I am thrilled to share this interview with a warm and generous soul who has inspired me for some time. A fellow retreat organiser, Ali DeJohn started The Makerie in her hometown to give people the gift of uninterrupted creative time shared with a loving community that is often hard to carve out of our everyday lives. Ali is constantly inspired by anything handmade, homemade and everything cozy. The smallest, most meaningful moments in life are the most magical to her and she feels quite lucky to live in beautiful Boulder, Colorado with her husband and two young children. Today Ali shares an insight into what makes her tick, and just how she has made it possible to do what she loves.
1. How are you leading a life ‘doing what you love’?
I believe in the power of creativity! When I take time to create anything with my hands ~ whether it’s an art project, a small illustrated note for my children’s’ lunches, or even making a meal from scratch, I am empowered and inspired by putting love and time into something special. Knowing that creating the Makerie can inspire others to bring more creativity into their lives too, is equally, if not more rewarding! And how do I know that I’m leading a life doing what I love? I wake up with a sense of purpose, the motivation to grow and learn, and have even found trust and space to let things happen organically.
2. What did you do before this?
The bulk of my career was spent working for the Chicago Marathon. I managed all of our print, advertising and marketing and learned incredible skills, all which I’ve been able to utilize in my Makerie journey. After my career with the Marathon, I was a stay-at-home mom while my kids were itty bitty. I cherished being able to do this more than anything, and it was during this time that my love and need for creativity became stronger than ever.
3. What was your a-ha moment that pushed you to realise your passion in life?
After being at home with my little ones for several years, I got the itch to find something of my own again. I had an insatiable appetite for all things creative and handmade and when I delved into a few ideas, I realized how energized I felt, and in turn, was a better mom because of it. I also realized how precious time was and how important it was for me to find something to do that allowed me to be home and available for my children. I didn’t want to miss out on this precious time, but also yearned to figure out what I loved and something that felt right. I kept saying to myself that if I was going to take time away from my family, it had to be something I loved and felt very passionate about. I could never see myself going back to a 9 to 5 job.
4. How did you make it happen?
I spent a great deal of time researching possibilities and sharing my ideas and dreams with those I trusted. Having a supportive small community as my foundation was integral to finding the courage to launch the Makerie. I was able to share the highs, the lows and everything in between. I also did a lot of grassroots work, sending hundreds of personal emails and reaching out to our local creative community to tell them about my plans and find ways for them to be involved. Those little seeds that were planted in the very beginning have grown into beautiful partnerships today! It also took a tremendous amount of hard work and finding the right people to help turn this little dream into a reality. I still pinch myself that it really came true!
5. What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge was the decision to actually start the Makerie on my own. I spent a year researching venues and sharing the idea with people in our creative community. One person after another gave the me green light and told me to go for it but even with all the endorsement I was getting, the doubts crept in and it took a huge leap of faith to make the jump. I kept asking myself this question: Will you regret trying and possibly failing or never trying at all? The answer was very clear to me that if I never tried, I would be left with the ‘what if’s’ the rest of my life. I decided I couldn’t live with that so I dove in ~ heart first!
6. What mistake has taught you the most?
A mistake I have made (and continue to make!) is not listening to my intuition. I am growing, learning and exploring ways to get better at this, but time after time I kick myself for knowing what I should really do, but not following my heart. It’s easy to see in hindsight, but not as easy to see the clear picture in the middle of a situation. It continues to be a personal goal of mine to improve in this department!
7. Who is your role model and why?
In many ways my five year old is my role model. She’s a wise, old soul that I’m convinced has been here before. This little one is filled with unconditional, never-ending affection, forgiveness and love and her hugely generous, open heart inspires me to be a better person every single day. It’s true.
8. What is the best advice you have received?
ADJ: This is a a tough question, as I’ve received a lot! The latest advice that I love is ‘If you try to do it all, you can’t have it all.’ I try to be conscious about life balance and I keep going back to this thought when things feel off. Do you often find yourself asking ‘how does she do it all?’ Well the truth is nobody does and it’s more important than ever to learn to set your own personal limits and boundaries, and honor what feels best to you.
8. Why do you think creative retreats are so powerful?
Several reasons! First is the power of creative community. There is really no easier way to get to know someone than creating side by side. There is something about sharing a part of yourself in this way that allows you to get to know someone quickly and in a very genuine way. The friendships that are created during creative retreats are special and unique and can often become the cornerstone of your own supportive community. Creative retreats also give you the gift of time to play away from life’s distractions, which is often hard to carve out of our everyday lives. Creative pursuits often fall to the bottom of our ‘to do’ lists and attending a retreat gives you permission to slow down, use your hands and make it a priority for those sacred days. The inspiration gained at a weekend like this lasts far beyond the retreat itself, as creativity seems to work its way into your life in unexpected ways, perhaps the greatest gift of all.
9. What is the big dream for the Makerie?
I have always said that if the Makerie can inspire even one person to go after their dreams, than this is my dream come true too.
All images courtesy of Ali de John.