Carolina Cisneros and Mateo Pinto are principals at Combo Colab, a design firm in New York that conceptualizes and executes public art projects, furniture design and green architecture. We talked with them recently about what it’s like running their own creative business.
You’ve managed to make running your own creative business financially sustainable. What’s your secret?
M: With freelance work, you have to really work and go for every opportunity. You just have to take every opportunity, because there might be a void later on. The hardest challenge with it is keeping up a rhythm where you can make it financially sustainable.
Recently you finished and then revamped the Truck-a-Float in the Rockaways — a very unique space, a little environmental motel-on-the-sea. Why did you choose this project?
M: We are both architects open to using lots of kinds of materials and want to be as environmental as possible. We wanted to do something different. We discovered that truck caps had a very low cost and a lot of them were lying around the highway. We saw on the internet that people used truck caps on top of a garden shed, or on top of a chicken coop. [Truck caps] are fiberglass and have windows, so they’re perfect for rooms.
If you’re just starting out and always have to work for someone else to pay your bills, look for your inspiration and motivation and go for it. It flows very naturally when you’re deeply convinced about it. It just feels right.
You mention on your website that Rockaway community members and friends helped plant the seed for the project. How important is community to your success?
C: Collaboration is something we’ve always believed in, especially in an art project. The more brains you have working at something, the more enriching it is.
How can a creative freelancer survive and prosper today?
M: Try to be original and be yourself. It sounds like a cliché, but really look for originality, your own path. As an exercise, we tried to take an existing product and transform it without making so much of an alteration. In the case of the Truck-a-Float, the design is creating something different from something that exists. That is our original vision – that is us being ourselves, not imitating others.
C: If you’re just starting out and always have to work for someone else to pay your bills, look for your inspiration and motivation and go for it. It flows very naturally when you’re deeply convinced about it. It just feels right. That would be the advice – when you freelance, put your work behind a product you believe in.