We had the good fortune of connecting with Monica Kang and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Monica, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
Recently I’ve been trying to keep in mind that my worth isn’t defined by my work. As I gained more experience in the creative industry, I began telling myself that more is good. “More” in terms of taking on all the creative opportunities that were presented to me. Especially during this time of COVID, I dove into work because there was all this extra time being at home. I began to feel overwhelmed, but kept pushing myself because I felt every experience was a good opportunity. I was letting my work consume me and wasn’t finding joy in creating for myself. I took a step back and realized I was letting my work define a large aspect of me and wasn’t giving myself time to take a breather. I wasn’t setting aside my own time to create, catch up with friends, etc. I’ve been working on setting boundaries with work as well as allowing myself to not feel bad for being productive and that saying “no” is okay. I haven’t found the perfect balance, but I think recognizing that I need to set boundaries with work is a step forward!

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I think a unique part of my journey as a creative was/is that I’ve been able to experience different types of roles. I graduated college with a BFA in Illustration, but I went on to get an internship as a graphic designer. I worked at an Asian American media/ entertainment company so I was able to experience things like being on set as a production assistant to designing graphics for large in-person events. I couldn’t believe that I had an opportunity to be working with people that hugely influenced my Asian American experience growing up. My time at the company ended so I went through a bit of a lull where I was applying for jobs, but no responses came in. It was a bit discouraging because I just worked an amazing job and no other companies wanted to hire me. A couple months later, I was connected to a position at a company that I wasn’t particularly interested in, but I needed the experience. I think the lesson I learned was that experience is still experience. I tried to find something I could learn even if it wasn’t where I wanted to be. I worked there for about half a year and a friend reached out to see if I’d like to work a different company. I was immediately on board because this company aligned with so many of my interests. This is the current company I’m working at and it’s allowed me to not only worked a graphic designer, but I’ve been able to create my own characters and products. I’ve been able to work on projects with companies such as Urban Outfitters, Walmart, and more. I’d say the most exciting part is seeing my products in person on display inside a store or even when products I created are being shared on different social media outlets.

This path is definitely not what I had in mind when graduating college, but I’m grateful for the journey that it’s been because I’ve been able to learn different creative processes.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Ooh! I love checking out new places and being on Yelp so I’d have a lot of fun planning. Haha. This is what I would probably do pre-COVID days. I’d probably start the day off going to a brunch place- because we all love brunch food. We’d probably share a savory and sweet dish to taste a little bit of everything. Once brunch is over, I’d take them to a coffee shop with a nice vibe and maybe a unique latte. We’d probably hang out there for a bit and walk around the city to see any cool shops. I might take them to an art museum or a cool exhibit that’s taking place. If not, I think the beach is next on my list! During dinner time I’d take them to a place that feels unique to the city. Once dinner is over I’d either take them to get dessert or a hip bar with good music. Or maybe even both! If a bar has a nice ambiance and good music- we’ll probably stay there for hours. If we’re feeling a little hungry after that, we’d definitely grab some tacos because is it really a SoCal experience without trying some tacos?

Whether I’m visiting a city within SoCal or a different country, I think the food is a large part of what makes my experience. I love trying food that might be popular or unique to that place so I’d love to share that with my friends.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My mom is definitely someone that’s played a huge part in bringing me to where I am today. Ever since I was little she’s supported my artistic endeavors and encouraged me to move forward. Even to this day she still encourages me, as well as my dad. Both my parents get so excited for me whenever a product I designed is out in the world.

I have so many other people to thank/ recognize from different parts of my life that helped get me to where I am today. Without some of the friendships I’ve made in college, I wouldn’t have the job position that I currently have at Smoko or my co-owned stationery brand, Totato Studio. If it wasn’t for my high school best friend, I wouldn’t have applied for an internship at ISAtv which gave me the opportunity to meet other like-minded creatives and mentors. Through those friends and mentors, it’s given me various types of experiences and opportunities in the creative industry.

Website: monica-kang.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/_monicakang/

Other: https://www.etsy.com/shop/totatostudio/

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