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!