Spend a few moments with Aiste Jakimavičiūtė and you'll cross out the word "impossible" out of your dictionary. Her energy is infectious and the amount of work she's done in a couple of years - it does seem impossible. We agreed to talk about work without hiding tough moments and doubts. The result? We've got a practical guide to creative work and unconventional living. Warning - it's not all butterflies, but it's damn honest and for those trying to do their thing - damn helpful too.
People mostly know you as the creative brain behind Penketai and looking from an outsider’s perspective it seems that you have a dream job; things get done easily for you and you always come across as a person full of energy and life!
Sometimes, it feels that I have 3 different lives and, to be honest, I have no idea how I manage it all! Probably my biggest weakness is that I love people and ideas. If I see that an idea is good and something can be crafted out of it, I put all my energy in it. I get easily involved in projects that genuinely interest me and then, of course, I struggle with time...
And why do you think you are successful at what you do?
Great question. I spent 4 years studying Graphic Design. During that time, though, I realized that I much more enjoy organizing things rather than designing. To put it simply, I came to the conclusion that I won’t be a designer. I then started to work in the film industry as a stylist and art director. I also did some work at various digital agencies. When I go back to my early beginnings, it all seems rather fragmented, however one thing that connects it all is visual world - I have been always attracted to it and it’s probably what made me choose the work I had done. I oftentimes talk to my friends about it. Our profession is full of freedom. You can look at things from many angles and sometimes it may seem that we hop from one thing to another. In the reality, you choose what interests you. One day you are a stylist, another - an art director. The most important thing is that it drives you and teaches you to be flexible.
What makes you tick?
I love your attitude. I noticed, though, that a big chunk of our generation tries to define what they do for a living and, if they can’t put it well in words, vulnerability and lack of confidence takes over. But we all know that professions evolve. Do you ever get a feeling that without having one clearly defined profession it becomes harder to plan for the future?
That’s an interesting question...Yes, I do get that feeling. Especially, when I spend too much time ‘spying’ on other people's on Facebook. Social Media gives the power to craft the best version of one’s life. But in the reality, when you get together with those people, you realize that they are as lost and clueless as you. Today things are way different. It’s crazy to think that email didn’t even exist 20 years ago. It’s normal that our understanding of work changes with time. We can’t even imagine professions that will exist in 10 years. The good thing, though, is that we can draw inspiration from various fields and connect the dots easier. When I was giving lectures to students enrolled into the Creative Industries degree, I got asked quite often what careers they could pursue after graduating. I get it that it’s a relatively new program but it’s exactly the reason why I see so much potential in these studies; innovation happens in every industry and there is nothing better than a creatively-fueled collaboration between a laser specialist, botanist and designer.
And in terms of worrying about the future, I think that there is no need for that. It’s much better to train yourself to see opportunities in the ever changing world.
Do you ever get tired?
I would love to be a simple person for a change. By simple, I mean that I wouldn’t mind working a simple job in a store or a coffee shop for a change.
I can easily relate to that. I think it’s a sign of being tired…
Of course I feel overworked sometimes. The question is, when should I stop? Never ending desire to move forward and progress is something that haunts every creative person. It’s a process rather than a finished product. It’s quite hard to come in terms with it…I think that people need tangibility, being able to grasp their achievements. After completing a task, you want to hear that you did a great job. You seek a reward.
You can’t always put a number on it... And then you start feeling insecure!
I’ve been freelancing for quite a while. I am currently working in an digital agency - ‘you can’t have it all’ as they say. Although I have been my own boss for some time, I do believe that it’s good to challenge yourself and not put any constraints on what you do.
On one hand, it’s amazing that nowadays people call themselves generalists, breaking away from a single profession. However, it’s important to know what you stand for, what is it that defines you as a professional.
World’s history is one big rollercoaster. Having a craft is something people aspire to today. Although more and more of our lives happen on the internet, in the reality we want tangible things.
For now, I don’t need it myself. I am attracted to education - I teach how to realize things. And it’s a process, not a craft. It’s much more fluid and hard to predict.
Media and Instagram is all about success stories. Humble and sometimes crooked beginnings is not something we talk about often. What’s the reality like?
I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I have never searched for a job. Things just sort of happened naturally. Client won’t find you if you are lying on a sofa watching Netflix and dreaming about your next brief. You need to get out of your comfort zone.
What would you say to someone looking for clients?
Communication is the best way to get things done. I have never been scared to say what I want or to go to places that interest me. It can be theatre, art exhibition or a launch of a new magazine. The most important thing is to express your thoughts, say compliments and give suggestions for improvements. In this way, you can find like-minded people who will later reach out to you for help or collaboration.
It’s sad that people give up easily. For instance, when they don’t immediately receive a response to their email they start to look for other things to do, their don’t persevere. But look at kids - they fall 10 000 times until they learn how to walk. And we? We tend to give up on things too quickly…Think relationships, jobs, hobbies…Probably the biggest curse of our generation is impatience and the desire to change things constantly.
There is no room for failure if you are committed and if you are trying hard to make things work.
Let’s talk projects. How can one begin realize ideas?
There is only one thing that can become a hurdle to start a project. It’s you. People have million ideas and they let them die because they are scared and think of too many reasons why they shouldn’t do it.
I often tell this story:
When I was 5, I told my parents that I want to keep a baby lion in our balcony. Back then, I thought that it’s the most logical and realistic plan. I am really grateful to my parents that they let me be this way, they encouraged my thinking, not matter how crazy it seemed at that time. My mom then brought me to a store and told me that if we were to keep a lion we would need to buy a lot of meat. She told me that we don’t have enough money to do so.
I remember I thought to myself: ‘I need to earn a lot of money when I grow up to be able to keep and feed a lion’. I firmly believed in my mission then and I do believe in it now.
The moral of the story?
If you can’t do something today, it doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to do it tomorrow.
Now every project is that lion to me. First, those projects seem impossible. Then, I sit down, have a good think about it and try to break it into more manageable bits: who should I call? Who should I ask for a price? Facebook is a great tool to get things done quickly.
So to answer your question, it’s always good to create a mindmap. There are no difficult projects, we just sometimes get lost because we don’t have a map! I simply like to take a piece of paper, draw arrows, boxes, and write things that would make it easy to get a clear picture and understand it well.
Every big project is made of smaller projects. Every idea is made of tangible elements.
When you do many things, ideas just happen and you want to realize them all. Then, you start to struggle with time… Have you ever had to choose one idea over an idea that can pay your rent? There might be financial gaps when there are no new projects or clients. During these times, you know that everything will work out in the end but the question is when?
I used to say ‘yes’ a lot. Now, I understand that our resources, our time is limited. If we agree to work on 4 different projects, it means that we can only put one quarter of ourselves into it. Once, one team told me: ‘Aiste, you are barely involved in our project, you are all over the place. Decide what you want to do and stick to it.’ I felt bad, I wanted it work out. Then, I realized that my inability to say ‘no’ and keep focus is a distraction and disrespect to others. If someone is dedicated to a project 100% and you can only give 25% it’s not fair...Even when those 25% are genuine...We can’t have it or do it all.
The time comes when we need to learn how to prioritize and answer how important certain things are to us. Can we accomplish it in a week? Or does this project require 3 years?
What about rent?
Money was never a priority to me. I know that I won’t be a businesswoman, I don’t need much. There is always a way to earn, it’s important to understand how much money you need.
I used to stress about deadlines a lot. During those moments I would always remember my dad and his words: ‘Aiste, is someone’s life in danger? What’s the worst thing that can happen if you don’t deliver this project on time?’ It helped me realize that things are not as complicated as we make them. People tend think that they are given only one shot. It’s not true.
Don’t you think that we create our own opportunities by making certain decisions?
Exactly. And there is no right or wrong thing to do. We put these ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ labels on ourselves. Oftentimes, creativity is about going somewhere where others don’t see any opportunities and creating them from scratch. We tend to choose a path that is already tested by others: good agencies, big companies...I have never been after such a path. I knew that in those places I won’t have as much freedom as I have now.
Have you ever had a really boring job?
When I think in my head that I am not so into something, I try to immediately ask myself how can I make it interesting?
When I was working as a stylist in film studios or photo shoots, I was often told that I have a dream job - everything is so easy and I don’t need to wake up at 8am every morning. But in the reality, there was barely any creativity in my day-to-day duties. I had to make calculations, take care of prop making...My work day would be around 14-16 hours.
How we see work depends on our attitude.
How do you sustain motivation? What keeps you going?
One time I was playing this game where we had to pick a piece of paper with a question written on it. I picked ‘What is something that you are most proud of’? I’ve done some amazing things but I realized that I am most proud of my student’s work. She was given a reward for the final project and I was acting as a supervisor. I was happy to help her find something that makes her happy and motivated. The moment when you realize that you add value to someone’s life, encourages not only you, but the other person too. Genuine approach always leads to great things.
Think of presents - it feels amazing to give a present. Our work can be a present to someone too.
If you were asked to give an advice, what would it be?
I have hired people, and I’ve been going to job interviews myself. I always tell people what my weaknesses are. I think it’s really important. I also show my eagerness to learn through trial and error. When people look at life with curiosity and willingness to try - failure doesn’t exist. If I had to choose between a professional with 60 years experience and someone who is full of energy and genuine enthusiasm, I think my choice would be quite obvious. You can’t teach enthusiasm.
Photos: Akvilė Marčiukaitytė
Edited: Justė Kulikauskaitė
Text: Rasa Jusionytė