Ever wondered what creatives do in their downtime? We chat to the head of the country’s premier illustration agency, The Jacky Winter Group, about juggling passion projects on the side.
Jeremy Wortsman’s core business is the pursuit of passion projects – both his own and helping others. He’s the director of the Jacky Winter Group, a creative agency that showcases the work of more than 100 artists and has ties to a range of different creative outlets.
Jacky Winter is not just an agency. It’s also responsible for the Jacky Winter Gardens accommodation in Belgrave, inner city gallery space Lamington Drive, and the 1000 Colours Jigsaw Puzzle – Wortsman is also a registered official with Ice Hockey Victoria, and a founding member and brand developer of start-up meditation studio The Contemplary.
“It’s all downtime for me,” Wortsman says, of his extra-curricular activities. “I have as much downtime as everyone else but what I choose to do with it might be different. The work outside of my day job is very engaging and gives me a sense of purpose.”
Take the Jacky Winter Gardens, which Wortsman runs with his partner, Lorelei Vashti. The pair conjured the idea for the guesthouse after moving to the Dandenong Ranges to start a family. The building also operates as a showroom for artists from the Jacky Winter stables.
“We wanted to generate more income for our family as well as showcase our artists in different ways,” he says. “The opportunity to make the Gardens emerged from there. We put all those ideas in a big pot, stirred long enough and that’s what popped out.”
Following through on big ideas is a familiar theme with Wortsman. His impetus to work with The Contemplary was partly personal. After a back injury prevented him from playing his beloved ice hockey, he found time to meditate. Now he makes an hour for it every day.
“The thing with side projects is as one thing fades, another takes its place,” says Wortsman. “I always had a meditation practice before the injury, but afterwards it naturally found a new position for me.”
From an outsider’s point of view, Wortsman is a busy creative force. But he remains modest about his successes.
“A project is only a failure if you stop working on it,” he says. “As with the core Jacky Winter business, we keep going back and perfecting new ideas for these different projects. If a project is going well, that just drives you to make it better.”
He says pursuing outside interests helps him push to continue evolving both personally and professionally.
“A lot of the work I do in advertising isn’t always the most progressive or socially responsible work,” he says. “It’s selfishly driven on a lot of levels. So I like to make sure I create a balance.”
Part of this is challenging himself. “It’s really nice to not feel complacent and also to realise you’re not always good at something,” he says. “One thing I love about ice hockey is that it’s something that I’ve never been really good at. And you actually get worse as you get older. It’s healthy, because it helps to keep you in check. Especially if you’re really competitive like me.”
Unsurprisingly, Wortsman finds it difficult to find time for all his varied interests.
“It’s easy to get ideas,” he says. “I get ideas all the time. But to actually realise them can be tough. Sometimes I get to the middle of a project and the actual maintenance is not as fun as dreaming it up. It can be hard to keep that energy consistent, but the longer I’ve been doing this the more I have an understanding of if it will work.”
For those yearning to pursue their own passion project on the side, Wortsman’s advice is to simply start.
“Just do it. That’s one of the biggest things,” he says. “There’s no reason you can’t. Just be willing to follow through.”