our vote for creativity by ali dejohn

image by Linda Winski

image by Linda Winski

I, like many of you, carry a heavy, troubled heart. The questions, concerns, fears and disbeliefs are plentiful. I stayed up until the wee hours on election night to find out the result, spent time listening to the media try to analyze it all, and cried listening to Hillary's concession speech on NPR while taking my son to school. I read beautiful articles about how to talk to our children and combed instagram to find uplifting posts {and there were many}. I debated even writing this one, not sure if my thoughts and words will be clearly understood since I'm not in a state of clarity myself, but feel that more than ever, my voice {and our voices} need to be shared and heard. 

It was hard to know what to do with yourself yesterday, wasn't it? For me, it didn't feel quite right being anywhere, but two of the places I did go brought great meaning and purpose back to the forefront of my mind and in my heart. First, I was part of an amazing group of arts organizations who showed up at the Boulder Office of Arts & Culture Summit, each of us previewing what 2017 had in store. It was awesome to witness the powerful nature that art and creativity have in its various wonderful forms and a treasured tool for expression and joy.  Each organization was asked to summarize this in 24 seconds, then share 7 words that described your mission. I chose:  creativity, play, self-care, community, connection, inspired, love. I thought about how would we all feel if we each had more of those in our daily lives. Happier! I spent time making a mobile to go with my presentation and the sheer act of using my hands was grounding, allowing me to get out of my head and into my heart. The worries and what if's melted away at least for a few moments and I was once again reminded of the joy and power of creativity. 

Second, I attended a talk on conscious parenting and cultivating unconditional self-worth by the extraordinary Michael Vladeck. Of the many magnificent messages I came away with, being seen and embraced as the imperfect, lovable human beings we are is absolutely essential for all of us. Can you imagine a world where everyone felt valued like this? My hunch tells me we wouldn't be where we are today and in this precarious situation if we had a country of happy people. It has always been my deep belief that the heart of so many problems stems from people not feeling good enough. Perhaps there is reason for this time we're being challenged, as it's a big wake up call for all of us to take a deeper look at who we are and take action to do the hard personal work to feel truly worthy. It begins with all of us. 

We are searching for meaning and hope. We are asking ourselves what we can do to make things better and actions we can take., and how can we feel more connected not only to each other, but with our ourselves. So many of my friends want and need an action item. Well I have one for you. Try making something. Anything. Wth your own two hands. I promise it will be worth it. As a mom, a female business owner, someone who believes that everyone has good in them, and who loves this country and beautiful place I get to call home, I feel a renewed sense of deeper purpose and urgency in the work I do, more than ever before. I believe with all my heart that creativity has the power to heal our souls and unite our communities. I will continue on the Makerie's path to do my very best to bring joy, connection and inspiration to as many people as I possibly can and it's my greatest hope that more people will nourish this precious part of the themselves, in whatever way is meaningful. I am deeply grateful to provide a platform to inspire creativity, play and self-care. The Makerie will be a lighthouse during these dark days and beyond, welcoming any ship to sail into it's loving rays of light. Our vote is for creativity. 

 

one thing : by elissa elliott by ali dejohn


From the moment we wake up, to the time we go to bed, we are barraged with a media onslaught that insists we’re doing life (and mothering) all wrong. There’s a huge abyss between society’s glossed-up version and the actual reality of our lives. On the surface, those ideals and norms seem to celebrate motherhood, but in reality, they propagate impossible standards that will forever remain out of our reach.

I’ve swum through all the emotions: persistent anxiousness, the urge to compare—all those perfectly curated Facebook and Instagram pages!—simmering frustration, and ultimately, depression. Despite what I’ve been told, I cannot do it all.

But I can do something.

Wait. I’m getting ahead of myself. Years ago, when my husband and I were in Houston for a year, we went to hear Jane Goodall (The Chimp Lady) speak. Her work with chimpanzees was remarkable, but what struck me most was what she said at the end of her talk. She said, “Most of you sit there, saying, ‘But what can I do? I’m only one person.’ So, here we sit, all of us, thinking the same thought, and nothing gets done. What if we all thought the exact opposite? ‘I am one person. I will do one thing.’ Imagine how many things we could change in the world!”

It’s true. I can counteract those crazy messages with one action that will single-handedly restore my joy and demonstrate to my daughter that we can ignore messages that don’t ring true in our hearts.

What society says is best for me and my child is not at all what is best for me and my child.

Strange thing: my sweet girl needs what I need. Glorious swaths of time for daydreaming. Small, comfy spaces for her to reenact her plays or her storytelling. Simple art supplies and paper, so she can fill them with her wild imaginings. At Christmas, at birthdays, she’s always more fixated on the box the gift came in than the actual gift. Oh, what she can make with those boxes! And the hours she spends inside those boxes.

She is ten now, and still, I don’t have her scheduled in anything besides school and Kumon Math (which takes an extra ten minutes a day). She comes home from school, dumps her backpack, grabs a snack, and heads outside into the woods, to explore. When she’s in the house, she chatters out loud, standing in for all her characters as she’s playing, and I find great joy in listening. It clues me in to what she’s thinking about, and oftentimes, our bedtime talks center around these very things.

All this to say: at some point, I realized I was providing her with this delicious freedom, but I was too hunkered down in laundry, meals, and chores to allow myself the same thing. And small pieces of me were wilting. My heart was growing dim within me, and I was at a loss to know how to fire it up again. I wanted to change things, but it required energy I didn’t seem to have.

Ta-da. Enter: my one saving thing.

My first Sweet Paul Makerie was a Christmas gift from my husband. In the winter of 2014, I traveled to Brooklyn for two days of art workshops, led by a stellar group of artists, and hosted by the Makerie phenom team of Ali, Krissa, Ali’s mom Linda, Sweet Paul, the “other” Paul, and Bubi. [Truly, they are all amazing people whom, whether they know it or not, I have rolled into my chosen family.]

I felt, I imagine, how Harry Potter must have felt entering Hogwarts for the first time—utterly spellbound. The food was out-of-this-world. The artists were prepared, enthusiastic, and oh so patient. The attendees were exuberant and accepting and kind, and it instantly felt like home away from home, so much so, that often, it wasn’t until I had left their presence that I realized who they were—CEOs, small business owners, craft authors, cookbook writers, bloggers, Etsy sellers, you name it. And none of them had made a point of it. You could have sworn that they, like me, were in a candy shop, enraptured by it all.

I lived on that experience for months. I contemplated how to revamp my life so that I, too, could do art, make something on a regular basis. 

My other job is writing, and although I adore writing, it’s been difficult to steal large enough chunks of time to disappear into the massive alternate worlds of novel making. At least until recently. 

Instead, I’ve had to find projects I can do in small increments, say for example, working on a Alabama Chanin Maggie dress or arm knitting a throw or taking a Lisa Congdon class with Liliana on Creativebug.

Since my venture to that first Makerie, I’ve attended others, even a summertime Land of Nod Makerie with Liliana, which was the experience of a lifetime. This next spring, I’ll attend the Makerie in Boulder, CO, and I cannot tell you how much I’m looking forward to it. I look at it as an investment in me (and my sanity).

There’s an added bonus. You make friends—close friends—and it doesn’t matter if they live way across the country, or in a different country. This summer, Liliana and I drove to Deerfield, IL, so that Liliana could attend fellow attendee Bridget Lamb’s amazing Make Craft Camp for young girls. Just so you know: Liliana didn’t want to leave. Neither did I.

To know that I’m not alone, to know that I have other kindred spirits out there, means the world to me. Daily, I receive happy doses of them through Instagram, and their brilliance and creativity encourage me to continue that search for what makes me happiest, what makes my daughter happiest. It’s our little rebellion, combating the outer voices by listening to our inner ones.

So, if you could do one thing that would change your outlook on life and change the tenor of your world, what would that look like for you?

I encourage you. Don’t delay. The outside world will continue shouting its messages, so we must fight back. 

Be a rebel with me, won’t you? We have lives to save.

............................

*images from left to right

1. One of Liliana's line drawings for Lisa Congdon's class
2. One of Elissa's line drawings for Lisa Congdon's class
3. Spoon Carving with Melanie Abrantes at the 2016 Sweet Paul Makerie
4. Chalkboard Design with Valerie McKeehan at the 2016 Sweet Paul Makerie
5. Paper Cutting with Elsa Mora at the 2016 Sweet Paul Makerie
6. Liliana's bear from the Sewing a Softie class with Michelle Jewell at the Land of Nod Makerie
7. Monoprinting class with Ashley Goldberg at the Land of Nod Makerie
8. Liliana's projects from Bridget Lamb's Make Craft Camp

Creativity & Connectivity : by Elsa Mora by ali dejohn

 
 

There is a quote by Herman Melville that I love:

“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.”

This quote has been in my mind ever since April of this year, when I was lucky to be part of the Sweet Paul Makerie creative retreat in Philadelphia, PA. I wasn’t supposed to accept the invitation to teach at this event because my plate was completely full., but a little voice told me that I should say yes, so I did that. Then a second voice came in through the phone line and it was Ali DeJohn. I have a visual memory so I tend to remember people by visualizing images that I associate with them. While listening to Ali, I visualized a fresh garden filled with tiny flowers and busy bumble bees. 

I can’t remember the exact words that we spoke, but I just knew that I loved her even though we had never met in person. Her passion, her down-to-earth nature, and the sound of her laughter drew a magnetic portrait of the person behind the phone. Do you remember that quote from the Little Prince that reads “The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart.”? Well, that is exactly how I felt during my first conversation with Ali. 

Fast-forward a few weeks and I finally get to meet Ali in person. She was exactly the busy bumble bee that I had in mind. Seeing her felt as natural as meeting someone that I have known for a very long time. She was warm and energetic, gracefully welcoming all the teachers and students arriving at the URBN building for the retreat. Now, everything that I am saying about Ali could be said about Krissa, the other bumble bee behind The Makerie, and about Ali’s Mom, Linda Winski, flying like a butterfly from one place to another camera in hand, and about Paul Lowe from Sweet Paul, and about everyone involved in the happening of the event. 

After the welcoming experience, everything only got better and better. I loved meeting the other teachers and seeing the amount of love and effort that they put into what they were doing. I only wish that we had more time to interact with each other. There was also the food, which was beautiful to look at and delicious. And what to say about our students. That was of course the cherry on top, or more like many cherries on top! I had been anticipating meeting them for weeks. I loved each of them and the uniqueness with which they approached their creative projects. I loved their different backgrounds and sensibilities and our conversations, and the conversations among them. And the hugs, let’s not forget the hugs!

By the time the retreat was finished we were all physically exhausted but emotionally energized. How was that even possible? The answer is: creativity. Nothing brings so much joy into our lives than creating something with our hands. Creating things is exactly what makes us human. Doing it in the privacy of our homes or studios is nice, but doing it while connecting with other people is even nicer, and truly good for our souls. That’s precisely the core concept behind The Makerie: creating while connecting.

Several months ago before attending the Sweet Paul Makerie retreat, I was lucky to join a team of remarkable people to start an arts organization that we have named ArtYard. It is located in Frenchtown, NJ, about 1 hour and 20 minutes from NYC and Philly. ArtYard has been a dream come true for us. Creating our mission statement was an important step because we had to think deeply about what our intentions were. This is our mission statement: ArtYard is an incubator for creative expression and a catalyst for collaborations that reveal the transformational power of art. The words creative, collaboration, transformational, and art, were important for us to include because we passionately believe in what they mean.

We believe that the concept of connectivity and creativity through a face to face experience is timely, hence the success The Makerie has experienced with their retreats. We live in an internet dominated culture and I don’t say the word internet in a negative way. The wonderful things that we have achieved and continue to achieve through this amazing tool is undeniable. But I believe that our human nature is craving human contact. What many of us are missing right now is the ritual of gathering, of making time for communicating face to face, for starting conversations, for collaborating, and for letting all of our senses absorb and process reality in ways that are not possible through the internet and our beloved digital devices. 

I want to end this post by saying Thank You to all the community connectors out there who are doing great things to bring people together through their businesses and organizations. Thank you Ali, for your hard work to keep The Makerie strong and healthy. And congratulations all of you who take time to create things with your hands whenever you have a chance. 

Looking forward to seeing you around in our creative community!

Elsa

 

Welcome to our Community Blog by ali dejohn

Welcome to this space! A place for us to be a community all year round, not just during the retreat experiences. During one of my many magical conversations with the extraordinary Elsa Mora {who taught at the 2016 Sweet Paul Makerie}, I was sharing how I wanted to find ways to keep this tremendous Makerie community connected throughout the year, as so many special relationships are created during the retreats and it feels important to find ways to keep that going. So here we are, thanks to Elsa's beautiful idea for creating a Makerie Community Blog!

This space will be a shared one and a platform for our community to submit posts about anything related to the Makerie. It could be about being part of the experience as a participant or teacher, or how someone was inspired to start a new business as a result of attending the Makerie, or how it felt to volunteer, or to be one of our wonderful partners, or even how it might have changed you as a person through nurturing your creative gifts. This platform is for our community to celebrate creativity in whatever form that takes and we can't wait to hear your stories. We will not have a set schedule for these posts, but rather share them as they come along. Stay tuned for some beautiful musings from our team, participants, teachers, volunteers, partners, etc. who have been touched by this Makerie experience we're all creating together.