Blog: The story behind the project
This month marks two years since the launch of CreatedHere! I can't believe it.
I was reminiscing about how this project started and the milestones along the way, so I thought I'd sit down and write it out to share with you all. This has been quite a growing journey for me on many levels, emotionally, creatively, spiritually...
In the fall of 2013, Sophie was 2 years old and Fiona was a few months old. Ask any parent, this is not the time to start a new project. And yet, this is when the idea for CreatedHere sparked in my mind and has tenaciously refused to go out. In my spiritual journey, God had been nudging me to make more time to be creative and enjoy making things like I used to when I was a kid. I had certainly been thinking a lot about doing creative things hadn’t really actually given myself permission to do much. Then I found myself at the Christmas craft fair at the exhibition grounds in Fredericton, without kids, where I ran into an old friend who I discovered had become a glass maker. I was fascinated by his story and wanted to stay to chat much longer than my in-laws wanted to look at glass. As I moved on to the other vendors, it occurred to me, what are their stories? How did they get to where they are? Something had stirred in me.
Later that night, while nursing Fiona before bed, I wondered if there existed a place online where I could find out about artists and craftspeople in New Brunswick. I was trying to shop local more and more, but I didn’t know where to start and as a mother with young children it was difficult to get out and do the legwork. The idea took hold and that night I couldn’t sleep because the my mind was racing and I was just too excited. (Which, when you have an infant who wakes up multiple times at night, is super ironic)
From there I started brainstorming, praying, researching online, talking to people, testing the idea out. It seemed crazy to start something new when I often felt overwhelmed by the simple day-to-day tasks of caring for two small children. I also really needed something to stimulate the self that is put aside when mothering, I needed this creative outlet. Really, I felt a call that I couldn't ignore.
By January, after talking about the idea to some people, a friend of my husband’s had suggested I apply for a grant through the Pond-Deshpande Centre. I thought why not? The worst they can say is no… So I did. And I got it! That was a huge boost in confidence. I was able to use that money to build the original website (thanks to the hard work of Jessica Webber) and do some social media consulting with the ever sociallogical Jeff Roach which turned out to be invaluable in getting my little project off the ground.
I started going to interview artists in their studios. Some were friends, or friends of friends, and some were just plain cold calls. “Hi, you don’t know me. Can I come visit your studio?” I remember the third interview I ever did was with Suzanne Hill, and I definitely did not know the extent of how famous or talented she was. She was so gracious with my awkward teen-level interview skills (that’s what it felt like anyway). I was often doing interviews on very little sleep, having spent a chaotic morning packing my kids up so I could leave them with someone and go. Or better yet, bringing the whole shebang along with me! The question frequently popped up in my mind, "Is this really worth all the trouble?"
Yes. Yes it was.
The site was ready to launch in September, 2014. I had done about 6 interviews, loaded up about a dozen artist profiles to the directory and I was ready to go. For some reason, the day of the launch, I was having a really hard time actually clicking “Post”. I felt frozen, insecure about opening myself up to the world in this way, inviting myself into a community in which I didn’t yet have a place. It felt a little bit like walking up to the cool kids table and asking to sit with them. Somehow, with a peptalk from my husband and mom and a few friends, I did it. And it felt freeing. Since then, I have continued to try to post regularly, albeit quite slowly sometimes as I have navigated pregnancies and a new baby, and the project has grown in ways I couldn’t have imagined.
Visiting jewelers Joe and Gudi Pach near Sussex
The Accelerator and the magazine
In the winter of 2015, I was invited to apply to participate in the first Arts+Culture Accelerator program offered by ArtsLinkNB. It was an honour to be asked, and even more so to be accepted! The program was truly a crash course in how to grow your creative business, full of quality workshops and talented speakers. The problem was, I hadn’t yet figured out how (or if) I was going to make money with CreatedHere! I played around with different ideas, selling local products, curating gift packages… but nothing seemed to stick and I felt a bit aimless. Not a good feeling when you're supposed to be accelerating! In the last couple of weeks, we were planning the demo day and I realized all I had to show was a website. How would people be able to appreciate what I had done if they all they could do was try to click around on my tablet? So I muscled together some gift packages to test out, and used text and photos from interviews I had done to design a magazine. In two weeks. I printed only 20 or so, to start. The demo day went great, the beautifully curated gift packages sat untouched on my table, but there was some interest in the magazines. I decided to run with it and printed 250 more copies.
That summer I got several boosts, one was an artsnb grant to do interviews with francophone artists, another was becoming a freelance writer for the Telegraph-Journal newspaper. I was also able to have a table at both New Brunswick Crafts Council fine craft festivals perfecting my elevator pitch (not easy!) and selling my one magazine. I was pregnant with my third baby and finished the summer profoundly exhausted. I took September off. The drive to work on CreatedHere was gone, along with my energy. I was worried that this might mean the end of the project. I just couldn’t keep forcing myself to work on something that I was motivated to invest in. I prayed that God would show me what to do. The passion started to come back, and I was able to finish the second issue of the magazine in November, just weeks before Simon James was born.
Baby Fiona playing at potter Darren Emenau's house
Sophie checking fibre artist Sabine Wieczorek's yarn stash
Little Fiona hanging out with Jazz, while visiting glass artists Nick and Heather
Now this whole thing has seemed to pick up steam. More importantly, I now am confident about what I'm doing and the direction I'm taking. With a beautiful new website to work from (thanks Deja Peterson!) I have three issues of the magazine for sale, I am working on the fourth. I have a growing number of subscriptions and stockists, and a super supportive community of people that I am getting to know and enjoy. And I have made many new and precious friends.
This whole time I have often fought that mommy-voice that said I should be focusing on my children instead of working on this, instead of being creative. Sometimes our own inner voices are our worst enemies. I have come to realize that pursuing my interests makes me a better mom because I am more fulfilled, it forces me to be more organized with house stuff, and it draws my children into what I am doing. I have brought my kids to interviews and shows, they have met more artists and seen more handcrafted beauties than many adults. And best of all, we have been welcomed into this community of creatives like I never thought possible. I have made friends, and made connections with so many interesting, generous and talented people, literally watching my network grow in front my eyes.
Sophie and Fiona found some wood chomped by a beaver while visiting chainsaw sculptor Joel Palmer
Simon having a snuggle with Toby Graser
One completely unexpected (though not surprising) side-effect of being immersed in the arts community is that more and more I find myself wanting to be creative with my own hands. If there is anything that I have learned, it's that anyone can be creative, anyone can become an artist. How liberating!
I have given myself permission like never before to take time to make. Braiding rugs, embroidery, knitting, learning to crochet, and now I find myself the proud owner of a 7-foot-long tapestry loom! I am super excited to learn to use it, but am resigning myself to the reality that it will probably take all winter, considering it will be in bits of time likely after 9 pm.
I still struggle with home and work, wanting to be in two, three, four places at once. This whole journey has been an exercise in trust for me, trusting God that He will give me the time and energy to do what He has placed in front of me, *and* to be a good mom. He hasn’t failed me yet. I am ever-thankful for this journey, and am super excited to see what comes next! Somehow it feels like it's just the beginning...
Thanks for reading this uber long post and for being a part of this incredible community!
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Sophie and Fiona having a snack and colouring at Manami's house