Ep. 108 Learning to Love Yourself and Knowing Your Worth with Elīza Māra
Today I’m talking with artist, maker, crafter, and designer Elīza Māra. That intro will make a little more sense once you dive into this episode haha, but I think it’s important to mention that since its inception I’ve approached each podcast episode as a conversation between myself and the guest, because of this these conversations can often be quite intimate and nuanced. My conversation with Elīza is no exception, we cover a lot of ground and it may resonate with some and not others, all of which is ok. I’m grateful to Elīza for her transparency, for sharing her authentic story as she’s still actively navigating her creative journey. I hope we can all be inspired by her courage and bold dreams. I hope you enjoy listening in on our conversation.
You can connect with Elīza on the Making app @Elīzamāra and Instagram @Elīzamārastudio
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You can also listen to our podcast directly on the Making app, Spotify or on Apple Podcasts.Click to show transcript.
Ashley [00:00:06] Welcome to Making Conversation, a podcast where we celebrate making in all its forms from amazing stories of inspiring makers and people to behind the scene peeks of building Bright Collective, our monthly membership for all things craft and the Making app, the first social marketplace for makers. We believe that the simple act of making can transform your life and in turn change our world. This is why Making exists. I'm your host, Ashley Yousling. And today I'm talking with artist maker crafter and designer Elīza Māra. This intro will make a little more sense once you dive into this episode. But I think it's important to mention that since the beginning, I've always approached each episode as a conversation between myself and the guest. Because of this, they can often be quite intimate and nuanced. My conversation with Elīza is no exception. We cover a lot of ground and it may resonate with some and not others. All of which is totally okay. I'm grateful to Elīza for her transparency and for sharing her authentic story as she's still actively navigating her creative journey. I hope we can all be inspired by her courage and bold dreams. And I hope you enjoy listening in on our conversation. You can connect with Elīza on the making app @ElīzaMāra and on Instagram @ElīzaMāraStudio. And with that, here's Elīza.
Elīza [00:01:24] I have an aunt. I always kind of remember her babysitting me, but also she was the very much creative in our family and was always pulling out like tips and tricks out of a hat of how to do anything and everything, but in the coolest way possible. And I just remember growing up and seeing her just do it for, you know, gifts or celebrations and just kind of spending time with her was always interesting, seeing what she'll be able to do. I somehow became that kid that always had threads and kits and needles and everything. I remember getting for Christmases like really early on, I believe even like it might have been even first grade or even earlier. I remember getting yarn and needles for knitting and crochet. I thought it was so cool and that always kind of developed over the years. Now I get more yarn and more needles and more stuff. And and I specifically remember when I think it might have been like kindergarten and early years of school we had these are like kids stories, like crafts kits, but it was like everything starting from like scrapbooking and then moving on to like cross-stitching and whatever. And I remember always kind of looking forward to like my ninth birthday or back home here we have named Days and Latvia as well, which is kind of your second birthday. So you get gifts for that as well. So I was kind of looking for seeing that kind of yellow and green colored box, meaning that like, oh, it's from them and kind of be like, oh, that's, that's something cool that only so well. And funny enough, my aunt, she, she was making stuff for gifts and for I remember like one Christmas she was knitting the tiniest sweater for my dad because my dad was asking for a sweater and she's like, Yeah, well, I'm knitting one. And it was like with the tiniest needles just to be able to say that I needed a sweater for Christmas, which I think is hilarious. And also it's a superpower to knit something so small anyways. So I guess in that sense, I just loved the idea that like, you can make a sweater and it was amazing. And the same with my grandma. You spend a lot of time with my grandma, my mom's mom, and she always had like a big box that was for threads, but also there was a lot of buttons in there. And looking back now, I see it was very much sensory play when I was little, but I just remember that every single time when I was spending time with Grandma, as I was looking forward just to like revisit that box and kind of play around and see what is my favorite button. And then the same later on went with her sewing machine. It was the most basic at home sewing machine that you can own, and it was like really old and there was always something out of service. But I was, I remember every single time trying to get my grandma to set it up for me so I can just sit around and try to sew. And sometimes it works and sometimes it didn't. And I remember one time I asked my grandma would be like, Hey, can I just make a tote bag? And I was like, I don't know, seven. Just like, well, no, we need a pattern. And like, I don't have time now to, you know, draw a pattern and figure it all out. And I was like, Well, no, let's just make it kind of so like and oblivious and just kind of for the sake of doing it and being busy with something. And later on in middle school, when we had home economics class and we had to have like this very typical, very Soviet slash post-Soviet program for home economics, where we still had to knit a pair of socks or mittens and we had to do white work embroidery, which is very intensive for middle school. And I was extremely excited for that and I was always looking forward to the next thing we're going to be doing. But then also I was that kid that was always sitting there on time, so excited didn't mean that I was doing good at all. And I remember just being so annoyed that there would be some people who are doing it for the first time, and they do it so well and it's so pretty and even worse if, you know, they would have their moms knitted for them or, you know, the heel of a sock. And I'm trying to figure it out myself. And I remember. I knitted socks, I think four times, and the last ones that I handed in there were like the tiniest baby socks because I just didn't have any patience for that at all. Just need a hand then. And it was absolutely fine. But yeah, that's that's definitely my place.
Ashley [00:06:42] Where did you see Making and Creativity guide you on through to high school or college? And then I won't give it away, but you know, your later schooling and that kind of thing.
Elīza [00:06:56] In middle school I had home economics where we're like looking at all things related to crafting and making and kind of in the most domestic sense is possible. But then for high school, I went for a professional high school, which is where you go. It's a school, high school, art school and profession that you graduate with. And my department was textiles, where we had two different departments. So we were the ones doing more with sewing and with crafts. So that's when I kind of was like, Oh, that's great. You know, this is a space I'm comfortable in and I can, you know, take my high school expected misery away with just doing stuff that I would like to do in the first place. So that really kind of formed I don't even know how to say it, kind of that it's cool and it's normal and you know, we still do it. I kind of picked up embroidery again just because, again, I was home alone a lot and I remember that I enjoyed doing it. I was trying to from my own business, which is actually now looking back really hilarious because actually all the pocket money I would have, I would either spend it on makeup or on beads or supplies. And it's it's really funny because I do have the membership at our biggest kind of crafts store since I was like in fifth grade. And I believe I was like 11 at a time and now I'm 24. So I mean, I'm a very loyal client, so I'm I'm expecting my cut really soon. I remember I was making jewelry and just kind of with the simplest things and trying to sell it. And I was so upset that no one be buying it for me. And when I was making something, I needed a challenge and like a new challenge to overcome. So I was trying to find a shape and a format for embroidery to be useful so it could not be domestic or like very in the background. And in that time I was very kind of running into the issues of or I guess lack of knowledge on how to finish embroidery and finish jewelry. In that sense, that's embroidered because I was developing more the finishing aspect rather than what's on the piece of jewelry in the first place. And that was kind of a really big learning experience. And also since then, I'm not really doing jewelry at all. So it was a good learning curve and I kind of realized I like big and loud and visible embroidered jewelry and people back home here don't really go for that often. And yeah, it definitely was an experience in that sense. And yeah, so in high school I was going for my textiles and then for some reason I figured out that my future is in fashion, which is, I don't know. I mean, this is just going to be a great example that my ego has been strong since forever. I figured out that if I get my bachelors in fashion history, which to be fair, I was somehow interested in, but I couldn't say it's, you know, as big of a deal as embroidery is. And I thought if I get a bachelor's in fashion history and then get a masters in fashion critique, it could be, you know, one day maybe taking over Vogue, which is a really bold statement. But I mean, I felt that way and it's been two years since then. And that didn't happen. It was my last year of high school. Well, I had to apply for university and I was applying for London for Essentials and Martins. And so how I got through like the first, I believe two rounds, I had to submit my essay and everything and then I got a rejection back that kind of freaked me out. But I remember when I was waiting for that rejection because I knew it would be coming. I just didn't believe that I would make it through the. Because, you know, it's a really big fashion school. I remember just like looking on Instagram, I saw someone posted that they are doing embroidery for their degree. I was like, Oh my God, that's so cool. Why? Why did I do this? And I apply only to one school because I could have applied for three at a time. And for some reason I was like, No, no, I'm I'm just going to shoot for the one. And if I don't make it, I don't make it, which is very stupid. And I got the rejection letter and I was like, Oh, great, I can go for embroidery now, which is like kind of putting embroidery in the background at all times. In the UK when you apply for schools, you apply by mid-January and then in March you get letters back if you have an interview or if you have a spot. And that's when I, you know, got the letter that I'm rejected from Saint Martins. And then at that point, I applied for still the same year to start my program at Royal School. And it'll work. Just kind of fully kind of shooting in the dark and being, I'm not going to make it. It's fine, but I'd rather shoot it than not shoot it. And I happened to get in, which apparently is a really hard time to get in because at that point I already have, you know, a whole class. And also there's like an extra layer to that of just some Eastern European magic. So my best friend's mom, she is a psychic. And I remember meeting her for the first time, but honestly, just going visit her as my best friend's mom. Just around that time before my rejection letter came in and we were talking and she was like, you know, giving me her, you know, pointers as she feels. And, you know, if I need the degree and where should I be going and what's in my future or whatever. And I remember her saying that you don't need this degree being the one that I applied for, for fashion history. And I was like, Oh, okay, interesting. And she said, Well, that's only for your ego. Like an ego boost. It's like, fair enough. I mean, but that's not true. And she's like and she's saying to me, she's like, you know, definitely embroideries are filled to go in and you're going to make a great living for yourself and you're going to be a big deal, which obviously I love to hear of. And she just went on being like, Yeah, you know, I see you in a place like we don't have back here at all. I'm like, okay, she's she says, you know, it's I see like big stained glass windows. I'm like, okay, maybe, you know, when I'm old, maybe I'm going to live in Barcelona and like there's, I don't know, for some reason I thought Barcelona hosting windows. I know. And she goes on and on. I'm like, Yeah, okay. Well, I'm not not thinking too much of it. So literally two days later, after after seeing her, I'm in the hospital with pneumonia because I overworked myself so hard and was fully burnt out before I even finishing high school. And I get that rejection letter when I'm in the hospital and I call my mom and I say, you know, I've been rejected, but I applied for the embroidery school and she's like, Oh my God. I'm like, What? She says, That's where your friend's mom saw you in. Like, What do you mean? She's like, No, no, don't listen to me. I'm like, okay, she's she says, you know what it's like, look at that school. It has huge stained glass windows. Like, it's it's meant to be. It's happening. You're getting in like, okay, you know, I like that as well because that gives me confirmation that I'm getting into the school. I want to get it. Oh, yeah. And so I got my phone interview and then I got a confirmation that I got into the royal school and they work and I sent the photos of the well, the thing is, the Royal School Network is in a huge palace in London. It's in Hampton Court Palace, and it's a huge place that's right near like edge of London. And I sent pictures being like, Oh, my God, this is insane. This is like something from Harry Potter. And my friend for was a photo to her mom and her mom like points which window she saw me sitting in. I was like, okay, well, I know, that's great. So yeah, that's the story of like how I got into Royals coming to work for my degree. And also I found about that school on YouTube. It was I was like Googling embroidery schools or whatever. And I just Googled it for the sake of like, let me just dream about it. And I remember just like, you know, watching the video of like slow shots of the palace and like the extreme glamor and luxury that's in the palace. I mean, like, oh, that's great. But, you know, obviously tuition in everywhere outside Europe is extremely expensive. And like, I'm not going to make it, but that's nice to dream about. And yeah. And it just. Happened in like fast forward mode and literally I didn't believe it. I always say the Royal School needlework was a dream that I never dared to dream until my first day there. So, yeah, that's kind of how it all happened.
Ashley [00:16:41] I'm curious, what is your son's name?
Elīza [00:16:44] I'm an Aries.
Ashley [00:16:45] Okay, I'm in Aries, too.
Elīza [00:16:46] Oh, right.
Ashley [00:16:47] I can. I can feel it. When is your.
Elīza [00:16:50] Birthday? 6th of April.
Ashley [00:16:52] Mine's a 10th grade. Hey, we're very close. I love it. Do you know what your rising sign is?
Elīza [00:16:58] I'm a Scorpio, which makes things so much worse.
Ashley [00:17:02] That is intense.
Elīza [00:17:03] I found that out in, like, only this summer. But then I was thinking that, like, I feel I have a lot of things given to me a lot at first, and then I just have to kind of work for them, like, kind of afterwards. And then I was kind of thinking of that. But there's no way that I have such a hard, like character overall just with being in areas. And then I found that out and I was like, Oh my God, this makes so much sense. Kind of scary.
Ashley [00:17:32] I mean, I've always seen areas as very your warrior ramming through what other people think aren't possible. I have a lot of Scorpio in my chart as well. My rising sign is Aquarius, which is like humanitarian and making. Makes sense for me because warrior slash better the earth. When you were talking about the ego, I love that you can recognize that. But I also think it's a superpower that we kind of feel like we're invincible in a way. Yeah. Why wouldn't we take these risks? I mean, there's a shadow side, right? There's a moment where you're like, Oh, fuck, what did I get myself into? Because we leap first and then we look after. We're like, Oh, what did I do?
Elīza [00:18:12] Yeah, it's funny that you say it because I feel that's like my biggest revelation. I'm kind of having time to reflect on stuff and experiences that I've had, and I'm kind of looking back like, Yeah, I definitely have the ego for anything and everything, but now I'm just kind of in the best areas. Fashion is possible. I'm like, I love myself. I think it's so great that like when you're so passionate and you're so confident and just you go and do it. And like honestly always, my mom has made fun of me being like, there's never been, you know, a situation where I could say, you know, I have certain expectations for you because you would always just turn around and leave. Just like not listening to that. And I'm like sometimes looking back like, that's actually great that I could kind of have my tunnel vision and just do whatever I want because I feel looking back at the crazy late high school early uni days, it was very necessary and I look at it as being as a superpower that like I could block out all the concerns or anything and just focus on one thing at a time. And now when I'm out of school, I think I've lost my touch and I care for anything and everything which I shouldn't do. And kind of going back to what you're saying, like it has a shadow side, like, yeah, that's it's very much the case for me as well where like I can always, I will never promise things that I'm not able to do. I say that, you know, I can participate and deliver on this end and do this and that. But then when I have to start doing it, I'm like, Oh my God. Like, where did that confidence come from? And like, having a full on imposter syndrome, being like, no, I'm not, you know, particularly capable of that. But then after that, like, I have a pattern being like, no, no is great. I am a professional, I can handle this. And then at the end of the end of that, like, you know, a phase or a project, I look back and like, I don't know how I got myself into that.
Ashley [00:20:33] We believe that the simple act of making can transform your life and in turn change our world. This is why making exists. It all starts with inspiration. We are inspired by people, by places, by experiences. A beautiful photo, a soft wall, a kind heart. These are the things that motivate us to make. Making us here to disrupt systems. Systems of oppression. Systems that only benefit certain groups of people. And systems that extract. We are here to challenge the narrative of profit over people. We believe a company can be founded for the purpose of good and change the world for better, while also creating opportunity at scale. Makers are tired of the monolith. The few companies that comprise our only choices of how we connect, how we transact, and how we learn. Makers are ready for a better alternative, and that is what we are building. Becoming a bright collective member helps us accomplish this. Visit makingzine.com to learn more. We have a special 10% discount on Bright Collective yearly memberships for podcast listeners. Use discount code makingconvo10 during checkout.
Elīza [00:21:52] I'm a very critical person and I'm trying to understand is in my skin, is in my family. Is it like that that I'm an only child who's, like, trying to, like, give myself a diagnosis here? I guess that could be the thing that I struggle with the most. I can give a good critique to someone else and as a good being, actually constructive and trying to be very helpful. But it also kind of gets me in trouble with myself because if I can be constructive to someone else, that does not mean I'm constructive to myself. I have extremely high standards for anything and everything, and especially with embroidery as it is. Technically, my therapist told me that embroidery and the act of making is a such a high level where, you know, for other people will be with like substance abuse. So on one hand, I'm lucky, but on the other hand, like it consumes all my life. And that's where I kind of put all my self-worth in. And that's when it kind of gets complicated because I can jump into the mode of criticizing myself and literally a split second, and I can give you a list of things that should be done better. And you know why? Something is a piece of shit, even though on the other hand, with my ego, I think it's the best thing that anyone ever has seen or will see. So it's extremely complicated relationship with myself and my work at times where it's very. I just have to remember that I can navigate that, which is really hard sometimes.
Ashley [00:23:38] You know, there's a few parts of that that I think are really interesting, and I would venture to guess that there's many people that feel this way. We are our biggest critics, and that's kind of a generalist term, I think. I mean, I hear that a lot and I think there's trauma speaks to that a lot, too. Like in the more recent years, loving myself has been the biggest lesson. I think very highly of myself in a loving way. But I also I can feel so horribly or speak in my mind, so horribly to myself. Things I would never say to anyone else and how I present to other people is really how I need to be presenting to myself incredibly high standards for sure. But who are those standards first posed on ourselves, right? So yeah, I think feeling for our humanity in some ways being a very strong headed, self empowering individual. You said something earlier where like things are given to you and then like then the hard work comes. And I've definitely experienced a lot in life, not fortune. Things will just happen.
Elīza [00:24:51] It's like. It's like magic, right? It is. I've always kind of I've always thought that like a growing up, I was thinking that, like, you always have to work hard for things in your life and everything that you will have is only hard work. But then in the high school, I started realizing that, like, maybe hard work is 90% and 10% is just magic. It just happens.
Ashley [00:25:13] Hmm. There's a term like co-creating with the universe. I think we tend to be doers, right? I can do to the end of time. There's a problem with that often. Like it takes. Like I leave no room for the co-creation from the universe. I mean, I've gotten better at letting other people co-create with me. But beyond that, and just being in a state of being. So when you talk about the substance abuse aspect of it, what I think is interesting and this is not to demean or make light of people who are really struggling or have struggled with substance abuse. But I have been reading the book by government. The Myth of Normal. It's his new book and he had a recent podcast, an episode, and it was all about trauma. And through listening to that and then another podcast, I realized that substance abuse addiction, you know, there's an amazing TED Talk by Johann Hari who talks about that. The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection. And where I resonate with that is this word belonging, connection, and that some people fill that void or deal with their trauma or deal with how they are and how they see themselves in the world with substances. Some people use work. Some people use doing. Some people use productivity and perfectionism. And that is I mean, that's me.
Elīza [00:26:49] I'm a person who I think while I talk so especially going on my walks and everything of like I'll do the most of my thinking and we'll talking and everything. And it's funny because my husband is not as talkative as I am, but I remember this week saying something to him that, yeah, it's so weird that, you know, something along the lines that, yeah, I find a lot of value in my work and as in my self-worth and everything and kind of continuing on that, he was like, and this is only now when you realize and and it's it's really I think it's a really hard relationship to have with work. But to be fair, I've, you know, grown up with living with my mom since my parents separated. My mom has been extremely hard working. So it's kind of the one way that I've seen it work and be done and kind of, you know, rebuilding a life. So that's how I have learned how to curate your own life. But then also it's kind of is I definitely could say that it's like my main trait, but after finishing my degree. I kind of have come to terms with. How many lines have been crossed, in a way. But I'm okay with those lines being crossed because I was living alone as well with my roommate, but I was only taking care of myself and it was a huge deal to adapt with living my husband. When I remember the first time when he said to me that, Hey, can you like not do something? And like, can you like not stitch and not knit and can we just watch a movie? And I thought it was such a silly question. Really? What do you mean? I always do something when I'm watching something. I remember the last time I've, you know, just focused on doing, like, one thing at a time, which sounds so miserable, but it's kind of, you know, we condition ourselves that, like, being productive at all times is something of a value, which then sometimes it just bites you back ten times more.
Ashley [00:29:11] Yeah, I think it's also I don't know how this translates, you know, in Europe, but capitalism, it feeds that beast. You know, this idea that we must always be productive. And the thing is, is I like it, you know, like like it makes me feel good, but it's interesting. It's weird to be, you know, nearing 40 and be thinking about this now, even though I see over the last 15 years of my career that I have grown so much, I've become so much more cognizant. I mean, obviously, having three kids, my life is radically different now as a mom than it was before in terms of, you know, working and being present with my kids. But I think that's out of necessity. And now I'm diving into. Okay. But what is best for me? Like, how can I create space for what could be as opposed to what's instinctual? Because what's instinctual is to be productive and to work and always have my hands busy. I mean, David, my husband calls it like stress making or of working. He was gone last night. He was home with the three kids. And he came home and I had the washing machine, like, fully dismantled. He's like, you just need to sit and like, I'm like, I can't, like, I got to be doing something. And I realize that's what I'm working through now is like what is instinctual, like revisiting that and dismantling that so that it leaves room for other possibility.
Elīza [00:30:49] The thing is like when you say instinctual and like what is for me, like my first immediate thought was just having the freedom to do whatever I want, whenever I want. Being whatever, you know, either stitching, knitting, renovating, anything that I can do on my own, where I'm in control, that would be for me. I don't need anything else. And so he does thing like I've, you know, been alone for a long time as an only child and didn't particularly had too many friends growing up. And I was fine. Like, like me, time or time away from socializing was always creating something and now kind of realizing that that's not how it's affecting others. Is shaking. It really shakes like my foundation.
Ashley [00:31:48] So where this has led me to now is how can I transform the act of making. From something. That I'm required to or feel compelled to do from a productivity standpoint, thinking about this word ritual, because it's not like we're going to stop making right. This is something that brings joy and healing and is so much fun to do. And so that's where my brain is at right now is like, okay, creating intention around what I'm doing. It is a little difficult considering my job is making light, literally and figuratively, being able to compartmentalize those a little bit more and create rituals in my day, in my week around the act of making that are more sacred. Kari and I started a dyeing process, which I've done a lot over the years, but not really with this intention of like, okay, this is set aside time not to have expectations of results and outcomes, but just the act of doing this thing and accepting what it is that comes of it, how it'll turn out. And so that's something that I am trying to be more cognizant of and also like share with others because I think like making is so healing. Like there's been times in my life of great devastation. It's this kind of material thing that we have to figure out as people whose jobs are in making, like how to balance those two. Right.
Elīza [00:33:28] It's really hard to have a degree in the thing that you absolutely love, because I remember the first day of school when our course leader told us that, you know, this is the last day where embroidery is going to be a hobby from now on. This is your profession, it's your job. But in a very it sounds very dull when I say it, but it was in a set so profound. And I remember being so liberated, being like, oh my God, this is what I've wanted all along but didn't feel can be done or like respected and you know, all the complex notions within craft and work. But for those three years while I was studying, embroidery was my job and I absolutely loved it. I could never complain about how much I had to do or how much I wanted to do, but I treated it as a job. And then having COVID come, which was my literally mid second year and returning back to that kind of high school approach of like, I have time, let's stitch. And I started making things that didn't wear. I allow I allowed myself that they don't have to have a purpose. They don't have to be representative of me, of my esthetic, of my design. It doesn't have to be anything other than calming my nerves because I was away from home. And I had to understand, you know, family and all the complexity of the pandemic at the beginning. And it was at that point for the first time in a really long time, it was my only and main tool. As for healing, I remember of first being like, Oh my God, I'm making so many things, but I hate that they are without a purpose, that it's a material thing. And I've always, first of all, lived in very small apartments so I could never have space to keep everything I've made. So that was my first thing. I was like, Well, I'm not going to keep this till I'm 80. You know, I have to figure out what I'm going to do with it. I giving it to someone or, you know, what's the thing moving on from that. It was very I kind of diluted my embroidery. Experience. I guess I could say it was. Now, since COVID, I have allowed myself to have work and surgery, and then I have home embroidery where it really divides itself without being divided. My husband still sees it as work, but I told him it's not. But it's kind of. I have to draw that line and be like, you know, this is what I'm doing when I have to represent myself and then this is what I'm doing. If it's a gift for Christmas for someone else and you know, I don't have to posted on Instagram and it doesn't have to tell about me as an artist or a maker, but it may be well tell about me as a family member and what I would like to give as like a piece of me. And if anything, it has highlighted a really serious discussion that I have within me all the time. And honestly, in the last three days I've written about this like numerous times that it's a really complex thing for me. I'll start with me and try to kind of put my labels on where technically I'm an artist, I create art and I would like say in that space and I'm still working hard to get finally at least to one exhibition and be respecting myself as an artist. Then moving on. Sometimes I want to be a designer or working to be one, but then because I'm working in such a discipline. I kind of don't allow myself to be identified as a designer being like, Well, that doesn't qualify. But then after that, I have. Also the crafter maker side and being well, at what point do I call myself that? Because also with crafting and making, as we all know, there's a certain connotation that comes with it. So I'm trying to understand and watch play which place and what time I can be, what. And if anything, I do have to say a big thank you for them making sure that that's the one place where I allow myself to post and not think about my feed and not think about is this esthetically pleasing? Or if this describes me, if, you know, am I ruining my perception of me because I'm, you know, putting something that's not my usual visual esthetic and everything. And it has kind of taken some pressure off because. I know that I can be a crafter maker and be proud about that within making, but then also I can go to other platforms and be like, Hey, I'm a designer and kind of exist in different places how I want to exist and not having like an umbrella term for me. So in that sense, I'm still kind of touching around and trying to understand what I want to be because I know maybe tomorrow I'm going to wake up and be like, You know what? I'm going to be a scientist and fully believe that as well. And then, you know, start thinking about where it comes within that. But it's very a hard story to kind of navigate. But then, if anything, at the end of the day, I'm extremely liberated. That crafting is cool and and I hate that. Even now that I've been like a professional embroiderer for, for a few years and being in the industry like full time hardware that I'm still living with, the connotation that crafting is for grandmas and I don't know, is it something is it like a trauma or whatever? Like, I don't know. But it is cool, you know. And also then it's a fucking superpower that like I'm an embroiderer, but and I can, you know, stitch in like nine different techniques and I can read a knitting chart and I can read a crochet chart and I can, you know, so a dress and everything. And like all these things that we know that are so domesticated and like it's so normal because we're women and you're supposed to know about Ebola, but it's a superpower. I think it's a really important thing for all of us to remember.
Ashley [00:40:30] The two things that really stand out to me are, I guess, spoken but unspoken argument or belief that craft and making and are two different things or separate. You know, I consider myself an artist. That's how my making started. And in any given day, I might go between quilting painting to. Knitting to cooking. Right. And for me, these things are all interconnected. There's a lack of separation between them. Each of them is a form of self-expression. Right. And there's this podcast episode that I keep referring to, all these podcast episodes with this woman named Heidi Zuckerman. And I won't go in deep about her and she can be Googled, but she has this poignant. Thing that she said in this podcast. And it's that no one gets to say what art is and what art isn't. That's something that you as a person get to define. This is art. The only thing that other people get to say is whether they like it or not, they get to have an opinion. So they might not like that art. They might like it. They might think it's good. Bad. You know, these terms had a lot of conversations with artists, with makers. I really see a little separation between the two. About what is what is craft defined, quote unquote, what is making what is art. And for me, the kind of delineation that I have settled on is when the act of doing something transforms. Into a form of self-expression, like when you're not just mechanically doing something, when there's some imprint of you on that thing, which some could argue there's nothing you make that doesn't have that right. That is when it, quote unquote, becomes art. And the other kind of evolution of that thinking is, if I say it's art, then it's art. That art is self-expression and it doesn't have to come in the forms of like these classical things. And in the same note, like when I wake up in the morning, whatever I decide to do. I'm doing as an artist. And maker to me is synonymous. And whatever terms that we've ascribed or definitions we've ascribed to, these are ones that we either were handed down to us from like systems. Because if you think about I mean at least here in the states like and I definitely, especially in Eastern Europe, I've had quite a few friends from there. You look at hard times like the Communist Revolution and you look at like here in the States, like the Depression and all these different times where making took on more of like a necessity that didn't discount it as art. Right? Like it was necessity, but it was still a form of artistry that today we uphold is like, beautiful and incredible. You know, these quilts or whatever it is. So I have. A lot of opinions and thoughts about this. And I think. It is in the eye of the beholder, really, both the artist and the observer.
Elīza [00:43:58] I fully agree with what you're saying. I know that what I'm doing is art and I would like that's where my ego comes in. Like, whatever I do is all right, that's great. And, you know, whatever choice I make for my apartment, you know, it all is a form of, you know, my talent. There are so, so. But my issue with identifying as an artist is because I haven't been exhibited. And that's where my struggle comes in a lot because I've never won anything. So. So when I was studying, we had these competitions that was, you know, between our classmates. Like there are bigger, smaller competitions where, you know, we're all working towards the same goal of being chosen and having a prize. And, and I was always really pissed because most of the times when those old competitions and well-known competitions were going on, we all fully were aware that as judged by old white men who are not in the field and they are paying to be a part of society, that that's their mission, but not particularly that they understand anything of it. And I'm sorry if this is too controversial.
Ashley [00:45:20] No, but I mean, you're preaching to the choir here.
Elīza [00:45:23] So but the issue was that, like, we already knew that, like what we felt were the most talented will not be selected, which kind of was the situation and the case all the time. But in our second year, we had a competition that was only between our classmates, so it was only between our 16 people. And so it was all about a first. It's like they're going to pick maybe two winners for a shoe design that will be produced and you'll get a pair of shoes. And I remember that I loved working on it so much. And like I remember that was a project when I realized that I love designing with embroidery and kind of I found that I can do some really commercial designs, but that I really loved. So I felt I didn't compromise my voice as an artist and a designer, and I was selected as one of four finalists. But being as in like you're the winners, not as finalists. And also four out of 16 is a great chunk. So like, it's not like, you know, too much competition for that. But I got cut off in the last minute, probably because the design was too hard to manufacture or whatever. Um, and that feeling fucking sucked. But, you know, the thing is like. We've had numerous competitions just at the bachelor time and then afterwards I've always gone out of my way to apply for residencies and for exhibitions and like. Always trying to make it so I can at least say that I have exhibited once, and if I really want to, I can make an exhibition in my living room or like have people around. Like, that's fine if I want to say it, but I need that validation of. I have done it at least once, and I'm always kind of a firm believer that you can dream. But my only condition is that, like, I'm fine if that dream is fulfilled. Not for a long time. It might be a minute. It might be like a day. It doesn't have to be long lasting. And this dream of mine of being exhibited and being a part of, like, a bigger. Voice is not fulfilled yet. And every single time I expect of being rejected. And when it happens, I'm like, Well, you know, that's what I expected, and it's fine. But it hits me so hard that like. I don't know if I believe it, but I remember I was telling myself that like. I'm just like not recognized. And I know I'm great of what I do and I know I have a lot to say, and it's not basic, but why not now? And I guess that's where my struggle of being as an artist, because I feel to be an artist who is worthy of something of someone's time or someone's money, of, you know, attention. Is not in control of you. And I think that's kind of the hardest thing for me. So then I just decided I just identify as a designer and being like, Fuck it, I don't care. I'm going to be above that and I'm just going to be a designer, which also is a very, you know, different discussion of being in art and design school where like, you know, where do you draw the line? What is art and what is designer? So I just kind of jumped the gun to be like, you know, I'm just going to go to design. But I'm sure that like, it's I'm not the only one feeling that way. And it's a lot of people's experience and but it's just I just need to exhibit it just once. Just once. I don't care what just once. I just need a nice photo so I can frame it and be done with it. I love.
Ashley [00:49:32] That. That's the goal. And I, I think there's probably. A lot of people. That might hear this and go, Oh, you have so much time. You know, and I think that that's one of the most frustrating things to hear because, you know, we want we want this and we want it now. You know, there's not much that I could or should say here. But one thing I will say is, you know, I am a firm believer in the power of manifestation. And and I wonder if you were able to make that mindset shift and own that you are an artist. It's not just something you're projecting that you are, that you believe, that you call, you refer, and you live as though you are because you are, that that will attract what you want. This goes for any label, right? Like whether it's a label or what that term represents, I think it can be applied to many things in people's life of like aspirations or goals or things that they want. It's that imposter syndrome. Again, I think that kind of comes in that's like, Oh, you haven't done this. I mean, I feel this way in making I mean, I've been in the tech industry for 15 years, but I've never been a CEO. I've never been a founder of a corporation. And so, you know, this space is dominated like predominantly by men and white men. And there's systems constantly that just even if we were doing things traditionally, they're systems that I'm coming up against. But because we are doing things so differently, it's poses much more challenge. And the challenges are saying, this is who I am, this is what I represent, this is what I stand for. This is what I'm putting out in the world. Yes, it is good. Yes, this is my way. This is what I'm doing and it is beautiful and it is quote unquote art. And so I guess that's me, you know, here you go. I'm saying it, you know, and I mean, I think we say it in lots of different ways, that making but saying it out loud even to you right here is like hard because I'm afraid what people think. I'm afraid what I think I'm afraid to be called a fraud or, you know, not good enough or whatever it is and whatever, whether that's the human condition or our personal makeup, like, let's fucking own this shit. I mean, for real, you know who else is going to if we.
Elīza [00:52:11] Don't, if anything, it's already like important to even to have this discussion of what do you want to identify with and what floats your boat and what doesn't and. And you know, there's only so like people you can like have this conversation with people who are in the same shoes as you are. And I don't particularly how a lot of those people around me and it's, you know, and with each person, it's a different story when they, you know, choose one over the other and. Kind of go for it, but. If anything, kind of putting all these pieces together of me having the willpower of anything and wanting to do everything and, you know, wanting to achieve stuff. Just because I've been rejected from stuff, it just kind of pushes me to like, make my own platform for myself. I almost, like, went to almost went to study to be a curator. Just being like, if I'm not getting into exhibitions, I'm going to make exhibitions for myself.
Ashley [00:53:20] I mean, why do you think making art exists? Because there's no space for so many people that are on the making up like that doesn't exist. It's freely given. And so let's create a space so we can have it, you know.
Elīza [00:53:35] If you want to make it and to have a platform for yourself and if you're willing to give it to yourself, that's great. Like, that's amazing. And I remember like in high school as well, my, I had to give a presentation for my English teacher of like, I guess we had to pick a topic of like something that we love. And I think I was talking about Christian Dior and embroidery as a profession and whatever, living in my little utopia at that time. And she was telling me like, Yeah, I just saw that on Facebook that you just, like, create a page and you just start sharing and you just don't care if people like or, you know, whatever. And I responded to her being like, if I like it, there's going to be someone else who likes it out there as well. Like fully knowing that that's kind of a really helpful mindset because, you know, if I seek validation out there in the big world, like for exhibitions and. Being part of a successful artist narrative then in kind of my daily life, as long as I get to do whatever I want and I can live my truth then. Create my own life. And there are some people along for the ride. Fucking amazing.
Ashley [00:54:51] You know, I know there's going to be a lot of people listening to this that might not be able to relate, that might be able to relate to certain parts of it. And I think it's important to recognize that like these are our stories as individuals, and each story has different nuances and facets of it. And the one thing that I think is really important to take note of here is I, I mean, I feel incredibly privileged to be able to make that making is, you know, the brand and act are my career. It's my life. I mean, it wasn't always like that and. It took a long time to get to this place. Not without a lot of sacrifice and struggle. And even even now, you know, there's a lot of sacrifice and struggle. To fight for this this life, especially in the pandemic, that just threw everyone around. But it is my existence right now, and I'm really thankful for that.
Elīza [00:56:01] It resonates a lot with me as well, where just at the end of the day, every single day when I get to do what I want to do, I am a happy person and that's what matters the most. And I find a lot of calmness in that. And if anything, that's something I wish for everyone to find and to have overall. And it's and I know there's a lot of us out there who would just love to live, you know, our dream and to. Do what we love. And it's just. I don't even know how to put in words, but it's magical.
Ashley [00:56:54] Mhm. This really is speaking to the heart of why making it exists. There is a point. Where I and I've shared this before, but I was like, okay, making as a business can scale and and make money and create a few jobs. But if we're going for impact here, if we're going for. How to change the world. You know, as cliche, but also audacious as that is. How can we create impact at scale? And the thing that I knew I could do is be a part of building something that creates opportunity for people, not only creates opportunities. So a platform is what we're talking about, which is making, but an opportunity to be seen. An opportunity to learn. An opportunity to market skills, products, whatever it is. To take someone from ground zero, you know, just learning something and being inspired to eventually being able to monetize their skill. The opportunity to also hear stories and feel empowered that by listening to everyone on the podcast say, Oh my God, like, I can do that. Like I could do something like that. Sometimes it takes seeing that and hearing that. To take that leap. It is scary. There's oftentimes I mean, we were talking about an area, so I don't know if it's all always scary for us. Like in the beginning. In the beginning, at some point we realized like how far up we are looking down. But I think a lot of people need to hear that they can do it, too. And I used to write if I was at any events or anything, if I ever. This is going to sound silly. But like if I ever was signing anything or writing a note to anyone or an email, the thing I would always say is keep dreaming or follow your dreams. And I remember a few people would like make fun of me for it. I was like, No, but really that is the key. The key is to dream. And to hear stories and then now find ways for opportunity. You are who we made that for, you know, along with everyone else. I would love to hear more about kind of your journey from school to, you know, where you are today at times.
Elīza [00:59:36] Even now, I look at my last year covered being back home. I look at that being as my peak. I had a separate room where that was my studio and I could sit there from early morning till late at night and just do my work and how much or how little as I needed. And I knew stuff was getting done and I got feedback from my tutors all the time and it was so great. But then the reality came where? I graduated and I wanted to have somebody to be my full time occupation, but I wasn't sure how I could figure that out. So I had to have a job. And I went and oh, this is going to be really out of the blue. But I was working in a medical university, in an infertility department as a study process organizer, which now makes a lot of sense because I was organizing studying process, which is essentially what I do now with classes, which is great. But I was working in a medical field. What I was doing there, I have no clue. And the problem was I took that job because that was close to home. And, you know, it wasn't a bad job for being a graduate and not having education in that particular field. And and I was trying to talk myself into it being a great opportunity, and it's going to be great. But if anything, it was so miserable because I've gone from intense environment of questioning my direction in life and embroidery itself and my voice within that. To a 9 to 5 or. Yeah. And. Literally my days consisted of maybe five emails at best and having to pretend that I'm overworked and I wasn't allowed to work remotely where I could do more of my own stuff. And it was like I had so much free time at work where it was like fully driving me to depression. Literally 3 to 4 months into that job, I discovered you guys on TikTok and that was already a step out of it. But what I'm trying to say is, like the contrast was so harsh that I felt like I don't know what I'm doing. And my biggest fear while I was studying was that I'm going to study. This also can be fully honest, I've taken out like plenty of loans and not that I will regret it, but I'm not going to work in the field or I'm just not going to do it out of whatever circumstance of like not having time or resources or whatever. And I was living my worst fear. And to compensate for that, I was taking on more embroidery work for all the evenings and all the weekends. And that was a disaster because I was burning out again and that was so unnecessary. But that was my coping mechanism and I was overworked all the time. And also that was the first time when I didn't get a joy, any spark of joy from working, no matter how much embroidery or whatever. But there was no joy within that. This spring I had I was able to make a decision to quit my job and fully go freelance with teaching and with stitching. And it was just kind of that magic that we talked about previously that somehow things align. And at the end of the day, as a freelance artist, you have to be available for stuff. And if I'm busy at a 9 to 5, that doesn't fulfill any of my needs, even, you know, if not financial ones, then I am limiting myself to being available for great opportunities. Somehow it all aligned. Where? Somehow I'm managing it all and I know this is going to resonate with a lot of people, but I'm very much a control freak and my main kind of place where I know things are bad is when I start worrying about money. Like, seriously? Like start panicking and trying to figure out ways of how to deal with it and everything. And now, since I've been feeling, I haven't worried about that at all. Like, I know I'm doing stuff and I'm not doing it for free. It kind of gives me the opportunity to again be a control of my life and my workload and stuff I do and get done. And I guess that's the main thing I need for my wellbeing. The problem is I want to do all the things so I still take on way too many things at the same time, which is very me. But this is the first time I'm running into that where even that is too much and I have to kind of I don't want to scale back, but if anything, just kind of organize them and being like what things I'm doing for myself, what things I'm doing for my career, what things I'm doing for exposure and what things I'm doing, what I think that need to get done. But I can definitely say that I'd rather have this mess than ever going back to a 9 to 5 where I literally cannot name you. One thing that I was gaining from that.
Ashley [01:05:35] I think that was one of the most powerful moments for me at making actually was a conversation. Must have been the spring when you we had hopped on before your class and you were like like I quit my job. Being able to teach classes allowed me to add to my income so that I can do that. And I just. That was like. Okay. It's happening. Like, this is this is why we did this. And being able to see that it was working and someone's life was really powerful for me.
Elīza [01:06:09] Trust me, it's been really powerful for me as well. So it's the feeling is mutual. See, that's also the same thing about giving me a challenge. Like, I love that I, I kind of previously before making, I had like two workshops beforehand that were remote. So I kind of have dabbled at that point and teaching embroidery online, but somehow it all just fell into place where there wasn't a reason for me to not do it, even though that like if at some point, let's say my office job was enough income for what was needed, still, I was like, Hey, every Saturday or Sunday evening, I still I'm just sitting at home. And because of the time difference I can teach a class and in U.S. most likely is going to be a morning or midday. So I mean, why not? And it just kind of like went in to be something that I do every other week and now I'm kind of going for added harder and having it every week. The thing is to be like very upfront that I can with making I can charge what I think I'm worth. Back home is a very different story, for example. So I started out with making an I believe it was 18th of December and my first class was mending workshop and I was like, you know what the how I'll try it, whatever. And it was great. I think I have like ten people coming in. I was like, Oh my God, that's insane. And then literally now I have a class, the same class, but in Latvian and it's, I'm, I put it on my Facebook and sponsoring the Facebook and everything. Literally, no one has signed up. And on the ad it says, I've had like 200 clicks too literally. That takes you straight to just purchasing a place and, you know, the class for €25, which I mean, at this point would be $25. No one has bought it. And I guess the expectations of the price for stuff like that is extremely different here. Also, economy overall is very different here, but making gives me the opportunity or I guess it gives me the little world where I can live and charge what I'm worth. And also, just like if anything, I can just offer more because I'm not, you know, held back by well, this previous class wasn't bought at all. So, you know, I'd rather than not give any classes at all like a I'm like, oh, great. I had, you know, this many people coming to this class and I can offer them this. And it's a great space where I guess I don't have to think about an audience because I live mainly on Instagram and recently and more on Facebook. And it's been a hard time because I mainly kind of share more about my life and kind of my professional life and creative practice. But I'm making I don't have to worry about like how to reach people that would be interested in my stuff. And I guess that's like the biggest magic and a selling point for me because I know those people out there who want to learn how to do cool mending or cool embroidery. That's not flowers. I know there's people like me who would just love to stitch, and I've had those people like. And when I see that they're returning to classes, that makes me so happy. And just I just feel like, yeah, I've found my people, you know, very much that feeling. And if anything, and I'm literally getting chills when I'm saying this here, it's very much because also we've had so many big political things switch in a short amount of time here in Latvia. The still kind of narrative about working is that you have to work hard for everything and nothing, you know, drops on you from clear skies. But. If anything making is proving to me that that's not always the case. And the return of what you put in sometimes can be more than you think. And that is very liberating for me as a young adult, because it sets a very healthy work life. Idea of a balance. It's very important that it's an option and it can be done and that there are people who believe in that and curate that. And Amanda, it's made me very happy.
Ashley [01:11:13] The biggest of thanks to everyone involved in this week's episode. I hope you'll join me each week as we talk and learn from our fascinating makers for podcast notes and transcriptions. Visit our blog at makingzine.com. Have a wonderful week.