It takes a lot of courage to jump into the creative world. These ladies show how passion can get them to where they want to be.
Those who have actively reblogged on Tumblr back in 2010 would know who Abbey Sy is. Her cute artworks circulated our dashboards and frequently with 10,000+ notes. After working in an advertising agency, she decided to be her own boss. “At that time I was balancing a lot of different things. I thought that if I could have more time to focus on (my side projects) rather than pursuing a day job, maybe it could be better for me.” And that was probably the best decision she has made so far. With two best-selling books and collaborations with big brands like Havaianas and Jo Malone, it’s safe to say that her management and business skills are admirable. It only takes a little bit of courage to get to where you want to be, and Abbey is one of the living examples of it.– Maine Manalansan
What pushed you to quit your day job?
It’s common for our age, like millennial age, that after you graduate you start working in a corporate setup and see where it goes, but in the middle of it, I felt like I was working hard on something that didn’t matter as much to me. At that time I was balancing a lot of different things like teaching, getting a few freelance gigs, working on a few events. I thought that if I could have more time to focus on these things, maybe it could be better. I feel like the maximum effort I would get is if I would invest so much time on it and grow with it. It happened last year and it was a really great opportunity to get a lot of things done.
In Chinese tradition, men always handle the business. Did that ever affect or did that cause any second thoughts on you doing your own business? Did you have difficulties trying to debunk that stigma?
In terms of me handling the business, it’s totally fine. Wala naman akong boyfriend so if ikakasal ako, I’ll still have my own thing… I’m sorry to my future husband. (laughs) But in terms of family acceptance, my profession is not very common in Chinese tradition. When people ask what I do, they think that I just draw. That’s it. They don’t know that I run a business that involves art, which is another way to look at it, right?
In a nutshell, when you’re Chinese, may stereotype na you’re conservative and you’re afraid and you’d rather stay at the back. Like you’d work with the family. I didn’t pursue that. My mom didn’t get mad at me, which is good, because it allowed me more space to grow and not put myself in a box. I was able to get over it and get out of the boundaries of what was limited.
What do you think is the best thing about being a girl?
I like how we always prove people wrong. I was in a digital talk once tapos lahat sila dun guys. Parang sila, “sino ka ba?” and “ohh you’re a millennial.” Tapos nag-talk ako on stage. Friend, pagbaba ko lahat sila nagwala! Ang sama pala ng tingin ng mga tao sa millennials. But anyway, that would be nice. I guess it’s getting to show people that their impressions are not always correct. When they have this ideal and when you show them you’re actually not what they have in mind, parang natatalo sila and I think that’s the one of the best things a person can do; to tell people na hey, I proved you wrong.
In an age when it’s so easy to create publicly, only a few affect and inspire other creatives, and Paulina Ortega’s diverse body of work is an example of it. “I feel very passionately about creatives being treated with respect and professionalism because we do contribute to society, we do add value to things, and often, that value is taken for granted,” she says. She has worked recent game changers in the local creative scene as seen in Solenn Heusaff and Georgina Wilson’s bestseller Besties, local swimwear brand Float, and Bench’s coffee table book Love Local, among others. Now, she’s back in school at School of Visual Arts in New York, no less. What she will bring back home from her recent adventure is something to look forward to. With Paulina’s imagination and passion for the arts, there is no other way but up and forward. —Maine Manalansan
How did you get started? Was there any particular moment before when you knew that you wanted to pursue art?
I’ve always been extremely captivated and heavily influenced by the arts ever since I was young. But I didn’t always think I wanted to pursue a life in the arts. For a long time, I thought I would become a lawyer! Which is really funny and something I can’t quite imagine, in retrospect. Perhaps it was also that, growing up, specialized creative careers weren’t as visible as they are now. In any case, I eventually realized that my passion for the arts was too strong to be ignored. So here I am! Haha.
Can you still remember that time when you decided that art was what you wanted to do?
I spent so much of my free time painting, drawing and designing things. In school I painted play backdrops, made posters, did t-shirt designs, did the school paper’s design and made the yearbook cover, you name it! It made absolute sense to pursue and hone what I already enjoyed doing. It just took a while (and ruling out few other career options in my mind) before I took the final plunge and decided to study Graphic Design. But when I did decided, it was perfectly clear that a creative life was what I wanted to dedicate myself to.
How important is it to have formal art education as an artist?
I’m back doing some Continuing Education courses at the School of Visual Arts in New York at the moment.
I don’t think formal art education is necessary. I’m back in school again because I enjoy it, and as a lone freelancer, I missed learning from peers and mentors, so it’s been a welcome change of pace!
What do you hope to change in the industry that you’re in? Or what do you want to see more of?
I hope to see more respect for and recognition of the value of creative work. It pains me to hear about young creatives being pressured into giving logo studies for free, or to hear clients say they want great work for meager compensation, the list goes on. I feel very passionately about creatives being treated with respect and professionalism because we do contribute to society, we do add value to things, and often, that value is taken for granted.
For you, what does it mean and what does it take to be a girl boss?
To be a girl boss, or a boss, in general, can mean a great many things. It can mean being comfortable in oneself. It can mean taking control of one’s choices. But ultimately, I think that the road to becoming a boss starts when you act upon your dreams and work hard (and smart) to achieve them. It is harnessing what you have and putting that energy out into the world.
When I am confronted by work that I find inspiring, it pushes me to act upon my own ideas and impulses, to create more and to create better. I can only hope that my putting myself and my work out there can do even smidgen of that for someone else!