On the occasion of Women's Day, the University of Almería, specifically its Department of Equality in collaboration with the Faculty of Economic and Business Sciences, invited me, to give a Talk - Colloquium on how I dared to create my company in times of Pandemic.
Of course, it is more dynamic to feel the energy of the students and teachers in the Room, but this is the transcript of what I wanted to convey, to the young people who attended.
Talented boys and girls full of enthusiasm, who made me have a wonderful time.
Thank you for welcoming me so warmly. It has been an honor to be a part of this year's events.
Before starting, I would like to dedicate this talk, the simple fact of being here, to all the women who do not have access to education, to those who lost it because of the damned wars and to those who, being prepared and full of hope, lack of opportunities or do not believe in themselves.
For all of them, we must fight for the right to thrive.
When they offered me to share my experience as an entrepreneur, here at the University, I accepted immediately, I didn't think about it for even a second.
For me, sorority is putting my experience at the service of other women. Perhaps, simply to feel that it has been worthwhile or to give meaning or utility to what I have learned.
Curiously, accepting the invitation was very easy.
The hardest part was finding a title.
How could I summarize in one sentence, the 50 years it has taken me to reach this moment, well, remembering Pessoa's poem, Piedras en el Camino. ( Pebbles in the Way).
It begins by saying: don't forget that your life is the biggest business in the world.
And ends with these verses:
Stones in the way? I keep them all, to build me a castle!
And it is so true. Given it time, you see, that each failed experience had a purpose and a meaning.
Internet is full of motivating quotes, the difficult thing is to integrate them into our actions.
For me, the quote that marked a before and after in my life is one from Goethe, it is very long and I will only read the last lines:
What you can do
or you dream that you can do,
Boldness brings along, genius, power and magic.
Well, this verse: Boldness brings with it genius, power and magic, was the one I engraved on my first ipad and most importantly, in my mind.
At what point do we lose the audacity.
When we are little, they have to stop us: Don't get up there…you can fall…be careful…. but we do not see the danger in anything.
The ideal would be, to never lose the audacity.
But how to recover it, when little by little, disappointments, bad experiences, bad advice, insecurity, lack of self-esteem, have taken it away from us.
Well, I wish I had the magic recipe and all the keys.
The only thing I have is the opportunity to share my experience and how I recovered mine. That's what this talk is about.
It is about how I got my audacity back.
As I told you at the beginning, it has taken me 50 years to get to this point.
I was born in Almería, but I have spent my childhood and youth abroad. I don't know if it's appropriate to mention it in a University, but I left Medicine studies in the first year of my degree, because since I was 10 years old, I knew that my Element was drawing.
Each person has an element. Something in which one feels is fully herself, in which the essence of our personality is aligned with what we do.
Sir Ken Robinson called it Element: your element, it's where the things you love to do and the things you're good at come together.
The Japanese have another term, which is called IKIGAI, referring to what gives meaning to your life, the joy and satisfaction you get when you make what you are passionate about and it comes true.
Obtaining the IKIGAI is vital satisfaction, it is something that we also lose many times over time, by moving away from our element.
I went away from my element twice.
The first, as I have said, going to the University of Navarra to study Medicine, which is normal, since it is not what I wanted to do. I only passed embryology because it was about drawing mostly…
But the second time, that's the unsettling one. After finally going to Paris and getting my diploma in fashion styling. I mean, after fulfilling my dream of being a designer, I fell back out of my element.
Why? Well, plain and simple and being in full celebration of women, because I didn't have in me, neither the strength, nor the self-esteem, nor the confidence to take advantage of all the opportunities that arose in Paris.
From working on television to working as a fashion designer, I had everything to achieve my dream, but I couldn't, I was paralyzed by the fear of failure.
The reasons would need two more talks to be explained.
Each woman can have that feeling for different reasons, the important thing is to fight to get out of it.
That's why I say, that the most important entreprise is yourself.
If you don't believe in yourself, your worth does not matter, you won't be able to take action. You will not dare.
But everything I learned in those years, living in places as different as Paris or Australia, working in other countries, as different as Bali or Andorra, studying acting, traveling a lot... everything was building me without being aware of it.
When I finally returned to Spain, I was already 40 years old. I put all my experience at the service of marketing, communication and translation services. A quiet corporate life, that gave me a sense of security.
But, whenever they asked me what my dream was, I would say “Being a Textile Designer” but as something unattainable. Because I still didn't authorize me to DREAM MY DREAMED LIFE.
With the Crisis, the company I worked for closed and instead of continuing on the same path, what I did was starting from scratch.
At that time, I already felt much stronger and had rebuilt myself as a woman.
I had my dog and lived by the sea, things I always dreamed of doing when I lived in Bali.
Bali has been the place that has helped me the most to reconnect with the essence of what is important to me. That happiness, detached from experiences and people, is the essence of what each of us is and we must not lose.
Bali taught me to value every day and every sunset.
The simple ritual of watching the sunset every day at 6 p.m. and taking long walks on the beach, is something that was healing for me.
Combining it with my Mediterranean and Almeria´s sensibility, my Anglo-Saxon way of working and my rather French-inspired artistic mentality, have built the puzzle of who I am.
With those weapons, I decided to go back to school. I no longer missed myself. I felt like I was back.
Picking up where I had left off 20 years ago in Paris, with the hopes of my youth, when I took a train to Paris and enrolled in my design school in Montparnasse.
In 2016, I signed up for every online cIass I could find, to learn Photoshop, Illustrator, and Computer Textile Design, from scratch.
In 2016 all the courses were in English, so the time spent in Australia came in handy to master the language. Now there are many courses in Spanish.
For 3 years, all I did was non-stop studying , but at the same time, while I was learning my digital skills, I was building my website, to make myself aware that all this work was for the purpose of having my own design studio.
Starting the house from the roof, projecting myself into the life I wanted to have, helped me not to falter.
When I got stuck on something, the next day I found a new course on that topic.
As Goethe's poem says, when we commit, a series of opportunities present themselves that we would never have otherwise imagined.
It is not the same to leave a Design school and have access to training or to be an intern, (as when I studied in Paris and did stages at Le Sentier or Haute Couture Maisons, hand in hand with my design school), than being self-taught and finding your own way.
All of this journey is treated in depth in a webinar I did for a design platform. It's on my You Tube channel in English.
Here is the link:
Finding my own way was a risk I took.
I decided to sell industry licenses for my designs and display all of them on my website.
This way, the same design can be sold many times for different sectors. for example, stationery, wallpaper, bedding, children's etc...
I had to write my license contracts, prepare my online store, the digital files I sell to my clients, the payment methods, the social networks.
Deciding on one of the many paths open to textile designers was not easy.
In this job, you can monetize your knowledge by giving classes, getting paid to promote accounts on Social media, working for other Studios, working exclusively for a brand or Corporation, selling textile designs on other online platforms, creating and manufacturing your own products or fabrics. There are many ways to exercise surface design.
When everything was ready, in 2019, I opened my Online Shop for Ready-to-Use Patterns: Gloriasurfacepatterndesign
With the motto LET'S CREATE TOGETHER, aiming to have my designs used on any type of product, to add color and joy to everyday objects.
That's why I showed my designs applied to products in what are known as mockups
Simulations of how my designs would look once applied. Little did I know then, that investing so much in mockups would bring me a great cooperation later on.
But then, a stone appeared on the road unexpected by all of us: The Pandemic.
I had completed my training and everything was paralyzed, everyone was locked at home.
Having my dog made it more bearable for me than for other people, but even so, in March 2020 I had a monumental slump.
I had already sold designs at my studio, but of course, with the Pandemic, those products would not have the success that we expected.
Then, it occurred to me, to create an instagram page called @fandeestampados, where I could support the entire community of textile designers and illustrators.
During a year, I got to support and share more than 10000 accounts. Connecting artists with each other, publishing job offers, contests, classes, etc. It didn't matter if they were beginners or established artists, we were all united by the same passion for textiles.
Encouraging others encouraged me.
And one day, one of those artists that I had published on instagram, contacted me and suggested using my designs on scarves.
It was from the mutual generosity between women that G&Silk emerged.
A slightly older woman with decades of industry experience, helped a beginner like me.
My totally altruistic account had another totally altruistic response.
And at that very moment, I recovered the AUDACITY.
Much needed to create a company from scratch, from the foundations: logo, values, designs, packaging, searching for clients, promoting on internet and in the press, searching for guest artists.
And again another website, another online store... now I had to manage two of them.
And hand in hand with daring finally came the IKIGAI.
The satisfaction of finally being in my element.
In times of pandemic, everything was done virtually, with zoom meetings and chats.
Even the Textile Fairs became Virtual.
My project is the proof that a good use of social networks can bring wonderful connections.
An example of daring is when I applied to the most important platform for independent artists in the United States.
There was a waiting list of 1500 people and yet the founder of Flying Solo in New York called me personally to tell me that my scarves would be in her Show Room.
And that was a month after opening. A recently created brand in Almería rubbing shoulders with leading brands in New York.
They were highly requested by stylists for their fashion shoots and TV shows.
I was also lucky enough to participate in the foreign radio program in Spain, MARCA ESPAÑA, about brands Made in Spain.
During the first year, G&Silk focused a lot on foreign promotion, but this 2022 I wanted to make my brand known here in Almería where I live, and it is thanks to the article in a local newspaper that the University contacted me.
Having already my brand and my studio, I left fandeestampados parked, but I didn't want to lose the essence, on the contrary, I wanted to translate the artist support into something tangible.
Over time, many people wrote to me to tell me that I had been a light in the midst of the darkness of the pandemic. The only thing I wanted was to put a smile on my colleagues. Without expecting anything in return.
Fandeestampados became an Open Call and this Blog.
For this reason, as soon as the brand was launched, I invited artists and also decided to make Open Calls every 3 months so that non-professional artists or students would also have an opportunity.
When I crossed from student to freelancer and then to an entrepreneur, an insurmountable bridge appeared.
I couldn't understand how artists can be supported but not personal or independent brands that give opportunities to artists.
When I uploaded posts to fandeestampados, I made sure to inform about where to acquire those works or objects.
Now that I had my brand, I saw that support for artists did not extend to support for brands created by artists. I was alone.
But that didn't make me give up my idea of giving opportunities to artists.
For me the client, the artist and the brand have the same importance.
You cannot have a product without a design, nor does a design come to life without a product.
But these days, the model, the photographer, the stylist, the magazine, sometimes they forget that they are there to photograph a product that is the source of income for the magazine. And they forget that behind the product there is a design.
It was surprising for me to see that I lost a lot of support by launching my brand. It was a brutal stop.
For designers, I was on the other side, but for me, I had one foot on each side, since I also participate in contests and submit my work to be evaluated by clients and brands as the freelancer I continue to be.
Despite this new reality, there were other wonderful connections and encounters, to name one, the designers from whom I had bought so many mockups in my student days, proposed to use my designs for their templates and not only that, they created templates for me, based on my Scarves in twill silk, wool and pocket squares.
Currently at G&Silk there are guest artists from New York, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, India, UK, Luxembourg, Buenos Aires and Brazil.
Only two of them are men. It is a fact that the majority of textile designers are women.
As freelancer, I get usually offered between 1 or 5% commission.
At most 10% when the product is of high value.
For me, it is essential to give my guest artists the place they deserve. They receive 14% of the value of the product, they are promoted on networks and on my website and I work hard to sell their designs as well as my own.
It was also essential to convey important messages through my designs.
About Sorority, about Diversity, the importance of caring for the Environment, Mental Health.
Making Marca España gives me the peace of mind that everyone involved in the manufacture of my scarves, from cutting, printing, handrolling the edges, packing, shipping... everyone is fairly remunerated.
Gandsilk is therefore a brand built around what is important to me, my values and to build it I have been able to use all the stones along the way.
My personal brand is an extension of who I am. That makes me much more vulnerable because I don't put a clear barrier between myself and work.
The first few months I kept awake when I had to reject the designs that were sent to me, but then I realized that I always put myself in the place of the artists and do not make them go through what I go through as a freelancer many times.
When we are rejected for a job, it is simply because we are not suitable for that job, not because we are not valid.
But it's hard not to think that it's because you haven't lived up to it.
I make them see that they must fight to remain as they are, as I have done and not want to adapt at all costs to fit in. The scarves I sell the most are the ones where I am most myself, for example those personalized for pets.
The first lesson I took in digital art was to learn how to draw my dog Nuki, now I make scarves with vector portraits of pets and I make people happy.
My work keeps alive a virtuous circle that was born from my personal growth and is renewed and becomes stronger with each decision and each small victory at work.
It is as difficult to say no as it is to listen to it, but it is essential to know how to deal with rejection and to know how to set limits and say No when something is not good for us.
As a reminder that there will always be bumps in the road, my fandeestampados account was hacked a few days before this talk took place, while I was doing what I always do, help.
Good faith sometimes brings negative consequences, so a few days ago I lost this account to which I owe so many things.
It is the risk of exposing yourself and being in the combat ring and not as a spectator from the outside.
But I've already spent too many years as a spectator. I am willing to take risks and some knock outs as losing my account.
I read that bamboo grows downwards for many years before coming to the surface. It is the deep roots that it has that make it so strong in the face of adversity, strong and at the same time flexible.
I hope you won’t spend as many years as I did, looking for happiness in the approval or love of others.
What will make you happy in the long term and in a lasting way is in yourself, not outside.
I want you to keep that image, the bamboo one. Be patient to build the most important entreprise, which is yourselves.
In this link, you have a video that puts this talk into images:
Below, the wonderful words of Goethe that changed my life.
And Pessoa's poem that inspired the title of this talk.
You may have flaws, be anxious and sometimes irritable,
But don't forget that your life is the biggest business in the world.
And you can prevent it from going bankrupt.
There are many people who need and admire you.
I would like you to always remember that being happy is not having a sky without storms,
work without fatigues,
relationships without disappointments.
To be happy is to find strength in forgiveness,
Hope in battles,
Security in the scene of fear,
Love in disagreements.
Being happy is not only valuing the smile,
but it is to reflect on sadness.
It's not just commemorating success,
but if it is to learn lessons from failures.
It's not just taking joy in the applause, but finding joy in anonymity.
To be happy is to recognize that life is worth living,
despite all the challenges, misunderstandings and periods of crisis.
To be happy is to stop being a victim of problems and become the author of one's own history.
It is crossing deserts outside of yourself and being able to find an oasis in the recesses of one's soul.
It is thanking God every morning for the miracle of life.
Being happy is not being afraid of your own feelings.
It is knowing how to talk about yourself.
It is having the courage to hear a “No”
It is having security to receive criticism, even if it is unfair.
To be happy is to let live the free child
that lives inside each one of us cheerful and simple
It is having the maturity to say “I was wrong”.
It is having the audacity to say “forgive me”.
It is having sensitivity to express “I need you”.
It is having the ability to say “I love you”.
It is to have the humility of receptivity.
I wish your life to become a bed of opportunities to be happy.
And when you go wrong, start over!
Then you will discover that being happy is not having a perfect life.
Use tears to irrigate tolerance.
Use the losses to refine the patience.
Using mistakes to perfect pleasure.
Use the obstacles to open the windows of intelligence.
Never give up on yourself.
Never give up on the people you love.
Never give up on being happy, because life is an unmissable obstacle, even if there are dozens of factors that prove otherwise.
Stones in the way? I keep them all so I can build a castle later!
With Eva Carmona and Eva Díez my hosts at the Event.