a personal blog for Jamey Alea

A Shift in Priorities: Book Arts & Fire Ecology Press!

August 18, 2023 Jamey Alea 0 Comments

It has been a while since I’ve updated here, but actually I’ve gone through some serious changes in my life over the past couple of months. I had been struggling pretty profoundly with mental health for a long while, and I had a major realization that it was because I was (and still am) suffering from severe burnout. I realized that this wasn’t something I was going to be able to fix with just some minor tweaks to my lifestyle; I needed a big change, and after over a year of fighting it, I was finally ready for the shakeup I needed in my life.

So I quit my job. In fact, I quit my entire industry. That’s right: I’m not working in tech anymore, at least for now. It’s not a quick process to recover from burnout this intense, so I committed to taking at least a year off from the tech industry, with the intention to regroup sometime in 2024 and see how I’m feeling about things then. (It’s kind of incredible the way burnout can warp your thoughts!) My plan was to take some time to rest and to try to focus on my art, which felt like the only aspect of my life that wasn’t ravaged by my mental health.

To that end, I launched Fire Ecology Press – and technically became a small business owner! Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a major operation or anything. But I wanted a way to sell my art online, especially my tarot deck, as I occasionally get folks who missed the Kickstarter reaching out asking about it. And I wanted to start vending at more events and art fairs, which I’m also starting to ramp up on. (My next event is the Queer Print & Zine Fair at Zygote Press in Cleveland next weekend, very excited about it!) But while Fire Ecology Press is a fun project that I’m excited about and proud of, I knew that it’s not the same thing as a sustainable career.

That’s where Book Arts comes in. Well, actually, Book Arts had already been involved all along because it was already such an important part of my artistic process. It’s the letterpress studio where I do nearly all my work, it’s where I did my artist residency in 2022 and where I made the Tarot of Sorts, and it’s where I had been doing most of my vending before this push to widen the types of events I table at. I’m also a teaching artist there, and I was leaning hard into teaching more classes and workshops after I left tech and suddenly had more time than money. (I’m even teaching “Letterpress Basics” now, which is the class I took when I learned how to do letterpress, so it’s a pretty cool feeling that the student has quite literally become the teacher!)

But here’s my biggest news of all: Book Arts decided to officially bring me on as their new Program Manager!!! I’m beyond excited to join the staff team in an official capacity, and I can already feel how being in my favorite space every day is helping to heal my burnout (although I still have a long road to go). It has been about ten years since I worked outside my home, as I was an early adopter to remote work, and while that has been a weird transition, I’m really enjoying working downtown. I can ride my bike to work and I’m already feeling a lot more connected to Buffalo as a whole, just being in the midst of it all the time and getting to interact with people from the community in a variety of ways.

I’m also taking on a lot of responsibilities at Book Arts, which is very cool too. I’m in charge of our gift shop, which mainly sells art made by a variety of local artists, and I’m managing our consignment program now as well. I’m also taking over most of our marketing, including the blog, social media and our email list – so if you follow Book Arts anywhere online, you’ll probably be looking at my handiwork from now on! (I’m particularly excited about running our Instagram, so give that a follow if you’re interested in that kind of thing.) It’s neat suddenly being kind of the “face” of an organization I care so much about.

So that’s what’s been happening in my life lately! It’s a lot of “new” all at once, especially since it has been accompanied by a bunch of other more personal lifestyle changes, so it really feels like I’m spending my time in a really profoundly different way than I used to. But like I said, I felt very ready for a big change! It’s a very weird feeling, having your future all planned out and then suddenly no longer knowing what the future holds. And it’s going to take a lot more time and work before I no longer feel like I’m being plagued by burnout, but for the first time in a long time, I feel like I’m ready to put in that work and I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes.

#fire ecology press#letterpress#printmaking#wny book arts center

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