My adventure of becoming a furniture designer is a tale of mystery.
The year was 2007. I was knee–deep in an industry doing work which gave me a lot of recognition and status but was killing me. By the time I went to bed every night, my body was dead tired but my dreams came alive. Those dreams showed me beautiful glimpses of what my next career could be. At the time, I didn’t even know what the word destiny meant.
Those dreams happened often. Most visited at 2am or 3am when I was half–asleep. When I closed my eyes, I would see interior designs–with furniture, fabrics, tapestry, upholstery, ceiling moldings, staircase design, cabinetry, and the view.
Soon, I started getting up to sketch these “downloads”. If I didn’t capture them within a few seconds, they’d disappear from my mind’s eye. Just before the image dissolved or faded into the next one, I’d try to remember the most distinct detail about what I saw and drew those into my sketchbook. As long as I captured the most striking detail, I could build or reimagine the design around it afterwards during waking hours.
Chairs started coming into my dreams almost exclusively. By 2012, I had come up with my first chair. But I was too afraid to make it real. More than simply lack of courage, I was afraid someone would sit in it and imagined somehow the chair would break. That person might hurt themselves and I could get sued for it. The fear was so strong and felt so real that it stopped me from moving forward.
Making furniture also didn’t feel easily profitable. At the time, I was more interested in making products that would fast–track me to success. I abandoned furniture and took myself into the diamond jewelry business. But I felt bored. My heart fell asleep. I just don’t love jewelry design.
My heart loves furniture.
When that realization came, I searched furniture manufacturers: from Houston to North Carolina, to Portugal, to France, to U.K., to Indonesia, to Italy.
I got up early in the morning to make calls to Europe. For companies that didn’t have a website and never answered their phones, I booked a trip there and walked the streets of Milan seeing who and what I could find.
A year later, I found the perfect furniture factory in France. Everything about it was perfect. They make luxury pieces with the level of detail, technical know–how, and time that my designs needed. It was a match made in heaven; like going home. I still celebrate the validation I received from the owner of the furniture factory whose family had been in business for five generations. He said regarding my work, “I’ve seen a lot of things, but I’ve never seen this.”
My heart burst into a hot air balloon that took flight into the cosmos. This itty bitty dream I had found recognition. My heart knew where it belonged and found its home instead of me trying to make it up myself.
Following my visit to France, I became busy at work creating my first collection. So bold was I that I started seeking startup capital. I needed money to prototype, market, operate, hire, sell, and promote. I thought I had struck jackpot when one of the world’s richest families in the Middle East contacted me. They asked me how much I needed and I said, “$4 million.”
After a year of discussion, they came back with a response. I got a yes. I was terrified. My body shook. When the yes finally came, I had been hanging my hopes on this money for many long months. I must have asked my guides fifty times whether the money was arriving and if it was safe to take it. Yes, yes. But just before it was all about to go through, the universe stepped in and showed me the risk with my personal safety. I was guided to abandon the whole thing.
I remember praying to Jesus. In my hand was an oracle deck that I knew well and I said, “Jesus, if I’m meant to walk away from this situation, please show me the card called Move On.”
I shuffled. A card flew out of the deck. It was the card Move On.
So I moved on.
But it wasn’t like I just picked up and walked away, cool as a cucumber. I kicked and screamed at the universe before I walked out that door. The end of that chapter broke my heart to the core. I almost wanted my life to end. I honestly felt lied to. In hindsight, the universe was protecting me from a potentially unsafe situation. Maybe it was safe…until it wasn’t.
I did a lot of healing after this experience. The wisdom that came to me was that I was meant to fund my dreams myself or have help from elsewhere. It was also not the right time, not the right people. Maybe I’m that right person. I decided to stop seeking capital from the outside.
Not long after, my father passed away. He had left me a bit of money and I invested it into my furniture business and funded my first prototype.
Before he died, one of the last conversations we had was about a show in Milan. A Portuguese furniture manufacturer commissioned a chair design from me and they exhibited it at Milan’s largest furniture fair called Salone del Mobile. My dad said he was so proud of me. I asked him to stay so he can enjoy the blessings and abundance I hoped to shower upon him.
But he couldn’t stay.
After he passed away, I lost so much of my creative courage. I hadn’t realized that he was the soul partner that I shared much of my adventures with. He, too, was a big dreamer and visionary, and we used to sit around sharing ideas of what we were going to create.
He was a bit crazy and reckless in business which rubbed off on me to take crazy risks too, as if we were being foolish together. Without him, the force behind me to live life daringly was gone. I retreated into a shell, healing myself so thoroughly so that I feel safe to risk again.
I’ve made my way back. 🙂 (updated in June 2022)
My journey into furniture has barely started. I only have a couple of products in the marketplace made in Portugal. With my own made in France collection, my prototype ran into a ton of snags and died mid–birth.
As I reflect on giving myself a second chance, I feel my heart calling me back home to my furniture. My sketches await their turn, resting peacefully inside my sketchbooks and computer. Though they’re invisible to the world still, I no longer feel as if my heart is locked away from those who I most want to connect with. I can still share my heart in other ways until my products are ready to market.
All my career, I have been in the services industry which meant I could birth a business overnight. With my website design and phone sales skills, I could throw a site on the internet and be open for business within hours, and I did that over the years as necessary.
The biggest challenge for me with switching to a product–based business was the amount of time, resources, and partnership needed to get something started. I couldn’t be a lone wolf here as I’ve always been. Everything was about alignment, divine timing, and divine partnership.
There was also money. Jewelry making, as I saw, was simple and inexpensive to start, which is why my logical mind took me there. But with furniture, the investment needed is a lot more costly, especially when I am not mass manufacturing and am committed to luxury–level hand craftsmanship.
Actually, I’ve never studied furniture design. I didn’t even study product design. What I had studied was Communications Design (graphic design) at Parsons School of Design in New York.
When I started my journey, it didn’t bother me that I never studied furniture design before. I hadn’t even studied jewelry design before and I hired CAD experts and worked with the factory to realize my visions. My knowledge of furniture was basically zero (and still is). And that’s okay. I knew I could design the furniture and hand off my sketches to the manufacturers who could figure out all the steps toward production and completion.
That’s the thing about product creation: we don’t have to know in advance how to get there because there are plenty of specialists who do. Or, we’d figure it out together.
If I had labored myself into figuring out how each part would join together, and with what, and how, and all of that, my vision would probably have been lost or compromised in that process. I would have overthought it to death or to banality.
It would be better for me to dream up perfection and then be told by specialists what could or couldn’t be accomplished. They could also provide expert guidance on how to revise the design for ease of accomplishment or for cutting down costs.
Entrepreneurs don’t need to know everything. They just need to know who to ask. I like to go into creativity with the least knowledge possible so that all options are open to me. If I don’t know, then I don’t know what would be “wrong” and therefore, magical solutions appear!
With the mind of a novice, I am not burdened by boundaries or what is or isn’t possible. In that way, I hope to continue being a novice and staying at the edge of not knowing. This is how we can continue to take bold, creative risks and come from a fresh perspective.
My journey of healing my broken heart is complete. I’ve come such a long way. My heart remains drunk with love with my furniture and the potential within me. If I succeed, it will be the sweetest joy ever. But if I fail or if it never happens, that same sweetness is already inside my heart.
But I know this is my destiny, too. It can’t not happen because it’s in the stars, I know. 🙂
I hope this has inspired you with courage and inspiration, should you be interested in becoming a furniture designer.