Why My Fine Arts Degree Makes Me a Better Founder
A founder tells the story of how she went from medical school to studying sculpture to co-founding a startup.
By Urška Sršen (Co-founder, BabyWatch)
I belong to the generation who graduated into a world with no social security and no jobs. My transition from medical student, to sculptor, to entrepreneur has been unexpected but felt very organic. I have been afraid at times but at the end it feels like one day you just simply realize how to connect the dots.
I was only nine when I first announced I wanted to become a sculptor. I wanted to convert my ideas into something that could influence other people’s minds, trigger their emotions or hold a mirror to their thoughts. But most of all, I wanted to build my own path.
When the time came to decide my academic direction, I almost fell under the pressure of expectation. I was shortly enrolled in medical school, but at the end decided to pursue my childhood dream of becoming a sculptor. I started my studies and fell in love with hard materials and heavy tools. That’s how I got my nick name – the chainsaw girl. I loved the feeling of waking up every morning, going to the studio and working on my own things. I didn’t care if no one else understood why I was doing something that would maybe never allow me to earn a decent living and success in a conventional way.
My work mostly revolved around exploring the subconscious origins of human emotions and the use of traditional materials. My colleagues didn’t have any trouble adapting to this new era of “gizmo art,” but I couldn’t stop myself from continuing to believe in the use of natural materials. It doesn’t matter what way wood is used, a human being can connect to it on a biological and physical level. It is a breathing, living material, just as we are. This is what I believed technology lacked.
After completing my studies I found myself without the space and tools to sculpt, but with a burning desire to work. After a period of stubbornness, I started to rely more on my computer as a way to explore the “non physical”. I began to like the the easiness of working with digital tools. Slowly I saw why everybody else was so excited about technology and its impact on life and understood the importance of learning this new set of skills.
About a year ago Sandro, my co-founder, and I started to consider doing a project together. Sandro is an engineer and a so called “serial entrepreneur.” He had just started a new venture working on a home monitoring system for prenatal clinics. That’s where I jumped in. I wanted to use my knowledge in art to create the visualization for the technology he was building. I’ve always been captivated by medicine so the visualization of medical data drew me in right away. Once I started illustrating for our application I realized just how important and applicable my classic education was – nowhere else would I be able to learn to appreciate and respect the human body as much as I do. My perception of it is completely different than that of a “non artist”- I spent four years studying its structure and more than everything, its presence. I knew that when presenting medical data to moms-to-be the most important part is to understand the emotions they are feeling. Pregnancy is one of the most emotional and memorable periods in a woman’s life and I had to be very careful with what kind of feeling my design will provoke in them.
BabyWatch is where I utilized all of my newfound skills, as well as those I learned while studying sculpturing. I try to capture the emotions of a pregnant woman and realize them in our application – through color and design, as well as the organic, natural feel of it. After illustrating all 40 weeks of pregnancy, I felt like I achieved something I could never have imagined a year ago. I’ve managed to stay true to myself, my perspective on life and art, while still creating something that modern moms-to-be can relate to. I created my own opportunity and purpose for existing in this ecosystem while remaining faithful to my dream of becoming a visual artist.
Was your path to becoming a founder full of twists and turns?
About the guest blogger: Urška Sršen is an visual artist who studied fine arts, focusing on sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ljubljana and at Kuvataideakatemia in Helsinki. Currently she is working as a UI/UX designer with special field of interest in medical data visualization and medical illustration.