I get paid to do this? When work is joy

By Caitlin Kelly

A print on polyester -- I had a long convo with the designer!
A print on polyester — I had a long convo with the designer!

Sometimes work is sheer drudgery, the thing we can’t wait to flee at day’s, week’s or career’s end.

But sometimes, when we’re lucky, it’s pure joy.

A young friend of mine is traveling throughout SouthEast Asia for three months leading tours and photographing it all. She — yes, really! — fell off an elephant, and into the Mekong River in Laos recently. I awoke in suburban New York to her panicked email from the other side of world asking for my husband’s email; (he’s her mentor and a photographer.)

Here’s her blog.

Aside from a water-logged camera and lens, she is both working hard and impossibly happy, especially sweet after a New Jersey internship that was exhausting and often formulaic.

Two fabrics from a Montreal distributor
Two fabrics from a Montreal distributor

Last week was like this for me.

As a full-time freelance journalist, I work on a wide variety of stories and assignments, from coaching fellow writers to writing personal essays for The New York Times. I also do less glamorous stuff like covering trade shows.

A booth filled with vintage clothing, used for inspiration
A booth filled with vintage clothing, used for inspiration

This week I covered three, all held in New York City, where I live — (and my feet are sore!) — interviewing their organizers and some of their many vendors.

The first show, Premiere Vision, brings together 300+ textile, lace, button and zipper manufacturers to meet the people who need their goods to make the clothes we will buy in a year from places like Marc Jacobs or Diesel or Tommy Hilfiger.

Isn't this gorgeous!? Even the sequins are wrapped in mesh
Isn’t this gorgeous!? Even the sequins are wrapped in mesh

However unlikely, I spent 45 minutes at another show discussing…pockets.

As in: the fabric used to line pockets, specifically of jeans and jackets. I loved this pair of shorts, showing how creatively one can use these fabrics.

Love these!
Love these!


At PV, there’s a whole section of people selling their designs, some of which I now realize adorn my workout clothing — for $500 or $700 you buy their design outright and can use it in whatever way suits your needs. Another few vendors sell scraps of vintage wallpaper and fabric that end up used for pillows by Crate & Barrel and other major retailers.

Yes, it's fabric! Stretch cotton with a wood-grain surface print
Yes, it’s fabric! Stretch cotton with a wood-grain surface print

As someone obsessed with textiles and a student of design, this is the most paid fun imaginable — getting to see and touch gorgeous fabrics, meet smart, cool designers and see how it all comes together.

How was your week at work?


A bit hard to see -- tiny gray crystals attached to pale gray wool, an award-winning Japanese-designed jacket
A bit hard to see — tiny gray crystals attached to pale gray wool, an award-winning Japanese-designed jacket

25 thoughts on “I get paid to do this? When work is joy

  1. Something like yours. I’ve just ended a weekend (all up, 4 day tour) with a festival that’s been touring Copenhagen, Arhus, Aalborg, Odense here in Denmark. We are in Aalborg as I speak, having just woken up, sore as hell from 2 days of shooting with some great folk (although nothing compared to the festival crew, who have worked their asses off). It was a resounding success. Everyone is stoked. We’re going to have breakfast, then visit my boy’s family, who live in this town.

    I’m having one of those moments myself right now. This is the kind of thing that happens to someone else šŸ™‚

  2. themodernidiot

    Dude that mesh is insane! And zoomed in for inspection reminds me of Elizabeth Bishop’s Fish. Incredible cool.

  3. wow, what a wonderful powerhouse of a week you’ve had. the details at these shows are amazing and you were right in your element, soaking it all in, sore feet be damned. i wish many more weeks like this for you. (and how great for your friend in asia as well )

  4. A week of polar opposites. .. working with the government can be mind numbingly tedious (I once sat in a meeting for 42 minutes watching a “decision maker” think about wording for a meeting agenda. .. sigh).

    But, I also got to meet (on my time) with a young entrepreneur needing marketing communication advice and came away with that same feeling. ..I do this part because this is what fuels my passion, and makes my days sing.
    Thanks for the reminder that it takes all the details to make the whole cloth of our week beautiful and fulfilling.

      1. Yep. That was a lot of time to question why I do what I do for those who call for my support.

        Box checking, avoiding blame, avoiding controversy? Let someone else stroke your. .. uh, ego.

        Those who have a message, who need to engage their community? I have all day to brainstorm with you.

      2. Now you get why I started writing for my own pleasure- I’m truly overjoyed when others connect, but I write to exercise my mind, to clear all the highly regulated non-speak and circuitous CYA out at the end of a day.

        I love being back in this country, but goodness, the amount of vitriol and blame-avoidance is stifling to those who would innovate.

        Is it patience or pity with the former? I think the latter.

  5. Wow, sounds super fun! I’m glad you had such a great week! My week of work? Well the work itself isn’t all that interesting: marketing, but I stopped a few times and reminded myself how fortunate I am to work from home, have my own hours, work part-time, and continue with things I love (like hiking and foraging for chanterelles that are in season in the woods now, and pick berries), and keeping up with fitness, and need to do for family stuff like bringing my kid to camp, and chatting with other parents. It’s not all fun and sometimes I have a tough time focusing because I never have my brain fully entrenched in one subject, but I’m lucky at least it’s on my terms so far this summer and still keeping up!

    1. Good to hear from you again…it’s been a while!

      My next post is about the freelance life, pro and con, with lots of links and an interesting recent survey. Your life sounds pretty idyllic to me. šŸ™‚

      1. thanks!! It’s tough keeping up w/all I want to read w/work and the kid home for the summer. The writing is a little slower than I’d like, but I’m determined to keep up. Look forward to your next one–sounds great!!

  6. Well, my week at the office went by pretty fast and it was pretty unusual. I helped sort through documents needing to be shred on Monday, and on Thursday I attended a staff appreciation lunch where I almost won some football tickets.

    As for my writing (I count that as a job these days), I finished the first draft of a novel I’d been working on for a year or so, and I published an article on the audiobook service ACX. It’s been a busy week!

  7. You have taken me down memory lane, to when I covered fashion and beauty for the Chicago Tribune. Ooh, the baubles and gorgeous fabrics. You lucky gal:). And personal essays for the Grey Lady? That’s a dream:). The only paper I still get at home–the Sunday edition is still a proper newspaper. Coffee and a Sunday paper requires something tactile, don’t you think? Not online.

    1. OMG. Major squeeeeeee! What a cool damn job you had. :-))))

      It really was a ton of fun and I came away with a fistful of cool story ideas, which — as you know — rarely just happen when you sit alone at home all day.

      Getting a personal essay in the NYT is not nearly as impossible as people imagine; Lives and Modern Love, yes, but there are other places as well.

      Our apt is a pile’ o newsprint — every weekend we read FT, WSJ and NYT on paper. Bliss!

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