Becoming Plumb Creative

The last decade has seen quite a few adventures and failures. 

I began my journey as a digital designer in early 2006 when I attended a workshop to learn Dreamweaver (when it was still Macromedia 8). Shortly after, I registered for graphic design courses at my local community college. I was not new to the principles of design— layout, color, typography— I had been making my own newsletters on an old HP DOS computer since I was 10 years old, sharing stories, poems, and quotes with friends and family members. But now I was learning the elements of graphic design— kerning and points, analogous colors, the tedious pen tool, CMD-Z. I graduated with a Digital Graphics Design certification in 2008 with a meager portfolio and “JK Concepts” as my freelance name for a freshly minted profession. 

I wasn’t terribly serious about my freelancing though, as I had a job and was putting these new skills to use there, building slowly the HTML language of a Dreamweaver website. I created my first WordPress blog in ’09, inspired by a book I’d read, and called it “To Live a Good Story.” It was like those childhood newsletters, just another way for me to share what was happening in my life with those who cared. But it also was another step closer to blogging, writing, and developing platform-based websites. The fall of that year I renamed my freelancing biz Plumb Creative. I had done a little work for a non-profit organization and set my sights on becoming a “real” freelance designer. 

Becoming a freelancer as Plumb Creative in 2010. Photography by This Wild Way.

Becoming a freelancer as Plumb Creative in 2010. Photography by This Wild Way.

In the summer of 2010, I transitioned to part-time employment so I could spend more time freelancing as Plumb Creative. I spent the next year and half fighting with my own personal brand, logo after logo (not realizing at the time that a brand doesn’t start with a logo), watching endless hours of Grey’s Anatomy, wondering what on earth I was doing with my life. I began to wonder if my career choice was a way to just watch tv all day until it was time to pick up my kids from school. 

At the end of 2011, I was inspired by a couple of very important people in my life to pursue and accomplish a dream I’d always had: a Bachelor of English degree. So 2012 began with me as a full-time student at Southern Oregon University, studying writing as well as a new program, Emerging Media & Digital Arts (EMDA). I figured since I was a digital designer, I might as well keep learning ways to improve my business. Two and half years I took writing classes, art, design, a few basics I had missed like science and language. 

I loved learning. Shakespeare in Pop Culture, Sci-fi Film, History of Rock Music, the Beat Movement, Rhetoric, Literature of Ancient Britain and WWI. I took an entire class on Alice in Wonderland, and another on diagramming, a perfect symbol of my love for words and organizing. Which is really what design is all about, the perfect organization of content layout. There was a moment in one graphic design class when the professor asked if anyone knew what typeface was being displayed on screen, and I happened to say it just loud enough for those around me to hear (and be fairly impressed). That was the moment I knew I was no longer a beginner. Five years into my career I was realizing I may be on to something. 

I graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in English & Professional Writing, Minors in EMDA and just for fun, Shakespeare Studies. Since then I have attended Adobe’s biggest creativity conference MAX four of the last five years, continuing to learn and grow. In 2017, I completed a memoir project for a 100-year old athlete and added “book publishing” to my repertoire of creative services, setting my sites on creating books from people’s memories and old photographs. 

As I approach the 10th anniversary of Plumb Creative, I still occasionally fight with imposter syndrome, like a beginner, a novice, a freelancer with no idea what I’m doing or how to run a business, much less grow one. I’ve rebranded 5 or 6 times (and currently in the process of doing it a final time), always wondering why it’s so much easier to design for others than myself. I’ve had so many moments of self-doubt, questioning why the hell do I put in so much effort into something that doesn’t ever seem to make much difference? 

Last year I began to learn more about marketing, taking online business courses, discovering so many ways to understand my purpose and grow in it. That the journey of becoming only ends when you die, and so the path of growth is continuous. I am constantly learning and evolving and Plumb Creative will continue to do so as long at it is me and I am it.

I chose the name Plumb Creative 10 years ago because I felt that it really captured who I am, a person with a wide variety of creative talents and interests (and because as a former student in London, love the British vernacular). But the core of it is really fundamental to everything I do: 

Plumb is a complete degree, absolutely, totally, 100%. It is a measure of perfection. This is side-A to my coin, my desire to follow rules and keep order, be tidy, the satisfaction of clean lines, organization, the diagram. And it’s also how I operate. Everything I create, every single job, I care about it 100%, I do it the best I know how. I give it my all. No job is half-assed.

Creative is all the possibility, the art, the words, the beauty and chaos and surprises that fill the lines of order. The variety of all I know how to do, the mediums, the mode and methods, the imaginative and original ideas that result in artistic work. The permission to break the rules to create something better, because everything can always BE better.

And that is who I am, it is why I do everything: to discover the beauty, the adventure, the excitement in the chaos so I can create something better. And by creating something better, I live a good story. I can share my story with others, inspire them to live and share theirs too. 

To Strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson