April 30, 2013

Internship Success With Casey Sobel: The Martinsville Studio

by Britt Gettys
Photos Courtesy of The Martinsville Studio

              Sitting in the 12th fl
Casey Sobel in the Jewelry Studio
oor hallway of Willoughby Residence Hall, surrounded by scented markers and crate paper, sophomore Jewelry Major and RA, Casey Sobel meticulously assembles her bulletin board for the month of March.  While critiquing the shape of the letter ‘R,’ as only a Pratt Student would: “It’s the connection point where the leg juts off that makes it look strange,” her residents come in and out of the elevator; each well acquainted with her and talking to her like an old friend.  

Casey began her career at Pratt as a student employee, working early and late shifts at the Gym, before she became a clerical assistant in the Office of Residential Life and Housing.  Considering her avid participation on campus as a worker and volunteer (she served as President of WIlloughby Hall Council for a semester and Cannoneer Court’s Dining Rep for a year), it’s little surprise this dedicated jeweler became an RA.  On top of that, Casey belongs to a minority of college students who began interning while still in high school.      

The Martinsville Studio
Internships aren’t something many students start thinking about until their Junior year of college, however, Casey proves the value of taking on internships before college.  She began interning for The Martinsville Studio, owned by Jamie Lindholm, in New Jersey in 2008.  According to Casey, Lindholm is just as much of a do-it-all-girl as herself.  “She’s a painter and has her own studio [In The Martinsville Studio], but she also teaches classes for all ages, takes commissions, and allows local artists to rent out studio space so they can do their own work [a practice Lindholm has coined  'Open Easel’].”  Home of the Feathers N’ Fur Paintings project, Martinsville Studio also takes commissions for pet portraits, a percentage of which is donated to local animal shelters.  

Casey reveals that one doesn’t have to intern at a big name corporation or magazine to gain experience,  even the smallest businesses can provide a wealth of skills and prime one for success.  Considering that this past year The Martinsville Studio brought in more profits via Living Social than any other business in it’s area, learning how to succeed is something Lindholm no doubt taught Casey.  Living Social is an online marketplace with over 70 million members worldwide.  Its goal is to help small businesses draw in new audiences from around the area.  The site provides a variety of offers, including daily bargains, events and experiences, travel packages, and even take-out, each located within the user’s neighborhood.  The Martinsville Studio’s success on Living Social shows not only the quality of the establishment, but demonstrates how small businesses are branching out via the web to bring in customers.  According to Casey, the amount of traffic Martinsville receives via Living Social is nothing short of amazing.       

“I don’t think I’ll ever have a better boss than [Lindholm],” Casey says.  No internship is without it’s challenges, and there’s always a learning curve when it comes to a new job, but Casey talks casually about her responsibilities at Martinsville, not even blinking an eye at how many different roles she took on for the studio.  Aside from the office work necessary for running a successful business, such as making and taking phone calls, organizing supplies, keeping the studio spaces clean, running errands, and designing and distributing ads, Casey’s internship required her to work jobs for more artistic related endeavors.  “I helped with Feathers N’ Fur commissions, I made lesson plans, each of which Jamie had to approve, and taught children’s art classes on a variety of different materials and mediums.  I also occasionally ran Living Social classes.  The great thing though, whenever it came to my teaching classes, whatever profit we made was split fifty-fifty between [Jamie and I].  I even got to use the studio space for my own projects, and if I was ever interested in a technique or certain medium, such as oil painting, she’d give me lessons and tips in exchange for my working for her."
A Living Social Class at The Martinsville Studio

Casey’s work is specific and detail oriented, but she got the internship on a spur of the moment through a display of self-confidence and determination.  “I was driving down the road, thinking ‘I need a job,’ and saw this art studio in a strip mall.  I walked in, left a message asking if I could talk to someone about any potential positions, the next day Jamie asked me to come in and have a cup of tea with her.  I was going to get all dressed up, but instead ended up wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, which I advise against for professional interviews.  But it all worked out in this case.  I went in to meet with Jamie, and we didn’t have tea, but we did have great conversation.  The next day I got the job.”

            According to Casey, what made working for Jamie so rewarding was that she wasn’t just performing grunt work.  “The greatest aspect of this internship was that I learned, not only how an art studio functions, but how a small business works.  It was the best way to learn how to work with people and clients, from someone ordering a commission to a five-year-old’s parent.”  Casey learned on the job, through hands on work, and none of it was meaningless to her.  Even though she got paid as an intern, Casey stresses that the most important thing she gained from the experience was a set of applicable skills.  “I worked in a fine arts studio and it helped advance my skill set regarding fine art based areas and mediums.  Now I feel I have a broader range of applicable skills.  Even though I specialize in jewelry I’m still graduating with a Bachelors in Fine Arts, which means people will expect me to have knowledge in arts beyond jewelry.  This experience has given me exactly that.”
            Even though she got the position before coming to Pratt, Casey has maintained a strong relationship with Lindholm and the studio.  “I still continue to work there, over the summers, and I even do some work for her while I’m here in Brooklyn.”  Even now, after a few years of interning and working, Casey’s advice rings true to how she got her first internship.  “Go in confident and don’t second guess yourself.  Just trust that you have the ability and skills to do what the company is asking of you.  And yeah, this sounds like an Oscar speech but it’s true.  Don’t settle for less than you’re worth.”

Interviewed by Britt Gettys March 1, 2013