Pamela Barsky¬†is designer known mostly for her creative take on journals and photo albums. a big believer in letting ADD work for her, she tried her hand at many endeavors before settling on manufacturing products of her own design. her time spent owning a gift shop that catered to hollywood’s most creative led her to start designing and she hasn’t looked back. after stints in chicago, new york, vail, detroit, and evansville, indiana, pamela now calls los angeles home. she lives in a tiny spanish turned modern house with her husband, steve and her dog, radish.
What do you do and how did you start?
I design and manufacture a number of different items including journals, photo albums, clothing, fashion accessories, basically whatever I am inspired to create. My latest project is screen printed tee shirts.
I started after the ’94 earthquake destroyed my store. I had no merchandise, little money, and customers who expected a constant stream of cool stuff. It was either close down or start making things.
How old were you when you realised you wanted to do what you’re currently doing and how old were you when you actually began?
Actually, I always wanted to own an art gallery; I think I started dreaming about that when I was in junior high. That morphed into wanting to own a gift shop during college when I began collecting ‘pig’ mugs, coffee cups with pigs on or in them. I thought it would be fun to own the kind of store that sold the crazy things I was attracted to. I opened my first store at 28, after a career writing advertising that never really flowered. I started making products to give my store a competitive edge. I was in my early 30’s.
What jobs did you have before you went out on your own?
I worked as a writer for about ten years. I got a job straight out of college and jumped from agency to agency until I could no longer find work. While transitioning to my own business, I telemarketed, worked at crate and barrel, and baby sat a couple of kids.
What steps did you take to create your own business?
Things just sort of fell into place. Freelance gigs fell into my lap. I sold my mother’s engagement ring. I gave up my apartment and moved into the back of my store, illegal, but cheap.
What kind of formal education, training or experience do you have that applies to what you do?
I have a BS in journalism which is totally useless for just about everything. Most of what I know, I’ve learned along the way. Fear of ending up living in a cardboard can make you learn a lot, quickly.
How did you first begin to sell/market your work?
As I mentioned, I owned a store and was having trouble finding enough cool stuff for my Hollywood creative type customers, so I started designing and making things. Not long after I put my creations out on the shelves, other store owners began asking if they could buy them. I was encouraged, contacted a sales rep I bought a lot from, and signed up for the Los Angeles gift show.
What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do? The most frustrating?
There is nothing that feels better than holding in your hand something you’ve created. The most frustrating is when my customers don’t pay their bills.
Do you have any fears about what you do, and if so, how do you deal with them?
Recently, I heard a story about a man who went to a trade show, set up his booth, then went out to enjoy all that new york has to offer. Unfortunately, he got hit by a car as he was leaving the convention center and was killed.
I’ve never worried about that happening. But just about everything else makes me shake in my boots.
As far as dealing with it, I’m always in favor of a competent therapist.
How do you deal with creative blocks?¬†
I never seem to run out of ideas, rather energy and money to get them made.
What kind of work environment do you have?
I rent a studio/warehouse from a man who put a brass knob, suitable for the front door of a suburban tract home, on our back, and loading, door. It fell off in the first thirty minutes we were tenants. The door fell off the hinges soon after. on a positive note, the space is five minutes from my house, which allows me to run home and see my husband and dog whenever I like.
Have you encountered any financial obstacles, and if so, how did you overcome them?
Money is always an issue in a small business. I never have enough cash. No one ever pays their bills on time. Recently I got a box of merchandise returned because I angered the store owner when I sent an invoice, quietly marked ‘past due’, in hopes of getting paid after six months. Luckily, the meteoric rise in real estate values here in southern California has allowed me to secure a line of credit. This was very helpful until we used it up remodeling our house.
What has been your biggest struggle(s)/challenge(s) with your creative career?
My struggles are always in flux. Right now, I am dealing with the way the world views my work. Having just returned from a trade show in Atlanta, where I am seen as far too edgy because my palette extends beyond pink and green, I am considering trying to be sweeter. This is a source of great frustration.
What is your definition of success?¬†Success is one step farther than where I am standing. The idea of it is what keeps me getting out of bed in the morning.
Who or what are your inspirations?¬†
My mother, who died when I was in my early twenties, was an extremely creative gal, but unfulfilled. I consider myself lucky to live in a time when I can choose to do what makes me happy and work hard to make sure I am always living up to my potential. my friend curlin, who believes she deserves ‘plenty’ in her life and accepts nothing less, has taught me how good it feels to always have enough. I am inspired by my husband, who is never afraid to try, and always finds a way to make something happen. And on really tough days, I just look to my dog, who can entertain herself for hours with a pebble or a leaf or a piece of dental floss and that always gives me hope.
Words of advice for those pursuing their creative goals.
Erase the words, ‘yea but’ from your vocabulary. There is never a perfect time, you’ll never have the right balance in your checking account, you’ll never feel safe enough, or ready enough to do what you want. So, just get on with it already.
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