Yes, this is how I spent the last 4 months in order to avoid total breakdown. Well, ice cream helped too, lots of it. I realize that it's completely normal for there to be moments in life where everything changes, unexpectedly and we learn to adjust our attitudes and truths in order to continue towards our goals and live a life of happiness. Everyone close in our lives knows the story of the last 4 months and I think we did a pretty good job of continuing to keep our clients happy in the midst of chaos although I apologize for not sending out the most amazing New Years cards ever (when things slowed down, in mid-February, it seemed really late, but there is a huge stack if you want one shipped). The unspoken rules of Social Media, especially InstaGram where it's all about the aesthetic of the photograph, sometimes doesn't always allow for authenticity. So here is the story.
Everything changed a day in September when a notice to vacate the building in Newark was posted on our front door. It read "this building is declared unsafe for human occupancy" "no individual can occupy building" . We called our landlords and their response was cold and short, "the building is structurally unsound, everyone must leave, the leases are cancelled, sorry for the inconvenience".
After 7 years of creating this home, it was finally time. We have had close calls before with our building so we always felt like we were living there on borrowed time. It was a live/work industrial warehouse with some pretty obvious code violations. Little inconveniences began to add up and we were ready to leave long before the notice was posted.
Backtrack to 2012, we put any travel and large purchases on hold and saved money, then began a hunt for real estate in Jersey City in June 2013. The economy grew, they city was receiving amazing press, motivated leaders took office in city hall, and huge developers started dumping money into city projects. All of this made it a race to see a home as soon as it hit the market, get a bid in, and have all of the finance paperwork ready to go. We probably looked at 60-70 properties. We made about 12 offers, we were in "attorney review" 3 times, which in NJ is the period of time after an offer is accepted where the attorneys look at the contract to make sure everything looks good. The deals kept falling through. It was heart breaking.
After a full year of this stressful dance, Adam sent me an email of listings of properties in Hunterdon, NJ, "the country". All huge, all clean, all affordable. It seemed pretty clear that I needed to have my break-up with Jersey City.
So a few weeks later we had our first meeting with a real estate agent in Hunterdon County. She showed us 3 houses and we discussed possibly looking at more. It was a totally different experience from the Jersey City race, we actually had time to think about things. The first home was pretty amazing and I couldn't get it out of my mind. It was a sweet colonial with gorgeous hardwood floors on a Main Street so we could be in the country but still have a town feel. The best part was, it had a huge barn in the back which was mostly converted to a very good working space. Oh! I dreamt of the most amazing light-filled studio with so much storage space, and a dream packing/shipping desk. It was perfect, mainly because I just loved the barn and the future it could have for the business.
Before making a quick decision, we wanted to research the area and the costs associated with converting the barn into a viable working studio and storage space for Nightingale Projects. That was the week the notice to vacate was on the door to our building. The timing of the notice was so strange, I mean, we wanted to move anyway but this was like the universe directly saying, "yeah, you gotta move now!". It also forced us to make the decision that we were basically prepared to make anyway, which was the choice for the sweet colonial in the country.
The biggest downfall, which is actually the main reason this was SO difficult, was that we had to move within a week. It takes way longer than a week to close on a house, so our options were to take the risk of staying and the city kicking us out, or make 2 stressful moves. We decided it would be a better move to find a temporary place to stay while we closed on the country home. We packed up all of our essentials and moved, everything else went to storage. We went to the suburbs and moved into my brother's house, which is now a family joke because so many family members have taken temporary stays there. We were able to set up a printing workspace in his basement, which allowed us to continue filling orders and work on any reprints. It wasn't comfortable and it just felt really strange since our last studio had lots of space, light, and flexibility. It also just felt very sad, it was the combination of the suburbs, the stress of mortgage paperwork, not having our belongings around, plus everyday while I was driving "home" from my full time job I'd sob because I wasn't driving home. I was driving to a place that was hopefully temporary. My brother's house is amazing and he is really funny, I loved spending time with him. But it just wasn't home.
Everything ran it's course and the only damage was a scarred up knee from a fall during the move, a few pounds from all of the ice cream, and a broken picture frame. And since this is the first time I've recounted all of our misfortunes, I'm realizing that maybe it wasn't all that bad. I was living a very comfortable, safe life with all of the consistencies you could imagine. Through the recession, Adam and I managed to hang on to both of our full time jobs. I graduated from art school and continued to create work, something that a lot of my artist friends had given up. I faced no real challenges up until this point, except the grind of a M-F job. Really, I am merely lucky that I lived so long with few worries. I fell pretty hard and fast, but somehow I still landed on my feet.
This is a big part of my story and Nightingale Project's story. All of these events are shaping how we are able to grow our business and think about what it really means to take a risk and be resilient. It has changed the way we think about the studio we can now create, the way we want to strengthen the products we create, and being authentic with the people we do business with. In no way did we ever want this to be an excuse, in fact telling an abbreviated version of our story actually created a dialog and connection that we didn't have before with some great people.
So there it is. The wild story that I have only been able to drop some clues here and there.
The new place, our yard view with the barn. The future home for Nightingale Projects.