Purpose-driven making, growing, and feeling less shitty

Leading a weaving workshop at My Social Heirloom in Montclair, NJ

Leading a weaving workshop at My Social Heirloom in Montclair, NJ

I've spent a lot of time thinking about how much to share.

It started when I began to get emails and Instagram DMs asking me about leading workshops and where I get my rope and string.  And my first reaction was:  Why would I teach other people to do what I do and give away all my secrets?  So, I'd be vague and secretive or just unresponsive, as if this information was something I needed to keep close because this work is my livelihood.  It's how I make a living, and I'd be damned if someone was going to try to copy me or steal trade secrets I've spent so much time developing, researching and learning.  And while part of that is true, here's the bigger part:

When I reacted that way, it did not feel good.

It feels shitty to be defensive or protective or closed off to the world.  And so I thought, why do I feel this way and how do I change it?  How can I be open without sacrificing the business side of this art that I've been working so hard to build?  And it dawned on me.  It's currently 4:38 am and I've been laying in bed awake for the last two hours needing to get this in writing before I forget why I'm doing all of this (besides the flexible schedule and modest income).  So here it is.

There is a very unique feeling I get every time I finish a piece.  After I made my very first woven wall hanging, I had this feeling of accomplishment that I've never felt before, and it's what hooked me.  Now, I get it every time I finish a weave or macrame.  Seeing tangible results from the hours toiled with one's hands is truly one of the most fulfilling sensory experiences.  It gives me this sense of pride that nothing else has given me before.  I played sports in high school, and even winning didn't feel as good because that fleeting feeling didn't last, and I didn't actually have something tangible to show for it except for those hideous plastic gold painted trophies that I'm sure my parents were proud to put on the mantle, but ugh.  Sorry, those things are a design nightmare. And can we get a little gaudier with the boastfulness?   Yuck.  (Don't be mistaken, if my kids start bringing home trophies, I'm sure as hell going to find a place to display them!)

I've mentioned before that I worked in PR for a decade, and the measure of accomplishment for the majority of that job is making a media placement.  Placements always felt good for a day or so, but so often the client would barely blink an eye or even take two seconds in an email to say thank you.  And that's because you're expected to deliver.  They're paying you to do your job.  Fair enough, I get it.  But just because they're paying, doesn't guarantee you can get them that big print feature they want.  You can work and work and work and pitch your heart out, but sometimes it just doesn't happen.  Or maybe, I was just a crappy publicist?  Maybe.  All I know is that toward the end, it just didn't make me feel very good about myself.

It wasn't until I found macrame, and weaving, and fiber art that I felt accomplished and creative and purposeful.  But here's the thing,I want to live with purpose beyond making pretty things. Recently, macrame has given me an avenue to be able to make other people feel good.

Now, that's pretty awesome!

I want to share that feeling of accomplishment with other people. I want you guys to be able to feel good about the things you're able to make with your hands, to discover the creative person inside you who's filled with imagination, because I truly believe we are all capable of it.  We just have to tap into it.

In the end, can we create a chain reaction of good?   If more people decide to stop doing things that make them feel shitty and end up feeling better about themselves, won't more people put that good back out into the world?  Even just by accident?  I think so!

So for me, there's no better way to do this than to share my love of macrame with you.  I'm aiming to lead more macrame workshops in New Jersey (and beyond?) this year and give private macrame lessons, and of course, give you that coveted string!  I'm working with a U.S. based cotton mill to create my very own Niroma Studio macrame string / macrame cord in two sizes and will be offering it in bulk spools at a reasonable price.  Why the heck is it so hard for us to get bulk cotton string?  Trust me, I've been dealing with this issue for a long time and my solution is to get the damn stuff made!   In order to do that, I had to buy a ton of it, so I hope you guys like it!  And getting the larger gauge was not easy.  I'll have it in about a month, so I'll tell you more about it then.  The 3 mm is now available in my shop if you want it. :-)

(Click image to get yourself some of that stringy goodness - yes frinnnnnge!)

(Click image to get yourself some of that stringy goodness - yes frinnnnnge!)

In the meantime, feel free to email me if you have any questions about macrame, are interested in a private lesson or having me lead a workshop in your area!  

TODAY I LEFT MY DAY JOB

Today marks a huge milestone in my life. It's my birthday 🎂  woohoo!  But more importantly, today is my last day at a job I've held for a decade as a museum publicist, working alongside and learning from one of the smartest people in the field. I haven't talked about it often here, but I've been juggling my "side biz" for the last 10 months, trying hard to do both as best as I can, but I realized that something has to give. I feel lucky and blessed and all those things, but it's also scary as hell to know what happens from here on out is all on me. I feel excited and motivated and also a little like puking as the butterflies dance inside my core.

But one thing is for sure:

From today forward, I am ONE HUNDRED PERCENT NIROMA STUDIO. It's time to take all that I've learned and all that I have become in the last 30-something *cough cough* years and use that knowledge, finally, for myself.

I always used to think I was only meant to work for someone else. In my 20s, I used to tell people my purpose was to help other people succeed and be their best. I had no confidence in my own abilities and I had no goals of my own, but I also didn't know who I was. When I found macrame and weaving just last year, it ignited something inside me and I found myself. I found my voice. I found my need to create.

I am eternally grateful for all the support I've received and positive comments and friends I've met on Instagram and through Etsy -- thank you!! People ask me what I will do when, or if, macrame goes out of trend, and I honestly don't know. But I do know that this is all part of the journey. And if I were to measure all that I've learned in the last 10 months of running my own business vs. 10 years of working for someone else, there is no competition. Being an entrepreneur is the greatest learning experience of all.

So to all the#bossbabes out there, let's go out and kill it.  Awesome video and calligraphy by the super talented @jenmanship

 

2K GIVEAWAY!

large_macrame_wall_hanging

It's been such a whirlwind these past six months since opening Niroma Studio.  I've been so fortunate to be able to meet so many wonderful artisans and makers through Instagram, I've decided to give away one of my extra large macrame wall hangings and a wall hook.  It's running on Instagram only, so please check it out there @niromastudio.  

Follow, like and tag for entries!  Once I get to 2,000 followers, I'll pick a winner at random.  

I am an artist. Instagram says so.

I am obsessed with labels.

For the last decade, I've identified as a publicist.  I've been in a media relations role, working for museums and cultural institutions for nearly all of my professional career.  I am a publicist.  

Five years ago I became a wife.  Three years ago, I became a mom.  And then two years ago, I became a mom again.  So now I am a wife, mother and publicist.  I've had that figured out for a while.

I've dabbled in art all my life.  My mom makes art and has been painting and doing pottery for as long as I can remember, but she does not call herself an artist.  She's made probably a hundred different, very unusual and artfully constructed ceramic pieces and paintings, combined, but she does not say she's an artist.  She considers it a hobby, and as a SAHM with no pressing financial need, that's all her art-making has ever been to her.  When I was young, she always made art available to me.  I was enrolled in pottery classes and private painting classes in elementary school, but that gave way to sports throughout my high school years.  I wonder now why I gave up all the art because I certainly enjoyed it.  I guess because being on a varsity sports team looks better on college applications when the goal is NOT to go to art school.  Is art school an Asian parent's worst nightmare, or what?  Apparently.   But we'll get back to this later.  

So I didn't practice art for a while.  With one year left in undergrad, with a major in Communication Studies (so fucking nondescript and predictable), I decided on a whim to study abroad in Florence, Italy where I enrolled in drawing classes and jewelry design -- for the fun of it.  Really, I was not going to Italy to really learn anything, I was going to party and enjoy life.  The strange thing is that  I still did not fully realize at the time that to me, enjoying life meant creating art. 

After that summer, I came back for my final undergrad year and took an Art 101 class to fill credits. It was there that I learned I'm a pretty horrendous painter, and I'm also pretty awful at drawing.  Surprisingly, later that year, I was contacted by Mikimoto, the luxury pearl jeweler, informing me that my final jewelry design project from my class in Florence was chosen as a finalist in a Mikimoto design competition, and they sent me a pretty significant cash prize, thus acquiring rights to the design.  All I cared about was the cash -- I had racked up some pretty big credit card bills as a student.  Didn't we all?

Anyway, THAT still didn't strike me as the universe telling me I was meant to do art.  There I was, not having any idea what I wanted to do when I graduated -- and I still refused to see the signs.

This comes back to the idea of Asian immigrant parents and outside expectations.  Being surrounded by doctors, lawyers and engineers growing up, I never saw being an artist as a viable career path.  I didn't even know that graphic design, the corporate version of art making, was a real thing so forget about that.   I DIDN'T EVEN KNOW PEOPLE WENT TO ART SCHOOL. A creative career wasn't an option.  This idea was so ingrained in my psyche that I dismissed the Mikimoto scholarship as a fluke.  Can you imagine?

Omg, I just found this in the Xanga archives, from 2006, when I realized that Mikimoto actually produced the design years later.  Here 'tis:

 

So anyway, I did the only thing I knew to do.  I took an acceptable, corporate-type position in the most corporate type of visual arts setting that exists.  That, friends, is being a museum publicist.

It is only now, in my (cough cough) late (cough) thirties, that I find myself feeling like I know what I'm supposed to do.  It's what I do for fun, and it's what I've always done for fun, I just didn't fully recognize that.  It's what keeps me up at night with ideas and images in my head.  It's what I want to build my business doing.  Finally, I can say it.   I am an artist.  

A fiber artist.

And the funny thing about that is that Instagram made me do it.  I've never had a problem using #fiberart on my wall hanging posts, but suddenly I realized that I can also use #fiberartist -- and that was a weird realization.  Like, what?!  Can I really say that?  Am I really?

I am!

It's still feels funny to say, and I think it will take me a while to say it out loud and in conversation, but this is my first step in getting there.  I'm not only a #maker, #crafter, wife-mom-publicist...I am an artist.

 

 

Gratitude

Sorry I've gone silent for a couple weeks.  It's been chaos at my house with one sick kid after another followed by my husband, and finally me.  Bam!  Dominos.  A 24-hour misery factory run by the soundtrack of My Little Pony.

2 AM visit to the ER.  Eff you, croup!

2 AM visit to the ER.  Eff you, croup!

Do people in southern California get sick as much as people who suffer the season change?  Is there seasonal affective disorder for people who live in L.A.?  I'm thinking not.  I'm also thinking I need to move some place sunny, STAT.  California dreaming.

But hey, you know what? I'm sitting here with my personal space heater in my wee little office space at my day job, on the cusp of Thanksgiving, I am thinking how much I have to be grateful for -- not just this year, but for all the years I've been alive.  I don't need The New York Times to tell me to choose to be grateful, by hey, a little encouragement never hurt.  I've always known where my next meal is coming from, and I've never had to suffer the cold without indoor heating.  I've not been chronically ill, nor have my loved ones,  I've not seen war with my own eyes beyond what's transmitted to me through a screen.  I am lucky, blessed, whatever you want to call it.

This year, I am thankful to have been given the opportunity and inspiration that has led me to create.  That I've found something of my very own to nurture and build.  I realize that so many moments in my life have brought me to this point, and to be able to make art and have people like it and buy it -- it's humbling.  And also mind-blowing!  Where is the mind-blown emoji when you need it?

I am thankful for social media.  Some people knock it, but it's so wonderful to be able to connect with people and grow a business or a hobby using it.  It's opened up doors for small businesses that would never have been possible even 10, 15 years ago.  And I don't care what anyone says, I feel like I could meet some IG connections IRL and we'd go out and do some good damage!  

(Quick shoutout to @designbytangee, @hookandweaveco@ispydiy, @kokosnest, @carlykellerman -- for being awesome creators, supporters, and #girlbosses!  Check out their work below and make sure to follow!)

I am thankful for a body that works.  For hands that function and eyes that see.

I am thankful for my support network.  My husband, and my in-laws, and the people who watch and teach my kids when I can't, or when I need some extra time to weave to meet a deadline.

I am thankful that I can give back.  And so...

I will be donating 10% of November and December sales to The Sharing Place in Jersey City, NJ.  They provide groceries, prepared and warm meals to NJ residents in need of a helping hand.  They also offer volunteer opportunities so if you're in the area and want to lend a hand, you can.  Check out The Sharing Place for more information.

Thanks for stopping by!  I'm truly, sincerely, grateful.  

~Cindy

Instagram: @carlykellerman

Instagram: @carlykellerman

Instagram: @ispydiy

Instagram: @ispydiy


Instagram: @hookandweaveco

Instagram: @hookandweaveco

Instagram: @designbytangee

Instagram: @designbytangee

Instagram: @kokosnest

Instagram: @kokosnest