Considering the time of year, this question from Eva, a student at the Academy of Art, San Francisco, CA, seems very timely. She asks:
"Do you suggest that we find a job after graduation or set up our own studio directly?"
Of course, there are always unusual circumstances, but I think getting a job related to your field of study gives you a great experience that will ultimately channel into your art or craft. I use the term "related to your field of study" quite loosely.
Anything that is remotely connected to your interests and skills seems better than an unrelated job.
After my graduation, I supported myself for years doing jewelry repair. Then I had a job for about 8 years working for a plating firm repairing anything that came in the door from sugar bowls and creamers to elevator rails.
The experiences increased my skills and confidence. I learned problem-solving, metalsmithing skills, hands-on exposure to diverse metalworking assemblies and fabrications from the past 200 years . . . AND access to a very wide range of professional tools, equipment, and plating processes. With those well-honed skills, I still do silver repair part-time.
You'll be in good company. Andy Warhol worked in advertising. James Rosenquist painted billboards. Consider the profound influence that their work experiences had on their artwork.
James Rosenquist and his mother in 1954 standing below a billboard he painted. The Red Shoe illustration by Andy Warhol.
I'd also recommend setting up a studio space immediately, even if it is in the other half of your bedroom or in your living/dining room. Get your studio up and running, no matter how modest. Avoid burdening yourself with debt and expenses. It is more important that you start working with fewer tools and more creativity to keep ideas fresh and your mind immersed in creative expression. If you need larger or specialized equipment, take a class at a local community college or rent time at a studio space near you.
In summary, try to get a job related to your degree, even if it doesn't pay much in the beginning. The experience will help you learn so much along the way. You might even be able to use their tools or equipment.
Also keep working in your home studio every day. Even if you don't have all the tools or equipment that you had in school. there are always alternate solutions. Use your most creative tool, your mind.
This post was updated on March 17, 2022.