Ep. 109 Navigating Disconnection and Embracing Abundance with Françoise Danoy
You can connect with Françoise on the Making app and Instagram @arohaknits
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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 someone whom I've known for many years, all the way back to when I first began this podcast. And she purchased some yarn from my little online shop, Françoise Danoy, whom you may know as Frenchie, is the creator behind Swatch Studio Circle and other fun ventures like the Yarn Alchemist. But we don't spend much time talking about knitting or making today. And just like with every episode, we go where the conversation leads. And sometimes that means we go deep to vulnerable and tender parts of our lives and stories. I'm so grateful for Françoise's openness, for sharing this part of her story, heritage and heart, and for her permission to share that with you. I hope you take a moment to really hear Françoise's story and all the richness and beauty of it, while also gaining more insight through the lived experience she so graciously takes time to share with us. You can connect with Françoise on the Making app and Instagram at @arohaknits. And with that, here's Françoise.
Françoise [00:01:29] Growing up, I always considered myself like a creative person, or I always enjoyed creating more. I was always making something, whether it was drawing, sewing, making pottery. Like I always just liked doing things with my hands and just creating things. But later on, as I went to school, high school and college, that kind of took a backseat as I was, you know, setting up or trying to think ahead of like where I wanted to go with my life and attend. Like, my intentions were to go to law school, become a lawyer, the complete opposite of being a creative artists like Growing Up, I wanted to actually be a manga comic book artist. That definitely did not happen, but I always knew that I just liked creating things well. I think a lot of us can relate to receiving those messages of like, you know, you can't really make a living being an artist or things like that. So I started shifting my focus to other areas. But the how I got into knitting, I just feel like it was definitely one of those like meant to be moments after I graduated college, I was teaching English in Japan and at the time I wasn't a U.S. citizen. I'm originally from Australia, moved to the States when I was about six years old. And so essentially like after grad after graduating college, had the intentions of leaving the states. But because I wasn't a U.S. citizen and I was working for a Japanese company, the U.S. government wasn't too happy about that. And so, yeah, the U.S. government, yeah, the U.S. government wasn't too happy about that. So they told me to come back or else they're going to take my green card away. So I flew back home and applied for a citizenship. It's about an eight month process. And so during that time I had a lot of free time and just, you know, was quite bored. And my mother during that time had just picked up knitting and it looked like something that was fun to do. I didn't think much of it was just like asked her to teach me how to just do some basic stitches just to help pass the time. I really didn't think much of it during that time, but it was like on January 2nd, 2014. That's when she first taught me how to knit and I kind of said I was like a little New Year's resolution to learn a new hobby, nothing more from it. But when I sat down and started knitting, it was a really pink fluffy cowl knit in the round, so really simple project. But as I was sitting down just working on those first few stitches, I found that one. This is really fun. I really enjoyed the rain, even though I'm just like brand new to it. There's something really meditative and you just kind of get lost in a flow when you knit in the stitches. But as I was knitting up that project, I was kind of hit with like a vision of me working up a cow, some with some coloring motifs, some traditional indigenous coloring motifs. And I thought that was just a really striking image because I didn't know anything about color work and I didn't even know what these symbols meant or these motifs meant, but I just felt like this is something to explore in my knitting. And I was going to try and find a way to incorporate my cultural background and this new hobby that I just picked up. And looking back on that, because also growing up I didn't have any exposure to my Maori heritage. So my dad's French, my mom's Maori and then so growing up in the States it's there's definitely like a big disconnect from either culture, but especially from my mother's side. I just thought it was just interesting that during that moment it kind of felt like a calling from maybe ancestors, that this was the time for me to start learning about where I come from. And knitting was going to be the medium that I was going to learn about it with, and I was going to express my stories through knitting and the stitches. That I was going to choose to incorporate in there. So that's kind of like how it all started, just like having that innate desire just to create and then discovering knitting as the medium that I was going to tell my story through.
Ashley [00:05:21] So let's go back a little bit to your cultural heritage. I know that's been a big part of your journey, particularly over the last few years. Share a bit about that because I think it's quite amazing and how it's impacted you.
Françoise [00:05:37] So like I mentioned, so already I was born in Australia. There was that disconnect from my cultural roots and then moving to the States, there was another layer, added layer of just, you know, being in the diaspora. So there's like lots of layers of separation there. But growing up, it was just a really weird experience. I'm not sure of where's the right word? But sometimes maybe a bit of a disorienting experience when people would ask you, Well, ask me those questions like, Where are you from? And then because I was more familiar with my dad's side of the family, you know, being French, I would say, Oh, my family's from France or I'm French or I'm Australian. But there always be that slight hesitation, that slight pause, that's that pregnant pause in there where they're just like. Yeah, but I think there's something else that you're not telling us about. Then I'll say, okay, but I'm also.
Françoise [00:06:25] Maori, and then they're asked to follow up with the question, like if they didn't know, like, you know what some Maori or like you know, what is that? And the most that I could say was just, you know, the Indigenous people of New Zealand. But at that time I couldn't provide any more extra information because I didn't know myself like who we were or who I am, who the Maori were as a people. The only information that I had was just based off old, you know, colonized colonial messaging with no up to date understanding of who we are as a people. And then also just having very limited access, like having no books and like the only representation that I saw was through movies and a lot of that representation in the media was not, was for the most part, like pretty negative for the most part. So in addition so I didn't even know who who I was in terms of just like my culture identity growing up, I definitely had a really strong sense of who I was on my dad's side, you know, being a French, being a French person there, I guess in my early twenties, that was definitely the beginning of my journey to learn more about who, who my people were. And I like to divide into like two very distinct segments, me trying to me going on this journey alone and then transitioning into finding a community. And that was definitely like a huge shift between doing things alone and then doing things in community in terms of just like my self-image and my self-esteem. I do think going through the journey alone first was quite important. And just for me, just to take those first steps of learning about who I was, whether it was just looking up information online, reaching out to family just over the basic steps. But in 2019, while I was living in Japan, I had the opportunity to go back home and visit my grandfather after years of like I think was a over a decade of not being of not talking to him, know, just being out of connection with him, having that experience of reconnecting again, start up that conversation of just learning about my family history. And then in Japan during my like last months while I was living over there, I was able to connect to a community of Maori who were living in Japan. And so once a month we would come together in Tokyo just to be together, essentially learn about our culture, exchange stories, eat good food, have a good time, have a good laugh. But it's just more just about being together and just realizing that you're not alone. And that definitely really helped my own, helped me and my own journey and, you know, being able to find mentors and people who are willing to also take the time to give me guidance, advice and mentorship. And just like, you know, about cultural practices, cultural customs, and then also just reminding me that we're all so different. Like there's no one right way to be Maori if you I mean if you're if you're Maori, you're Maori you know, have Maori ancestry, you are Maori. And so we are just contributing to this really intricate tapestry of what, what it means to be Maori. So there are just so many different ways in so many different. Journey's just come. We're just going back to the same place.
Ashley [00:09:36] So I remember in other conversations that we've had, you talked a little bit about your grandfather and kind of that experience of learning more stories and kind of diving deeper into your identity there.
Françoise [00:09:51] Our family history, genealogy, you fuck up upper like he had been doing a lot of work on just recording our family line, essentially. And he basically sent all of sent over like a folder of all the all the people of all the papers that he had put together. And it's definitely a lot to go through and to understand and interpret, but that definitely was a really pivotal moment for me to for him to entrust that information to me. And I'm still going through it and still browsing through it and just seeing what news insights I can glean from it.
Ashley [00:10:32] 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 found in for the purpose of good and change the world for better, while also creating opportunity at scale. Makers are tired of the monoliths, 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.
Françoise [00:11:53] Something that I did come to terms with when it came to learning my family history or learning about Maori. My Maori culture was how much influence the Mormon Church played in that. So I grew up in the Mormon Church and it's usually it's quite a big surprise to people. I mean, understandably, when I mentioned that it's the Mormon Church has been a part of my film for six generations on my mother's side. And I do think that is something that I have been maybe not grappling with, but just learning how to reconcile. Because when I because I left the church about a decade ago and it was quite a difficult thing for me to leave the church because it was something that I saw that was handed down through my ancestors on my mother's side. So it felt a little bit like if I'm rejecting the church, then rejecting them in some way. But I just knew that for me, staying in the church, it was just it was just not for me. And so I took that as an opportunity to see if I could go further back and learn more about the traditional, traditional practices that my ancestors followed. And also and also trying to see in what ways they were able to practice it within the Mormon Church, because Mormonism, it is quite a big religion with in the Maori Committee I think it's like maybe the second or third largest religion down there. And actually I do have like a very close family tie to that like my great great great great great great grandfather. Like there's even a Wikipedia page about him, so I'll see if I can find out because I forget his name off the top of my head. But essentially he was responsible for having a strong influence over which church the tribal members should join because during the early years of colonization there'd be lots of missionaries coming to the coming to New Zealand and trying to convert people. And so there would be a lot of confusion about which church they should be joining. And so my ancestor, you know, he took some time to really meditate and reflect on that. And he was known to have uttered a prophecy saying that, you know, the church that we should be joining, we'll be able to know who they are when they come in pairs of twos and they speak our language. And Mormon missionaries are very one thing about the Mormon Church when it comes to like missionary work. There's a huge emphasis on learning, really getting to know about the people's culture, integrating into that cultures of learning the language, learning the customs, which is something that other I think other churches didn't really do too much. And then also just on the surface level, when it comes to like the Mormon teachings, there is a huge emphasis on service, genealogy, family history. And so on a surface level, there's a lot of similarities or overlaps between Maori culture, Maori philosophies and Mormon values. But obviously if you dig a little bit deeper, that's when those similarities start breaking apart in a little bit of like, you know, white supremacy, Christianity and all that other stuff and colonialism, all those things start to really undercut other fundamental Maori values. So for me, one of the main reasons why it took me so long to reconnect back to my grandfather was because of that hesitation, that fear of, you know, I left the church no longer practicing. I don't believe in the things that he taught me. Is he still going to accept me? Essentially. And I was grateful to say that that answer the answer to his yes, he definitely still accepts me for who I am, and I also have to accept him for who he is as well. You know that he's still very much a member of the church and that's how he, you know, chooses to live his life. And from what I've heard, sometimes he still gives people within the church group because he still, like, brings in a lot of his own Maori, traditional Maori philosophies and worldviews in there. So at least he's making a bit of a rebel over there, so I can handle that.
Ashley [00:15:56] So with your permission, I want to dove a little deeper into this if it's something that you're interested in going on a bit of a conversation journey with me, and I think it's because it's something that I have been unpacking myself to. Obviously I am white, but, you know, Christianity having like deep roots in my own family and religion and just the devastating effects that it has had in the forms of colonialism and the forms of patriarchy, in how my worldview was shaped, how I see myself in the world, you know, and I think women. In general experience that on another level as well. And I'm very interested in hearing your thoughts on your feelings about how you've seen the effects of colonization and religion have on not only just your culture, but like, you know, you could even broadly sweep this as well, you know, like from more of a global view if you wanted to. And the reason I ask this is because I think. You know, there's a lot of people out there that share their thoughts and there's a lot of incoming information, right, if you're looking for it. But I think. Sometimes conversations like this. Between like you and I and things that someone. That's in a community, someone that other people can relate to sharing their story. Is able to impact and maybe a slightly different way someone who hasn't, you know, dug in at all to, like, understand what the heck it is that we're talking about. You know, when we say colonialism, you have experienced this. In a way that maybe you haven't had the chance to articulate it in, like a public platform like this so we can kind of work through it, but. You know, when I look at your story, I mean, because I followed you online for, you know, years now and just through my own journey of, like, learning and unpacking and and dismantling, what I see is that this is your lived experience. There's a lot of layers to this. You know, there's the fact that you are. Both French and Maori living in Australia and that not being New Zealand but like obviously having a lot of like Indigenous ties there but then living in Japan. And there's a whole layer there as well. And how you're finding this identity, like you kind of had to go through this maze really like of discovering and then what you just shared about you're timid to like go back into this space that you didn't think you might not be safe or, like, accepted, you know, and. At the very base of this, whether you want to call it religion or not, like you're indigenous spirituality. That is your sole self.
Speaker 3 [00:19:18] I think the one word that really came up was just disconnect, which is I felt growing up. But over this past year, I've also just felt really disconnected from myself as a whole, not just in terms of like my indigenous identity, but just who I am as a person and going through some traumatic events in 2019. We all know what happened that year, but then there's also behind the scenes dealing with emotional abuse that just left me just disconnected from every aspect of myself. And then this year, transitioning out of. Out of a marriage. So. I think for me there's just so many layers that I just keep going in and still trying to find my way back to just trying to find who I am again, just who I am as a cause, as France was, not just as a knitter, as a maker, as a as an indigenous person or anything like that. It's because, like even recently, not sure what my birds are doing in the background.
Françoise [00:20:18] They're having a little party back there. I recently made the decision to shut down my program.
Speaker 3 [00:20:25] Because I just didn't have the heart space for it anymore, just feeling disconnected from that. And I've also been feeling disconnected from my knitting for a long time to.
Ashley [00:20:35] Just see, you know, where we're at right now on this level. This is it. This is why I made this podcast. It's about going into these places and connecting with each other. Just me and you. Forget everyone else who's listening. Your vulnerability. You understand? You're loved and you're in a safe place here. Second, hearing what you're saying. I think so many people are at this place and I don't know if it's the pandemic exacerbated that. But having seen you and witnessed a part of your journey over the years, I can see straight to the heart of like who you are and what you're doing in a way that maybe you can't because we are our own worst critic, right?
Françoise [00:21:26] Yeah. My internal self-talk over the past few years has been extremely harsh. My middle name is Aroha, which means empathy and compassion is something that I come naturally to move toward towards other people. I'm extremely empathetic to people, towards other people, sometimes to a fault. But I realize that I failed to extend that same empathy and grace to myself. And it's something that I'm currently working through because it definitely has an effect.
Françoise [00:21:55] On.
Françoise [00:21:56] Other parts of my life. It's just really interesting that it's just not self-contained. It just it shows up in other and other aspects. But definitely that having that disconnect from myself, that definitely is a part of it.
Ashley [00:22:07] I think really taking a moment to just close your eyes for a second and take a deep breath. What do you love most about yourself?
Françoise [00:22:18] I think it's that I'm always going to try. Try new challenges and take on new things. I think.
Ashley [00:22:28] And where do you think the strength to do that comes from?
Françoise [00:22:33] I think just wanting a little bit better for myself.
Ashley [00:22:37] From everything I've heard about your story, which is not even a fraction of it. Right. There's so many parts that are still deep locked inside of you that you haven't even unlocked yet. Right. Like that is what it means to have ancestors, right? Like, there's just so much. From what I see, your ancestors have been waiting until this very lifetime for you to make this first connection. And that you chose a path that is actually like very. Amazing and wonderful, but also, like, extremely challenging and like, heartbreaking. And I think what? Patriarchy, white supremacy, what? Colonization, all these things that really just boil down to, like racism, essentially, and is. That these things have given constantly remind you of this internal conflict of what you think you should be or what how you need to present in this world. But really, like your ancestors are like, No, hey, this is who you are. Now you're on this journey of like finding that. And, I mean, I again, like, I can't begin to even understand in any real capacity what your journey is or what you're feeling. But what I will say from my perspective, just as another human being who you know this experience. Any kind of pain or trauma or whatever it is. Belonging, like fragmentation. Is that you? You're going to try a bunch of different things. And how else do you figure out who you are then doing that? And so I love that you're on this path. And so, like, as a friend, you know, not even a really good friend, but like just someone that's been at the sidelines kind of observing. I'm really proud of you for that. So that's like the one thing that you could take away from all this. Like, I do want you to hear that deep in your heart and that you should be very proud of yourself and it's okay to be broken because we kind of all are.
Françoise [00:24:57] Well, I need a moment for that. You had mentioned something about like.
Françoise [00:25:03] The shoulds and appearing.
Françoise [00:25:07] But, you know, societal expectations. That's definitely something.
Françoise [00:25:09] That I've been struggling.
Françoise [00:25:10] With a lot, especially because he had mentioned, like white supremacy, colonialism, patriarchy. Let's also have capitalism to that, because that has definitely been. For me, it's a struggle with capitalism, like, you know, trying to learn how to provide for myself after, you know, being married for so long and, you know, kind of having.
Françoise [00:25:30] That no.
Françoise [00:25:31] Support and then trying to take care of myself, you know, trying to thrive under capitalism, struggling with not trying to equate my worth with my productivity, but also still wanting to produce, you know, quality work and whatever I do, wanting to make sure I have the energy to show up for work. But then also just being like, you know, my life is so much more than my job and trying to find ways to balance work and play work and rest.
Françoise [00:25:58] And.
Françoise [00:25:59] Try to find fulfillment in my life. That's I do like finding fulfilling work, but also just trying to find fulfillment outside of work and try to find joy in making again. But feeling guilty for, you know, if I take time to sit down and knit, then I'm just like, you know, I'm just wasting time, you know?
Ashley [00:26:19] Mm hmm.
Françoise [00:26:20] So that's just something that I've been really struggling with over the past for this past year, is reconciling all these different thoughts and working through this journey.
Ashley [00:26:31] I guess you hear people say, like falling in and out of love with making, you know, that that is a thing. That's a normal thing. But I do feel that for many people it's deeper than that. I think the struggles that you have a real and. So very relatable. And so how do we how do you how do we pull ourselves out of this? And how do we like what is that first step? You know, not as an authority on it, but just like when you're talking loving to yourself, how what is that first step? How do we pull ourselves out from this giant weight that we feel?
Françoise [00:27:12] Well, there are two things. The first one for me. Therapy just helped me. We are like free trade, my brain. I've realized that my brain after these of these past few years has literally wired itself to think a certain way. And so trying to deconstruct that and getting and creating something new on top of that has been very difficult. And I just like I need professional help with that. But then also just.
Françoise [00:27:35] I think.
Françoise [00:27:37] It's like it's a weird thing. Like even though I feel disconnected from parts of my life in deep ways, my life is so rich and abundant and in many other ways. And that's because of the community.
Françoise [00:27:48] And the people I've been able to build around me, the connections and the relationships I've been able to form have been really, I would say it life affirming for me. Now, I'd say.
Françoise [00:28:01] If I was just doing this by myself.
Françoise [00:28:04] I think it would.
Françoise [00:28:04] Be a different story. But thanks to the people of my support circle.
Françoise [00:28:08] And the people.
Françoise [00:28:09] That I trust and love and care about is definitely really helped me a lot because I do have a lot of things to be grateful for and. I can see my life is really rich and.
Françoise [00:28:20] Abundant and.
Françoise [00:28:22] So many other ways that.
Françoise [00:28:23] Maybe.
Françoise [00:28:25] Society or capitalism doesn't seem to be abundant or fruitful. But I do feel that lightness and support from these people in my life.
Françoise [00:28:37] And, you know, so.
Françoise [00:28:38] It's just that community that, you know, just really thinking about what community care looks like or just my having a strong support circle of people that's really helped me a lot. So it's a it's a combination like me doing my own individual work, but then also community care I think as well 1,000%.
Ashley [00:28:59] Because the thing that I was going to say is belonging. We are all looking for belonging. And. That can look different ways, but. What it means is that we're not individual, that we are a unit in some fashion. Ramdas has this saying, and I'm going to butcher it right now, but it's like. You know, individualism. Is death, basically. And when we individualize. We have separation from source. We have separation from this unity of life and how important it is. To recognize ourselves as not individuals, but as part of a whole and belonging. You know, we've we've created a world, you know, primarily through all of these things that we're talking about, like patriarchy, religion. As ironic as that is, white supremacy of capitalism, of individuality. And it's okay to be individual. But when we've orchestrated this world to be so separate from one another. We've lost out on some pretty basic. Parts of that community care that you've talked about. There's something very unique about community, and I'll speak specifically about the community. You know, makers are I don't know, there's just like something very connected about being connected to other makers. Like, we share this not just common interests, but. This thing that we have made with our hands, our brains, that is a physical artifact of these parts of our lives, these parts of this togetherness. And and we can relate to each other in so many ways. How do we begin to even think about healing? You know, we need to focus on ourselves first. But how do we begin to think about healing? The collective whole band. Like, what is our part in that is our part just healing ourselves, being on that journey and then being a part of. A community that can lend some small aspect of ourselves in the form of care for other people. What do you think?
Françoise [00:31:47] This is definitely really.
Françoise [00:31:48] Interesting and it's going to go a completely different direction. But I think for me part of it has been kind of removing the hierarchy from the types of relationships I'm in.
Françoise [00:31:59] As in that.
Françoise [00:32:02] Romantic and platonic relationships are on equal footing to me. Like I could have a romantic partner and a platonic partner.
Françoise [00:32:10] And that mean.
Françoise [00:32:11] They get they provide me.
Françoise [00:32:13] With.
Françoise [00:32:15] Different needs, but in terms of like importance, they're both equally important to me and even having more than one. In each case, more than one romantic, more than one platonic type of partnership or relationship, you know, just really at assessing an adult, really analyzing the way that I approach any sort of relationship or dynamic that. Andrew And with another person, no matter what kind of dynamic it is and really thinking about the at how much access they have to me in terms of like, you know.
Ashley [00:32:46] My inner circle.
Françoise [00:32:48] Essentially.
Françoise [00:32:49] Like how some of my closest female best friends also have the same amount of access to me as somebody that I'm essentially dating or something like that. And how that they are also quite important to me that I'm also going to show up for them as much as I would show up for a romantic partner.
Ashley [00:33:04] So being available in a way that is outside of the construct that maybe we've been led to believe we're supposed to be in. And so being able to give of ourselves to other people as part of that community care.
Françoise [00:33:19] Yeah.
Ashley [00:33:20] You're amazing. You really are. I feel really honored, actually, that you and I are having this conversation. Okay. So I want to shift gears a little bit to wrap this up, because you've been so lovely in light of what you had shared. So when you said you shut down your program, were you talking about the yarn alchemist or are you talking about the designer circle.
Françoise [00:33:42] By the Swatch Studio Circle? Yeah, I mean, essentially that that as well. Yeah. I made the decision a few weeks ago to essentially just start transitioning out of it. I just in addition to kind of just like not having the heart space for it anymore. I did realize that I essentially achieved what I originally wanted to do with the program was like, you know, creating, you know, a mentoring and coaching new designers, helping them create their own sustainable businesses. Like I went to I was at Dallas Fiber Fest a few weeks ago, and I had quite a couple of students come up to me and like, tell me, like, Hey, your program changed my life. Like, I've got, you know, this business that's flourishing and stuff. And I was just like, Yeah, I've done the work, what I set out to do. And this is the legacy that I'm leaving behind so I can close this out, feeling proud of the work that I've done and, you know, try not to. I was also struggling with like, you know, feel like a failure. Like I just don't have the energy or the time or just don't have it in me anymore to invest into this program and give the students the experience that they deserve. So it's kind of like struggling with like, you know, being proud of the legacy I left behind and then also be like, you know, failure, like, because this thing ended, it was a failure, you know? You know, also related to my marriage failing. But then also just realizing that my ex-partner, I would transition to something else and where we're still extremely close and we're still extremely loving. So it's just really is just like me struggling with these two different things, like, you know, being proud of the growth and the change that's happened, but also just trying not to have that failure hanging over me, essentially, which is what I've been struggling with a lot because I'm not where I should be in life, therefore I failed. But at the same time, it's just like my life is so rich in many other aspects. Deconstructed and divested from that has just been difficult and painful, I guess.
Ashley [00:35:34] I hear you. I rewatched Bernie Brown's special on Netflix. Recently I had watched it when it first came out and like 2019 and it hit me so different than it did even then. And one of the things she said that I just really connected with in such a big way is, yes, we're going to have failures. However we want to define that, which that in itself can be defined. I just outright refuse that word to be honest. Like I'm at that point in my life, I'm like, Oh, I'm failure. Like I did it, you know? So she talks about stepping into the arena and how we need to acknowledge that. Like when we step into the arena, that's a big deal, you know, and what it takes to do that and and that a lot of people choose not to and that we chose to. That means however it ends up. That was the purpose and that was a win. And so I really encourage you to watch that if you haven't seen it or it's been a while since you've seen it.
Françoise [00:36:39] It's been a while, y'all up and around.
Ashley [00:36:41] You should watch it again. Because honestly, I was like, How did this just cracked open my world again when I watched it a couple of weeks ago? One of the biggest lessons, if not the biggest lesson that I've been working on in therapy for the last two years is being unattached to outcomes that we step forward into the arena. We do these things into the arena of our life, into the arena of our business, into the arena of our relationships. But like we do have to be unattached to the outcome. And another facet of that is recognizing that the role that we think something is playing in our life might actually be different. Like this thing, whatever it is. It might have a different role and. I've had to look at every aspect of my life like that. Not the biggest example, but one of the examples is like the farm. It played a totally different role in my life for four years than I thought it was going to play, and it's only two years from moving off the farm. I can see now more clearly the purpose of it. And so I think just, you know, I said I reject the word failure. It's more about reframing it in my mind, like, okay, the farm wasn't a failure. It played a role that was different. And if I want to look at it through the lens of like how I created expectations around it, then yeah, yeah, I'm going to look at it as a failure. You know, you already know how wonderful you are. You really do already know that. I know you do. But the Swatch circles, I mean, that's how I met Marina. Marina is like one of my favorite people in the whole world. And I think all these other parts and closing out what I just said about the different roles, things play, the next level, the next achievement for me in that understanding is there has to be death for something. New to come in. For there to be life around something. And so it might be within the same thing. I'm experiencing that at making like some death and some life. But for you, like I am. I'm like, can't wait to see, like what ends up bubbling up out of this time of rest for you to what's going to happen next year.
Françoise [00:39:20] Part of me is also like very eager to see what's coming next. And then there's the part of me that's still like failure. So that's definitely one thing I'm definitely working on. Therapy is learned how to reframe the situations that I'm in, because I've usually been really good at it before. But over this past year, something within me just broke that's just made it just a little bit difficult to work through that. So, yeah, but, um.
Ashley [00:39:43] It just takes time.
Françoise [00:39:44] Mm hmm.
Ashley [00:39:45] Like, you have time. You have time. I don't have that figured out yet. Look at me. Like I'm talking, like going like something happens and I'm a mess, you know? I mean, it's a continual lesson, but you're going to get there. You already are there. Your brain just has to catch up with your heart.
Françoise [00:40:04] That's what I think. Yeah. It's just. My frigging brain is just. Back then it's just like, come on, catch up. Like, literally the other day, I was in yoga. My forehead is like touching my skin. My chest is like on my like so I'm like I'm like lying like this here's my leg, there's my chest. And the thought that comes into my mind is you are still so inflexible, you need to get more flexible. And I'm like, my head is literally on my shin. Like, I'm literally that's like touching my leg with my entire chest. And I'm still telling myself that I'm not flexible enough.
Ashley [00:40:37] That is literally a metaphor.
Françoise [00:40:41] It's a.
Françoise [00:40:41] Metaphor for something that.
Françoise [00:40:42] Is like.
Françoise [00:40:44] Like I'm doing amazing things and you're like, you're not. They're not good enough.
Ashley [00:40:48] So there was an email that. We sent out to our email list on Saturday, and I've been writing kind of these messages and the beginning heart connecting, you know, just like what's on my heart. In a way, I touched on the fact that. Like what? People need right now is love and compassion and so basic. But like, we have to mirror that to ourselves. And Jennifer Berg talked about this in her podcast, and it's come up a couple of times. It comes up at making all the time is how that is. The single hardest thing I think is love ourselves. But how can we how can we do that for others if we can't do it for ourselves? You know, so I think you love yourself. I love myself. We just have to be reminded of it and remind ourselves. So on that note, you're in this in-between period, right? And this state of transition, which is wildly uncomfortable, but also like exciting, you know, and if it's not exciting at this moment, you'll get there. Like it'll be there if you take a moment again to think about even the smallest thing. What are you excited about? For your future, for whether it's in life or your business or your career or whatever it is? What's something that you're so? Excited about, I guess.
Françoise [00:42:26] With.
Françoise [00:42:27] Let's see if I could articulate it, but it's like the work that I'm doing now. I know it's going to pay off. And I'm really excited about what that payoff. About that payoff. It's just not really fun being in it right now. But I'm sure a future me will say thank you for doing that work now because it's hellish. It's it's it's tough.
Ashley [00:42:47] If you had a message for the world, what would it be?
Françoise [00:42:50] Eat something sweet. Eat something sugary. And then I started taking into a little bit more and just saying, like, you know, treat yourself. I think it's and the actual message is it's okay to have good things. It's okay to do nice things for yourself. Don't feel guilty for investing in yourself or for showing self-care or self-love. I definitely think that's a message to myself. So there.
Ashley [00:43:25] 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 more fascinating makers for podcast notes and transcriptions. Visit our blog at makingzine.com. Have a wonderful week.
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.