Two days from now will mark the 10th anniversary of this thing that I call Jitterbug Boy. Bloody hell! Where did the time go? It doesn’t seem that long ago, moving a table and a couple machines into a crappy little Parkdale studio. Everything fit into the back of a van. And back in those days, it was just me in the shop. Things have changed pretty dramatically one decade one. I’m in a considerably less crappy atelier (it’s pretty great actual…..) and I’m surrounded by 15 very talented craftspeople. And the contents of the shop would easily fill a 5-tonne truck.
When I started the business, I had no idea where it was heading. I knew I wanted to have a proper home again (I’d been living out of a suitcase for over 3 years at that point, following gigs in Las Vegas, Belgium and a couple years on tour with Cirque). I want to be closer to my girlfriend (now wife). I wanted a garden and a spice rack – those strange things you miss when you live an unsettled life for a length of time. Today, the garden could use a bit of weeding and the spice rack is running low on a few of the staples – both victims of being so damn busy taming the dragon that Jitterbug Boy has become.
I need to remind myself quite often that this endeavour has already surpassed my wildest dreams. 10 years in and I still feel like a fucking amateur most days. But I realize that’s more to do with the ever-changing scope of the projects we are working on. The shows are getting bigger – more complex. The challenges have become more involved and the deadlines keep getting tighter, as gone are the days of doing one show at a time. The To-Do list consistently has 6 or 8 (or 12….) projects on it on any given week. I had thought, if Jitterbug Boy lasted for a decade, it would be pretty smooth sailing by that point. Couldn’t have been more wrong. I’m much more stressed out and much more exhausted than ever. I think about giving it all up at least once a week (somedays, once an hour….). Nobody mentions that the sweet smell of success is mixed with the smell of your own blood, sweat and tears….
I am incredibly thankful for where I’m at, even if it sounds like I’m not. As I approach my 11th year in business, I recognize there is a tonne of work I need to do to lessen the crazy-factor of what I do. But goddamnit, we’ve come a long way, baby. While a lot of our work still comes from the circus and theatre realms that started this whole ball rolling, the film world has taken up a lot of my focus in the past couple years. It’s chaotic and stressful and often really rewarding. Some days, I have to shake my head, as I realize I’m making shoes for designers who inspired me to get in to design over 20 years ago. And, if I do say so myself, we’ve created a pretty impressive roster of artists on our “We’ve made shoes for….” list. And it’s been a really long time since I’ve had to go out in search of work. For all these things, I’m incredibly grateful.
10 years in and it certainly isn’t getting any easier. I desperately need some time off, and that’s looking highly unlikely for the foreseeable future. The trajectory I’m on – which seemed at one point to be fairly straight forward, is much more of a rollercoaster ride. As the business grows, so do the stresses, but so do the rewards. I’ve had to make many sacrifices over the years to make a go out of this whole thing, but looking back, it all still seems worth it, in a way. It helps having a very talented crew and a wife who supports me along this crazy adventure. I have no idea what the next 10 years has in store. I didn’t ever imagine making it this far, so attempting to predict the future seems a little ludicrous. Passing in to decade number two, the adventure seems far from over, though.
I’ll be spending the tenth anniversary up to my neck in work – pushing to get this week’s deadlines out the door – sending shoes off to the UK, Vancouver, Belgium and Macau. The plans for a tenth anniversary shop party are on hold for the foreseeable future, as our schedule simply doesn’t allow it – I can’t imagine finding the time we would need to clean the shop, let alone organize a party….. The day itself will pass like any other day, I suspect – hunkered down, making beautiful shoes for talented people. But fuck it – there are worse ways to spend the day. Or the decade, for that matter….