Change and Roads Untraveled

There is a lot of noise today about folks changing career paths and how it is changing the landscape of employment. I question whether what is happening is actually new. An interesting article on careers from Apollo Technical 17 REMARKABLE CAREER CHANGE STATISTICS TO KNOW indicates that job and career changes are pretty common, and have been going on for some time.

Key takeaway: Change is the norm, it is only the attention of media that cycles in and out of making it a “story.”

The article states that the average number of jobs an individual might have is 12, and infers that most have perhaps just one career change. So, I decided to do a bit of a retro review on my own path. What I came up with was 5 significant career paths (often overlapping), and 11 jobs over a period of 44 years. The following is a run down, counting only adult age jobs.


For me, art was going to be a part of what I do. At a very early age, living in campus housing where my dad was studying Electronics Engineering, my daily path to school included the halls of the art department at the UofI Moscow, ID to escape the cold winters. There, I saw paintings, sculptures, and graphics. The imagery and smell of linseed oil were compelling. While others played with their sticks and balls, I chose sketching and doodling in notebooks, and painting murals on walls.

Early notebook sketch 1973
Career One – Graphics and Job 1

Most careers are a mish-mash of financial need, emotion, opportunity, and focus. My early interests in art led to a graphic design path, which led to joining the USAF as a graphics specialist.

Stippling art 1978 while acting as NCOIC of Graphics on Guam.
Doing Graphics in the USAF was an amazing experience.

Between 1977 and 1981, I was either doing graphics for the USAF, of producing custom work for various entities I enc through word of mouth.

Career Two – Engineering Drafter and Designer – Job 2

I migrated from graphic arts in 1981, when I left the AF, upon discovery that an engineering drafter made almost 50% more than a graphic artist, while digital and photo ready books of artwork were pushing illustrators aside.

Career Three – Lighting Design – Jobs 3, 4 & 5

Drafting led to lighting design, then product design, and later marketing. The money was good, the work was interesting, and the referrals kept me moving onward and upward. This included positions in three separate entities.

Lighting design is an amazing combination of artistic vision and light – but the product is made by others.
A Pause to Reflect

Looking back, I realize that every career, regardless of path chosen, follows a similar path – that had I stayed with the graphics interest, odds are that I would have experienced a similar career trajectory, in art, rather than lighting. But, at this moment, I was in lighting.

Reflection is not the way forward. I recently found this song that sums it all up very nicely:

Weep not for roads untraveled
Weep not for paths left lone
‘Cause beyond every bend is a long blinding end
It’s the worst kind of pain I’ve known

Give up your heart left broken
And let that mistake pass on
‘Cause the love that you lost wasn’t worth what it cost
And in time you’ll be glad it’s gone

Weep not for roads untraveled
Weep not for sights unseen
May your love never end and if you need a friend,
There’s a seat here alongside me

Linkin Park Roads Untraveled

You just move forward and focus on what’s next. In my case it was a mutation of two careers into one.

The Growing Lab Experiment Behind the Scenes
The Fly (1958 and remake 1986) depicted the merging of two entities into one.

Like the lab experiment gone screwy in the movie “The Fly”, I merged my interests in art with my career in lighting – leading to fusing the two together. This led to very early 3D sketch style Lighted Objects.

3D Sketch Lighted Object 1987. MR16 lamp, glass lens, copper structure.

I had inspiration at the time, in the name of the late Ingo Maurer (1932-2019), whom I met and talked with twice prior to his passing. He once described himself as a weed that always comes back, and stated that “What we do matters”.

Ingo Maurer creations talked to me personally.

My earliest works. like any lab experiment, evolved continually, as I added skills in fabrication, and tools, leading to my first exhibition and sale. Note, that this was simultaneous to completing the lighting design for the Mirage hotel, and being President of the LV chapter of the IES at the time.

First sold work 1988, MR16, brass construction.
Career Four – Product Design + Marketing + Engineering – Jobs 6, 7, 8 & 9

These early works and the interest in getting closer to making things, led to my move from lighting consulting to product design. While I did some custom work at the time as a consultant, the real transformation occurred with a career move to Winona Lighting.

Ben 1991. Access to better tools (Winona Lighting shop) and practice, led to evolution in finished work.
Wings original 1992, 12V halogen. Updated to LED in 2010.

Winona even got behind the artistic interest, by putting some of my ideas into their catalog, which realized some success in the hospitality market.

Winona Celeste 1992

Excited with the work of product design, I moved on to Visa Lighting, where I continued to create both custom and standard products.

Custom work for main gallery (3 total) 1995
Custom sconce that was then made standard for Visa 1995

From Visa, I moved on to Kim Lighting, where my position was in marketing, but my heart remained in design. This led to adding some creative elements to Kim’s portfolio.

Perhaps not as artistic as other works, the Structural series (1999) did add to Kim’s otherwise conservative vocabulary.

The next move, back to Visa, resulted in further exploration of product design.

Summit Series 2003

As I grew in product development, the peripheral work of Marketing, and later Engineering, began to blend into my work. While natural career progressions, I found the division of attention and distance from the more artistic work distracting.

Side Career – Writing

In the middle of all this, I had an opportunity to pursue another passion of mine, which is writing. This has been part of my marketing work, but also in the content creation for trade publication. I don’t fancy this as a primary career move, but it is always something I enjoy doing.

Career Five – Moving Toward the Lighted Art Object – Jobs 10 & 11

In 2006, after 16 years of product design and marketing, I made the decision to create an environment where I could explore ideas within a broader landscape, so left to create a new consulting firm, using the Lumenique name once more, to seek customers and explore. This was most evident in 2010, with the 52 in 52 project.

The combination of LED tech and 3D printing came together in 2010, during the 52 in 52 project.

While I took a brief break for job 9, I came to the conclusion that I was most satisfied when I was able to bring creative influence and artistic imagery into my work. While I remain involved with numerous non-artistic projects to make a living, the underlying need to create continued to drive other work simultaneously.

This has led to my current work at Lumenique.

The combination of Architectural influences and light is intriguing to me in creating these objects.
Artistic expression is key to creative survival.
What’s Next?

I cannot predict the future. However, based on the trajectory of the past 34 years, I believe that I can state that making lighted art objects is going to be a part of whatever I do going forward.

The trick I am attempting to learn now, is to complete the “Fly” mutation beyond blending art and light, but spawning an entity that serves as both creative outlet and source of principle income. Of all the career moves made to date, this is by far the most challenging, as selling art is quite different than selling product or design services. To that end, there may always be a state of duality, where I pursue two career paths in parallel, as I have for many years.

I like my time alone to create without confines of a project definition. However, I also enjoy working with others, whether that’s on an art commission, or a product design for the commercial market – so the current hybrid career path may be my best yet.

If only I could find customers to buy more art…

Author: kwillmorth

Photographer and Artist

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