If you have the good fortune of knowing Traci Morris, then chances are she has at some point in time sent you a beautifully handcrafted birthday card, holiday card, get well card or even a postcard just letting you know she's thinking of you. That act alone is a perfect analogy for her personality. She’s thoughtful, polite, has impeccable taste, and ample talent. It’s also quite unexpected from a woman who was originally pre-med in college. She is the perfect mixture of beauty, grace, intelligence, and humor – characteristics that shine through in her beautiful watercolor illustrations.
I remember the day Traci told me of her decision to leave the corporate world and the safety net of a regular paycheck to go out on her own. She was equal parts giddy and terrified and I was equal parts proud and envious. I coveted that level of talent, perseverance, and bravery one needs to take that kind of leap.
There was no doubt in my mind she would do well. The rewards of taking a chance and letting her work stand on its own seemed to far outweigh the risks. My confidence in her did not just stem from her talent alone, but her organized and strategic approach. A calling like that does not stay quiet for long. If you are to find success in that calling, you must answer it with a realistic and determined mindset.
Traci was kind enough to answer some of my standard-issue WORK Folks questions. I hope through this you will find some sound advice and inspiration for your own calling.
1- What you do? (I know, I already know this.)
Illustrator + Artist
2 - How long you've been doing this particular work?
Professionally, a little over a year.
3 - How did you get started in this field? Also, can you give a little insight with regards to the risk you took getting started in this business? What made you take this risk and what did/do you tell yourself when that uncertainty of success creeps in and not just with regards to your own creative spirit, but the practicality of making enough money to live?
Oh, this is such a good question. For years I worked in various creative roles in fashion but never actually did any illustrations outside of work. During this time I committed to a class each semester to stay creative: Boot Design + Construction, Jewelry Design, etc. It was an evening watercolor class at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) that started it all (ironically, the teacher was hesitant to let me take the class because I’d had no prior art education). I didn’t do much with it until three years ago when I started to casually document my travels via Instagram. At the time it was just a hobby and I found that I loved illustrating more and more, so I began to practice daily. Two years ago I resigned from my stable job and took the plunge. It was scary then; it still is now. I took the risk because I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t. As cliché as it sounds, it was a total leap of faith.
4 - What are the particular tools and inspiration that help you continue to do this to the high standards you insist upon?
For inspiration, museums and travel are a must for me. Even if it’s locally to the farmer’s market or the botanical garden here in Brooklyn. I’m still learning. So it’s really about exploring the unknown and challenging myself to try new mediums and techniques even though I may not know how it will turn out. I’m obsessed with process and craftsmanship. A dish from a restaurant can inspire me as much as the facade of a building or a work of art. I try to translate that into whatever project I’m working on. My style is still evolving. I’m just rolling with it.
5 - Is there someone in particular that inspires you or inspired you when you started?
The desire to do something truly creative and personal inspired me to pursue a career in illustration but I think it’s been slowly bubbling up to the surface since I was a child (my grandmother will proudly show you every piece of art I’ve made; it’s all on display in her china cabinet). It’s been a cumulative process. My mom and grandmother both being very headstrong taught me independence, my dad for his measure-twice-cut-once mentality, and artists and craftsmen of every medium. I worked at Tiffany & Co doing product development for Elsa Peretti for nearly six years and she’s been a huge source of inspiration: her attention to detail, dedication, perfectionism. She’s had a fascinating career that’s spanned over four decades and is still going.
6 - Our brand (WORK Labs) focuses a lot on work ethic. Can you describe your work ethic? Short-cuts you will not take, things you won't give in on, even if it meant more business, money, etc.?
In the beginning, I was up with the sun sketching and painting and I sometimes worked well into the night. I’ve put in really long days, but once I decided this is what I wanted to do, I knew I’d have to work hard and hustle. I’ll never settle for less than what I think I can do and occasionally that means trying two or three times before I nail it. Which also means a lot of ripped up paper on my floor.
7 - Any advice to individuals starting out in a similar field?
Just do it.
Finding a mentor never hurts. Tough skin helps. A lot. You’ll make mistakes. Learn from them. Most importantly, keep your head down and do the work. It’s my new(est) mantra. It can be incredibly intimidating and crippling to compare yourself to others, especially in the art field. All in due time.
This quote from Steve Jobs is pretty perfect: “You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”