We had the good fortune of connecting with Kimlien Le and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kimlien, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I think about risk as something that occurs both internally and externally. Neither is more prominent than the other; they affect us in both environments whether we like it or not. However, it is necessary for risks to happen in order to become a different version of ourselves… Not necessarily better or worst… just different, vulnerable, open-for-improvement, evolving, stronger version of ourselves each time around. Taking risks has played many roles in my life and career, positively and negatively – and I wouldn’t change any of it (no matter how much I think of the hypothetical scenarios). I guess we just can’t really have one without the other. I turned down many opportunities to play college volleyball and on top of that, majoring in International Business, to pursue an art education. I won’t forget that day at orientation, instead of following the business majors on their tour, I took a hard right and followed a group into the art department. I risked criticism, reputation, and disappointment and got all of the above. While I was ready to commit to something new – and I mean, totally new – because I had never seriously taken an art class before and just messed around with photography and doodles without discipline; I saw it coming like an avalanche – all the “You won’t be anything important” , “How could you do this to your parents?” (ouch real heart hitter right there), the “How are you going to get a real job?”, oh and the “You’re not going to make ANY money with art!” – a classic. Now it was not competing in athletics with a scoreboard and referees. I was now simply competing with myself, and didn’t realize how little I understood about myself until then. The more I committed with each class and each year my knowledge and tenacity grew, and my skin became thicker. I could describe having hundreds of people critique my work, my techniques, and my ideas as nerve-racking and scary but I can’t… I’m thankful for it. In time it goes away the harder you push thru and express yourself and your work as loud as possible. I think you have more to risk with yourself personally if you stare at the ground and whisper your ideas and feelings to your feet.
I left after 3 years at my first Graphic Design position to pursue pure freelance, risking financial stability and my “professional” experience. I had a couple good moments, and then life happened and work got turned down, and in all honesty I saw and accepted that I failed at my first attempt in the freelance world – at what I thought I knew. However with that humility, I appreciated experiencing that feeling of freedom in creating what I wanted to create and how I made it happen – what worked and what didn’t. I was juggling jobs and mixing in art for a couple years – waitressing, logo designing, metalsmithing, painting, and retail management. I mean… there was no rhyme or reason for a bit and my reputation became so diverse it was difficult for me to focus clearly on an end goal. Taking risks to survive and pay the bills versus making time for yourself and your passions can be overwhelming and even possibly create an identity crisis. I have fallen out with people who were both good or bad for me, as well as gained new friends and colleagues that continue to inspire me to not give up on making art. At the end of the day I believe I’m okay with those past (and even present) feelings, so long as I am creating something.
Sometimes in my mind I have an image and feel that somehow my hands can’t make it exactly as I see it – and that can frustrate me to the point where I want to give up. So I risk quitting on myself and somehow letting others down. I wonder if people won’t like what I make because it’s not exactly how I envisioned it – I risk caring more about what others think, instead of accepting myself and my work. If I can’t accept it, how can anyone else? If it’s not on trend, will anyone pay attention? I risk fitting in and not staying true to my concept. Is it too different than what I’ve made before? What if no one wants to buy it? I risk caring and building my life only around money. I risk being a perfectionist and failing to enjoy the whole process of creating. Taking risks at all the forks in the road – struggling and overcoming, failing and succeeding, continues to shape what I do next and where I take my art. Regardless of what risks I decide to take or not take – I walk away with some new knowledge about myself and my capabilities.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’ve found that my Graphic career was short, and while I still do freelance projects here and there I now have found myself venturing thru fashion and action sports becoming a Marketing Coordinator. It felt like a long shot… I got here because I was very vocal about what I wanted to do next (even if it wasn’t centered around art specifically) – how I learned that I loved organizing, traveling, problem solving, assisting with art assets; finding a lot of excitement in the fast-paced world of Marketing. It still wasn’t easy though, my biggest challenge – I think – was that I fell out of touch with the Graphic Design world; therefore leaving me feeling not-so-confident… that I might be late to the game on many levels. While I had a gap in my professional timeline, I overcame that with being straightforward and not giving up… To be honest, I was still figuring out where I belonged in the work place and I showed an eagerness to learn and make connections. I wanted to make a difference and I made that very clear to people. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to pay attention to what you enjoy in life and to make the time to be creative in attaining as much of it as you can – and mold it all into something you get to call your work/your job. Mmm… I’m not sure what more specifically I want the world to know about my brand and story… sometimes I’m able to erase my mistakes and other times I’m not.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
Oh fun I love these dream days. We would hike Devils Punch Bowl, Iron Mountain and Big Laguna, topping off with a wine + charcuterie picnic – cause that’s how we do. Eating out – I’d have to take em over to Lola’s Mexican Deli, Compass, Overseas, and Jeune et Jolie in Carlsbad… Union and Lotus Cafe in Encinitas… LTH, Coomber, Pacific Coast Spirits, Steel Mill, Booze Brothers and Privateer in Oceanside. Besides the beach and my backyard, probably thrifting all over San Diego – sorry not giving away my spots, finding an art show happening at Linksoul or SAID Space or anywhere really, listen to music at Pour House, the Hideout, the Casbah, Seven Grand, play some pool at The Golden Tee, search for rivers in Fallbrook, hang out on the couch at Lone Flag Studio, definitely a plant nursery cause I’m sure I need some sort of gardening thing, or hop over a fence with some cans and run around an abandoned pit. Any place that’s fun, interesting and exciting is anywhere having my best friends with me – probably the same for you too… happy hour discounts and live music definitely help though. There’s a lot of hidden gems to check out – I recommend filling your gas tank, packing a camera and flipping a coin throughout your drive to turn left or right every 15 minutes and see where you end up – let me know where you do.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I believe everyone who has supported me, believed in me, and inspired me deserves most of the credit and recognition in my story. There is many to name, but without them I don’t think I could have made it past so many rollercoaster chapters… so thank you!