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What I learned at Camp Thundercraft

In mid-April, I attended Camp Thundercraft, a weekend business and craft conference hosted by Urban Craft Uprising and held on beautiful Vashon Island at Camp Sealth. I've been wanting to write up a reflection on my time at this "grown-up camp", and here are five of my key takeaways from the weekend.

Building Community

When I was on my mid-winter art inspiration retreat, I developed Yardia's core values, including "community is built locally, one person at a time." One of the realizations I had was that in order to progress in my business, I needed to be more intentional about reaching out to my colleagues in the local maker scene. 
In my day job as a teacher, i.e. in a more traditional workplace, it's pretty easy to make friends with coworkers and to bounce ideas off of each other. We're in and out of each other's classrooms, see each other at meetings and chat over lunch. Having a community of coworkers to share ideas, strategize solutions to problems and laugh about things that happened in class is a part of teaching that I really value, and which I know has been a big factor in how I've developed my teaching style. However, as an artist working alone in the studio, I don't have that ease of comradery. I realized that if I wanted to be part of a community of makers, I'd have to take action.
One of the ways I did this was to attend Camp Thundercraft with the specific purpose of meeting other local makers and developing a stronger community. The weekend provided ample opportunities to have conversations with other makers and to dive into our businesses with each other during classes, brainstorming sessions, over meals and more casual gathering times. I connected with many other makers who I'm excited to see again at craft fairs we'll be participating in together over the summer. Building community takes time, and I'm glad to have had the opportunity to start building my own community of fellow makers during camp.

Using Your Voice

I was most excited to attend one of the last classes of the weekend, all about using your voice and taught by Kim Werker. This class was one of the best that I participated in, primarily due to Kim's ease of communication and preparation of her teaching materials. As a teacher, I appreciated the worksheets and guidance she delivered in such an encouraging yet direct way!
The class was mainly about getting over fear of speaking about your business and sharing what you know by getting things done. By the end of the session, each of us had recorded a quick elevator pitch on our phones, and had gained a lot of information about different ideas for communicating about our brands.
I went into the class knowing that I wanted to use my voice in my business more often, but without a clear idea of how I wanted to do this. I'm excited to say that since then I've booked my first interview with one of my favorite podcasts for makers! More on that in future months, and I have a few other ideas percolating on other projects I'd like to begin working on over the summer.

Making Time To Make

One of the biggest surprises for me came from taking a craft class on visible mending. I had attended Camp Thundercraft for business purposes, so the driven Aries in me had a narrow focus on only attending business-focused courses, instead of the fun crafty classes that were offered concurrently. However, there was one session time in which I didn't see any business courses that pertained directly to my current stage of business, so I decided to take this class without really knowing what it was about.
I was so grateful I did! The process of sashiko-style mending was simple to learn and relaxing to do, but the real value was simply sitting around a table with a group of like-minded people, sewing and chatting together. I rarely make art solely for the pleasure of it anymore, which I don't consider a bad thing necessarily, but creating for the sake of creating, outside of my area of expertise, was something that I realized I need more in my life. Whether this takes the form of creating a garden, making crafts or otherwise making something, this kind of making as a hobby is something that's surprisingly novel for those of us who have brains that usually want to turn everything we enjoy doing into some form of a business. 

Enjoy The Process

This takeaway, which is really more of the realization that going to camp's not as bad as I'd imagined, might seem a little odd and specific to me. As someone who has had to chaperone school camp trips with middle schoolers for over a decade in my role as a teacher, I had an idea of camp as something that's exhausting and sleepless, in which one deals with homesick kids, songs that get stuck in your head for days, and overall loud energy.
However. Going to camp with a bunch of adults is a different story. Yes, we did sleep in cabins, had to bring our own bedding and walk outside to the shower house for any sort of hygiene or bathroom needs. The difference though in being able to go for a solo hike without worrying about students, choosing what to participate in throughout the day, and having a glass of wine with dinner made this experience not just easier, but pleasant and enjoyable!

My favorite part of each morning was getting up early and going for a solo hike in the forest, where I stopped in a secluded outdoor classroom for a morning meditation session. I then would walk back down to the community gathering space to enjoy a cup of coffee before breakfast. Plus, I slept great in comparison to when attending camp with students, too!

Sharing Your Experience

One of the great aspects of Camp Thundercraft was having several sessions in which to discuss business questions, fears and issues with our fellow business owners in attendance. Although the questions I had were coming from a different stage of business than many of the people I talked to who were more at a beginning stage of their businesses, so there was less insight available for me, I was still able to give feedback to others from a place of coaching and curiosity instead of from a place of "giving advice".

I hadn't previously considered myself to be in a position to offer help from my experience, but it makes sense that if I've had people I've turned to for inspiration because I see them as about five to ten years ahead of me in their businesses, then I can certainly be that for someone else who is just starting their journey on the creative entrepreneurship path.
This experience rekindled an idea I've had for the past several years about a new side project I'd wanted to start, but which never seemed the right time or space to do so. I'm excited to begin working on this secret side project, and although I'm not quite sure of exactly the final form it will take shape, I hope that it will be able to combine a lot of my passions and interests into something that can really help the people in my community.
Those are my key takeaways from a weekend spent at Camp Thundercraft: building community, using your voice, making time to make, enjoying the unexpected and sharing help and experience. I'm excited to continue to put these reflections into practice in the coming months, and I'm excited to see where along the path they'll lead Yardia.