Change is both hard and inevitable. As a designer, I have always valued my ability to flow with the circumstances and to pivot with grace. In truth, 2019 is the year that broke me and was my worst year on record for many reasons. Some failures were beyond my personal control and many were simply hard lessons I needed to learn. I sincerely thought about giving up on everything, including selling my printing presses. It didn’t make sense to continue to struggle to inspire meaning with the dying art of letterpress when so few people understood or cared about it. With more accessible DIY design tools, my contract design services began to be displaced as many of my non-profit clients found ways to tighten their budgets due to funding cuts from the 2016 administration changes. I also had multiple grant proposals rejected last year. It felt like everything was falling apart around me and my confidence was uprooted. My choice was to either reinvent everything or let everything go. I was scared and I didn’t know what to do so I did what I always do—I was honest and vulnerable about where I was at.
In response to my vulnerability, the community surrounding me rose up to show me what my work has meant to them and this inspired me in a multitude of ways. In November of 2019, I went full-on phoenix and decided to set fire to everything to start over. To do this, I took a job as a baker in an organic doughnut shop—appropriately named Revolution Doughnuts—to process myself before I took another step forward. I needed clarity, self-reflection, and less pressure surrounding my choices to ensure that the coming changes were sustainable.
Reflection started with the understanding that I am not the designer I was when I started LENSPEACE, 11 years ago. That’s a good thing. I’m grateful to say I’ve grown quite a bit as a person and as a creative soul. I am proud of the work I’ve put in and I’m not ready to be done with this adventure. When I founded LENSPEACE, it was to provide quality communications for the benefit of underserved communities and sustainable small businesses needing visual representation. This intention ended up taking on so many meanings I never anticipated and it to showed me the true depth of my spirit in this creative desire.
Over the last 6 years, I’ve been receiving mentorship for my aptitudes as an impact and empathy facilitator. When I found this work, I felt as though I found the flip-side to my letterpress work—the practical expression of my artistry. The HOW to my WHY. It felt like home. The people around me watched me grow in confidence as I crafted sessions and honed my niche. This created a dichotomy within my design practice that had yet to be reconciled. I was living in two worlds as what felt like two different designers. My creative practice had lost integrity and I lost mine with it. It was becoming clear that to move forward I had to heal this dissonance and restore harmony with my craft.
The pursuit of this career pivot has been filled with difficult lessons, false starts, and some hard-earned failures—as any independent career shift would. As a designer, I know to frame these as learning experiences and opportunities to grow even deeper within my practice as I solve the problems and remove the obstacles as they presented themselves. My initial problem was that I no longer knew if I wanted any of it anymore. My heart was broken and I was exhausted until my community came to me and asked me to dig a little deeper being assured that they would hold me while I did it. When I hit the point of phoenix-mode in November, I decided to use the framework I’d been designing for the past five years on myself to prove to myself whether the work was worth continuing or not. The next step forward was going to be entirely under my own power and accountable to my integrity and design practice. I wanted to learn my truth and what needed to be done, and I invited some people in ATL to join me for intimate sessions. This process opened my heart and showed me the way forward. These sessions didn’t just change my perspective on my life and reignite the fire that had become embers, it changed every person that participated for the better. Because of their growth, encouragement, and support, we’re ready to begin sharing this body of work with everyone who wants to see positive changes in their lives, inside and out.
In order to expand, I had to share this vision with those who cared about it as much as I do. As a result, LENSPEACE has become an equal partnership between myself and Nyasha “Sha” Wooling. Diva of Details. Master of Time & Space. Sha has been contributing to the success of LENSPEACE since 2011 and has had a vested interest in our shared ability to thrive since the day I met her. As a result, she’s being made the first equity partner of LENSPEACE. If there is a detail, Sha manages it. If there is a point of accountability for me, it’s her. We’ve managed to accomplish a lot in a short time. Together we began reworking our offerings. We're updating all of our messaging. Website is an on-going process, as well as finding our preferred methods and platforms for sustainable practices. We’re not done with this process, but we’re ready to be vulnerable about the growth we have left to do and let you see us evolve as we step into our shared future. The relaunch of LENSPEACE as a studio embodies all of the same intentions I had when I began, but with refined vision, revolutionary practices, renewed confidence, invigorated commitment, and a whole lot of heartbrain.
In the coming weeks, we’ll be launching impact strategy programs, new art and new systems, articles, videos, and space for meaningful discussions about hard topics as has been true for the studio since LENSPEACE began. We sincerely hope you continue to follow us on this journey to expose the practices we’ve used to pivot from then to now and from old to new, as well as everything we’ve learned along the way.