After becoming acquainted with my Russian Hill neighborhood and beginning to 'climatize' myself to city life, 'the meter was running.'  I had a great apartment but no income.  I needed to find a way to support myself.

I come from a family of teachers: my dad was a teacher as was my mom.  My brother was a professor and my sister-in-law had been a junior high teacher.  Even several of my cousins were teachers.  But, oddly, I had never thought of being a teacher and hadn't been comfortable when I had attempted to do so.

So, I arrived in the city determined not to teach.  I was desperate to find a job that wasn't repugnant to me.


I did have an inkling of a plan.  The city is a place of commerce and I thought maybe that's where my future lie.  As a graduate student and when I was teaching at Happy Valley, I experimented with woodworking and building very simple furniture... 

The idea had been to keep the design simple and functional, to make the materials and the construction transparent and totally straight-forward, and not to use any screws or nails...just tight joinery.  I had been looking at traditional Japanese construction and architecture as well as Scandinavian design.  For once, I was happy with the results I had created.

I thought I would use my experience with woodworking and furniture to find a suitable job.  Maybe I could work in some kind of shop or perhaps even sell furniture in a Scandinavian design store that I had seen downtown.  After giving it some thought, I found my heart wasn't really in commerce.  That idea went out the window...


Then I had an inspiration: I have an MFA degree and know a lot about art...I'll work in an art gallery.  That should be a good fit.

I went from gallery to gallery looking for a position.  

Each time I walked away contemplating the same answer.  'We don't need someone who knows something about art, we need someone who knows something about selling!  What's your sales experience?'  Uh...  

In my infinite naivete, I eventually comprehended that they were looking for no-holds-barred car salesmen, not MFA degrees.

I had made the rounds of downtown art galleries and was definitely deflated when I walked into the last gallery on Sutter Street.

This gallery director finally gave me a reality check as well as some sound advice: he said that with my background and experience I was 'barking up the wrong tree.'   He suggested I visit the art school down the street, the Academy of Art College, and look into a teaching position.  The director understood that they occasionally hired new faculty and, considering my background and strengths, that might be my best bet.

This was not what I was expecting...or wished to hear.  But my options, by this point, were extremely limited.  The bottom line was I needed employment.  My alternatives had run out.  Down Sutter street, I trekked.


I walked in and inquired.  The dean of the school said no positions were available.  Then, out of curiosity, he asked me what my field of expertise was.  I answered, watercolor.  He hesitated a moment, perked up, and replied: 'As a matter of fact, we need a watercolor instructor.  Bring us a resume and an outline for the course and we'll consider it.'

I went back to my apartment, worked like crazy through the night, and the next day brought the dean a resume and an outline for the course.  I was hired!  

There was one catch.  The position was part-time....a once-a-week Saturday watercolor class.  While I had my foot in the door, teaching one class didn't provide enough income to live on.  Off I went looking for an additional job.

Copyright (c) Donald Archer 2020  All rights reserved.


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