Women tell Women

How to manage uncertainty at work?

— Yuko Nishikawa

Uncertainty is an integral part of the process of making new things. If something is certain it means, it’s been already made and seen. It’s when we seek both security and novelty that this becomes an issue. Because uncertainty can feel uncomfortable, distractive. Like many things, if we hold onto it for long, it will grow. I need a plan to avoid holding it tightly in my arms and feeding it with warm milk. To shift my attention from uncertainty, I create a strategy that helps continue with my projects. As you work on new ideas, it is essential to keep them alive. Things that stay the same gradually become dead.

Let’s visualize it. If I want to make a painting, I cannot focus on making a good painting. Instead, I plan to paint every day for an hour, and I only think about sticking to the plan. Pretty soon, I will doubt the quality of my work and question where I should go from there. When uncertainty hits, all I can do is just make room for my doubts. Still, if I retain my focus on painting, I’ll continue, and the process will open me up for ideas, concepts, or people that I would have never encountered otherwise.

Nami-chan is my friend from college. When we were working on our thesis through our sleep-deprived stressful days, she looked up at me once and said: “Yu-chan, you look like you are having a blast!”. What a horrible comment, I thought. I was dying there! I look back at this moment and I appreciate that what my friend has discerned in me was liveliness. Hard and miserable times often become fun in retrospect.

So should I opt for certainty and make the exact same things I’ve already done because I know exactly how they function? In this scenario they will become chores. I want to keep working, creating, making things alive. Whenever I feel uncertain and pressured, I hear Nami-chan’s words in my head. I tell myself: “You’re having a blast!” It makes me laugh every time.

Yuko Nishikawa –

With her colorful, textured forms, Yuko Nishikawa creates fantastical environments. She makes paintings, lighting, mobiles, and sculptures working with a variety of mediums such as clay, wire, fabrics, as well as repurposed materials. Her work reflects the diversity of her professional experience encompassing architecture, restoration, interiors, furniture design, crafts, and engineering. Growing up in a small seaside town just south of Tokyo, Nishikawa received her B.F.A. in Interior Design from New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology in 2002. Her work has evolved and expanded beyond her earlier ceramic sculptures. The most recent highlights include a window displays & paintings for a French fashion brand Sandro and the immersive mobile installation titled “Memory Functions” at The Brooklyn Home Company’s new eco-friendly condominium.