Tenille Riechelmann says she never expected to have to quit her full-time job as a graphic designer to pursue her own artistic fulfillment.
Working as an independent graphic designer and photographer, while also holding a side job as a barista at Hadhatter Coffee Roastery, Riechelmann has found a way to pursue her creative inclinations through her own means, without sacrificing artistic independence.
Her passion for art began in junior high school when her parents gifted her with a pink digital camera. Despite it being a cheap camera from Walmart, it allowed her to take photos of events and things she found interesting.
“I’ve always loved making something pretty,” she says. “I would always take it to school events and things, and immediately go home and begin editing. I loved it.”
Riechelmann carried this passion into post-secondary school, graduating from Medicine Hat College in April 2018 with a bachelor of applied arts degree in visual communications.
Following her graduation, Riechelmann accepted a full-time job in visual marketing working for an independent small business owner.
“I was getting frustrated because I was doing all those things for [my other job] that I wanted to be doing for myself, but I didn’t have the time,” she says.
These tasks included social media management, creating advertisements and performing basic design tasks.
Riechelmann previously worked as an independent makeup artist and clothing designer, and was determined to maintain her independence through creating her own work.
“Coming home every night and doing other work, it was just too much,” she says. “I quit it because I was getting too busy with my own stuff.”
Despite working a side job to stay financially stable, Riechelmann says she is at ease with her choice to focus on her independent portfolio rather than through institutional marketing.
“Now I have time work on my clients,” she says. “And make them look good, as well as me and my marketing.”
In addition to allowing her more time to focus on clients, her work as a barista has furthered her success as an artist
“It actually helps with my creativity,” she says. “I’m not sure all side jobs would, but I get the opportunity to meet so many people in my daily life there and it inspires me to keep doing what I do.”
Although her work is dedicated to making things visually appealing, her experience in the industry has also revealed a not-so-pretty side.
“People don’t always think that art in general is something that needs to be paid for,” she says. “It is not fair to be a professional with a degree making the same amount as McDonald’s employees.”
Jordan Piraux, a journalism design lecturer at Mount Royal University, advises new graduates with hopes of pursuing a career in the field to never forget their worth and to keep working hard.
“Everyone has to start somewhere,” she says. “I’ll give them the same advice my dad always gave me — put your foot in the door.”
Although getting a high-paying job can be difficult right out of school, Piraux reminds students, “It’s a specialty. Not many people can do what we do.”
Editor's Note: A previous version of this story identified Jordan Piraux as an information design lecturer. Piraux is a design lecturer in the journalism department.
- By Chloë Chapdelaine