Photo of art on walls
10 years

Creativity, Communication, Design

The Team 
Myself and my wonderful colleagues from 
The Conservation Center, iCanvas, Michaels and more.
This "case study" is a work in progress. It is a glimpse into my ten years in fine arts and my work as a custom framer, department manager, and director. I intend for this to be a short history and a way for me to reflect on my past career and how it has informed my approach to technology and design.
Psychology and the Arts
When you graduate with a liberal arts degree, knowing your direction can be difficult. I studied Psychology and History at the University of Texas at Austin and knew that I wanted to enter the field of archival or conservation work - a way of preserving history. Little did I know that the arts and crafts store that I worked at part-time would open those doors.

After working the floor with Michael's Arts and Crafts during my time at school, I eventually moved into their frame shop. I was excited about the opportunity to work closely with our customers to design something to fit their needs. I was also eager to work with my hands to build something to preserve art and heirlooms. 
I developed a foundation in communication by helping people craft something that they would display in their homes. Not only would I have to become an expert, I would have to meet the expectations of customers or clients. Along with this, I formed a base knowledge of design - color theory, balance, hierarchy. It was exciting work and I wanted to learn more.

I thrived in this environment and within a year became a manager for the entire framing department. My understanding of communication and problem solving had to extend to supervising teams, and I loved the additional challenge that came with it. My tenure as manager extended through to my move to Chicago, where I opened a new store and department which I ran for three years. 
Building a department
I knew that my time with retail shops was coming to an end and I wanted to expand into something bigger. This led to an opportunity with the burgeoning e-commerce company iCanvas - they produced and sold canvas art online. They needed someone to build their framing operations from the ground up. I was to work in the physical and digital realm. 

I researched and developed protocols for this entire portion of the company. I ordered the required machinery, necessary materials for production, and managed all projects related to the department.
I was able to apply web development skills that I had honed since my teenage years by assisting in designing the web presence for this side of the company. It was a year of rapid growth and incredibly fulfilling work. But once the ship had been built, it seemed that there was stagnation ahead. 

I learned a lot about myself during this period. I learned that I enjoy taking on a lot of projects, working cross-functionally, and that I thrive in a dynamic environment. However, I was soon granted an opportunity that would help me reach my goals.
Art conservation - Achieving my goal

A series of work by Roy Lichtenstein that I framed and installed.

In 2014 I was offered a position to work as a conservation technician and framer with The Conservation Center, the largest lab of its kind in the US. It would mean a slight step down, but would help me reach my goals of truly preserving history.
With a company of roughly 40 individuals, I was learning more about museum-quality conservation. I worked with furniture and objects, as well as two-dimensional paintings or works on paper. I was occasionally called in to assist our shipping and receiving department with art handling and transportation.

I continued to learn and grow, realizing that I very much enjoyed assisting multiple departments and "wearing many hats". My talents in organization, communication, and problem solving were being fully utilized.

Eventually, I was promoted to a Director of Conservation Services, a position I was incredibly excited to take on. This opportunity would allow me to remain hands-on with conservation, working with all of the departments and managing every project from the moment it came through the door until it was back in the hands of the owner or institution. 

Flooding in Louisiana, 2017

Even more exciting and unusual, I was fortunate enough to frequently travel the country assessing collections and responding to natural disasters. Following natural disasters like the wildfires in California or floods in Houston, we were dispatched to work with clients and propose solutions for triage, transportation, and eventual treatment. 

It was such engaging work that truly put teamwork, coordination, and conflict resolution to the test.

Damage from wildfires in California, 2018

Next Steps 
While I have been incredibly fulfilled and proud of the work that I was able to do during this stage of my career, I knew that I had to make some next steps. Fine arts and conservation is incredibly gratifying work, but it's also very limiting. My wife and I knew that we wanted to leave Chicago, and finding equivalent work would be very difficult outside of the major metropolitan areas.

I began to consider a career shift that would utilize my creative skills, problem solving, and communicative ability that had already developed. I firmly believe that continued education is a lifelong pursuit. A friend of mine mentioned User Experience design as something that he thought I could excel at. I began researching this field and immediately dug in.

I don't mean for this small history to appear self-aggrandizing, but rather a reflection on my career and how I've grown over time - life is a case study. When I tell people about my work in conservation, they generally seem very intrigued, so this is a way for me to share that with you. I see my past in fine arts and management as a form of user experience in and of itself - understanding a problem and effectively communicating with a team to come up with a solution.
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