Heather Bradbury talks about making things happen

Heather BradburyHeather Bradbury is an educational professional, an artist, a maker, a working Mom and part of the revitalization of the Women’s Industrial Exchange who will be hosting a Holiday Pop Up shop at their historic location beginning November 20, 2015. When she isn’t saving the world, which Heather likes to do, and many would argue, actually does through her tireless giving back to the Baltimore community, Heather is a Director at MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art). At MICA, Heather leads the Business of Art and Design and Information Visualization programs and the success of her programs is largely due to her tireless and successful networking building resources for her programs and students. To read some of her top networking tips, please click here.

We recently caught up with Heather in between coordinating residences and curriculum, studio time, and board duties at the Exchange to find out a little bit more about one of Baltimore’s most dynamic women. Here’s what she shared…

What do you enjoy most about what you do?

I really like thinking about how to put together programs or curriculum together. The idea that students will learn something new from what I helped create. And I love hearing about their ideas and how they want to approach them. I think that being able to help shape someone’s future is an incredible honor and responsibility, and it’s really exhilarating.

What do you feel are the biggest challenges when it comes to being a woman in business?

A lot of it has to do with my own confidence. There is just so much to know and learn that it’s hard to believe I can be an authority. But I also have a great drive to experiment and experience new things, so I think the challenges are pretty typical – time, money, access. Figuring all that out, while having a child, friends, and some kind of life that is satisfying.

What is the best business advice you’ve ever been given and why?

Something I’ve recently started reminding myself of is “let it go” — let go of the stale ideas, anger or frustration, preconceived notions — but what I think that really means is let it happen, be open to what is happening. I don’t want to say it’s a completely Asian philosophy but it has some roots in the idea that when something comes toward you, rather than brace for it or fight it, absorb it or accept it and figure out how that works for you.

What are some of your go-to resources when it comes to business in the region and beyond?

People, truly. I feel like learning from others experiences and getting advice from them is the best resource. After that, reading articles from Fast Company, or Entrepreneur, researching other businesses.

 You’re involved in the Women’s Industrial Exchange – what’s its’ mission?

From the beginning, it has been about helping women financially sustain themselves with dignity and discretion by providing a venue to sell handmade items. I think what we are trying to do is bring that back to the forefront but we need to acknowledge that as much as some things have remained the same, our world has changed and the organization needs to figure out how to move with those changes.

You have an interesting Holiday Pop Up Shop coming up – tell us about it?

It goes back to the organization’s original mission – in 1880, Mrs. G. Harmon Brown opened her front parlor to women who needed a way to earn to support their family. This allowed women to sell handmade items from clothing to food, to household items.

We are sort of returning to that model for the time being and are partnering with the Industrial Arts Collective because it allows for a really wide range of artists to participate and it will bring freshness to the space. We hope to hold a pop up shop during different seasons that will allow us to help more artists sell through the shop and bring more people to the area. To find out more about the shop, click here.

When you’re NOT working and volunteering to make Maryland a better place, what do you like to do with your time?

I am very focused on raising my daughter, and that is both awesome and challenging. I have also gotten back into ceramics and am making things again, which feels really good. I love food and Baltimore has really grown exponentially with the number of great places to eat as well as the type of cuisine available.

What’s your favorite food and why?

My favorite food is french fries with sate sauce but I have to go to Amsterdam to get that. I love ripe peaches and strawberries mashed on fresh white bread.

What are you passionate about?

Art and design, form and function. When something of purpose is well made, well thought out, and beautiful, I just have this sense of right in the world. I think that sensibility goes beyond things to how things work or processes, and that is what I really like about small business. When a business is well thought out, is well designed, has a beauty and efficiency to it’s purpose, and it provides a service or product that makes a difference, it makes me really happy.

What causes are most important to you and why?

I wish I could say I have a specific cause but I think anything that can improve the life of a person. And I am not talking about the masses necessarily because that’s quite a daunting task, but more how can I make a real connection or a real difference in the life of a person, even if it is on a small scale.

How do you define success?

One of my favorite movies is Step Into Liquid, that travels around the world looking at surfing, surfers, and the why of it. One of the surfers is asked who is the best surfer and she responds the one who has the biggest smile on their face. Success is a shifting concept and reality, you know. When we are young, it’s getting that job that pays bills, let’s you do some fun stuff, then changes to various levels of responsibilities, earnings, etc. but for me, what have I created is what defines my success. Did what I did or created have a positive impact on the people I did it for — did it leave them with a smile on their face. I think I can say yes to that, which is what makes me feel successful.

If people want to get more information about the Programs you oversee at MICA where should they go?

They can go to MICA’s Graduate Programs webpage by clicking here.

If people want more information about the Women’s Exchange, where should they go?

They can check out our website by clicking here.

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