews or if they’d write a blog post for us. One of my favorite blogs defends the love triangle trope and is by author Gennifer Albin (whose book Crewel you must check out if you like dystopian) and this came about because I could not put down her book and had to talk more about it since the rest of the office would not comply.
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Having so much exposure to tween lit, are you terrified for the future of society? Or do you think they’re going to be awesome? Naw. I think they’ll be fine. Actually, I think they’ll be more than fine. It’s easy to focus on the negatives on the future generation (the first immersed in social media and made up of people who think Memoirs of a Geisha is a “classic”), but this is also the generation where YA lit is emphasized like it never has before.
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I love children’s lit because of it’s complications: it’s an ever-changing demographic, there are gate-keepers that may prevent kids from getting the stories they need and there are so many melodramatic moments to their everyday life! The one thing that remains constant are the people who care enough to try to find these stories to help teens realize universal truths that they aren’t aware of yet. This may seem a little vocational, but that’s the sentiment you’ll find with many who are in this specific segment of the publishing industry. Plus, you get to read YA like it’s your job…because it is.
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If you want more from Liz or her websites, follow her at @teenreads and @Kids_reads. Want to write for her or chat about YA? Email her at Liz AT  bookreporter DOT com.
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I’m Reading Sandberg So You Don’t Have To (But You Should)

leanYes, yes, I know, I know, Sheryl Sandberg’s book is too hip, too ubiquitous, too annoyingly in your face at every Best Seller table or airport book store “Recommended!” shelf. I, too, want to be too cool for school, want to march to the beat of my own drum, want to ignore what’s trendy in favor of what makes me a special unique snowflake.

However, sometimes the trendy thing is trendy for a reason. And sometimes, that reason is a good one. This is one of those times. You should read this book. I admit, I was skeptical. I admit, I was irritated by her perky demeanor, by her clear privilege, by her pat pieces of advice. I admit, I am a reluctant convert, but I am a convert nonetheless.

For my work book club, we are reading this book in chunks, and lucky you guys get to go along for the ride. So far, I have read the first four chapters. This is not a perfect book. It does not address every concern of every woman of every class and every situation, and that’s okay. I know it, now you know it, and most important of all, Sandberg knows it. Most of the criticism around her little personality cult is begins with “But what about women who…” (i.e. “But what about women who are working two jobs just to put food on the table?!”) This is not a book for them, and that’s okay, it’s not trying to be.

The other pushback she gets is that she puts too much emphasis on what women need to do differently, instead of on systemic and institutionalized sexism that needs to be changed. For those critics, I am just convinced they haven’t actually opened the goddamn book yet. Sandberg has her eyes wide open and she calls entrenched sexism when she sees it, which is all the time. Her point, which I agree with, is that we need a two pronged approach. Simultaneously A) Fix the broken shit (i.e. paid maternity leave like every other developed country in the worldor better yet, paid parental leave) and B) Do what we can to advocate for ourselves and our families at every turn.

But the most important thing I think Sandberg contributes to the conversation is the language to discuss the issues. We’ve added terms like “victim blaming”, “slut shaming,” “heteronormative,” “gaslighting,” etc. to the lexicon already, and these have helped us articulate what happens around us. Banging our fists in frustration has never worked. What Sandberg has done is compiled (and she gives credit where credit is due), a range of the underlying causes of the wage/work/ambition gap and distilled them into shareable, discussable, tweetable, referrable chunks.

So with no further preamble, a few of the concepts and vocabulary terms from chapters 1 through 4 that are worth sharing, discussing, tweeting, and referring to:

  • “The Social Penalty” – Men who display ambition and desire for power are rewarded professionally and personally. They are promoted more and admired more. Women who display ambition or desire for power are rewarded professionally but punished personally. They get promoted, but they are not liked. This “social penalty” is important because being respected and liked is what leads to the most success.
  • “Stereotype Threat” – When you tell people there’s a negative stereotype that applies to them, they tend to sink to it. If you remind a girl that “typically, boys are better at math,” she will actually perform worse than if you hadn’t said anything at all. If you ask kids to identify their race before a standardized test, even that small act of checking a box results in black and Latino kids performing worse if you hadn’t had them label themselves. If you tell a woman that “women are bad negotiators,” she will become a worse negotiator.
  • “The Imposter Syndrome” – Ever get to work and worry that people were realize you’ve been “faking” all along? That you’re not the expert people think you are, that you shouldn’t be in charge, that you tricked them into hiring you? Both men and women feel this way, but the difference is that women consistently underestimate their own abilities. This means we don’t apply for jobs unless we feel 100% qualified for the listed responsibilities, while men apply even when they’re only confident of 60% of the skills. The truth is, we all learn on the job, but sometimes we weed ourselves out of jobs we very likely could have done.
  • “The Gender Discount” – When you do what your gender is “supposed” to do, you don’t get credit for it. Women are “supposed” to be communal, so when we work well with others, that skill is discounted because it’s “natural.” When men work well in others, they are complimented for being a team player. Similarly, women who do coworkers a “favor” get significantly less thanks and respect then men who perform similar favors. For men, it is viewed as going the extra mile, while women are just acting like women (You know how women are, amirite?)
  • “Relentlessly Pleasant” – Given the social penalty described above, one of the most successful strategies for women to navigate work place situations (especially controversial, confrontational, or challenging ones) is to be “relentlessly pleasant.” Always be smiling, always be asking for what you want. Do not let up on either front. Take note of this one the next time you are asking for a raise or a promotion. You need to be persistant while also being liked. Good luck!
  • “Tiara Syndrome” – Women expect good work to be noticed and rewarded. They don’t want to have to ask for praise (because, as we’ve seen, being demanding or ambitious has a personal cost for women that it does not for men). While waiting for their work to be noticed, their male peers have forwarded “kudos” emails to their bosses, have asked clients to recommend them, have told their bosses about their positive reviews. You are not being judged on the quality of your work. You are being judged on the quality of the work your boss sees.

Phew, that was a lot! And only in four chapters! I want to reiterate again that Sandberg is never claiming it is “fair” that such discrepancies in perception and attitude exist, only that they do. The question then is, how to address them? For me, it will mean handing this book to my excellent (male) boss as soon as I’m finished. Any man that manages women should be reading this.

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Ladies Helping Ladeeeez

This is what comes up when you google image "asking for a raise." Don't do this.

This is what comes up when you google image “asking for a raise.” Don’t do this.

So yesterday, my friend who we’ll call Moira, gchatted me with a question. She’d received an offer for a new job that she was super pumped to take but the money was not what she wanted, and based on her research, it wasn’t comparable to other similar positions. She asked me what to do, and I told her to ask for more, because that’s the best advice anyone has given me in these situations.

I like this conversation because for once, I got to play the helpful mentor role instead of the “shit, how do I ask for a raise???” role, which I have played many times (and published here). I have done this successfully exactly once, and it was hellllla hard, so it felt really good to be able to take my learnings and pass them on.

I share it with you now (with Moira’s permission) because I think it illustrates so many of the common issues that people (especially ladies) face when they go to have this conversation. In general (massive generalities coming…) we want to be liked, we don’t want to rock the boat, we don’t want to be thought pushy or, God forbid, bitchy. Research shows that women who act aggressively at work are actually penalized. In other words, being personally disliked by coworkers doesn’t hurt men professionally, but it does impede women’s career progression.

So, the question remains, how to do it? Here’s one example. Kids, this is as real as it gets, proven by my poor spelling and lack of capitalizations:

Moira: hey 🙂 Happy Monday! How are you?

me: great!

thanks, you?

Moira: Would you happen to have a moment to answer a question?

me: sure, what’s up?

Moira: So, I’m super-excited about this new job

and like, ready to take the offer

but I’ve read so much about women being silly about negotiation

me: ! yes, i know right!

i feel that way too

Moira: that I was trying to figure out if I should put out feelers about the salary offer

before taking it

me: yes, you absolutely should

Moira: okay

me: the worst thing that happens

is that they say they can’t do it

but no one is going to take the offer away

it’s really scary 🙂 but it’s SUCH a good thing to practice doing

Moira: okay.

me: when i tried, with my first job at this company

they said no, but they offered me a performance review after 3 months, to reevaluate

and i got a small raise at that point, that took me to my initial request

Moira: nice

me: but definitely ask for it

they expect you to

Moira: okay

is it better to do that by phone or by email?

me: hmmm

i think email is easier

Moira: I do, too

me: and then maybe end your email with “feel free to give me a call to discuss further”

or something like that

Moira: Okay. What language did you use to discuss specifics? It sounds like you made a specific counter-proposal

me: I think I said something like “thanks for the offer, blah blah blah, i’m so excited blah blah blah. I’ve reviewed the details of the offer more since we last spoke/emailed…

“Given my skills xyz, I’m looking for something closer to the X-X range. Based on my research, that seems comparable to similar roles available.”

“I’m extremely excited about hte chance to do blah blah blah, and I think I’m a perfect fit for this role”

and then finish with the invitation for a call to further discuss

Moira: Okay

that is super-helpful

me: also, for what it’s worth, go look up some salaries for analysts or whatever role

Moira: well the thing is I’ve been contacted by several companies

who named ranges up to 20K higher

me: yeah

Moira: i mean, who knows

me: good

so aim high

Moira: but that’s where I’m getting my numbers

me: perrfect

*perfect

THE NEXT DAY

Moira: It worked 🙂

me: !!!!!

that is amazing

Moira: They upped it by almost 10%

you are AWESOME

thank you so much

me: i am so proud of you and me together

Moira: 🙂

me: so cool!

Asking for the raise in your first negotiation is one piece of what sets you up for financial success down the line. Not only is it good practice, but it literally translates into higher income in your future. Imagine you are offered $40K, and you take it. Another newbie (perchance a dude), gets offered $40K as well. He asks for $50K, they scoff, but offer him $44K. He’s making $4K more than you, simply because he asked! And when your first round of performance reviews roll around, and you both ask for a 10% raise, you now make $44 and he makes $48.4! The gap only widens!

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So What Do You Do Exactly? Ski Edition

Julia SkiingYay! New year, new posts in my job series, So What Do You Do Exactly? Meet Julia, maker of excellent margaritas, leader of hikes, skier extraordinaire. She has managed to find that elusive combination of a) earning a living and b) doing her favorite thing all day.

What’s your actual job title? Communications and Marketing Coordinator at Beaver Creek Resort

What would your job title be if it described what you do? Snow messaging wizard, media hosting ambassador and news source for the ski area.

What’s a sample day like? How do you spend your time? During a typical day, I might arrive at work at 6:45am to set up for and execute an outdoor Skype interview with local news channels to show our new snow and to talk about upcoming events and terrain openings (It is very challenging to keep both the electronics and fingers from freezing during this process!)

I head back to the office and check emails to see if there are any urgent media requests; if there are, I respond accordingly with information, photos or b-roll. Next, I’ll usually work on any releases we have in the queue or work on a “Photo Alert” release with the best picture from the day’s photo shoot out on the hill.

For lunch I will usually hit the slopes and ski for an hour – you know, test the product. After lunch, I usually have a meeting, whether it’s a marketing team meeting to discuss where we stand on various campaigns or an events meeting to get details for an upcoming release.

In the afternoon I might also work on an itinerary for an upcoming journalist’s visit. First, I need to determine what their story angle is. Who is their audience? Then I tailor an itinerary, maybe including sleigh rides to a five-star cabin dinner, tubing, ski lessons and more. Once journalists arrive, I try to ski with them and tour them around the resort.

Which projects are you most proud of? I am really excited about our upcoming Beaver Creek Food & Wine Weekend event. We will have celebrity chefs including Gail Simmons and John Besh teach seminars and host intimate gourmet dinners. There is also a Celebrity Chef Ski Race where fans can bid to be on their favorite chef’s team and all proceeds go to the chefs’ charities of choice.

Which parts of your job do you find the most challenging? Or rewarding? The most challenging part of my is when there are crises, i.e. ski accidents, avalanches etc. Thankfully they are few and far between. The most rewarding part of my job is that I work in an industry I have been in love with my whole life and I get to talk about it and promote it for a living. A dream come true.

I feel like you’ve found a unique way to combo what you do for fun with making a living. How’d you manage that? Any advice? I feel like I am really lucky in that I get to use my authentic passion for skiing and experience in the sport to excel at my job. It is interesting to be on the guest service/business side of things rather than the consumer/athlete side. I never had any clue how many resources and people it takes to operate a ski area and corporate ski company. The only issue with having your hobby as your job is that your world becomes very narrow and sometimes skiing isn’t as fun as it should be because it’s work and not just for fun. Other than that, my job rocks!

Can someone finally explain to me how you make snow? Ahh snowmaking, it’s not as complicated as you might think. All it requires is the proper temperature (between 0 and 25 degrees F) and an air and water combination that depends on the temperature. The water and air link up to a “snow gun” and are combined so the pressurized air forces the water out onto the slopes and forms snow crystals. Voilà.

Watch Julia promote Beaver Creek!

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So What Do You Do Exactly? T-Shirt Edition

215999_375576289179966_1238002614_n.jpgThis is my friend Jasmine Basci and she is the latest interview subject of my jobs series, So What Do You Do Exactly? She just launched her very own apparel company, TobyLou (named for her two cats), selling original screen printed t-shirts and bags.

How did you get started designing t-shirts? Well, it was sort of just grew from a Christmas gift for my brother. I used one of those online “build your own!” t-shirt websites to put a very specific image he wanted on a shirt and have it made. It was there that I started to play around with all the clipart they had, adding clip art on top of clip art, to create a whole design. I also really enjoy animal t-shirts, but had been finding it harder and harder to just find simple, uncomplicated designs, so that is when I thought “Maybe I can just do my own?”

How did you learn how to screen print? It was very “DIY”, printing using a sheer curtain, an embroidery  loop, glue, paint, and a spatula—that’s a whole other story. After about a week of that I thought maybe it would be worth it to take a class, which I did at Spudnik Press.

How does a t-shirt get made? The process is actually quite simple, but it’s the little things that can trip you up. It all starts with getting a high-res image in black and white and then burning it, with light, onto a screen with dried photo emulsion on it. The parts of your design that are black will wash out with water and the rest of the emulsion will have dried onto the screen from the light. This process is what makes the stencil, which you then put on top of the shirt, plop some paint on there, and push it through with a squeegee. BAM! A shirt with a design on it.

It’s the little things like aligning your screen straight, little holes popping up in the screen where they aren’t supposed to, pulling the squeegee at the wrong angle, etc, that can cause tiny imperfections. I typically go to the studio for a 4 hour block, where I can get about 15-25 shirts done (but it also depends on how many colors are on the design). The longest part is setting up and preparing your screen, which takes about an hour or so.

Do you have your own studio?  I currently became a member at Spudnik Press and they are amazing. For a reasonable price, I can go in and use their studio space, equipment, etc to print shirts. They have open studio hours, staff on hand to help you out if you run into any problems, and they also play some nice jams. It’s actually very relaxing to just go into the studio to create things while being surrounded by creative/talented people. On Thursday, December 6th, they are having an art sale, where I will be there selling TobyLou shirts alongside other artists.

regalrabbit1Where do you find inspiration for your designs? Any animal really, but I love cats……like, love them. I have two (which the company is named after): Toby and Louie. Cats are just weird, odd, and mysterious creatures, which is why I like to use cats, more so than any other animal, as my main inspiration for any design. However, I will also incorporate some other aspect of life, objects, or ideas that I think look neat. I like to keep all designs simple and off-beat.

zooey1How’s business? Any success stories? Has Oprah worn your shirt yet? I think the greatest success I feel right now is just officially opening up for business and making some sales. The fact that someone wants to buy something you created is rewarding. On that note, Oprah has not rewarded me….get with it OPRAH. I actually have a design that I created called the Zooey Deschanmeow which slightly resembles the look of Zooey Deschanel. I’m going to send her a shirt soon in hopes that she may wear it one day.

If you dream big, what does TobyLou look like down the line? A store? A television channel? T-shirts for dogs? Down the line, I want to see TobyLou look like it does now, but everything is 100 times bigger.  More designs, a bigger selection of different styles of shirts for all ages, and maybe a shirt for cats……maybe, MAYBE one for dogs, too.

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So What Do You Do Exactly? Mishmash Edition

This is kind of an unconventional addition to the So What Do You Do Exactly? interview project. Normally, I focus on the tangible content of “work” that people do, but in Leslie’s case, I think her career path is where the real meat is. From Chile to China and back, I think she epitomizes the very millennial idea of stitching together a “job” out of a wide range of passions and skills.
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Leslie lives in Santiago, Chile where she splits her time between a variety of teaching, translation, and entrepreneurial projects:
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What are you working on these days? Which pots do you have fingers in? These days, I’m teaching a social entrepreneurship course at a Chilean university, teaching English to environmental attorneys, doing some website and training projects for a consultancy in the north of Chile, and doing pitch and presentation training for a Chilean biotech startup.
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I’ve also created a free online course called How to Create Your International Career and am thinking about writing a book on this topic in the future. The mix of projects shifts around from month to month, and (as you can probably tell) I’ve been really busy lately!
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How did you decide you wanted to live and work abroad? I always knew I wanted to study abroad. My mom studied in Germany and my dad studied in Brazil. One of the reasons I chose UC Berkeley was because of its study abroad programs. I studied here in Santiago, Chile for all of 2005. This was half of my junior year and half my senior year, The history, business, and mountaineering classes I took all counted towards my degree in Latin American Studies.
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When I graduated in 2006, I didn’t know what to do. About a week after graduation, I pored through my well-worn copy of Colleen Kinder’s Delaying the Real World. This book lists about 1000 ideas of things to do after college, all of which don’t involve law school or cubicles. A section on teaching English overseas mentioned CIEE Teach in China. The program required being a native speaker with a college degree, and the deadline was one week later. I began contacting program alums who were listed as references. And a few days later I FedEx’d in my passport and application.
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I’d never studied Chinese, never visited China, and never been particularly interested in mooncakes or Mao Zedong. So I spent the summer volunteering in ESL classes and studying basic Mandarin with a listen-and-repeat Pimsleur Language Program. Less than three months later, I was on a plane to China.
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What did you do in China? At first I taught English at a university about an hour from Shanghai. Then I interned at the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai. After a year and a half in China, I got homesick and decided to go back to San Francisco.
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I had major culture shock. (I found myself saying things like, “Wow, there’s free coffee at Bank of America, and you can understand exactly what I need and help me in five minutes! I fully expected to be here all afternoon” and “Wow, Trader Joe’s has so many choices. And I can read *all* the labels!”) Soon I found a job at a startup in SF and settled in. But six months later, the financial crisis hit, the company went under, and I decided to move back to China, this time to Beijing.
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In Beijing I worked in a number of fields — advertising, consulting, non-profits, etc. — and studied Chinese with a wonderful tutor and in small classes with trailing spouses from France, Thailand, and other countries. I eventually got burned out, and left China in June of 2011. I explained this decision in more detail in this letter :Dear China: It’s Not You, It’s Me. Let’s Be Friends Forever.
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What brought you back to Chile, so many years after studying there? I came to Chile as part of Start-Up Chile, a program of the Chilean government to attract world-class early-stage entrepreneurs to bootstrap their businesses in Chile. A woman I’d met when I was in Chile in 2005 emailed me in early 2011 to invite me to join her visionary solar energy project. I arrived in July. Start-Up Chile brought me in to contact with dozens of entrepreneurs from all over the world, and soon I was invited to freelance on several other projects. I did Spanish-English and Spanish-Chinese translation for meetings about iron ore investment. I did writing and editing work for a handful of startups.
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These days I’m part of a co-working space that’s filled with mostly Chilean entrepreneurs, and these friends and colleagues have given me countless opportunities to get involved in cool projects.
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How do you actually spend your time? Is there such thing as an average day?
8:00:Get up, get dressed, make tea.

9:00-10:00: Teach an English class to an environmental attorney. Normally there are three but only one shows up. We talk about the many definitions of “file” and how to use the subjunctive.
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After class I go back to my apartment to make brunch and respond to a bunch of emails. Then, I take the metro and then a micro (local bus) to the university where I teach social entrepreneurship.
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2:30-4:30: My students give midterm presentations about how a social enterprise called Living Goods can partner with Nestlé or Unilever to sell healthcare products door-to-door in Uganda using the “Avon Lady” model. Half the students are business majors from Chile and the other half are exchange students from Europe. The presentations are awesome! I wish the companies were there to see it.
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6:00-9:00: I meet with a biotech startup to coach them on their pitch for the upcoming Start-Up Chile demo day. The product is a film about the amniotic membrane that can regenerate eye tissue. We revise the presentation. The new version starts with a before-and-after story of a middle-aged man named José. Before, he couldn’t see much. After his surgery, he could see kids’ faces, and even drive. I coach the team on how to explain this clearly in English, to deliver maximum impact in a 3-minute presentation. The guys order sushi. We eat together.
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10:00: I get home. Exhausted. My boyfriend made macaroni and cheese! There’s some left for me. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.
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Related Post: So What Do You Do Exactly?: Model UN Edition
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