Wednesday, 1 October 2008

To jump off the cliff with a parachute: Julius's case

I found Julius at Make up for ever, which is a top-notch make up salon in Helinki. I see him as an example of how a Finn manages to find his own interest and do what he likes. He stands very proudly as he poses for me!

He has shared with me how he has ended up in this profession. He started off working in IT communications industry, but he got fed up with his job, and had to leave it. He told me that he had started in IT industry because of his father’s influence, and economic concerns that this would be a more stable and lucrative job.

This seems to me to reflect the normal pressure that society can have on their people. Although IT wasn’t what he most wanted to do, he nonetheless followed that path initially.

However, the turning point came when he decided to change jobs and go for make up artistry. I asked him how he came to this decision. He had a very compelling way of expressing this decision: ‘jumping off the cliff, but with a parachute’.

The reasons come to this:

  1. He had always had hobbies in theatre, and that gave him quite a lot of exposure to make up artistry.
  2. His mom was a fashion designer.
  3. There was nothing to lose going for a course in make up artistry because it was very short, and he could easily turn back to IT industry if he wanted to. (this was really the parachute for him)


He is an interesting example because he gave his ‘hobbies’ as the first reason why he could sustain his interest in what he liked that led him to ‘jump off the cliff’. Yolanda Chen has also written about this aspect of the Finnish education system, which aims to cultivate ‘hobbies’ simply for their own sake, rather than some ‘talents’ to show off in CVs. It does not matter whether they excel; what matters is they enjoy it as their hobbies, which slowly incorporate into part of the lives of individuals, and naturally the lifeblood of society. This is a key factor in developing cultural industries not only because people might develop their hobbies into their own professions, but also that a population of audience interested in art and culture is cultivated, which drives the demand for a flourishing culture.

I see this as a key aspect of how the education system and society help young people to develop their interests – keeping up their hobbies.

Another interesting aspect of this is that these industries are in no way considered to be inferior to others in a fairly egalitarian society like Finland. He is happy to be a make up artist, which is a decent job respected by everyone. The prices are quite hefty as well. It could cost 80 euros for one session with an expert. This is probably the other reason for the 'parachute' that helps people to jump off the cliff.

A society that specialises in innovation really needs a safety net that protects the people who might not make any money in their creative endeavours. In Finland, people get unemployment benefits and there are also various funds and organisations such as Sitra, Tekes, Academy of Finland, which provide funds for projects in scientific research or artistic or cultural development.

Hong Kong government seems to assume that culture can flourish on its own in an unfriendly culture. If this remains the case, our artists who don't make a commercial debut will continue to remain submerged. In London, a lot of input comes from private donors, but that's London, where the society values culture already and is ready to chip in when the state is not doing enough.

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