Emma Holland Denvir is a talented Woodworker & Designer that has recently given up the freelance hustle for a stable full-time position, putting her creative projects on the side—and she loves it.
When I first met Emma, she was knee-deep in her own design work. Beautiful handmade wooden jewelry, furniture, accessories, and sculptures. I was blown away——a female woodworker!? I hadn't met many of those (and still haven't). Recently, I came over to Emma's amazing house in Highland Park to visit her and her 3 cats. I was very surprised to learn she was not pursuing a full-time career doing her own design work anymore! My heart burst knowing her many talents, but was quickly mended when she explained she was actually happier working for another company and felt less pressure to make a living off of her own creative endeavors. It's a good reminder that the full-time freelance life isn't for everyone. And there is happiness in creating without monetary strings attached. Emma is currently on a social media break, but you should probably follow her anyways:
Tell me about your new career path and why it's different than what you've done in the past.
I've recently (February 2018) had a career change that I love. I am doing sales for a Stockholm based independent design brand called Hem. We are a start-up so it's fun to be part of something growing, with endless potential to grow, in the early stages. For the past 5 years I've generally been employed as an interior designer and pursued my personal design on the side. Now I am working with interior designers and introducing them to Hem and continue to pursue my personal creative endeavors on the side. Doing sales and business development uses another part of my brain and I find it super creative as well, just very different than making things out of wood with my hands. I enjoy being on the bottom of a learning curve and find that very exciting, so learning a new role is fun.
Can you describe your decision to generate your income from another company instead of trying to make a living full-time from your own design work?
I have tried to make a living full-time from my own design work, it was probably the worst time of my life! I'm grateful I did it, but I'm not sure it is for me, right now at least. I have a lot to learn before attempting that again, if ever. I thrive under pressure but there were too many hats I had to wear. I found I am great at the beginning stages - design, creation, photo shoots, etc., and not great at anything that follows, so I ended up with various lines of products that I didn't push anywhere.
I also didn't love doing design work for other companies because it wasn't my voice. Those two realizations led me to this career change, where I am doing something completely different but still working for a design firm. It seems to be the best of two worlds, I am surrounded by extremely creative people and tapping into the strategic business savvy part of me.
How often do you/will you set time aside for your own work? How do you feel about the transition?
Right now, not a huge amount because this new career is *so new.* I did pick up a menu design & fabrication project for a local restaurant which allowed me to design and make a product from scratch. It's fun, but also reminds me of why I am not doing it full time. I am planning to start making sculpture again, which is how I got into this whole woodworking thing in the first place. That's my real passion, and I am excited to pursue it again, purely for the purpose of creating, without money or attention having anything to do with it.
Woodworking & furniture making/design have always been seen as 'manly' jobs . How does it feel to be a female minority in this field?
One often encounters woodworker bro's. There are bro's in every field, however, and I don't find that mentality to be super different if you are in a woodshop or not. It was typically easier for me to not give a f*ck in the woodshop environment where I felt so comfortable and sure of myself and then that began to trickle into my everyday life.
What would be your #1 advice to females working to get on top in male-dominated fields?
Be confident, don't smile if you don't want to, smile when you want to. Fake it till you make it, particularly in the confidence zone. I am actually very shy and I think people mistake my shyness for confidence, but that's fine with me. Woodworking improved my self-esteem immensely. Make sure you have time to do things that empower you, and that positive energy will eventually translate into your life.