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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

She's Becoming Gold: Meet Leslie

{ From L-R: Kelly, Leslie, Andrea, Julie, Karen }

She's just recently feeling alive
After all of the tears and the changes
Now there's something that's taken ahold
She's becoming gold

She's Becoming Gold, Lyrics by Marc Cohn

I had the good fortune a few months ago to see Marc Cohn in concert. It was an intimate affair at a small venue where I found myself three rows from the stage. The music was amazing, but what really made the evening unforgettable were the stories he told about each song. What stayed with me the most was a story about his first wife and how he marveled at the shift he saw in her when she found a confidence she hadn't had before. He explained that she began to listen to, rather than stifle, that little voice inside her head and became the woman she was always meant to be. The result was his song She's Becoming Gold

I couldn't shake that thought for some time and talked about it with several friends. Through these conversations I realized that we were all feeling the same way. We had chosen paths, both professional and personal, that had led us to where we were today, but we still felt this yearning. We didn't know what we were yearning for but we knew we wanted more. That little voice inside of us wouldn't be quite.

I listened to mine and started this blog, for which I will always be immeasurably grateful. My life has changed and grown in so many ways that I never even knew were possible. Several friends have recently made career shifts or started new creative endeavours, and I thought wouldn't it be wonderful if, through their stories, other women could be inspired to find their own passions. My mission set, I gathered these amazing women for food, cocktails, and girl talk at VMFA's deliciously eclectic restaurant, Amuse. Although they are a diverse group, what connects them is that they listened to that little voice as well and made a change for the better. Over the next four weeks I'll be profiling these women on Austen Hill and sharing some photos from our outing. I hope their stories will inspire you on your own journey.

Age: 34

Creative Shift: Corporate Cog (Cubed walls and all) to self-owned design firm, Dollilop Designs


1. When you were a little girl what did you want to be when you grew up?

It seems like I wanted to be something new each year. I didn't know exactly where I would land, but I knew it would involve a creative process.

Writer/poet, Wonder Woman, Department Store Window Designer, Virologist, Surfboard Designer, Dorothy from Oz, Fashion Designer, English Teacher.

2. What expectations were placed on you growing up regarding your eventual professional and personal lives? In retrospect, did they inspire or stifle you?

My adolescent expectations were to get good grades and get into college-education was a high priority. Even though my parents were both business minded-I never felt any expectations to abandon my creative flair for something "practical". They were very supportive of my music, art, and creativity. This was also evident from my childhood nickname, "Doodlebug".

I have always been fiercely independent, so any expectations I had for myself were put there by me (did I mention that I'm a Virgo?).

Looking back I wish I had taken more risk in order to grow. Today I attempt to practice flexibility, finding the gray, and enjoying the process of my creativity.

3. Describe your mentors and how they have affected you.

My mentors over time haven't been just one person. They are a collective of women. As a young girl, I always had 3-4 women/friends in my life that were my core. The faces changed over time, but the concept was always the same. A group of strong, unique, kind, intelligent, talented, and supportive women, sorta like a coven. Yes, there have been stand outs along the way....but the constant is what keeps me going.

4. What was your first "grown up job" that you landed after college and what did it teach you?

Production Artist: Ode to the clipping path.

It taught me:

  • Attention to detail in my work.
  • It is important for me to feel understood by those around me.
  • Profit should not be put before people.
  • It is important to work for a company that shares your core values. If not, you won't feel good about yourself or the work you are putting out into the world.

5. What was your worst job and what did it teach you?

It was a senior design position for a product development company. I had just been through a mass layoff at a previous job and with the severance coming to an end, I let uncertainty, fear, and my financial responsibilities cloud my judgement. I didn't just ignore, I stomped on (with a pair of Doc Martin's) each waving red flag. That experience taught me to listen to my intuition and trust myself. It also taught me I am not one of those people that can't ignore my own unhappiness. I have to be growing, seeking new perspectives and learning.....staying engaged while filling the well.

New Directions

6. You decided to forge a new path by taking a different direction in your career and/or creative life. Describe the moment you knew you were going to pursue your passion and why?

(See the worst job you ever had above) I took a long time to heal after that experience. The thought of jumping back onto someone else's payroll left me feeling itchy. I knew I had to make a go at my business on my own terms. Suffering the consequences of an unauthentic position and creative space made it imperative to evaluate and trust going forward.

7. Tell us about your new venture.

After free-lancing on the side for over 13 years, I decided to take the leap and focus 100% on my own business. Dollilop Designs was agency providing creative and inspired designs for authentic brand solutions. My goal is brands and all in between. The work is incredibly comprehensive, the learning curve is high, and the client needs change as fast as the technology. I enjoy the interaction with clients, getting a deeper understanding of their lives, and how I can make what they love work better.

8. Any new step is a risk. How do you stay motivated during the difficult moments?

Owning my own business is expedited soul work- I am always pushing my comfort zones. You have to get used to holding the hand of uncertainty and serendipity at the same time.

When motivation takes a tank, I remember how I felt when I was doing work I didn't enjoy- while making someone else a lot of money. I find perspective by talking to other designers, getting out into nature or connecting with people. I am fortunate to have married a very patient Libra, who is a great listener and reminds me to put things into perspective and to take a deep breath.

The Fun Stuff

9. Coffee or Tea? 

Tea with cream and sugar.....and those super tasty almond wafer cookies from Trader Joe's.

10. What do you do to unwind after a hard day?

I cook something with the tunes turned way up followed by a glass of wine (or two) on the deck. We have good rocking chairs out back that are great for chatting, admiring the garden, or studying the bats overhead.

11. If you could have dinner with one woman throughout history who would it be?

Appetizer: Coretta Scott King

Main Course: Willie Ann, my maternal great grandmother. She passed in childbirth with my grandmother soon after leaving her Cherokee Reservation.

Aperitif: Frida Khalo

12. If you could give one piece of advice to yourself at 20 what would it be?

  • You are not going to have it all figured out..not today, not even ten years from now, not ever.
  • This is your journey, dismiss the chatter.
  • Embrace your wonder will see Ireland, Germany, South America, and a lot of great cities over the next ten years.
  • Practice makes progress- there is no such thing as perfect.
  • Everything I just answered in this interview is completely subject to change....almost immediately.

1 comment:

  1. Hello, Kelly & Leslie! A delightful blog idea, Kelly. I enjoyed discovering more about you, Leslie. I applaud your determination and honesty about your path. I'd wish you Best of Luck, but more importantly, I wish that you reap all the benefits deserved and earned from your own efforts. Okay, AND Best of Luck! Go for it, Leslie! Denise Golinowski