Day Jobs: Randi Hokett, Set Decorator
The fifth installment of a weeklong series of profiles about artists who work day jobs outside of the art world
by Dani Dodge
Although most artists need day jobs to sustain their practice, it is commonly accepted that the best place for artists to work is within the art world. Some artists, though, live a bifurcated life with one foot in a separate professional world and one in art. This series looks at how some artists balance their day jobs and their art careers.
Currently, I make work that lies somewhere between sculpture and painting. I grow crystals directly on damaged wood panels (some crystals I grow in studio and attach to panels after growth, depending on growth process). My work relies on chemistry in its process and pulls heavily from geology in form and inspiration. I work in my studio a lot but have been taking some downtime the last month or so. I have been so busy the last two years. It’s been almost constant. I’m feeling like I am in a transitional period right now but I’m not sure what that means yet.
I am a set decorator. I also work as an art director sometimes. I do commercials mostly, with the occasional music video or show.
The reason I do mainly commercials is because the jobs are short, typically three to seven days. I am rarely on a job more than a couple weeks. That means when I have downtime I can work in my studio. When I have an art deadline and I am also working my day job a lot I get really good at time management.
And I don’t sleep much.
Impact of day job, positive:
I am really good at logistics and practical research, in part thanks to my job. I once had 2 million ball bearings shipped from Chicago over a holiday weekend in order to get them to L.A in time to shoot a commercial. I didn’t know anything about ball bearings prior to that. It took me three days to find the source and figure out a way to get them to L.A. The point being I’m pretty confident that I can make anything happen and some of that is because of the skills I’ve learned doing my job. I also get exposed to a lot of different materials and locations. I’ve always got my eyes open for both visual and process inspirations.
I also work a bunch of incredibly smart and gifted people. Their breadth of knowledge is mind-boggling. And they are excellent problem solvers. If I can’t figure out a solutionm one of my friends/co-workers can. And I am lucky to have a good group of them who are always down to help me when I need a hand with my art stuff. They have helped me with moving work. They have helped me with improving materials. I talk through new ideas with them all the time. They really are a gold mine.
Impact of day job, negative:
The hours are really long. It is standard to work a 12-hour day. As often as not I work 14 or 16 hours or more. That makes it tough to come home and work in the studio. That is especially difficult if I have an art deadline. It also means I often don’t make it to events because I am either working or exhausted. I’ve been late to my own openings because I got stuck on set.
I miss my friends’ openings all the time. I feel terrible about it every single time. Once I start a job I am basically working until the job is over. Most of the time, I can’t really call in sick or say things like, “Well, I have to leave early on Friday because I have an opening.” Our deadlines are so, so tight. I do try to prioritize my art, but I have to balance that with getting the bills paid. The people I work with most closely do try to accommodate me when it’s most important.
Do you want to quit your day job? I like my job. I like the people I work with. Of course I would like to have the option to focus only on my art. But if a bazillion dollars dropped suddenly in my lap I think I would still do a few jobs a year. My job helps me stay sharp, it helps expose me to new experiences, materials, and inspirations. Mostly, my studio work is very solitary, but my day job is really dependent on a crew working efficiently together to make something massive happen. I like that part. But I would be happy if I could choose to say no to jobs more often. …
I’m totally lying; I would absolutely quit my day job if someone dropped a bazillion dollars in my lap. I would just use some of it to pay the amazing people I know to come be my studio assistants.
Tomorrow: Timothy Nolan, paralegal