Emmett Shine on a Creative Career Path

Emmett Shine started doing creative work professionally when he was 18 years old. Creativity was always encouraged at home: Emmett’s mother is an artist, and always inspired him to make a living through creative expression.

For the past two decades, he’s made that a reality. It hasn’t always been an easy path, however.

When he was first starting out, he did anything and everything to make money and cover his expenses.

“I started being paid for photography and graphic/web design when I was 18 years old, but I always had side hustles to help me get by,” Emmett said. “It took me until I was about 24 to be able to do creative work full-time.”

Even then, his creative path continued to evolve with time. What started as freelance creative work for anyone who would pay him eventually led him to starting his own t-shirt and skateboarding line called LOLA New York.

A few years later, he co-founded branding agency Gin Lane. Then, after a decade of agency work, he pivoted again: this time into co-founding direct-to-consumer product brands under the umbrella of Pattern Brands, a family of brands designed to help people enjoy daily life, as their Co-Founder and Executive Creative Director.

Making that switch came with a whole new set of challenges. With the agency, client-service management was the team’s biggest challenge. Now, they’re operating a business with physical products and many moving parts, which can be demanding in a totally new way. It’s also what keeps day-to-day work interesting.

While his work at Pattern today is less hands-on when it comes to creative work, he welcomes that shift as a natural progression of his career path.

“With Pattern, I don’t ‘create’ the work by hand as much. I have a lot more ‘manager time’ than ‘maker time’ now, which I’m okay with. I wanted to create a certain type of company, and that’s where I spend a lot of time thinking and working on,” he said.

The best part: He still gets to make an impact on creative projects; albeit in a different way. Emmett now focuses on offering creative project feedback and suggestions that improve the iteration process. In his free time, he keeps his creativity alive and well through hobbies like photography, drawing, and designing clothing with friends.

Are there still days when he gets stuck in a creative rut? Absolutely. When that happens, he turns to movement and rituals that help him find little victories each day. Most often that means surfing, skateboarding, going for a bike ride, walking his dog, or playing basketball.

He’s found that physical activity helps him think (by not thinking). By getting out of his head and onto his feet, his brain can work on creative problem-solving in the background while he focuses his energy elsewhere.

“I try to just show up and create. Every day. If it sucks, oh well; you tried. Go to bed, start anew the next day. Consistency is my tonic. That’s how you get good at something. You just keep doing it. Good things happen if you don’t think and you just show up. If I overthink things, I get in trouble. When you are thinking, you aren’t doing.”

If you ask Emmett, every creator evolves over time. It’s part of the process, and there are ebbs and flows all along the way. So far, he’s found that by consistently learning, growing, and tasking himself with new challenges, he’s been able to build a sustainable creative career path - a successful one at that.

His secret? Taking a child-like approach to looking at the world. He likes the Japanese phrase “first tea, last tea,” which means we should always look at things with wonder; as if it’s our first time experiencing them.

“For true creativity, no matter what you do on Earth, you need to have curiosity, openness, and appreciation. You need to slow down and find pockets of moments to just be present.”

He went on to say that to be a ‘creator’ means to have an initial vision (or an idea, or a thought, or an inspiration), and then to slow down to get into a zone where you can bring that ethereal idea into reality. That, he feels, is what’s most exciting about the creative career path - no matter what it is one ultimately creates.

Kaleigh Moore

Freelance writer specializing in the ecommerce and software industries.

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