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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.


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Thank you Jenny! I'm in the middle of my art journey and almost at the middle of my bike tour. I so appreciated your insight on so many levels. I feel weak and humbled by my experiences, but know I must continue on. There are many things to tweak. My soul knows that to grow I must be brave and test the waters and try the hill again! Enjoy your JOurneY!

Super, so true...keep going (I love this message).

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