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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Mann

The End of The Beginning

Updated: May 8, 2020

I have a magnet on my refrigerator which reads "Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself." I stuck it there a few days after moving to Tucson in 2014 as a daily reminder to keep my shoulder lowered and get through design school, and create the career and life that would be perfect for me.

The Swordfish - the project where the tile designs turned a corner.

But for better or worse, this would be the second time around that I'd be creating myself. In 2006 I left a developing career in historic preservation to chase my creative pursuits. I'd long been spending my free time writing short stories and screen plays, but I knew that Id never truly be happy at my job unless I was utilizing my creativity. And one day, when helping a friend tile a shower, the path forward seemed to open up for the first time in what seemed like ages.

I missed working on big sites, and with the crews that I'd been fortunate to work with, and over the years would moonlight from time to time as an independent contractor on historic preservation projects. Not too many people have the opportunity to work behind the scenes at such historic places like the Old North Church and MIT. So it wasn't easy rolling up my sleeves and diving headfirst into a trade that I had little knowledge of. But whatI did know for sure was that if I didn't take that chance at that point, then I never would, and I didn't want to live with that regret.

To me it seemed like the perfect solution: I could stretch myself out creatively, open up plenty of room for a nice career, and stay true to the blue collar roots I was steeped in from my hometown. It was a tough learning curve, and I figured out a lot of things the hard way, but in the end I grew not only as an artist but as a person, and in ways that I never expected.

So a few years later, when I was packing up my tools and everything I owned to travel out west and start a new life in Tucson I knew I could handle it. It wasn't going to be easy, and leaving home was not without sadness, but sometimes life takes an unexpected turn and even though it presents a challenge that we weren't exactly looking for at the time, we end up being the better for it.

I'm glad to be in Tucson, and to have moved into the field of graphic design and advertising. I'm also glad to have had the opportunity to develop the craft that I have, and still work with my hands on the side. And I know that I have a lifetime of learning ahead of me, but I've had enough of the road less traveled for now, and am looking forward to switching gears and getting full swing into the next phase of my career and my life in this crazy little city in the desert.

Tucson at sunset.


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