nourishment for the soul : by angela Stavropoulos by ali dejohn

For most of my early childhood, I had what now seems like a rare luxury: I grew up very close to my grandparents and spent time with them almost daily. My Grandma Betty was an avid seamstress, crocheter, and overall crafter, and she always had what seemed like a mountain of projects in the works. Now that she is gone from this world, I still sew with her machine, crochet with her massive stash of crochet needles, and binge watch Netflix snuggled under one of her handmade afghans. I learned how to knit with her tools as well, though I had to outsource that instruction – it wasn’t her skill of choice. I feel such an intense and powerful connection to her when I make anything, whether it's a cake, a baby blanket, or just a handmade card (snail mail - another lost art!), and it's one of the aspects of making that I love. The one downside, aside from the fact that there are simply too few hours in a day, is that crafting is often a rather solitary activity. The Makerie presents a whole different creative experience that feels so well-rounded, so perfect, magical even. Working with my hands in the company of friends and fellow crafters, learning new skills and honing old skills at the hands of the amazingly talented artisans and artists that teach the Makerie classes, is such nourishment for the soul.

I attended my first Boulder Makerie event (thank you Mollie Makes magazine for the introduction!), Makerie Sewing, in 2013. I was awestruck the entire weekend. Getting to learn from and work alongside the celebrities of the creative world, such as Jenny Hart, Cal Patch, Amy Butler, and Tamar Mogendorff, to name a few, was an absolute dream. Not only that, but every last detail was so carefully considered and beautifully executed by Ali and her talented, tireless team. From the hand-printed signs that offered encouragement as attendees entered the Chautauqua grounds, to the welcome bags full of local offerings, from the local fare meals with options to suit all dietary needs, to the “cozy cottage” casual crafting sessions that popped up in the evenings. It was absolute perfection, in part because we were there to learn and explicitly allowed to not be perfect. Making things is often centered around giving of oneself, but making beautiful things in an atmosphere centered around nourishing the maker, turns creating into a full-circle experience of giving while receiving. If one is creating while being simultaneously cared for, the end result is bound to be that much more beautiful and infused with love.

The creative people in my life often talk of a sense of imbalance, and for me, the Makerie has become a way to restore balance. I’ve reveled in several Makerie experiences since 2013. It’s a sort of lifeline. I return home from these events with new projects, some completed and some waiting to be doted on some more, a head swimming with new ideas, a proverbial toolbox of new skills, sometimes an actual new tool – yay jigsaw! – and a heart bursting with gratitude for a few days of blissful, creative contentment. The Makerie is a gift that I give myself, in terms of taking the time away from family and work to learn, socialize, eat well, and spend time immersed solely in activities of my choosing. And it’s a gift that keeps on giving, in that it expands my creative horizons, making me a better crafter for sure, but also a better person, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, employee, community member... As on the airplane, when flight attendants advise to place your own oxygen mask first, we all need to care for everyday selves so that we can better provide for those who depend on us, and the Makerie is a sort of oxygen mask. It is truly a privilege to attend a Makerie event, and one I don’t take for granted. I am just grateful beyond words for all I have been able to experience thus far!


permission to just play : by lisa wheeler by ali dejohn

For as long as I can remember, I’ve made things. My mother was a prolific knitter, sewer, card maker and cross-stitcher, and my childhood was filled with beads, glitter, Play-Doh, pipe cleaners and other assorted craft materials. I remember loving the sense of escape I got when I would make things. The feeling of achievement, of being 100% absorbed in something, and of escaping from the everyday was so wonderful and intoxicating.

After I left home and started working, I kept up my habit, trying out pretty much any type of craft – you name it, I’ve done it, from candle making to screen printing, lino cuts, pottery, jewelry, macrame, embroidery, glass painting and crochet. I’ve never met a craft I didn’t like, and I never had a favourite, although I’d have an intense love affair with each one for a short time (often including making and selling items), until I got bored and tried something new.

My craft challenge has been to learn to let go of the need to make things look like they came out of a store, and embrace randomness and accident. I’ve always judged myself far more harshly than anyone else has, so if my crafts didn’t look ‘shop-worthy’ I’d reject them and give myself a stern talking-to about my lack of skill. And then I’d stop doing that craft completely. Like a lot of people, I’m my own worst enemy at giving myself permission to just play, and not to think of craft as success or failure, or as a competitive sport.

Something else I’ve always loved is travel – coming from New Zealand, every other country is so very far away, and seemed so unreachable and exotic. I especially remember poring over Vogue and other fashion magazines, and loving all the glossy ads, especially when they were for stores on Fifth Avenue. To me, that was the epicentre of glamour, and I would think; wow, if I could walk down Fifth Avenue one day, I will know I’ve made a success of my life. I got that opportunity in 1987, when I won a radio competition to go to New York and watch the world premiere of Leonard Part 6 (truly the worst film ever made, starring Bill Cosby as a detective who could talk to animals). The prize included airport limousine pick-up thanks to Colombia Pictures, a walk down the red carpet, and meeting Bill Cosby at a star-studded premiere at the Hilton, which to my 18-year-old small-town self was truly mind-blowing. That week in December cemented my life-long love affair with the Big Apple, even though strolling down Fifth Avenue wasn’t the life-changing experience I’d expected… (Are those women hookers? Did that guy just try and sell me drugs? Why is there trash on the ground?).

But still, the energy of the city spoke to me in a way I’ll never forget. I felt so alive – like a better, cooler version of myself, and I wanted more. That trip actually set me on the path to being a graphic designer and wanting so much more from my life. 

It would be another 27 years until I returned to New York for the inaugural 2014 Sweet Paul Makerie. In that time I’d worked at a top ad agency, started my own business, lost 100 pounds and moved to Australia. At the time I saw the Makerie advertised online I was having a mid-life crisis – not knowing what the next chapter of my life would look like and rapidly coming up on 50 with no partner, no children and no plans. I’m not a huge believer in astrology, but I’ve always thought it was pretty apt I'm a Pisces – I swim from one side of the bowl to the other and back again, getting distracted by whatever is in front of me and not planning for the future (I wish I was different, but I’m not, so I’m just going to own it!).

The Makerie had everything I loved. Craft (but the super-stylish kind that looks like you’d sell it in a design store). New York City. Glamour. Spontaneity. And most importantly, tax-deductibility. “It’s work-related” my accountant said. “You’re a designer, and you’ll be designing things”. I booked a ticket immediately, and started counting down the days. It’s so hard to put the experience into words, because it was so magic. From walking into the beautifully decorated Hudson Yards venue to the final farewell and goodie bag, it was everything I was hoping for and more. Meeting both of the Pauls, Ali and Krissa, and making some great friends I will have in my life forever – it was more than worth the 30 hours of travelling time to get there.

How much did I love it? I came back again in 2015, and in 2016 (my great friend Jonas came that year from Australia as well, and loved it as much as I did). And after the 2016 Makerie I didn’t go back to Australia, I moved to London to see if I could make a new life for myself there. It’s been 10 months now, and it’s going pretty well. I miss my craft stash, because I sold literally everything I owned except for two suitcases of clothes. Oh, and I also brought the cookie cutter I made in Patti's class, paper flowers from Elise’s class, printed stationery from Lotta’s class, the weaving from Janelle’s class, stitched flower from Ann’s class, embroidery from Adriana’s class, paper cutting from Elsa’s class and my silk scarf from Terrain’s class. Plus all the beautiful memories I made, especially of the kindness, generosity and warmth of everyone who I crafted with. 

I’m trying not to buy lots of new things to replace everything I sold, so I can live light and move easily, but I still get pangs of desire whenever I see beautiful wool, fabrics, beads and ribbons – once an addict, always an addict! I’ve joined the London Craft Club and get my thrills there, but it ain’t New York. Unfortunately I can’t come to this year’s Makerie but I know I’ll be back another time to recapture the magic and I can’t wait.


i want you to know amy by ali dejohn

There is someone I want you to know. Someone who is one of the most creative, brave and gifted beyond measure in her way with words. She’s a best-selling author and her name is Amy Krouse Rosenthal. I first discovered Amy because her cleverly written journal ‘Your Birthday Book’ became a tradition that I filled out with the kids each year. Little did I know it was the same person when I stumbled across ‘The Beckoning of Lovely.’ If you haven’t seen this video, please push play above. It will make you smile and then you’ll want to watch it 100 more times. It was then that I instantly fell in love with Amy and her love of making things {and only later discovered that I asked her brother to a date party in college!}.

As I was planning the first Makerie in 2011, I thought how incredible it would be to have Amy speak at our opening night, so I emailed her out of the blue to ask. She {herself} actually emailed back. I couldn’t believe it. I had no idea what I was doing or how much you pay a best-selling author to speak, but she wanted to be part of it. You can’t even imagine my elation. The timing wasn’t great for her, as she was on a family vacation in Hawaii, but she still wanted to find a way to make it work. This was her email to me, and I share it in the spirit of showing you how magical she is with her words. And this is JUST an email! 


hey Ali!

I had this idea today, about how to really make this thing work for us this year. Because I'd really like to...make this work, that is. But I know there are all sorts of moving pieces, on top of the fact that the dates are not super ideal for me. But like most things (I wish all things), I think there is a solution looming.

What if we add a touch of digital 2011-ness and do a skype video chat/presentation...about creating and thinking out of the box and pushing ourselves in new fun ways... we can call it "THE SKYPE'S THE LIMIT"   

This way, we don't have any travel conflict issues (or costs). And we could settle on a waaaaaaaay reduced fee.

Overall, it would be a less pressured and very viable way of making a collaboration happen this year... and then we can visit a full on visit for your next Makerie (next year?)

What I also like about this is...we're following one of the messages in The Beckoning of Lovely... "MAKE DUE WITH WHAT YOU HAVE." 

come to think of it, we could even call our skype presentation chat just that... 



What do you think?

oh, and I noticed today when i was abbreviating my blog Mission Amy KR (for the first time) that the initials are MAKR. as in maker. kinda love that.



Amy was a treasured part of that first retreat {all the way from Hawaii!} and a beautiful part of the Makerie story. I am sharing this with you because I just learned the devastating news that Amy is dying of ovarian cancer. She wrote one last essay, a dating profile about her husband so he can write a new love story of his own. Her words are as magical as ever.

Amy, I want you to know what an enormous inspiration you have always been to me and will always be. You never let an idea fly away from you, you always followed your heart and you never ever missed a chance to create a meaningful human connection. Thank you for believing in the Makerie in the very beginning, which helped me believe in myself. I am heartbroken but feel so lucky to have been touched by your gifts and for our Makerie family to have had the precious chance to experience your magic for themselves. The world is an absolutely better place because of you and I will never ever look at a yellow umbrella without thinking of you. You epitomize the human spirit. Thank you. You lived your own advice in an immeasurable way. You made the very most of your time here.


feeling at home : by jocelyn krodman by ali dejohn

Throughout my life, I’ve always felt most safe and at home making things. School days were easier to get through with the promise of an art class in the middle of the day. Free time was always spent in one creative pursuit or another, assisting the teacher at a summer art camp at the school where my mother taught, or insisting on playing with Sculpey every spare moment of every single day. The trend continued into my adulthood. I went on to be an admissions representative for an art college, spending my days visiting high school classes and informing students about opportunities that would help them pursue creative careers. A few years in, unable to continue not following my own advice, I decided the most important thing to create was a new life for myself. I left my job and made a big move up north, where shortly thereafter I started my own creative business, Petit Felts. This led to volunteering and then working at a non-profit after school art program at the local high school. Eventually, I started teaching workshops in my studio, at the local library, in people’s homes, wherever I could gather a group of people together to make, to learn, and to be around creative energy. 

When the Sweet Paul Makerie team asked me to teach needle felting at the 2016 creative retreat, I felt so honored. Honored and INTIMIDATED! Was I in over my head? Did they know I wasn’t a ‘real’ teacher? Would anyone care about what I had to teach them? Knowing there was no way I could allow myself to pass up such a wonderful opportunity, I decided to quiet the voices of self-doubt and go all in. My experience there was beyond words. The energy of this group of people gathered together because they all shared the love of making things and knew the importance of taking the time out to do so, was powerful and inspiring, and it was contagious. I found my confidence in teaching that weekend, and I found that outside of creating things myself, sharing my love of making and paying it forward makes me feel at home.

If we make the space in our lives for it, we all possess the gift of being able to create, regardless of experience, skill level, or background, and an environment like the one achieved at the Makerie celebrates this.


dreams do come true : by bridget lamb by ali dejohn

My love of handmade began early. I was 10 years old when my dad took me to Sears and bought me my very first sewing machine. A Kenmore that still sits in my craft room. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I sewed on that machine for 25 years and, although I’ve upgraded, I can’t bear let it go. I look at it and am brought back to that time. Feelings of creating and feelings of pride. I look at that machine and feel lucky I had a dad that believed in me, and invested in me. This, for me, is where it all began.

I belong to a craft group of 8 women. We meet to create and laugh and build each other up.  Sometimes our projects are winners and sometimes we land on the Pinterest fail boards. We experiment, we brainstorm, we are family. It is a unique mix of women who have made my life better through the use of hot glue guns, pinking shears and sequins. It’s a place to seek refuge from all of our daily tasks. One year, instead of monthly craft projects, we traveled around to each other’s homes and DIY’d a room in the house. The room in my home that was once considered a catch all, the door quickly closed if visitors came by, became my very own creative studio. It was a complete make over at the hands of those who knew me most. It transformed into a bright explosion of color, an inviting space that called me to come in and get lost in creativity. This is where the proverbial magic happens. It is my happy place, made happier simply by the women that helped create it. 

I am a Makerie junkie. Having attended 7 Makerie retreats, it has become my yearly renewal and recharge. Over the years, I have met some unbelievably creative minds and each time I leave, I am bursting with enthusiasm and passion for the creative process.  

Many times, as class begins, participants are asked to share something about themselves. It was a year and a half ago that I finally heard my own response. It echoed off the walls and back to me, sounding like a broken record. It was here that I realized I had been saying the same thing year after year. “My dream is to some day open a creative studio where I can teach young kids to love the art of handmade.“ I had been flying to attend retreats that inspired me to do exactly what I already loved doing: Making. I had said those words so many times, and to many of the same people year after year. When would my someday come? 

On the flight back to Chicago, my own words bounced through my mind. When would my someday come? I had been waiting for that perfect time, that perfect space, but maybe I shouldn’t be waiting. Maybe that bright and beautiful studio brimming with the best class schedule and the dazzling front window display wasn’t my beginning. Right there and then, I decided that my someday could be now. I just had to reimagine it and think outside the box. I decided to start where I was, with what I had. I already had a bright and beautiful studio in my home, created by me and my crafty friends. A place where my own children and I already worked and created. This could be my starting point. Workshops and camps that invite children to play, make and grow. This was my dream. And I could start now. Make Craft Camp was born. 

Within a month’s time, I had sold out my first class. A Mothers Day paper bouquet workshop for kids varying in age from 8-13. After that first workshop, I knew this was meant for me. I was walking on air. From there, I have continued on my path. It is fun for all. My daughters help me put on each workshop, making it the most sparkly family business ever.  It is more that piecing paper together or sprinkling glitter on a Holiday house, these young girls are creating something from nothing and walking away proud of that accomplishment.  I get texts and emails from both kids and parents with photos of things the girls have created once they leave camp. This is my ultimate satisfaction. I am in the business of lifting kids up and helping them see that they can do it anything they set their minds to. We have fun while we build self esteem. 

When it came time to decide what I wanted to stand for and what my company would stand for, I turned to one of the great minds of our time. I believe Einstein said it best, “Creativity is Contagious…pass it on.” With handmade, comes patience, love of the imperfect and a curiosity that opens us up to greater creativity and appreciation in our everyday lives. My goal is to empower young girls with creativity, positivity and tons of glitter;). Dreams do come true.


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!



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.