Self-Made: 5 Creators Shaping Individualistic Careers


Creators see the world outside the established boundaries. Whether it’s looking at a problem from different angles or imagining a technology that doesn’t exist yet, creative people see opportunity in what new ideas they can bring to the conversation. While that often leads to asking “how can I change the world around me?” for some, it means asking “how can I create something for myself?”

Today’s list features Creators who artfully manipulate their environments, from new business ventures to visually stimulating light installations to styling hair. What they all share is a history of diverging from their former paths and pursuing ones that leads to their ideal lifestyles. Read on, and maybe you’ll find inspiration in their self-made stories.

Akiko Yamashita

3D art designer and animator Akiko Yamashita held little experience in her field when she first took an interest in it. After attending college at Tokyo University, unsure of what direction to take, Yamashita spent hours upon hours down the YouTube rabbit hole of projection mapping and light manipulation. Inspired, she found like-minded individuals via Craigslist, forming a weekly group meeting that focused on building skills through random projects.

Today, Yamashita is the creative director at Los Angeles design firm VT PRO, making custom installations for the likes of Nike and Google. She’s using skills she built herself, learning from connections and working through tutorials — literally shaping her own life path.

Watch as Yamashita tells her story in this video, which features some of her electric work!

Brian Hammers

Like so many that dream of showbiz, Brian Hammers originally moved to Los Angeles with intent to become an actor. He loved the trade but fell into what he saw as a rut of police dramas and episodic television shows. Everything changed for him while acting in a small part in Emilio Estevez’s Bobby. Hammers watched the director work over those 17 days, realizing he wanted to run the show from the other side of the camera.

How did he manage? Hammers snapped up every production assistant gig he could find, learning how to light, shoot footage and edit. Often, he worked from free, something he says paid off in the long run. He now owns and operates The Stoke Foundry production company. His advice: “Don’t be the guy who’s over at craft services. Stand as close as you can to the director and watch and learn and listen.”

Hammers talks more about his ascendance to directorship in our video interview.

Billie Whitehouse

Wearable X CEO Billie Whitehouse was a design educator when she found her true calling. Lesson planning involved researching the future of digital and 3D design, finding trends that she could relay in the classroom. While the Australia native didn’t yet know how to build anything herself, watching so many innovators in the field sparked her imagination.

Whitehouse spent her spare time immersed in the language that made digital design trades possible. She looked around at her world, the people in it and how they lived their lives to find ways she could design for them. That launched a career designing wearable athletic tech that changes the way people exercise.

Watch our video interview with Whitehouse on forming daily routines and finding inspiration.

Jeremiah Samuel

“I don’t really know the job description, but I want to show up to work and not hate it,” a teenage Jeremiah Samuel once told his teacher during one of those what-do-you-want-to-be roundtables. He always had a love for conversation, often turning class into his own personal Q&A time. When that teacher told him such a “job” didn’t exist, he was undeterred.

As a hairstylist, Samuel experiences many of the freedoms he sought as a young person. He works in a creative industry in a career that blossomed from a hobby. It also allows him to form personal relationships with his clients, even if he sees them once a month. And, perhaps most importantly, it’s far from a 9-to-5 gig.

Samuel delves into his personal salon philosophy in this interview.

Cisco Adler

Musician and producer Cisco Adler has formed his own professional around the community and “international language” of music. And he makes it sound incredibly simple: dream and execute.

While touring the world and working with the likes of G Love and Mike Posner, Adler realized that he wanted to bring a sense of community and culture to his hometown. That led to opening Malibu Burger with his business partner and former roadie. In the final interview of this list, he talks about making the most of your opportunities and shaping your future through determination.

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