What Was the Hardest Career Choice You’ve Had to Make?

What Was the Hardest Career Choice You’ve Had to Make?

Published on Sunday, March 16, 2014. This article appears in the April/May 2014 issue of American Craft Magazine.
Author Staff
Bryan Jobe, Steel Credenza

Bryan Jobe’s steel credenza, with a steel tube frame and powder-coated doors on piano hinges. Photo: Casey Woods

I graduated from college to satisfy my parents, but my interest was always woodworking. After running my own shop for several years, I took a job as a shop teacher at a private boys’ school to ensure an income. I learned more that year than all through college. But soon I left to establish the nonprofit of which I dreamed. Fortunately, it grew over 27 years and exists today as the Center for Art in Wood. ~Albert Lecoff, co-founder and executive director, the Center for Art in Wood, Philadelphia


In 1988, I was living and working in San Francisco. I had a fabulous studio at the Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard, a beehive of artists, writers, and small businesses. My career as a sculptor was beginning to take off in a serious way. I had gallery representation in San Francisco, Seattle, and New York City. I was poised to sign up with the gallery of my dreams in Los Angeles.

My husband, then working in the San Francisco bureau of the Wall Street Journal, received an offer for a posting in Belgium. While the choice was unspoken, I felt I had to choose between my marriage and my career. I moved to Europe – quite unhappily. It was a very difficult adjustment, but over time I found a studio, learned French, and had adventures and experiences that to this day have affected my work and the way that I view the world. ~Melissa Stern, sculptor, New York


Deciding between my brick-and-mortar gallery and my online business – which one to continue, which to close – was painful. I had been running myself ragged keeping both businesses afloat and knew I needed to focus on just one, making that my best effort.

I closed the gallery and was grumpy about it for a month. Though I never regretted the decision, I still feel a tinge of sadness sometimes about giving up my lovely shop. ~Brigitte Martin, founder and editor, Crafthaus, Chicago


I never questioned my career choice; I’ve wanted to be an architect since I was in fifth grade. Now, 20 years later, I’m pondering a pretty big change. My love of designing and making furniture is taking over and constantly nagging at me to make the leap to full time. At 42, with a family, it’s a hard call to make. I’m currently walking a balance of both and sleeping a bit less than usual. ~Bryan Jobe, architect and furniture maker, Austin, TX


I think it’s easier to hear a door close than it is to hear it open. This was certainly true about 10 years ago, when I found out that I had multiple sclerosis and had to close my production rug weaving business. I sat down with a stiff drink and a telephone and called each gallery owner and interior designer I had worked with to say goodbye and thank you. That farewell took the better part of a hard but necessary day. About a month later, I had an “OK, what’s next?” conversation with myself about the important things and people in my life, and production weaving didn’t even come up. The door closes.

About two years later the door quietly opened, and shibori, fabric painting, and ikat are staring me in the face, asking “What took you so long?” And I’m back and feeling good. My takeaway from confronting MS is that facing forward is often the hardest thing to do, and that you do it, no matter what form it takes; you don’t take no for an answer. You gather your life together in your hands and you just go on. Also in that open doorway is my husband, Greg, nodding as if he knew all along. ~Mim Wynne, owner, Handmade Market, Fayetteville, AR