It’s been a week now since I was in Palm Springs, enjoying the mixed process of talking shop, meeting professionals and lounging in the pool that is Designer VACA. I imagined it to be like a reality show: put 100 female designers in the desert and watch the drama unfold! But, alas, everyone I met at the conference was sweet and open, and everyone I met was at a different point on their career path, but the decisions and conflicts seemed to be the same at every scale. Whether you were just out of school and starting at an agency, starting your freelance business THAT WEEK, or on your third year of being self-employed and expanding, everyone was pushing themselves to improve their craft and their image, from their first website redesign to launching a new studio. The energy was vivid and it’s stayed with me all week.
There were many exciting things about getting out of my studio and meeting a bunch of busy designers, from seeing that the blend of illustration and design was a trend throughout and discovering how fluid personality and work can be. When you sit at a roundtable with a group of women who specialize in branding for their clients, self-branding is a bit topic. Honesty and vulnerability were keywords heard throughout.
When we weren’t listening to guest speakers (Jessica Hische left everyone happy and inspired!), attending meetings in the morning, or business dinners at night, there was plenty of pool time and mingling over meals and going on trips to the Salton Sea. I took photos with Star and Shauna, we visited tiki bars, met new faces in the pool, and walked around the desert at night. It was HOT, but not unbearable.
On our last morning in Palm Springs, we drove with Kathleen, her husband and son to Salvation Mountain, an hour and a half through the desert and past the Salton Sea, a stone’s throw from the Mexican boarder, and Star and I did a photoshoot amongst the colorful rocks in sweltering heat. Amazing place! Still processing the photos from that one.
I adored watching Kathleen and her little Fox, best duo ever!
I returned Saturday night, and was at Fort Mason Sunday to share a table with Eddie Wright at APE! I sold some books right away, enjoyed running into old friends at their tables, but couldn’t help forming comparisons between the conference and convention. How cool would it be to sit around with your favorite artists at a destination meeting, without having to trying to sell books at the same? There’s a reason why the bars and poolside late-night happenings at Comic-con are the main point of going. As the state of things changes, and sales become less lucrative and connections seem to be more and more about twittering, having face-to-face events seems to be a good direction to go in. Is it possible to make it not be about making money, but about forming personal and creative connections? Maybe it’s just a matter of having a couple days of selling comics to cover the costs, then a day or two of creative talks, lunches and drawing sessions with the goal of getting away from the sales table and genuinely hanging out.
It’s something to consider, as I leave the desert with a handful of new friends and enthusiasm for new projects including website design and drawing a new comic book issue. It’s the blend of life and design, drawing and coding, signing books and meeting new people.