55 posts categorized "Speeches & Writings"

March 02, 2017

Reno Tahoe Tonight Magazine Interview

RenomagI was recently interviewed for Reno Tahoe Tonight magazine and I'm so honored to be the cover story for the March issue. I'm so very happy with how it turned out. Among other things, we discuss art, music, my exhibitionist tendencies, discipline, freedom, and why in many ways, painting helps me live another day. Here's the link. Starts on page 16. Thanks for reading it. 



October 23, 2015

Procrastination. Murakami. Freedom.

DailypaintworksI just did an interview with Sophie from Daily Paintworks
and am happy to share it here.

Read it if you want to. :-)

October 27, 2014

Marathons, Baselines, and the High Ponytail

Marathons, Baselines, and the High Ponytail
Art Camp 2014
by Jenny Doh

I’ve been here before. With Terri, and with many others who are in this room, to help us focus on the value of art and creativity. The value of art and creativity.

Since the last time I was here at art camp, I’ve aged. And so have you. We all have.

Another thing that has changed since I was here last is my hairstyle. Last time I spoke at art camp, my hair was short but now, after patiently growing it out for over a year, it is finally long enough to wear in a high ponytail. And in the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll share with you that one of the many reasons why I love wearing it in a high ponytail is that it gives my face a natural lift! A natural facelift without having to go to a plastic surgeon! I love it. So most likely these days, when you've seen me, you’ve seen me wearing a high pony tail … but I also hope that I have the strength of character to occasionally let my hair down and to comfortably be with myself and with everyone else without the benefits of a high ponytail.


There are two books that I’ve recently read that I want to reference in this talk. One is The Great Gatsy by F. Scott Fitzgerald and the other is a piece of non-fiction written by Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami, titled What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Aside from writing novels, Murakami has been an avid runner for many years. Since the time he was in his 30s, he started to run marathons and then eventually doing triatholons. By the way, a marathon is 26 miles in length. And Murakami was born in 1949 which makes him now 65 years old.

In his memoirs, he describes his running life with irresistible humility … he describes it as an activity that he was dedicated to … not to become a marathoner per se, but to be someone who decided to consistently do an activity that simply put, was suited for him and his personality.

He goes on to explain something that happened to his running. He says that he reached his peak in terms of speed in his late 40s, where he could run 26 miles in about 3 hours and 40 minutes. He says that even on his off days, it was inconceivable for him to not meet his baseline of coming in under the 4-hour mark for a 26-mile run. But he describes that as he was getting older, he was shocked to find that regardless of his consistency and dedication, the time it took for him to complete a 26-mile run started to consistently fall below the baseline.

He realized that though his efforts and sincerity remained steadfast, the effects that age was having on his body in terms of speed was beyond his sincerity and beyond his control. He could no longer beat the time that he could run as a 40-something person when he was now a 50-something person. With the change in season, a new baseline would need to emerge.

I’m not sure if any of us are marathon runners. I know that I’m not. But I do like to do things like running and boxing and other things that suit me, to stay in shape. My son likes to swim because that’s what suits him. My husband likes to run and bike and those activities suit him. And in my own universe of fitness, I do have goals that I set and try to beat. But like Murakami I have also realized as of late, as a woman in her late 40s rather than in her early 30s, that no matter how disciplined I am, there are certain baselines that I need to occasionally reformulate, as I recognize and accept the effects of time, aging, and gravity.

After reading The Great Gatsby, I saw the movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby and Carey Mulligan as Daisy. I thought both the book and the movie were great.

In the movie, there’s a scene where Gatsy has Daisy over to his home, so that he can show her that through lots of work over several years, he has made something of himself … a house, cars, clothes, parties, servants … fruits of labor that served as evidence that Gatsby is worthy of Daisy’s love. As they are soaking it all in, the married Daisy says to Gatsby that she wishes that they could run away. To which Gatsby responds with confused alarm … Run away?! No, we’re not gonna run away. This is what I’ve built for us. This is reality. I want us to stay. I want us to embrace all of this. I want you to declare that you love me. I want you to embrace what I’ve built and accept it as our destiny.

I won’t spoil the plotline for those who have yet to experience the entire story … but I want to segue from this scene between Gatsby and Daisy to the other big change aside from my ponytail that has happened to me since the last time I was here at art camp.

When I was here at art camp last time, I was sister to two brothers. Today as I stand before you, I am sister to one brother. I have been very open and honest and public about the fact that last Thanksgiving I lost my brother Jinil to suicide.

When that happened, I was so struck with grief and found tears pouring out of me 24 hours a day that I was convinced that I would forever be a person who would be crying all the time. I was convinced that there would never be a day when my heart would not feel completely torn and completely broken.

I was convinced that even though the sun would rise, I would never again feel its warmth. Oh how I wished like Daisy to be able to run away.


If speed were the only measurement that Murakami the runner would use to value the act of running, he may have thrown in the towel and stopped the activity that so suits him because his declining speed would be evidence of running losing value to his life.

Thankfully, Murakami shares that though speed has been an interesting measurement, it has not been the primary reason that he values running. He values running because of how it makes him feel. Whether he runs a mile in 4 5 6 7 8 9 or 10 minutes, he does so not because of how many minutes it takes, but because he loves how it makes him feel, at any pace.

An interesting note that Murakami makes is about art. He points out that though activities like running require new baselines as humans age, there are certain activities like art with many examples of where the finest and most brilliant works are created by artists in their later life seasons. For example, Dostoyevsky wrote his two most profound novels including The Brothers Karamazov in the last few years of his life. Scarlatti wrote most of his piano sonatas during the ages of 57 and 62. Henri Matisse dazzled us with his masterful paper cutouts also during his later years, something he did when he could no longer keep up with the physical rigors of painting. 

Perhaps all of this is so because it takes decades of running, walking, cycling swimming, cooking, singing, painting, paper cutting, soldering, wire wrapping or dollmaking for us to sincerely build up a beautiful patina of wisdom … a patina that can’t be hurried … a patina where we have the strength of character to give birth to new baselines of discovery where we honestly embrace all of the joys and tragedies of life.  

In a year’s time, my grief for Jinil is still there but it looks very different. By embracing the sadness, I’ve also been able to embrace joy. By not running away and accepting the reality of my destiny and life season, including the highs and lows, I feel that every facet of my life has become enriched for the better.

I am excited to be here as together we share laughs as we pull our hair up if we want to, share tears and let it down when we want to, as we create beautiful art. But more importantly, as we continue to develop a strength of character and beautiful patina of wisdom from where we can honestly celebrate baselines from the past and accept the new and beautiful baselines that have yet to blossom in each of our lives.



Per the invitation of Terri Brush, I was honored to deliver this speech to Art Camp 13, October 25, 2014, in Lincoln City, Oregon.

May 28, 2013

In Pursuit of Freedom

Jenny Doh
In pursuit of freedom
not power or fame
she let her heart spill every drop.

In pursuit of love
not complications engulfed, inflamed
she let go every part.

Jenny Doh

April 18, 2013

In Spite of Us

In Spite of Us
by Jenny Doh
Art Camp 2013 • Lincoln City, Oregon

Jenny Doh
At home, every morning when I get up, I exercise. Usually, I go to my gym to take a boxing class and lately I’ve been getting into gymnastics in my garage but occasionally, I go for a good old-fashioned run or walk in my neighborhood.  The thing I love about running or walking in my neighborhood is that I get to see interesting things on the long stretches of sidewalk on my street and neighboring streets … like leaves, cut grass, branches, lemons, avocados, and sometimes the prettiest flower petals fallen from nearby rose buses. When I see petals on sidewalks, I always find myself stopping to take a picture. 

One of the things that I frequently notice on these runs is that when there is a crack on the sidewalk, where the cement has become broken for whatever reason, it isn’t long before something starts to grow in that broken space. You’ve seen it. I’ve seen it. We’ve all seen it. Sometimes little blades of grass, sometimes a dandelion, and other times some other flower or plant life that just starts to grow in that crack. It’s a place where life isn’t intended to happen. But it just happens. Life happens in spite of intentions.  

Many of you know that I have two kids. Monica and Andrew. They are both teenagers and last week, they were both on spring break. And given that Monica is a junior in high school, it was the perfect week for me to take her on a road trip to visit college campuses as she gets ready to submit her applications in the coming year.

The trip was exciting. I loved watching her react to the campuses that we visited: UC Davis, UC Berkeley, Stanford, UC Santa Cruz … I loved watching her soak it all in and I treasured the concentrated time we had together to do mother-daughter bonding as we talked for hours in the car, in the hotel rooms, enjoyed meals together, and enjoyed working out together. My running joke with her is that wherever she decides to go to for college, I’m gonna go with her … with a pair of those funny glasses attached to a mustache so that I can still be near her without cramping her style. We all laugh at that and I know in my heart of hearts that I won’t follow her to college but let me tell you … that at a certain level, I really want to. And quite frankly, I’m not sure how I will cope when she actually does fly away from home to go to college, as she embraces her grown-up destiny. It’s hard to hold back tears when I realize what a marvelous person she has grown up to be. And her brother Andrew, too. They are both such good kids.

But I’ll be the first to tell you, as I frequently remind both Monica and Andrew that I have certainly NOT been the perfect parent. Actually, I’ve been far from perfect. I was not the mom who brought cupcakes to their classrooms. I was not the mom who volunteered with the PTA. I was the workaholic mom, barely able to keep up with everything career-wise let alone the bare minimums of juggling bills, pets, house repairs, laundry, groceries, and of course the breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

I do take pride, however, in the fact that even though my parenting has been imperfect, my communication with them has always been high quality, open, honest, and genuine. I know that my kids know that they can talk with me about anything at anytime without ever fearing rejection or judgment. I’ve always been proud of that and I will work hard to sustain that for them forever.

And even with pangs of guilt that I’ve gone through and still go through when I remind myself of my imperfect parenting ways, I have seen evidence throughout their growth that they are well-adjusted and for the most part, they are succeeding in life. And this tells me that I really don’t have to be perfect for them to succeed. Our home doesn’t need to be perfect for them to succeed. And it reminds me that I also grew up in an imperfect situation. We all did. Imperfect parents, imperfect siblings, imperfect home environment, but also some good moments within that context of imperfection.

And I’m forever humbled to remember people I’ve met who have stories that make my experiences as an imperfect parent and my experiences growing up in an imperfect family pale in comparison. Stories that sometimes involve abuse, tragedy, disease, and accidents … some so painful that you wonder how anyone can ever survive, let alone thrive.

But you know of those people. You might be one of those people yourself. Where in spite of non-ideal circumstances, in spite of the fact that you’ve not been planted in a large lush field with plenty of sunshine and water but rather castigated to a small crack on a sidewalk, you’ve found a way to make it work. You’ve been able to take the parts and pieces of the good parts … and found a way to make those parts work for you as you maneuver through life.

So here we are. In beautiful Lincoln City, Oregon. We’re here to make art, I know. But as I’ve observed over the years, I know we are here for much more than that. We’re here to connect, right? Perhaps with ourselves … as we take a much-needed break from our routines. Perhaps with new friends … and new energy so that we can be heard and understood in ways that we need to be heard and understood.

As we continue this weekend on this journey creating art, connecting with ourselves, and connecting with others, I want to remind everyone … including every teacher, student, coordinator, speaker, and volunteer of 3 things:

1 Nobody’s art is perfect. Even the most famous artist, or the one you hold in the highest regard … even their art is full of imperfection. As it should be. And I would argue that it is the artist who shows her imperfections and shows her vulnerability who is the most genuine, and therefore the most interesting and inspiring.  

2 No person is perfect. Stop beating yourself up for being here and not being there … for falling short in any and all of the ways that we do and will continue to do.

3 And finally, that regardless of our imperfections, life will continue to happen … in fallow fields, as well as in small, underestimated cracks. Because it’s not always because of us that a flower grows, but frequently and thankfully, in spite of us.

Thank you for allowing me to share and thank you for being here. I look forward to getting to know everyone this weekend.



Per the invitation of Terri Brush, I had the honor of delivering this talk at Art Camp 2013. For more information about Terri and her fututre Art Camp events and to enroll, visit http://www.terribrushdesigns.com/

December 29, 2012

Yellow Stripes on Gray

It was by accident that she stumbled upon the yellow stripes again.
From afar she could still make them out ...
Moving familiarly in the syrupy dark lit by twinkle lights.

Still stitched on gray ...

Jenny Doh

Jenny Doh
Jenny Doh
Jenny Doh
Jenny Doh
Jenny Doh
jenny dohYellow stripes on gray.
Never and forever.

The world has its ways
to quiet us down
The world has its ways
to quiet us down comes the rain
But down comes the strength
to lift us up and then ...
—Jack Johnson

December 27, 2012

Embracing it All

Embracing It All
by Jenny Doh

The fact that this event is titled Artful Gratitude Gathering as we prepare to usher in the soon-to-arrive Thanksgiving is very appropriate. From the January that we rang in just a few months ago until now, we’ve all been go-go-going, right? And it’s this time of year when our grand traditions have us push the pause button on the go-go-go … at least for a moment so that we can give thanks, count blessings, and gain perspective and perhaps do other profoundly grand things that the season might inspire us to do …

1: Like forgive. 2: Like accept. 3: Like begin again. 

Jenny Doh
The concept of forgiveness isn’t always about forgiving somebody else. It’s in many ways about forgiving ourselves. I recently watched a terrific TED talk delivered by a writer by the name of Kathryn Schultz. TED talks, by the way (which stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design), are video podcasts from TED conferences by all sorts of interesting people who give interesting talks. Anyway, the topic that Kathryn Schultz addressed in her TED talk was the concept of regret.

I’ll be bold and share with you the main regret that I have.

I regret that almost 13 years ago, when my kids were little, I did not find a way to resolve a major fight that I had with my mother, which has led to my having an estranged relationship with her for the past 13 years.

The thing that Kathryn Schultz found in her research is that whether we admit it or not, we all have regret. Regret is dangerous because we can wallow in it, use it to beat ourselves up, and if we allow it, keep us debilitated from moving forward as we remain unable to forgive ourselves. We all have regret.  And therefore we all have to live with regret. But we don’t have to allow regret to remind us of how terrible and awful we are. Rather, we can allow regret to remind us of how much better we can be as we move forward.

To be grateful, we human beings, we creatives, we artists, need to be open to grand concepts like forgiveness. It’s ok. You and I … we can be better than what happened in the past. It’s ok to forgive ourselves.

Let’s shift gears to ACCEPTANCE
The fact that I just told you that I have an estranged relationship with my mom is something that would never have happened last year or the year before, or during the entire time I’ve had this situation in my life. In fact, the way I used to operate in small groups or large groups was to try and steer the conversation in a way that would ensure that the topic of mothers or parents would not be brought up. I would devise elaborate plans of how I’d either change topics or flat out leave the room in order to avoid what I imagined would be the most horrible thing that could happen, which is for someone to ask me about my mom. It’s the thing I dreaded most. And I spent lots of energy being stressed out about it, letting myself get all worked up … trying to make sure I could hide the truth, veil the truth, and hope that if it could remain veiled, no one could see my hurt, no one could know of my weakness, and the topic would remain a secret.  

The transformation for me occurred when I was introduced to a book by Byron Katie, titled Loving What Is. It’s a really simple concept, actually. And it centers around her bottom line principle, which is that reality is kinder than we think. Whatever our deep dark secret is … what we think it is, is usually more horrible than what it is. So Byron’s point is that we ought to accept the reality of things. We ought to state the truth. Perhaps certain truths that anyone of us may be dealing with at any moment ... like …

  • I’m in debt.
  • I'm sick.
  • My marriage is falling apart.
  • No one bought my art.
  • No one signed up for my class.
  • No one came to my party.
  • My child is a drug addict.
  • I have an estranged relationship with my mom.

After reading this book, I was at dinner with a couple of friends and sure enough, the conversation was about parents. One friend in particular was having lots of problems with hers and at a certain point, she asked me, “What about you? How’s your mom?” And rather than getting all worked up about it, I simply told her what is. Surprisingly, the roof did not cave in. The earth did not shatter. My friend nodded and held my hand and said “I’m sorry to hear that.” And then the rest of the conversation just went on a natural course where we didn’t fixate on my situation, either by over-talking about it or avoiding it.

To have gratitude, we human beings, we creatives, we artists, need to be open to grand concepts like acceptance. It’s ok to accept what is. Because what IS is not as horrible as we think it is.

Stay with me as we shift gears once again to the concept of BEGINNING AGAIN.
This past summer, there was something in the air for me. Restlessness started to consume me as I woke up one morning and became very dissatisfied, disappointed, and bored with the state of everything. All I could see around me was shallowness, greed, predictability, and routines. I found myself in a bit of a crisis because when you feel that what’s out there is so uninteresting, you can get a bit reckless and start to adopt sort of an “I’m gonna run away” mentality. It’s the opposite of gratitude and counting blessings. Thankfully, I had some very good friends who helped me through this (and continue to help me through this), including one friend who turned me onto a book titled Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Estes. I’d like to read a passage from that book to you that shook me pretty hard:

A woman's psyche may have found its way to the desert out of resonance, or because of past cruelties or because she was not allowed a larger life above ground. So often a woman feels then that she lives in an empty place where there is maybe just one cactus with one brilliant red flower on it, and then in every direction, 500 miles of nothing. But for the woman who will go 501 miles, there is something more ... some women don't want to be in the psychic desert. They hate the frailty, the sparseness of it. They keep trying to crank a rusty jalopy and bump their way down the road to a fantasized shining city of the psyche ... Don't be a fool. Go back and stand under that one red flower and walk straight ahead for that last hard mile. Go up and knock on the old weathered door. Climb up to the cave. Crawl through the window of a dream. Sift the desert and see what you find. It is the only work we have to do.

To me, that passage is about how we manage the disappointments of life. The “is this all there is?” of life. The shallowness of life. The materialism and greed of life. The predictable, boring, and suffocating limitations of life.

When we dwell on such things, it feels unbearable. And as Estes describes, we think to ourselves that from where we stand, there is a stretch of 500 miles around us, of nothingness.

What I concluded this summer after going through all this, and really pondering this passage, is that rather than searching for a jalopy that can rescue us, we need to push ourselves and walk that 501st mile. We have to do the hard work to climb the cave, crawl through the window, sift the desert. In other words, there is something beyond 500 miles of what we have become familiar with and therefore complacent with. There is something to discover and rediscover or reinvent in not giving up and going after more. Not just more of what others can provide us, but more of what we can offer to the world.

As you ponder what might be in your 501st mile, consider thinking about the list that you have, of things that you’ve fantasized about doing but have not approached because you feel it’s not your time, or that for some reason, you are not worthy. Is it painting? Is it archery? Is it pursuing an art history degree? Is it boxing? Is it crocheting yourself a long veil and throwing an amazing party with great food … kind of like that scene from the film Like Water for Chocolate?

It may be any one of these things, and I challenge you that it’s never the right time and we can always put things off because of fear, or self-doubt, or regrets from the past, or the bleakness of the nothingness we see in the 500 miles around us. But as we walk that 501st mile, we ought to allow ourselves to approach what we think is the unapproachable. Shoot those arrows, enroll in an art history class, put on those boxing gloves, take a cooking class. Throw that amazing party and wear that elaborately crocheted veil. Reinvent, rediscover, and begin again.

To have gratitude, we human beings, we creatives, we artists, need to be open to grand concepts like beginning again. There IS more out there. And there IS more within us. And when it feels bleak, it’s important to find ways to begin again. And again. And again.  

Someone recently told me that my art has melancholy in it. I thought that was such an interesting observation … because I agree with it. I do think melancholy is present in most of my art. I think it has something to do with my regret. But I don’t regret that my art reflects that. It’s who I am. And it’s what I think makes my art unique and authentic. It tells my story.

When I think about that, I am reminded that everything matters. Everything that you and I go through creates the fabric of who we are. All of our experiences—the highs and lows—all of it is relevant. It influences how we paint, what we write, how we dance, how we sing, how we treat each other. It all matters … the regret and forgiveness … the acceptance … and the courage to begin again.

I’d like to challenge each of us to have gratitude for all the experiences that have helped create our unique stories and for us to be open to allowing our stories to influence our art as we embrace our destinies with gratitude for all of it.


Per the invitation of Jenelle Van de Mortel, I had the pleasure of delivering this talk on November 3, 2012, at the Artful Gratitude Gathering in Costa Mesa, California.

April 20, 2012

Audacity of Community :: Opening Remarks :: The Makerie 2012

Audacity of Community
The Makerie 2012 • Opening Remarks
By Jenny Doh

The Makerie
Years ago, before I had kids, when I was in graduate school, I became friends with an avid cyclist. When that cyclist friend invited me to go riding with her, I … being the confident and competitive gal that I am, accepted the invitation.

“How hard could it be to go on a bike ride with an avid cyclist?” I thought.

After all, I had mastered the ride on my pink Schwinn that I had gotten for my 10th birthday in Bakersfield, California … the cutest little bike on the block with a white basket on the front and colorful streamers on the handles bars. I remember it so clearly.

Now by the time I was in graduate school I had a more age-appropriate bike … a blue mountain bike that lived mostly in the garage, but one that I took out now and then to ride around the block. 

It should be noted that I hadn’t been for a ride in a long while so in order to prepare for the ride with my cyclist friend, I went to the bike shop to get myself what I thought were the essentials: a water bottle, a water bottle holder, and of course a cute little outfit. I was ready to begin.

So the day came, and we started on the ride. It was easy and fun and thrilling at first … but then my friend asked if I wanted to go up a "small hill" that she liked to go on. And being the confident and competitive gal that I am, I gave her a thumbs up. And so we started on the incline. And let me tell you, I thought I was going to die. It was SO hard. It was so hard that the harder I pedaled, the slower I went, and the quicker my momentum evaporated. At one point I simply could pedal no more. And that’s when I got off my bike and walked it up the hill. Coming down that hill was easier, but I realized something very important that day … which is that beginnings are exciting and thrilling … but middles are hard … sometimes extremely humbling, and sometimes lonely. And I knew that if I wanted to ride with my friend again, I needed to make some adjustments.

  • I knew that I needed to practice riding,
  • I needed to get into better shape, and most of all,
  • I needed the enlist the support of my friend and others in my life to to coach me, to advise me, and to help me.

I needed to be open to all of this as I would eventually need to find a way to power through, and overcome that hill.

When I think of that moment when I got off the bike to walk it up, I always think of King Sisyphus within Greek Mythology. Those of you who know the story know that King Sisyphus was a pretty awful character, and in retribution for his many wretched ways, Zeus ended up punishing Sisyphus by condemning him to an eternity where he would spend his time rolling an immense boulder up a hill, to a point where he felt that he would make it to the top, but right at that moment, for the boulder to roll back down, causing Sisyphus to begin again. Over and over again, for all of eternity. If you think about it, in many ways, that eternity of pushing and pushing and almost reaching the top to fall back down again is what I would describe as hell. A place where no matter how hard you try, you never get a chance to make adjustments to overcome your challenge or learn lessons … a place where you never get to complete a task, and therefore you never get to experience new challenges or new frontiers that are beyond that hill because you never get to go beyond the hill at hand.

Last year, when The Makerie launched as a new event, the thrill and excitement associated with beginnings was something we all felt. And when you think about it, launching something new requires an audacity that borders on naïve … where you almost convince yourself that all you need to begin is your good intent, a water bottle, and a cute outfit.

This audacity to be bold and to view risk-taking as a badge of honor has been beautifully illustrated recently by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, the co-founders of Instagram. Two guys with an idea, and an audacity bordering on naïve … to take big risks, to work hard, and to make real an APP that the world would connect with because of the simplicity of its design and its ability to connect with our creativity and our emotions. We can only imagine how radical the intensity of their incline has been … but they found a way to power through hills by being open to learning lessons, making adjustments, and receiving help from their large network of extremely smart people.

For The Makerie, even in its first year last year, I’m sure that Ali and her team felt the intensity of that incline as they were in the thick of coordinating all the moving parts. And as we closed last year, we talked about how with the birth of this young sapling of an event, we would need to cultivate its growth with continued efforts, continued commitment from all stakeholders … the teachers, the staff, the attendees … if we had any chance of basking in the eventual shade of the mighty oak that the sapling would eventually become. Because as author Antoine de Saint Exupéry reminds us in Wind, Sand, and Stars, mighty shades cast by mighty oaks don’t happen over night. The oak becomes mighty during the middle parts. The parts where the thrill of beginnings may have worn off, the parts when we realize we need to adjust a few things … the parts when we have to humbly get off that bike and walk it up, the parts when we quickly wipe off our tears of exhaustion before we get on the next skype conference call. The parts when we have to intelligently invest our limited resources so that we can find ways to build momentum and move forward.

We are all gathered here about to embark on our own beginnings in terms of the creative classes that we have each signed up for this weekend. Some of us are going to paint with Flora, some of us will sew with Marisa or Leisel, some of us will letter press with Allison, some of us will take photos with Aran or Alessandra, and some of us will crochet with yours truly.

But let me tell you that tomorrow, after the classes have begun, we will find ourselves in the middle of class. And for many of us, that middle is when we’ll face challenges and doubts. Some of the thought bubbles that may hover over us during those middle parts might read: “Oh my God, what was I thinking? I’m no painter!” or it might say “I am WAY in over my head. There’s no way I’ll ever understand the difference between aperture, ISO, and shutter speed.” Another thought bubble might say “I don’t know whey I’m trying to learn how to sew. It’d be easier and cheaper to just buy clothes off the rack.”

That last thought bubble is actually the culturally dominant message we hear day in and day out. We may even hear it from our own friends and family who tragically never really understand why we go through the trouble of creating something handmade. After all, it is available at stores. Speedily and mass manufactured.

But events like The Makerie understand the value and power of handmade. Because as David Mamet’s character in his play State and Main so eloquently put it, it’s truly fun when we do it ourselves. When someone else does it for us, it’s only entertainment.

When we can sew our own garments, when we can paint our own canvases, when we can take our own photos, we ignite an awareness within us all that through our own two hands, we are equipped to design our art and to design our lives in the ways we desire. And hear me on this:

You and I … we are all capable of creating beauty.

And if we are fortunate enough, we are connected with our own wide network of extremely smart and creative people within the creative community who can help us make the adjustments that we need to make so that unlike Sisyphus, we can transition from a first ride where we may need to get off the bike to walk it up the hill, to an eventual ride where we learn to power pedal all the way up the hill … to be greeted by new hills and new challenges that we decide to embark on, with audacity, with community, and with the power of our own two hands.

Thank you very much.


Per the invitation of Ali DeJohn, I had the pleasure of delivering these oepening remarks at The Makerie 2012, in Boulder, Colorado.

October 02, 2011

Authentic Leadership & The Trueness of the Now :: Launch Your Creativity October 2011

Authentic Leadership & The Trueness of the Now
by Jenny Doh

Launch Your Creativity
I want to congratulate all of us for being here, because it took a lot more effort than many people from the outside would ever realize for all of us to get into this room. It’s just a few hours that we are going to spend with one another, but in order for those few hours to be meaningful, in order for each of us to make our best impressions on one another, in order for us to make contacts that will blossom into relationships, there has been a lot of prep work to ready our best selves for this Launch Your Creativity event. And more than anyone else, Sharon Hughes has worked countless hours to tend to every detail, every aspect of this event to make it special, to make it ring true to her vision, and to make sure that each of us walk away feeling connected and valued. And so for that, I’d like to ask you to join me in giving a round of applause for Sharon Hughes.

If you’re like me, after today is over, you’ll be back at home, tending to you kids and making sure that they are on track as they finish their homework and prepare for the exams that are ahead of them in the coming week. I’m thankful that even as 16 and 13 year olds, my kids are learning that in order to do well on a test, in order to get the most out of a teacher’s lesson, the student needs to enter the classroom well prepared. They are learning that no matter how naturally brilliant they may be, studying, preparing, and practicing are what precede success in the classroom.

Within the world of creativity that we all are a part of, we play assorted roles, according to the changing seasons of life that we find ourselves in. Whether we are a student, teacher, speaker, an event coordinator, an editor, an artist, a businesswoman … and as we juggle other private roles of mom, grandma, wife, sister, daughter, girlfriend … we have many obligations to manage so that when we are entering any given room, we are doing so, well prepared, and presenting our best selves.

Earlier this year I was at an art event and there was a person who came up to me and asked me what advice I could give her in terms of the best search engine optimization words for effective blogging (SEO words for short). When I told her that I didn’t know of any SEO words, she was in disbelief. She wanted to know how I could be leading a blog when I don’t embed my posts with any SEO words.

She’s a person, like many within our creative world, who wants to find ways for people to discover her blog, who wants to be a leader, and who wants to get noticed. And I don’t mean to trivialize her or her intent because I think it’s an intent we all share because who amongst us doesn’t want to get noticed and discovered? Who amongst us doesn’t want high traffic on our blogs? Who amongst us doesn’t want to have influence, to lead, and also to have our product or our services translate into sales, and for our work to be revered for the depth and quality that we know we are made of? All of us want that. 

As some of you may already know, SEO words are words that are considered hot topic words that people within the field that you are trying to engage with, would potentially plug into a google search when they are searching for something. For example, if you are wanting to get noticed in the mixed media community, words like art journals, assemblage, altered art are the kind that SEO types would argue should be regularly used in blog posts so your posts come up in people’s searches. So given that the mixed media community is one that I consider to be part of my tribe, the fact that I would do a post about my bento box filled with crunchy and salted seaweed and perfectly steamed rice would cause some SEO experts to feel that I am not making the most out of my posts, and squandering my online opportunities.

But I disagree. I think blogs become special when posts are made with complete sincerity that is born out of the Trueness of the NOW, and without putting on any airs. It’s an organic, humble, authentic approach to sharing who you are, and it’s the only approach that I know and believe in.

I want to tell you another story. Not too long ago, I was one of the recipients of an email that my friend sent out to all the friends on her email list asking everyone to click onto a link where we could vote for her husband’s software design as the best, amongst others that the design was competing with, at his place of work. Such an awkward situation, right? I mean, I wanted to support my friend and therefore by default, her husband, but I really was not qualified nor interested in software design and by casting a vote, it was like I would be part of this fake influence that would become factored into a company’s decision-making process as they invested in which software products to launch.

A variation of this phenomenon that hits close to home for many of us is when we are invited to either “like” a Facebook page or “follow” a Twitter account or “subscribe” to a Blog feed. Again, I think these invitations are made with harmless intent, but chances are that if I “like” a page or “follow” an account out of obligation versus true interest, true free will, I will never visit that site, and of course I won’t be genuinely engaged.

This does not mean that we ought not create Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, or other of the myriad channels available to market our work in the online world. Because in this day and age, these are highly effective tools that cannot be ignored if we are wanting to grow an audience.

It’s just that gaining followers or likers by rallying my husband’s co-workers or distant relatives or getting hits through SEO words that are not true to the Authenticity of the NOW can provide us with a false sense of success and distort the true reach and true influence that our efforts have. Are we really leading or influencing anyone when the ones who follow us or like us or subscribe to us never tune into what we do?

So let’s go back to the concept of preparing and practicing and readying our best selves. When you think about it, the concept of readying our best selves assumes that we know what’s at the core of our best selves, right? Knowing what’s at the core so that we can take that basic core and make it become the best.

In other words, who are you at the core?  What is it that you want to contribute? What is it you want to commit to doing?

This fundamental question might tempt us to prematurely jump to other questions like: Do you want to open a restaurant? Do you want to open a store? Do you want to run a blog and sell advertising? Do you want to write a book? Do you want to license you art?

But I think it’s even more basic and more specific than that ... like: Do you want to cook French cuisine? For how many people? Do you want to bake cupcakes? Do you want to design aprons? Do you want to make dolls? Do you want to create paintings? What is it that you want to do?

And after answering the more basic and specific question, the next question is why? Why do you want to make paintings? Is it because you saw your girlfriend sell a painting on etsy and you are envious of that? Or is it because you’ve had a longstanding passion for painting and you want to put your whole heart into it? Do you want to cook French cuisine because every time you prepare the French recipes for your dinner parties, your friends rave about how good it is? Or is it because you just rented Julie and Julia and you hope that by becoming a French chef, you can be rescued from your current job that you dread?

I think it’s important to answer specific questions to get to the root of what it is we want to do, and to understand the intent of why we want to do it. And let me tell you something you probably already know, which is that when the intent is misguided, the outcome will be troubled.

COMMITMENT=10,000 Hours +
And finally, once we understand what we want to do and find the good intent that backs up why we want to do it, we come to the point making a commitment. Are you willing to commit to what you want?

In this fast-paced world where gratification is instant and notes are considered long when it goes beyond 140 characters, it’s tempting to think that our dreams are only one text away from becoming fully realized.

But the truth of the matter is, it isn’t. Meet anyone who has achieved any type of success that you admire and they will tell you that it took a lot of work.

Many of you may have read Malcom Gladwell’s book titled The Outliers, where he presents findings that point to what he calls the 10,000 hours rule. Basically, as he examined and researched the highly successful in our world, he found that preceding the success was approximately 10,000 hours of quality, committed work. 10,000 hours. If we calculate that into a typical work week, that’s about 5 years. Not 5 hours. Not 5 days. Not 5 weeks or even 5 months. Five years of committed, focused, determined work to the specific art or the business or the craft or the study that we decide will be ours.

When my kids were little, games and activities they enjoyed playing included Follow the Leader, Red Light Green Light, Mother May I, and Show and Tell. They are games that you and I also grew up with and will undoubtedly be played by future generations because they tap into our innate desire and thirst to lead, to have influence, and to have an audience.

Once we commit to what we want, I think there will eventually be room to fine-tune our reach through search engine optimization and a whole host of other marketing strategies. But before we fine-tune, we need to genuinely develop the core of who we are, the core of our intent, and the foundation of what we are offering as our product or service through long-term commitment.

There is nothing as fierce as encountering a person who has committed to work with relentlessness on their chosen craft. Because once this is done, whether you seek it or not, your reach, your influence, and your leadership will be authentic and sincere and so True to the NOW, and therefore profound and lasting.

Thank you very much for this opportunity to speak with you.

Launch Your Creativity
Per the invitation of Sharon Hughes, I had the honor of presenting this talk at the Launch Your Creativity event on October 1, 2011. Stay tuned to learn more about future events by Launch Your Creativity. Many thanks to all of the attendees, all of the other speakers, and everyone at Paris in a Cup Tea Salon & Cafe (119 S. Glassell St., Orange, CA 92866) for an inspiring event.

May 14, 2011

Frida & The Street

Frida & The Street
Inspired • Charlotte, North Carolina • May 14, 2011
by Jenny Doh

I am so honored to be here today to spend time with you, and with Donna, and all of the incredible art instructors. Donna and Bill: On behalf of every single person in this room tonight and every single person who has been in this room for the past four years, thank you very much for working so hard all year long to create this for us. It is no easy feat to coordinate events such as this with so many moving parts with poise, and class as you have done for us. Thank you.

I think gatherings of this nature are so interesting and so special because what draws us to these sorts of gatherings is multi-faceted. One of the primary facets is the intrigue of learning something new. We are here in large part because we want to learn the signature techniques offered by Tracie, Lolly, Suzi, Patricia, Becky, and Alisa. We want to learn the about the details, the tips, the tricks and the mechanics of how Suzie draws a face, how Alisa creates surface designs on canvas, how Tracie to upcycles what people may consider to be "trash" into incredible totes, how Patricia masterfully manipulates encaustic wax, how Lolly beautifully juxtaposes jute and felt, and how Becky works with assorted components to create one-of-a-kind jewelry.

But another reason we are here is that we are interested in the origins of how it all happened for these teachers. How did they come to start making art? Indeed, we are interested in their unique points of view, and how each of these artists are not only people who engage with the act of creating art, but that they are also actively engaged with their muses, their experiences, all the things in life that give them the inspiration to give birth to the creative ideas that each of them have.

We are interested in their art because we are interested in them. We are interested in their stories.

As many of you know, part of what I do every single day is to facilitate the telling of people’s stories, as CRESCENDOh seeks to find and tell stories about the positive effects that art and the creative process play in our lives. I am a firm believer that when things feel dark and hopeless, we can find our way back into the light by going to the sewing machine, by picking up our paintbrushes, by picking up our knitting needles, by reaching for our art journals, and fusing pieces of plastic bags together.

This past year, we have helped more than 300 people tell their stories … some that document immense pain. Like this one told by Readers Share contributor, Debbie, who describes a childhood filled with the kind of abuse that no child should suffer, segueing into a young adult life of drugs and alcohol. She says:

I managed to graduate and get married to the man I have been married to for 39 years. I had to overcome drugs and alcohol. While raising three kids I always had art in my life. I took ceramics, toll painting, college art classes and I was always crafting and decorating. Then I discovered quilting and took lesson after lesson and discovered art quilts. [she also opened a little quilt store]. I got to meet so many talented people and learned so much. I got to hear what a great shop I had and even compliments on my quilts. It changed my life. I became confident and I had a great shop. I was a great organizer and marketer. I could pick color and decorate my shop and I took good care of my customers who knew I had so many talents.

She continues …

“The last two years have been a struggle for me. I am not sure where to go from here. I have taught some classes but it seems now I want to be more challenged. What is great is that the anger is gone. I can see color and beauty. I know now how important it is to rest and take care of myself. I do better work and more colorful work. Art is my safe place.

One of the reasons I think telling stories is so important (even when they involve pain and failure) is that it is the first step in realizing one of life’s most important lessons, which is that … You. Are. Unique. You are unique because your story is unique. Your failures are unique. The pain you’ve gone through is unique. The way you’ve gotten back up from failure is unique. There is nobody else who has your exact story. Just like your thumbprint. Nobody else has it.

One of the things that I’ve re-learned this past year as we’ve archived so many amazing stories is that we love hearing stories. Every single week as new stories get loaded up, readers multiply, as more and more people hear about stories that are being told and they come to listen.

And why do we listen? Why do we love stories? I think it’s because as unique as our stories may be, by telling them, we realize that there are common threads that unite us. And we learn the second very important life lesson which is that: You are not alone. You and me … we all know pain. We all know joy. We all know injustice. We all know failure. We all know disease. We all know love. We all know. And we are all in it together.

Let me switch gears to talk a bit about Frida Kahlo.

When art critics examine the work of Frida Kahlo, there are some who argue that her works don’t reflect the type of technical skills that would ever classify her as a master artist … that though her paintings reflect a degree of true skill, that that skill, when compared to masters like DeVinci, and Michaelangelo, fall short.

But the interesting thing about art is that the value that it can garner is not solely reliant on the techniques alone. The value that it garners is how the story that it tells compels us and moves us. That is the magic of art … where techniques are coupled with stories, to create true and lasting value. Because when I look at her works, I feel her pain because I’ve learned of her story and I weep for the pain that she experienced … as a young woman whose plans to become a medical doctor became usurped when she was involved with a tragic bus accident, and she suffered constant physical pain as a resulte of that accident, and who suffered emotional pain through the tangled relationship with her beloved Diego Rivera. Her stories that get told through her works is largely why her art will have lasting value.

Jenny Doh
Let’s talk about San Francisco. I love going to San Francisco. A few years ago, I found myself on the streets of San Francisco, enjoying the weather, and people-watching. During this walk, I came upon a man who had a small table filled with his spoon art jewelry. Beautiful works. Not completely new … spoon art jewelry has been around for a while now … but his pieces were very well executed.

We connected. We talked. And I learned a little bit about his life on the streets. How he hustles to find spoons and how he stays up late sawing and bending, and how he explained that the hardest part, after carefully pouring the resin is having the patience to let it dry. And also how he finds a lot of elements for his work by looking through other people’s discards. Other people’s trash. He definitely had a street look to him. Kinda grungy. Very smart. And very funny. And in those few moments, I got to know him and I got to hear his part of his interesting story.

And that’s why the pendant I bought from him has lasting value for me. Technically, there are probably many better spoon pendants out there. But to me, it’s not just a spoon with a picture of Frida and resin poured into it. It’s a piece that I can imagine was created by his tired hands, after a long day of looking through bins of discards, after working the street life, smoking his cigarettes, and making it happen, and tap tap tapping his fingers with impatience while waiting for the pesky resin to dry.

I own the jewelry, and with it, I root for him. I cheer him on.

And look at what that little piece of art is allowing us to do here today as I tell you the story … as the connections and the reality of how we are all in this together, becomes resoundingly clear.

And that’s the other reason it’s important to tell stories. Telling our stories, sharing with each other, explaining how I made something or how you made something … it brings us together. Whether you live on the streets, or in a high rise, or on a farm, or a gated community, or in a trailer … hear me on this … we are not alone.

If you are a parent, you know the angst of raising kids. You want them to get the right education. You want them to be schooled properly in the fundamentals of writing, math, science. That’s a large part of parenting. But as you know the other part of parenting is to be there for them when they to through hardships … the pain that we all know so well, as we hug them and say to them “I know. It’ll be OK.” And if you’re like me, you pray that they will find a way to not just be able to learn by rote and live by rote, but to use their life experiences … including the painful parts, so that they can learn to couple that with the technical skills that they have gained, and to put out passionately into the world, their unique thumbprint.

We’ve been here together for several days … and yes, we have learned new techniques … but look around, there’s something else that has happened … an intersection where the technique being taught has interfaced with our own unique points of view, and unique thumbprints. At the end of all the classes we’ve taken, the work we have made reflects each one of our unique thumbprints … And the thing is … my thumbprint is different than yours, and is different than yours, and is different than yours. That’s because we each have unique preferences for how we make the stroke, how we stitch the line, how we shade in the eyes. Our preferences cause the final end product to contain the techniques that we practice and learn together, but result in a uniqueness that reflects each of our thumbprints.

And collectively, if we can imagine all of what we have made this week lined up side by side, these objects would testify to the truth that we all know … which is that we are each unique, and together that we are not alone.

Thank you very much.

I was honored to deliver this keynote speech tonight at Donna Downey's Inspired event. What a night. Thank you, Donna. Thank you, Bill. Onward we go. 

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