My Final Weeks At WELD

A few days ago, I sent out a letter to WELD members letting them know I am stepping out of my role as Community Manager on March 13th. 

This was a very prayerful and conscious decision, and to say it was difficult is putting it lightly. It's been the heaviest burden I've ever experienced because, well -- I never thought I would have made it here. It’s literally been a dream job for me. 

WELD Open House Party 9.14.12. Photo by Nicholas Leitzinger

WELD Open House Party 9.14.12. Photo by Nicholas Leitzinger

I’ve had the opportunity to encourage so many artists to pursue their passions as a profession — and that is what I intend to do now. Practice what I preach by taking advantage of my degree in watercolor painting and illustration.

When I helped launch WELD back in March of 2012, I literally had no idea who I was, what I wanted to do with my life, or what I was even good at. I met up with the founder, Austin, right after he signed the lease, and agreed to do some coffee consulting in exchange for a membership. After a few weeks, I was hired on as a contractor. Then shortly became the first salaried employee. 

My job has always been pretty nebulous — doing anything and everything required to stay open and keep members happy. Being the “Community Manager” essentially meant wearing every hat from: recruiting, vetting, and on-boarding members, to tapping kegs, to organizing massive events, to finally overseeing the expansion campaign to Nashville.

Organizing the WELD launch with Austin Mann, April 2012. Photo by Daniel Davis

Organizing the WELD launch with Austin Mann, April 2012. Photo by Daniel Davis

In three years, I’ve:
+ sent over 9,000 emails
brewed over 780 pounds of coffee
consumed well over 900 tacos from Taco Stop
conducted 113 member meetings
baked 2,713 cookies (with the help of interns)
sent 113 weekly member memos — lovingly called “the membo”
purchased around 45 kegs of local beer
on-boarded over 250 WELDERs
hosted numerous events for over 4,000 attendees
Interviewed 50 potential interns
hosted over 700 studio shoots
attended 3 weddings of members who met at WELD
+ had one of my favorite nights of all time documented by Paul Golangco
….and many more.

I want to acknowledge that the work we did at WELD was pretty fantastic. I have been carefully planning with the leadership, and know that WELD will thrive in my absence. The trajectory it is on is incredible. They will all continue to be my friends, family, and comrades — 

…but now I’d like to add fellow artist and freelancer to that list. 

Kammok Launch Party at SXSW 3.16.14. Photo by Steve Rokks

Kammok Launch Party at SXSW 3.16.14. Photo by Steve Rokks

I’ve gained an innumerable amount of experience while working for and with some of the most talented folks I’ve ever known. The love and encouragement I have from my community is enabling me to take this chance on myself. 

It’s always felt like WELD was this amazing gift that I didn’t deserve — that it had nothing to do with me and I was lucky to have it. Fear of losing that significance, fear of failure, fear of not having a safety net has kept me from dreaming bigger. Fear has held me back from having deeper relationships beyond what I was able to offer transactionally. 

Fear of who I am without WELD has kept me hidden behind it. 

The biggest impact I was able to contribute in WELD’s success to date has been culturally. I helped create an environment in which people can thrive on genuine encouragement and selflessness. The question around the workspace is rarely asked “what can you do for me?” but rather, “how can I help you?” 

Great friends, Tyler Sharp and Matt Alexander at the WELD Show 2013. Photo by Daniel Driensky

Great friends, Tyler Sharp and Matt Alexander at the WELD Show 2013. Photo by Daniel Driensky

Those words resonate through our competitive nature to our core — where we simply want to be heard and understood. Sometimes all a person needs is simple reassurance by someone who listened to them. 

By instilling this into members, I’ve been fortunate enough to be blessed by the fruits of my labor. I’ll always be a huge advocate for WELD because I have not only seen what a community can do to change lives, I’ve experienced it for myself. 

Over the next month, I’ll be spending a considerable amount of time just being a person in Oak Cliff. I’m going to exhaust my savings account doodling at Davis Street Espresso and ride my bike up and down Winnetka Heights. 

Me being a person in Oak Cliff. Photo by Jess Barfield

Me being a person in Oak Cliff. Photo by Jess Barfield

I’m just starting to give myself license to dream again. I want to finish editing and illustrating the book I’ve been writing, talk to a few galleries about representation, consult with start-ups around town, license my designs for textiles, and paint everything I can get my hands on. 

This time is so valuable, and I'm so humbled for this opportunity. I will be finally treating myself like a WELDER, and consulting Tiffany the painter on how to build and run her own creative empire. 

So shoot me an email or fill out the contact page -- let's create something great together.