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  • Writer's picturezoe birrell

Who am I and how did I get here!?

Blog post zero:

Who am I?!? Well that one is a weird question and I’m sure you can all relate to the awkwardness to answering that question but I’m guessing you are curious or you would not have opened this post.

I would say I’m an artist, a nomad, an appreciator of fine vegan foods, trans non-binary and on the whole someone who hates putting to much information about themselves up online. A fact you may find super interesting about me is that the last time I lived in a brick and mortar house was way back in 2013.

I don’t really have a long pedigree as a miniature painter. I started painting plastic through my love of board games when I was living on a boat. No, not the glamorized luxuriously homely houseboat you are thinking of. I lived in a small sailing boat with a living space about the size of most people’s bathrooms (if your posh enough to have one of those), definitely smaller than the average kitchen. In this space I would cook sleep and do all other living essentials and started painting minis. I have always drawn, painted, sculpted and made art since I was a kid so it made sense I would like it.

In time I started renting a small container office at a boat yard for peanuts so that I could work on my art and set up a small business as a custom wheel builder.

Yes, you read that correctly wheel builder! For a decade or so before that day I had been working as a bicycle mechanic specializing in bespoke wheel building, having specialized on high end bike builds and bike recycling projects in the past. I was wanting to go into building wheels in a self employed capacity as I was tired of working within a super misogynistic industry with a bit to much cult of the ego where you have to haggle to get paid a living wage for a skilled trade. As someone who struggles with self confidence it was hard for me to survive long in those environments and as someone who was read and presented as female in my better paying jobs the pay gap was there staring me in the face like a pile of dishes you have left to long and now are going to be at least twice as hard to clean.

I ended up doing loads of miniature painting in this space, the container office at the boat yard I mean, and started dreaming of maybe making money as a commission miniature painter (cue atmospheric dreamy music and sunset lighting). (This was before I realized that really the miniature world is not that dissimilar to the bike industry to work in on a lot of levels.)

I have always made artwork it was never really the sort of art that would sell for a profit. I pretty much built that into the concepts of most of my fine art work, and it is very personal and anti capitalist in nature.

At the time I was not confident enough to set up my own business so I ended up working three different zero hour contract jobs instead, which was a nightmare to say the least. Eventually I ended up being offered a contract at one of those jobs for 12 hours a week and started sorting post on the regular. I also was called up by a bike shop I had applied for a few years previously and offered a pretty decent job, so my life settled into two jobs and a lot of the drama and anxiety that which haunts me when I have to spend too much time with other people.

I painted minis sometimes and did not really do much other artwork, other than some drawing now and then, and forgot all about any ideas of working for myself. Instead I saved up learnt how to drive, bought a van and started converting it to live in. The boat was pretty much becoming more of a coffin than a home. It had started as a dream way of traveling about, but for years had been like a relationship that has gone bad but you can’t seam to break up with.

When the pandemic hit I had already left the mechanic job a while back, and had been fighting a bullying and discrimination case for over six months at the mail sorting office I was based in. Basically whatever part of my psycho-emotional health that was pushing me to soldier on in a job I was miserable in just went fuck it I’m done and depression enveloped me like a familiar heavy blanket.

My anxiety pretty much stopped me going outside and being anywhere near other people. I’ve always been a bit of a hermit so when the lockdowns where announced even though the whole ducking shave show is dung on a lot of levels I was kind of relieved.

A few months later that seed of an idea “Maybe I could paint minis for money!” came back. I started looking into it more seriously. It could work! I could work on the road in a small studio set up in my van and work for myself without having to see too many other humans unless I chose to. It could work, even in pandemic times! I could make a living from art! I sold my boat and committed all those funds towards finishing converting my van and started the excruciating task of putting myself out into the world “confidently” as a commission painter on social media and working on this website.

As of yet I’m still a textbook starving artist who is always broke and struggles to cover basic living expenses, but I’m happier and feel like I’m on a path of my own. My time for the most part is broken up between doing miniature work, chipping away at van conversion, and being wrapped in afore mentioned heavy blanket it seams, but I’m ok with that.

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