Moonlighters – Stephanie Henry

Stephanie

Photos courtesy of Alex Hopes, Hodpodge Presents

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My 9-5 title is Research Associate for the University of Texas at Austin’s department of integrative biology at the Brackenridge Field Lab Station. My coworkers and I joke that our real job title should be Ant Janitor. In our wing of the lab, we house twenty to twenty-five ant colonies at one time that have been collected in the field by other coworkers (not me).

Collecting involves getting in a truck, driving for about 2-3 hours, finding large colonies of ants, digging them up with a shovel and shear muscle strength and then driving those buckets back to the lab. It’s a process. One of the techs that does this for us we call Hulk. Overall, the purpose of our lab is biocontrol and studying animal (in our case: ant) behavior. My background, however, is in botany.

This job has been great but I decided pretty quickly that fire ant research isn’t for me. Fire ants smell. Literally. They bite you real hard and leave ugly welts and they’re good for nothing. I’ll take plant biology research again in a heartbeat. I miss doing that actually. I’m also in school getting my Master’s Degree in Education.

I’M SORRY, too much. I’m doing it though! It’s working and I’m doing it.

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WOA I HAVE A CREATIVE SIDE TO ME, TOO! I love being creative just as much as I love science. I moonlight as a creative head and a pair of crafty hands which services any purpose with a specific focus on handmade things. It just so happens that the most need for a skill like this falls under wedding design, but I wouldn’t turn down other inquiries.

For people that know me, my recent moonlighting gig isn’t so unexpected. I’ve been handy and crafty since a young age. My parents always joked that they could turn my closet into an art store if they ever needed the extra cash. I actually made and sold jewelry in high school to all my friends and friends of friends. I painted a lot and drew then, too.

Unfortunately and realistically, creative professions aren’t that lucrative, so my parents pushed for the sciences. I had an interest for science, and they weren’t wrong for doing that, but being creative makes me just as happy as being a science nerd does.

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It makes me happy and I have a huge passion for it. Simple as that… I’m only just getting started, though. I love learning, and this is a learning process for me, but once I’m in go-mode, I’m in go-mode and I think I do a good job at it.

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When I got married in 2011, I snatched up the opportunity to let my creative side show. I DIY-ed and organized the whole event with the help of some patient and close friends and family. Everyone had a great time, and I had a lot of fun doing it. I was really proud of the end product. I just wish I had been able to enjoy the day before and the day-of more.

I almost had a panic attack leading up to the wedding day. Almost quite literally, tears, heavy breathing happened…it was bad. I was putting together everyone’s bouquets at 7AM the morning-of, in the rain, in a garage. BLEH, I don’t recommend anyone ever trying that. Had I found professional help who had an aesthetic I liked and who I could afford, I would have signed up in a heartbeat. I searched high and low. All the professionals I found who I could afford, I didn’t like their aesthetic, and the planners whose aesthetic I liked, I couldn’t afford.

We were working on a strict budget, so I bit the bullet and went for it. Head & Hands is what I wish I had access to when I planned my wedding. I wanted a put-together wedding, done by SOMEBODY ELSE, that didn’t cost me an arm and a leg. So far the evolution of “Head & Hands the thought” to “Head & Hands the properly filed business at the County Clerk’s office” means a lot to me! What? I’m actually doing this?? So far, people have just been telling me how crazy I am to basically have two full time jobs and to that I say: I’ll sleep when I’m dead. Everyone’s also super supportive. Sorry people who are reading this who think I think you’re not supportive, you are!

Here’s a roadmap of how we got our first gig: Paulanie’s wedding —> Jessie came —> saw a DIY event on a strict budget executed —-> referred to Katie —-> Head & Hands’ first formal gig.

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[I took a big breath and let it out with purpose after I read this question <—prolly cause it makes me sad to think about the politics of money]. The idea of starting Head & Hands got me so excited when I thought it would be something I could do and do well.

Austin is such a great place for small businesses, and I think it’s only going to get better. There are so many creative and like-minded people here who support small, local start-ups…because of that alone, I was encouraged. I felt doing this was worth it because I feel like a lot of brides aren’t getting what they deserve for a price that fits a small budget. There’s the reality of putting a dollar sign on my time, and I have a hard time doing that. (The crux of being a creative mind I hear…)

Everyone deserves to have a party thrown for them every once in a while, and when you’re talking about weddings, that’s even more special. It’s a party to celebrate love. Not a party to show off how much petty cash you have. There’s such a weird stigma with weddings of meeting guest expectations and having it be everything a girl’s ever dreamed it would be, and that should be the case! But, when you throw money into the mix, things get sad and that *shouldn’t* be the case. I’m trying to find that middle ground.

I hope I don’t sound like I’m on a soap box…is that applicable to this situation? I’m terrible with -isms. I’m also terrible at writing, so I hope this is going ok.

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Of course, there’s the reality of turning this gig into a full-time career! That’s an exciting thought, but I also don’t like the idea of sacrificing clientele money just so I can make a living. If that means that I can only carry out one wedding a season because I also have another job, then so be it.

I would imagine that’s all I would be able to do if I was working part or full-time elsewhere. I like putting all my time and attention into what I’m doing to make sure what I’m doing is quality work. Four weddings a year would be my absolute maximum with the schedule I have now.

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Oh boy. It would be two-sided perhaps? One side for science the other for creative purposes.

Science side: Stephanie Henry, Biologist Educator

Creative side: Stephanie Henry, I creative real good. Won’t you let me show you? <—too weird?

 

Stephanie is leading a craft session at Mockingbird Domestics on May 2nd to celebrate the stores new wedding registry.

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