Formulating A Plan for Your Dreams with Mad Scientist & Seamstress Erin

forumulatingaplan2At your day job, you’re the type to knit through staff meetings, sketch your co-workers while on the telephone, or read photography blogs on your lunch break. You dream about running your own creative business in the future but you’re not ready to take the leap right now for any of a number of reasons – from money to timing to self-confidence. I’m in the same position. I’m currently finishing a Ph.D. in biochemistry but what I really want to do is start a sewing pattern company. I can’t follow my dream until I finish school, but I can lay a solid foundation so I’m ready to take the leap as soon as I graduate. Join me as I transition from science to sewing. I’ll be sharing with you a series of posts about tangible steps that I’m taking (and you can too!) so I’m prepared to follow my dream when the timing is right.

I’m SeamstressErin. I blog about Sew-Knit-Craft-Quilt-Needlework at SeamstressErin.com. I currently live in San Francisco where I have been working on a Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of California, San Francisco, for the last 6 years. I’m pretty close to graduating (3-6 months?), but I don’t have a set graduation date yet. I have known for the last 4 years that being a research scientist isn’t a good career fit for me.

I’ve talked to my advisor, my mentors, my family, my friends, and anyone else who will listen, about wanting to do something different. One thing that I’m constantly asked is, if I know that I don’t want to do science, why am I bothering to finish my Ph.D.? It’s a valid question, and one that I answer differently on different days. One major reason is that I’m stubborn (I come from long lines of stubborn people on both sides of my family), and that’s been a major source of strength in getting through years of being unhappy day-to-day.

Another big reason is that I want something to fall back on. While it sounds romantic to drop everything and follow a creative dream, there are real-life, practical considerations when preparing to make such a major life change. Perhaps you too are finishing school, or waiting to have a bit more time in at your job, or one more promotion before you feel like you can follow your creative dream because you want have an alternative career to fall back on? Maybe your reasons are person – you need to build your self-confidence before you feel able to take the leap. Maybe you’re waiting for your kids to start school so you have more free time on your hands.

If I’m going to launch a sewing pattern business, I need people to buy my patterns. Some of that will come from having a great product. To make a great product, I’ll need to do market research and learn from others that have gone before me. I also need to be able to reach my audience. Once I have sales, I need to know how to track my finances. I need to know that, once I’ve launched, I’ll continue to have ideas for future products. I can’t guarantee success in any of these areas for myself or others, but I do know that if I lay a foundation for my creative business now, before I take the leap, I do have a better chance of being successful.

Join me as I share my steps to build a foundation for my creative business and (hopefully!) successfully make the leap from science to sewing. I look forward to bringing you along with me. I’ll respond to comments and questions here, or you can connect with me at my website, on twitter, instagram, craftsy, ravelry, pinterest, or facebook.

9 comments

  1. April Heather Art says:

    Well,Erin I have to tell you how much I enjoyed reading your post today! You are a brave gal!! I commend you for following your passion! My hubby is a chemist and he LOVES it. He lives it, breathes it, eats it, sleeps it. Instead of reading magazines or books he is enthralled in chemistry journals. Its his passion. But when he was in grad school getting his Phd he met many MANY students who were not passionate at all. In fact they pretty much hated it. But for whatever reason they continued on that path & many of them are now experiencing lackluster careers in jobs they despise. It pains me to see people do that! You are shining example!! My advise for you is to surround yourself with people who get what you are doing and who support you (like this community here!) . You will need it! Following your passion-whether chemistry or pattern making–is a brave and life affirming choice! You will be a success–because you are doing what you love & are passionate. And by success I mean-a joy*filled life you are proud of. Your courage gives others inspiration to make brave choices.YAY YOU! xoxo

    • Erin Currie says:

      Thanks so much! I appreciate the kind words.

      Thanks for sharing about your husband’s experiences. I see the same thing with my peers. Some of them are wildly passionate about their research and I know they will go on to do exciting things in their field. Others aren’t so sure, and I worry about them being happy in the future because being an academic research is such a consuming job. It’s worth it if you’re passionate, but otherwise, I think not. Out of all my classmates, I think I’m the only person that has known for sure that research isn’t a good fit that has stuck with the Ph.D., and I’ve been very close to leaving the program many times.

      Again, I really appreciate your support. Most of the people I’m surrounded by every day (i.e. scientists) don’t understand my passion for something else, or why I would give up 7 years of higher education for it. However, like you say, I believe that a successful life is a joy filled life, and I’m preparing to follow my joy!

  2. Darice says:

    Hoorah! I can’t tell you how excited I am to follow your journey, Erin! It sounds like that passion of yours is bubbling out of your beaker + down your lab coat! 😉

    You mentioned self-confidence a couple of times…and I can tell you that is one thing that everyone I’ve met (without exception when I think about it long + hard) has struggled with on some level regardless of training / talent / passion. We are all so quick to doubt ourselves – and truly have no reason to. If we are following our heart + doing no harm, there is no reason to doubt. Logic isn’t allowed in the conversation because it usually requires us to be sensible, and follow a very ‘traditional’ path. Wasn’t it Albert Einstein who said “I never made one of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking…”? 😉

    P.S. Personally I think it’d just be cool to be Seamstress Erin, PhD., it’s a USP! I’m rooting you on – big time!

    • Erin Currie says:

      Thanks so much for your sweet words. I love your metaphor – I’m going to have to borrow that!

      I appreciate your words about self confidence. I think that, especially as a woman in science, I do doubt myself often. Because I’m not happy in what I do day-to-day, I internalize it and it makes me wonder if I’m not happy because I’m not good enough. However, a weekend spent as SeamstressErin (not as Erin Currie, Ph.D. candidate), like when I’ve volunteered at MakerFaire or attended Sewing Summit, and so many of my self-doubts are washed away. When I’m happy, I can be confident, out-going, and self-assured. And these glimpses of who I know I am at my core make me ever more determined to follow that passion.

      And yes, I can’t wait to switch my branding to Seamstress Erin Ph.D.! I’ve got the updated blog banner ready and waiting 🙂

  3. Vanessa says:

    Good luck Erin! I think you can put your knowledge about conducting research and analyzing data into business success. Things feel like less of a failure if you’re able to get data that you can use back.

  4. I can relate to this so much! I have an engineering degree, but it was never the career path I wanted. I just stuck it out to have something to fall back on, all the while knowing what I really wanted was to be an artist!

    Your story is inspiring, Erin, and I can’t wait to see how it unfolds. I wish that I had had as much foresight when I was in school as you do now. It definitely should make your path a little more straightforward. You sound just like you know what you want and that’s so admirable! I also love that you are confident to say to the doubters, so what if I have a PHD in science and it sounds crazy to you…I’m going to follow my passion anyway! I can’t wait to her more about your journey!

  5. Katie Johnson says:

    I can’t wait to read about your journey. Kudos to you for figuring things out. I am in a dead-end job and trying to figure out what I can build on my own. My excuse is finances, however, I can do something on the side while working the un-fun job. Congrats on your sewing adventure.

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