Monday, March 06, 2017

Maker Party! Show Your Work

so this happened the night of March 4. We were looking for a way to bring our more interesting friends together so hit on this:   
                Kent & Kelly: Birthday Twins!
A party with a twist: Makers only! We’re inviting friends who create: tie-dyers, artists, writers, musicians, welders, woodworkers, those who have started businesses. People with a passion or interest they have put into practice. 

             PLEASE bring something for show and tell (and to sell, if you like). Just bring some samples of your work, or something to perform, and tell us something about it: why it's a passion, how you do it, what you wish others knew about it, how you learned it, whatever. Nothing formal. 

       Speaking of Making: This will be a GRILLED CHEESE EXTRAVAGANZA with a make-your-own bar to exceed your wildest dreams. Come hungry! 
I've done a lot with ideas around working out loud over the years and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that people love to talk about their work. Not their jobs, necessarily, but their work. But “What do you do?” is not a good question. Better? “Tell us about something you love about your work, or a hobby to which you’ve devoted a lot of time and energy:  How do you do what you do? How did you learn to do it? What was the biggest obstacle?” 
Everyone had a different approach to what they wanted to share.

Process: “It puts me in a flow state.” We had a wonderful opening 10-minute-ish presentation from a friend whose tie dye hobby has turned into a cottage business. Supplementing her talk with samples, she gave us a fascinating look at her process, from creating new designs to blending colors to a new interest in the ice dying technique that produces gorgeous watercolor-esque effects.   

Interest: It’s a response to an industry problem. Wendy Gates Corbett talked more about her impetus and outcomes.  In response to so much bad PowerPoint in our business (L&D) she started Refresher Training LLC. Wendy takes slide decks and other training resources and reworks them into more engaging, effective materials. Check her site for great before-and-after examples. 

Go where the questions are; be open to showing the work people want to see: My Gang of Ukes bandmate Mitchell kindly came to sing with me but had a couple other things to offer. After years of working for other people he quit his job last week and on Saturday opened Performance Print Services, a digital printing company here in Durham NC. It was fun to hear about someone launching a lifelong dream, but the group kept getting sidetracked with questions about a gift Mitchell brought: A dozen beautiful eggs from his girlfriend’s brood of chickens. People had lots of questions for him. My 2 takeaways: Chickens that lay colored eggs lay the same color all their lives. And newly laid, unwashed eggs are coated with “bloom” that keeps them fresh without refrigeration.

Life Shift Drives Work. Sterling Fulton talked about the career path that led her to write her values-based life planning guide; she’s also behind the new site and events for Love in Action, designed to help overcome "isms". Her partner Dana Wallace Gower is also an author specializing in a faith-based view of career management. 

Lifelong Learning Path. Artist Michael Snipes (right) shared his learning path, including bartering work product for painting lessons, while Cipher Art’s Kelly Johnston talked more about process and how she works with collages to build a narrative. One thing she had to work through: a confidence problem fed by her lack of formal training.  

Her samples (below) included some work with her artistic collaborator, graphic artist Sarah Beard.  
Sarah works full-time as a packaging designer but in her spare time does a bit of other work as Cornbread Creative – lately a t-shirt-a-day project, with proceeds going to different causes -- as well as some work with Kelly.  We also heard from a friend who does gorgeous woodworking, another who discussed her interest in modern culture and political activism, and another who manages a local brewpub.   
Among the takeaways here: the local community college has resources available to artists and hobbyists, including wood lathes and glass blowing and pottery kilns.

Another takeaway: Of the people who offer online resources and samples, there was far more use of Facebook and Instagram than traditional websites.

Bunny Ears.  The evening closed with a friend’s child, Grace (age "five and two-thirds"),  who “plans on building a home for homeless people and needs to learn how to get money to help people.” She asked if she might share something with the group and showed us what she learned that day: How to tie her shoes. (Photo below by Sarah Beard.)  Then everyone had birthday cake and ice cream while Mitchell and I played “I Wanna Be Sedated” and “The Time Warp” on our ukuleles. 

The Makers party went even better than I’d hoped.  Talk was lively and happy; those who brought items for sale ended up as often as not bartering for an item with someone else. Many people found additional areas for connection or people with similar values or political interests. It turned out Kristi’s political activism dovetailed with things Sterling is working on. Sarah’s mom once raised the same kind of chickens as Mitchell’s girlfriend. Wendy and Sterling already knew each other, which I didn’t know. Sarah and Kelly had once met Linda and Heath, and their dog Dottie, at the pub Ari runs. 

I’d organized the party as a Facebook Event, which provides a separate Facebook page with space for guests to post and comment, and people are still talking about the party and to each other today. I didn’t really do a formal presentation about my work but reiterated what I said above: People love to talk about their work, and being enthusiastic and excited to show it off is interesting to others, too. Give people time and space for it, let them choose aspects they want to discuss, and ask questions besides, “So where do you work?”

We had a great night and if the idea appeals to you I’d say go for it. Some advice? 

  • Party-wise this was excellent. People were at ease, there was a lot of non-awkward non-forced conversation, and some did a bit of business or made good connections. Many found other shared areas of interest or other links.
  • It wasn’t really planned this way but 10 short (5 to 10 minute) presentations, with a dinner break, was just about enough, and took us from 6 pm to 11ish.   So I'd say don't go bigger than 10 couples. 
  • Mix it up! Don't just choose people from your own line of work. Bringing in people with eclectic interests helps everyone expand their surface area. 
  •  Everything is better with grilled cheese.  And a corgi.

Grace & Mitchell: 

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