As busy as he is, Brian was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding his career path and how he finds inspiration as a creative entrepreneur.
Q.) When people ask you what you do for a living, how do you
A.) I'm still working on that! :) I run a Sacramento-based
design studio. We produce our own collection of lighting and home decor and
create site-specific installations.
Q.) When did you begin your creative venture(s)?
A.) As far back as I can remember. Making things is the
central theme in my strongest childhood memories, from Legos to skateboard
ramps. In college, I started with engineering and then switched to industrial
design. My first real job out of school was as a designer for Pottery Barn. I
gained some great experience there, though was not fulfilled creatively. I
started Adrift Mobiles, my collection of mobiles, in 2005. It started as a
part-time endeavor, as I was doing freelance design work for a few clients.
Gradually, I tapered down the freelance work and started to focus more time and
energy on my own work.
Q.) Did you work any strange/odd/boring jobs before you
started your creative work? If so, what were they?
A.) I mowed a ton of lawns as a kid. Then got a job as a
dishwasher at a Sizzler. As soon as I picked up CAD skills in high school, I
was able to get part-time CAD work. Not necessarily creative, but I learned building
skills that I still use today.
Q.) Did anyone ever tell you to "have a back-up
plan" or advise you against working in a creative field?
A.) When I switched from engineering to industrial design, a
friend's father (who was an engineer) helped me take a careful look at the
options and decision. No one tried to discourage me though. When I left the
comforts of a corporate design job to pursue other creative work, those closest
to me knew that it was the right move. Though, I sure miss a steady paycheck
Q.) What inspires your creativity (people, places, things,
A.) I find inspiration from the characteristics and
limitations of materials and the methods that shape them. I'm constantly
striving to learn about new materials and processes. I also find inspiration
from the myriad of details in the built environment and patterns and structure
from nature and geometry.
Q.) Are there parts of your career that provide less income
than others? If so, what drives you to continue doing those things?
A.) Ha! All of it. It's a serious challenge to make a living
doing this work. The lower-priced items don't yield much of a profit for us,
but one of my goals is to offer goods that are well-crafted and relatively
Q.) Many of
those who work for themselves struggle to find a balance between work and
family/home life. Have you found a balance that works for you?
A.) It's a
delicate balance, especially with a toddler and another kid on the way. I'm
fortunate that my wife, Anne, is supportive and patient as I grow this
business. We were also lucky to find an excellent day care center. It's
comforting to know that my son enjoys his days there. I typically work a 4-day
week with one weekday at home with my son. I have a part-time assistant, who
has been a great help. I have also put more of a focus on using outside vendors
as much as possible. This comes into consideration with every new design and enables Schmitt Design to keep developing new work without getting too
overwhelmed with in-house fabrication. My mental gears are always turning,
though. Anne will catch me staring into space and know that I'm working on
Q.) If you weren't doing what you're currently doing, what
would you be doing instead (In other words, have you ever envisioned yourself
doing something else for a living)?
A.) Perhaps a position with more of a focus on manufacturing
or sourcing. Or… I'd go back to school to get a green MBA and pursue work at
the intersection of design, business, and sustainability.
Q.) Are you involved in any events/happenings around town or
on the web that we should know about (events, collaborations, etc.)?
A.) I moved to Sacramento a few years ago with the fear that
I wouldn't find much of a creative community. I'm thrilled that I found just
the opposite. Early on, I started attending Designer Pint Night organized by
the Capital Creative Collective where I met a diverse group of creative folks.
Since then, I've shown work at a few 2nd Saturday events. I've presented at
Pecha Kucha and had a booth at the GOOD Design Market. A selection of our
products is available at Scout Living in Midtown Sacramento. We don't have any specific
events planned, though we'll be posting any news on our Facebook page.
Q.) Last question: What advice
would you give to someone who is thinking about (or in the midst of) going into
business as a creative entrepreneur?
and persistence. Be prepared for a slow steady climb with new challenges every
day. If possible, have an alternate source of income or part-time job at the
beginning so you're not entirely dependent on your fledgling creative business.
If you're passionate about your work, it will show and people will take notice.
It's a prime time to start your own endeavor.
Pretty inspiring stuff, right? If you'd like to learn more about Brian and his design studio, I recommend visiting his website here. You can also find Schmitt Design on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Etsy.