creativity

Speak With Your Craft: Kaitlin Clark

Welcome to Speak With Your Craft, a (semi-)regular feature that profiles the many creative individuals in my life and my attempt to shed light on what inspires them. I also want to expose readers to crafts, talents, and skills that may be slightly offbeat or unusual. Today's profile: the magical Kaitlin Clark! I first met Kaitlin a few years ago as one of the few vegans I then knew in my life. We soon bonded over plant-based eating and in the flower field, cutting dahlias and zinnias, and making bouquets during our time at Riverbank Farm. My interest in herbalism, natural medicine, and the healing properties of food is largely because of Kaitlin's influence. (Fun fact: She also got me hooked on a delicious homemade treat that she calls Brain Balls. After you giggle, you should realize they are tasty snacks filled with brain-nourishing foods, like pumpkin and hemp seeds, nut butters, coconut, a little cacao, and other magical ingredients. #hippietreat). She's an artistic soul who has a number of creative gifts to offer and is able to do so through her business, Integrative Healing Arts.  Read more below to learn about her multi-faceted, healing, intuitive and expressive work and creative process:

When did you first realize that you like to create? 

Since childhood I have been involved in artistic/creative processes. Growing up in the woods had a great influence on what I create and inspirations. I remember trying to make paint from berries and spending the majority of my childhood in trees. I moved to Philadelphia when I was 18 to attend art school (UArts) and resided there for 5 years. This also rounded out my experience, going from the country to living in the city as an artist surrounded by other artists was life changing. Philly is a creative mecca!

Who or what have influenced your style? What inspires you?

My dad has been a big inspiration as a super creative person. He always has some handcrafted creative project going on, and still does! My mom is also a great inspiration as a super motivated woman who runs her own business as well. With both parents as entrepreneurs, I look up to them with gratitude and see the dedication and passion that's put into their life's work. 

I am also inspired by other artists, visionaries, their process, ideas and aspirations. Some of my closest friends are visual artists, creators, musicians and involved in the healing arts. I love seeing and being inspired by what people are creating and offering around me. Children and their amazing capacity of creativity is also an awesome influence.

Day to day, I am moved by nature and life experience. I love observing life around me, how it moves, ebbs and flows. I feel like its a beautiful mirror that continuously teaches and reminds me of the path I am on (that we are all on), and how to move with the flow of life with grace and ease. These observations and experiences are in essence the basis of everything I create and teach. 

The products I create are often inspired by the season and rhythms in nature. The ingredients connect with the elements (sunshine, woodlands, etc.) as do the topics of my workshops, classes and events. I pay homage to photography (my first artistic love) for honing this skill, as this is where I initially embodied the focus and ability to be present and observe with an artistic sense. The very nature of photography means "to paint with light" and to exercise the skill of observation while intuitively choosing fractions in time that make a moment tangible. It became a therapeutic process like a visual diary or visual poetry.  

More recently, I have been fostering my love for working in clay and have been greatly enjoying the time in the pottery studio. Throwing on the wheel is a meditative process for me and I have been infusing the process with Reiki as I create as well. It's like magic!

Describe your process. Do you map things out? Just go for it? How do your execute your ideas?

Lotions and potions, made with the best intentions:  Kaitlin creates her own line of oils, scrubs, tinctures and flower essence body products. All are available on her Etsy site. Take a look  here ! (Photo by K. Clark)

Lotions and potions, made with the best intentions: Kaitlin creates her own line of oils, scrubs, tinctures and flower essence body products. All are available on her Etsy site. Take a look here! (Photo by K. Clark)

It depends on what I am creating. Usually with photography and clay, I am spontaneous or inspired by something I felt or a dream/vision and I go from there. I might sketch ideas or research or sometimes it comes though as an urge to create. Usually the end product does not match the vision, but that is what I love about the creative process. It takes on a life of its own! 

With the wellness products, I create blends inspired by nature and this process embodies a great deal of intuition as well, but I also follow closely to ratios for blending so they are safe. It's a great mix of using both the left and right sides of my brain.

In Dance and Creative Movement music is the initial inspiration and i go from there. Those classes my vision is to share the love of movement and its all about feeling good and moving energy! Working the emotions through the body as a vessel of expression. Especially with the 3-year olds.

Day to day, I am pretty rhythmic in my flow, and I try to begin and end the day in positive thinking and gratitude. I follow the teachings of Abraham Hicks and my process has been greatly enhanced from this. I try to listen to at least one discussion every morning. This sets my sails for the day. I also practice daily meditation through both rhythmic movement and stillness. 

Some of my best ideas have come from running, immersed in a warm bath or driving. Other times I will be looking at the sky or hiking through the woods and ideas will flow in that way too! I think its all about being relaxed in order to allow the creative flow to come through.  I try have a journal with me (or I send myself a lot of messages) because ideas and inspirations come at any time! 

What’s one of your favorite projects?

I really love all the processes, especially creating the essential oil/flower essence body products. It's a form of intuitive alchemy to me. I love going through my essential oils and flower essences and feeling what will work together. Blends are usually inspired by people in my life or an experience that can use support. I put a lot of loving intention that is focused on the mind, body, spirit and emotions into each bottle. The process is healing in itself too, since I become so relaxed and blissed out from the ingredients.

Kaitlin, practicing Reiki. (Photo by K. Clark)

Kaitlin, practicing Reiki. (Photo by K. Clark)

I also love offering Reiki Energy Healing. It's been a process that I feel so blessed to offer. 

You have your hand many creative ventures, including herbalism, nutrition, wellness, dance/movement, photography. Does one area influence another? Is there a common thread or many threads?

That's a great question! About 10 years ago, when I was in school for a masters degree program, Integrative Health and Healing, I learned and experienced that as humans we are so complex and amazing in our capacities to heal ourselves and be well. The mind, body, spirit and emotions are such integral parts of our system and the offerings touch upon each as a whole. In the teachings and in my personal experience, wellness is an on-going process, it requires upkeep, maintenance and our dedication. Each modality taps into the many layers that we are composed of.  Whether it's needing assistance to know where to begin with changes in nutrition and exercise, enjoying the relaxation and calming effects of creating art or nurturing our bodies with wellness, they are like pieces to a puzzle. The offerings that have helped me throughout my journey is what I love to share with others.

What level of artistic fame would you like - based on a very scientific scale of, like, "Hotline Bling" fame at the top to I’d-like-to-pay-the-bills fame? Somewhere in between, both? Does it matter?

Ha! I would love to keep the momentum building and continue to expand. Maybe get a little vacation time in there, too! My daughter is a huge inspiration for this adventure and balancing time between work, self-care and providing lots of time with her, has been a great lesson! 

Into the wild:  Kaitlin uses wild and foraged herbs and plants for use in some of her natural body products, teas and medicines. (Photo by K. Clark)

Into the wild: Kaitlin uses wild and foraged herbs and plants for use in some of her natural body products, teas and medicines. (Photo by K. Clark)

What’s the latest magical things in the works? As in, is there some project or creation on the horizon that you’ve been wanting to tackle?

Latest magical works include Pottery (soon to be up on the IntegrativeArts Etsy page) and more Energy Sprays and Roll-ons, Body oils, etc. I am also completing a certification as a Nutrition and Wellness Consultant. I have also recently been asked by two local non-profits to teach art/wellness classes. Very excited for what's ahead! 

What is the best piece of advice/quote/image you’ve received about creating or, conversely, what would you recommend to other crafters and artists?

"Keep your head up!" -my dad. Focus on your vision, passion and solutions. Bumps and hurdles are fine, they are actually helping pave the pathway as they bring more clarity to the vision. If you're in a funk, move the energy, go general and do something that makes you feel good. Sometimes focusing too hard can create resistance, so it's good to ease up, step aside and allow the flow. I come from a background of athletes and artists, so the blend of these has been a great asset! I am a runner who loves hills - the challenge of going up them! That just about sums me up.

Bonus: What song are you currently hooked on?    
Currently inspired by artist, Bonobo - especially when I am creating. Music is a huge influence on my process, rhythm and flow. 


Thanks, Kaitlin! If you wish to learn more about her work, products and upcoming classes, check out her business and site, www.IntegrativeHealingArt.com. Be sure to "like" her on Facebook page: Integrative Healing Arts! She also has a pretty rad Instagram, so check that out here


Have an idea for Speak With Your Craft? Know some interesting makers, crafters, cooks, bakers, food growers, woodworkers, herbalists, photographers, writers, actors, musicians, painters, fiber artists, and creative forces in your life? I have friends lined up in the near future, but I'm open to suggestions! Leave a comment or contact me: speakwithyourfood [at] gmail [dot] com. Remember, makers or creators need not fit into a neat box to be featured. So, here’s to more creating, crafting, listening, learning, and collaborating!

Speak With Your Craft: Kristen Graves

Welcome to Speak With Your Craft, a (semi-)regular feature that profiles the many creative individuals in my life and my attempt to shed light on what inspires them. I also want to expose readers to crafts, talents, and skills that may be slightly offbeat or unusual. Today's profile: the wonderfully talented Kristen Graves! Kristen is an accomplished musician and singer-songwriter, even gaining the attention of and sharing the stage with the late folk legend Mr. Pete Seeger and the acclaimed Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul & Mary fame). She currently serves as the Connecticut State Troubadour (kinda like a poet laureate, but, you know, with music). She uses her platform as an artist to advocate for social change, and she even has her own (faux) political party, The Just Be Nice Party. I got to know Kristen through her efforts with Simply Smiles, including her work teaching music to children on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota. Around this time is when I also learned about her Green Bay Packers fandom and witnessed her flawless rendition of Flo Rida's "Low" (yes, this). Read more about Kristen, listen to her mad musical skills, and learn more fun facts about her here:


Kristen Graves.001.png

Share a few brief words about what you create, or a quick, whimsical fun fact about you or your artistic skills.

I create a few things. One is obvious - I create music. I write songs and share them at my shows. The second thing that I create is a connected experience. My songs tell of life, love, hardship, and hope. At my shows I share a lot of stories, some personal, some from friends, and these become my tools to help connect a room full of people. One of my favorite folk singers of all time was Pete Seeger, and he used to say that "a world that sings together, is a world at peace." I agree with that 1,000% and try my best to contribute to a peaceful world through shared music.

A fun fact about myself? I have a pet frog named George, and he’s 24 years old.

When did you first realize that you liked to create? 

I’m not sure that I ever consciously realized that I liked creating things. It was just something that I always did. I can remember a few things that specifically led to this particular life of mine:

  1. As a kid, I begged for piano lessons. And as soon as I started, I began making up songs. The first song that I ever wrote was about a leaping frog. My mother still has the sheet music. I was 6 years old.
  2. My parents bought me a karaoke machine for my birthday one year. I was in fourth grade, and I really liked the song, "Baby, Baby" by Amy Grant. I sang it over and over in the basement. I can remember after singing it for a few weeks, coming back upstairs and my mom telling me, "You’re sounding pretty good!" I felt like a star.
  3. When I was in college, I was a music major. This is a field of study that strikes fear into the heart of parents, I’d imagine. Not a lot of job security in the singer/songwriter industry. Anyway, during my second year of college, we were on winter break, and I had a bunch of friends over to my parents’ house. I sang my newest song for them (which was called, Something) and after my friends left, my dad pulled me aside and said, "You’re gonna make it, I just know it, you’re gonna make it!" I remember that moment so clearly. I try to remember it every now and again, on days when I need some encouragement.

All this to point out: I don’t know if I ever realized that I liked creating things, but I remember very specifically when I knew that I could create things. For real. To make my life and to make people happy.

Who or what has influenced your style or musicianship? Music or non-music related, what/who inspires you?

Style-wise, I’m inspired by everything. I know that feels like a cheat of an answer, but I mean it. I listen to a lot of different styles of music - as long as it’s good, I like it. I love some top 40, super popular music, as much as some super obscure folky stuff.

As an independent musician, I meet a lot of other independent musicians, so most often I listen to a lot of my friends. With that said, my favorite singer/songwriters and folk musicians that I try to be like are: Pete Seeger, Peter Yarrow (Peter, Paul & Mary), Dar Williams and Joan Baez. Truthfully, I am as much of a fan of their personalities and activism as I am of their music.

Social justice is obviously a significant element in your lyrics, your life, and your consciousness. And, folk music has proven to unite people through song, which is something that I think we need now more than ever in such a divisive political and social environment. Can you discuss why you went down the folk music path, and how it’s sort of guided or influenced your creativity or other elements of your life?

It has not been an intentional stroll down the folk music path. I loved Mariah Carey as much as the next 90’s high school student, but what really struck me as a teenager was Lilith Fair. I was a HUGE Sarah McLachlan fan, so when Lilith Fair came to town, I had to be there. (Somehow my parents let me go to Lilith Fair with friends that could drive, and we traveled in someone’s beat up van from Green Bay to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I have no idea how that came to be…)

Sarah McLachlan, Jewel, Sheryl Crow, Paula Cole, Dixie Chicks, all of these female singer/songwriters on stage, playing their own instruments and singing songs that they had written - something clicked, and I realized that was the type of music I wanted to make. 

When Kristen is not traveling and performing, she spends her time teaching music camp on the Cheyenne River Reservation with Simply Smiles. In August 2015, the kids got to perform and close out the show at the Black Hills Unity Concert!

When Kristen is not traveling and performing, she spends her time teaching music camp on the Cheyenne River Reservation with Simply Smiles. In August 2015, the kids got to perform and close out the show at the Black Hills Unity Concert!

I wanted to sing my own songs. Just as I started really writing my own songs, I also started volunteering at a children’s home in Oaxaca, Mexico. Both things started taking over my life at the same time. I started writing music all of the time, and I spent the rest of my time working at and raising money for the children’s home. So, I wrote songs about what I saw and what I knew.

Spending time in this environment shifted me towards writing songs about social justice, and the idea of humanity, which pushed me down the folk path.

When Kristen is not traveling and performing, she spends her time teaching music camp on the Cheyenne River Reservation with Simply Smiles.

When Kristen is not traveling and performing, she spends her time teaching music camp on the Cheyenne River Reservation with Simply Smiles.

What impresses me about you, and I’ve witnessed this firsthand many times, is that you can unite a room. Example: By the end of one of your recent house concerts, you had a stoic, conservative-type man (complete with a pink pocket square) belting out This Little Light of Mine. I mean, not like Aretha Franklin-belting out, but he was clearly into it. I don’t know if I have a definitive question for you, but what’s your thought process when you go into a performance or write a new song? Is it to win over or connect with a mass audience, or is getting the message of the song across more important? Or, is it a little bit of both?

First of all, thank you. I try really hard to accomplish what you just mentioned, and I totally remember pink-pocket-square-man! I approach performance and songwriting with two completely different goals. When I write a song, I try to write exactly what I’m thinking/feeling/observing in that moment. My goal is to be as honest as possible, and make sure that I’m being totally open. 

So, I don’t write for people, or to connect with a mass audience. I write what I need to say, and then I trust that if I’m thinking certain thoughts or processing certain feelings, there’s a pretty good change that other people are experiencing or living the same thing. With that said - not all songs are meant to be performed at all concerts.

When I head into a performance, I try to sing the songs that I’ve written (or in the case of folk music, that someone else has written) that can help us all unify around a central theme or idea. Or can help us focus on an issue, pose a specific question, or take us on a musical journey together. When I’m putting together a set list, I try to choreograph an approachable and intentional show. Then, if I change song order in the middle of a set (which happens often), it’s because I’m reading the audience, and seeing how we’re connecting. I like to watch the direction that an evening is going, and respond to that out of my repertoire.

As I’m singing, I’m watching the audience and feeding off of their energy as much as I hope they’re feeding off of mine. There’s a special thing that can happen - an elusive alchemy - when we’re all in sync. I’m constantly seeking that synchronicity. 

Listen to/watch Kristen's special Valentine's Day version of her song "Swing." She recommends to always #sharethelove!

You’ve recently given your take on that elusive concept of “making it” in the music industry - and, more broadly, in life - and it’s a really sensible notion: you, and only you, can define your success. When and how did you come to this conclusion?

This was such a wonderful realization! It’s one of my favorite things that I’ve ever figured out. I opened for Pete Seeger in 2013, which completely changed my life.When Pete Seeger opens the door to the folk world for you - you’re in. He was pretty much THE guy.

I realized, that this show, where I played three songs, was paid nothing, and actually ended up getting a $115 parking ticket (which I have saved in a memory box) was, to date, the best show of my career. On paper, it was one of my worst, and that’s where you define your own success, and decide what paths you’re going to pursue.

I’ve had had other moments like that: in 2002 when I decided to put out my first CD, just because I wanted to. (Also, it had never crossed my mind that I couldn’t.) And, in 2008 when I took my first cross-country tour.

For my entire career, I’ve done what I’ve wanted to do, and I’m living. I take chances when they make sense to me, and I make decisions based on what I think is right. That, to me, means that I've ‘made it’. I’m making my own destiny, and I am ‘making it.’ It’s a pretty great feeling.

What’s the latest project in the works? A hip-hop album, perhaps? (Please say yes. Bonus follow-up: What would be your hip-hop name/album title/both?)

Yes. Name: Krazy KG. Album Title: To Pimp a Butterfly (That’s not taken yet, is it?)

Then, after that…I’m always working on new songs, and am actually in a super creative time right now. I’ve just booked some studio time for the spring, and am looking to have a new album out in the next year or so. In addition to that, I’m looking to create an acoustic piano album, an album with a guitarist friend of mine, and a sing-along album to go with my faux political party, The Just Be Nice Party.

What is the best piece of advice/quote/image you’ve received about creating, or, conversely, what would you recommend to other creative types?

The best piece of advice that I’ve ever gotten was from Dar Williams (one of my favorite singer/songwriters) when we were talking about making decisions and working with people, she told me: "As you gain momentum, you’ll start to attract people. Some of them will be right and some will be wrong. Say no [or yes] in your mind, from your core, and from your inner self, because you need to trust yourself to know."

As far as what I’d recommend to creative types - I’d recommend being kind to yourself. On some days I’m my biggest fan, but more often than not, I’m my worst enemy. And what I’ve learned is that telling myself that "I’m the worst musician in the world" get’s me absolutely nowhere. However, being gentle and kind to myself brings me back to the piano, my guitar, and the road every time.

How can people check out your work or connect with you?

The best spot is on my website: www.kristengraves.com. That is the hub, and where it all happens. In addition, I have a new subscription community, where people can get all of my new music, and I’m also on all of the social media channels, so basically- we can connect everywhere!

Bonus: If you could be any character from a crime-detective show (a la Law & Order: SVU, Bones, etc.), who would you be and why? It can be an existing character, or one that you’d like to see - the world is your oyster.

No contest - Lieutenant Olivia Benson. Law & Order: SVU. (Another fun fact: I met Elliot Stabler at a restaurant once! I know that’s not his real name. And Chris Meloni was very kind.) 


Thanks, Kristen! As she said, check out more of her music, upcoming shows, background, and latest musings on her site: kristengraves.com! There, you can sign up for her e-mail newsletters (which include a free song!) and find links to her social media accounts to follow her on her creative endeavors. 


Have an idea for Speak With Your Craft? Know some interesting makers, crafters, cooks, bakers, food growers, woodworkers, herbalists, photographers, writers, actors, musicians, painters, fiber artists, and creative forces in your life? I have friends lined up in the near future, but I'm open to suggestions! Leave a comment or contact me: speakwithyourfood [at] gmail [dot] com. Remember, makers or creators need not fit into a neat box to be featured. So, here’s to more creating, crafting, listening, learning, and collaborating!

Speak With Your Craft: Nicole Totino-Clark & ColeMama Creations

Welcome to Speak With Your Craft, a (semi-)regular feature that profiles the many creative individuals in my life and my attempt to shed light on what inspires them. I also want to expose readers to crafts, talents, and skills that may be slightly offbeat or unusual. This week, I bring you Nicole Totino-Clark. Nicole is a farmer, mother of two, and one of the first people whom I met when I began farming. She made the word "magical" a regular part of my vocabulary. I can also count on her to enthusiastically discuss what to make for dinner by 7:30 in the morning*. (*This is an immensely important quality to have in a friend and co-worker. Subsequently, I'm largely distrustful of people who cannot speak passionately about food.) Nicole's creativity is unreal - she's one of those people who sees something such as a cozy wool sweater, a backpack, or wooden buttons and then produces a much better version with her unique, thoughtful aesthetic. She's seriously crazy talented and the effortlessness and ease at which she makes things prompts me to both cheer for and scream at her. Is this a normal reaction to have to a friend? Probably not, but find out more about what makes her crafting talent tick:


When did you first realize that you like to create? 

Probably before I was born. At least as early as pre-school. 

What do you mean before you were born? Did you have creative influences at home? 

I spent a lot of time with my grandmother as a child, and she was a painter. We were always going to the museum and painting with her. My paintings were always quite good, even in preschool and kindergarten. My mom still has some that are framed at her house and I am always impressed! I remember being 5 or 6 and finger crocheting headbands for everyone I knew.

What experiences have influenced your style?

I went to a Phish show when I was 16 years old and fell in love with homemade patchwork clothing. I went home and started making clothes the next day. I had never used a sewing machine before. My mom gave me the users manual and I went to town. And, I started knitting when I was 23. That opened a whole new world of fiber arts. I started farming when I was 25 and then decided that was my greatest love in life, until my husband and beautiful children came along. The next year, I learned how to spin wool. And shortly after that I learned to needle felt. Everything that catches my eye inspires me to craft something.

One of Nicole's needle-felted fairies. Simply explained: needle felting is a type of fiber art where you poke wool with an incredibly sharp needle in order to bind together the fiber to create unique sculptures. Sounds totally random, but it's pretty fun and relaxing! (N. Totino-Clark,  ColeMama Creations )

One of Nicole's needle-felted fairies. Simply explained: needle felting is a type of fiber art where you poke wool with an incredibly sharp needle in order to bind together the fiber to create unique sculptures. Sounds totally random, but it's pretty fun and relaxing! (N. Totino-Clark, ColeMama Creations)

Describe your process. Do you map things out? Just go for it? How do you carry out your ideas?

Sometimes I see something out in the world and sometimes not, and, sometimes, a lightbulb goes off and I go for it. Sometimes it works out and sometimes not. Sometimes I practice neurotically until I get it right. And, if there is an instruction manual, I rarely read it. I also don’t like to follow patterns. 

What's your most prime example of just going for it? As an observer, I think it was when you starting making needle-felted fairies - where in the heck did that come from, a hippie convention?

Definitely the fairies. I was always inspired by the simplicity of Waldorf toys and dolls. I had seen some fairies and just LOVED them. The first one I made was embarrassing. The next one I made was magical for me to look at, even though I had made it. Sometimes it feels as though my talent in crafting is not in my own hands. When I make something, like the fairies, that are just so beautiful, I am often shocked that it was me who made it. It’s really a gift that I am very lucky and grateful, and at times, embarrassed to have. 

What’s one of your favorite projects? 

I have two at the moment: needle felting and sewing coiled rope bags. The rope bags evolved from a fiber arts class that I taught with a good friend of mine. In her series during the class, we were doing coiled baskets and trivets by hand. I was wondering if I could do them on my sewing machine because I love the spiraling of fiber to create a vessel but do not have patience for doing it by hand! It worked! I have used many different types of rope and finally found one I love. I like making something that looks really beautiful but is also functional!

How has your creating or crafting changed since having kids? 

I feel like my creativity has exploded since having kids. I don’t know why that is because I have way less time to actually make stuff! I guess if I think about it, children require so much energy from their primary parent. That being me, I feel like I need to hold onto something that's just for me tightly. When I focus on art, I am able to focus in such a productive way because I know my time is limited and sacred.

Colorful, durable coiled rope baskets (N. Totino Clark,  ColeMama Creations )

Colorful, durable coiled rope baskets (N. Totino Clark, ColeMama Creations)

What level of artistic fame would you like - based on a very scientific scale of, like, Beyonce fame at the top to I’d-like-to-pay-the-bills fame? Somewhere in between, both, neither? Does this matter to you? 

Coiled rope pie or dish plates with handles, which make transport and travel much easier! (N. Totino Clark,  ColeMama Creations )

Coiled rope pie or dish plates with handles, which make transport and travel much easier! (N. Totino Clark, ColeMama Creations)

Haha! I think Beyonce fame scares me. At the same time, I wouldn’t mind being able to go to a tropical beach for the weekend in my private jet anytime I desired. The thing about art is, if you don’t have any money, you usually can’t make art unless you are selling art. My goal is to make a living that can support our family and also support my creativity. Supplies are not cheap and neither is my time. I have to hire a babysitter most times to be able to sew for it to be sustainable for me. Otherwise, I am sewing every free moment I have and that's just stressful. 

Woah. That answer got real. I feel like we could talk about the whole creativity-for-fun vs. -for-profit thing for a little while, but let's save that for another time. Here's a lighter or softball question, as they call it in the ol' media worldWhat’s the latest magical thing in the works? As in, is there some project and creation on the horizon that you’ve been wanting to tackle? 

I am hoping to outsource some natural dyeing to a woman in Vermont and am hoping for many more colors for rope!

That's super cool! Since you clearly are a crafty, action-driven person, what is the best piece of advice/quote that you’ve received about creating? Or, conversely, what would you recommend to other crafters and artists?

Coiled rope backpack for kids! (N. Totino Clark,  ColeMama Creations )

Coiled rope backpack for kids! (N. Totino Clark, ColeMama Creations)

Follow your heart. To believe in your own worth and talent. Every person doesn’t have to like every piece you create. Don’t let negative feedback stop you!

Bonus: What food are you craving right now/what are you going to have for your next meal?

Well, its 6:30 a.m., and I am nursing a baby. What I should have is a farm salad (I’m also a farmer and we have access to greenhouse greens) with some poached eggs on top. What I really want is a stack of French toast made with Vietnamese cinnamon and gluten-free bread, cooked in coconut oil, smothered in butter, and topped with a slice of bacon and an egg from one of our hens. Yeah, that sounds great. I hope you wanted it to be that specific.

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Well, that was fun, wasn't it?! Thanks, Nicole! You can find her handmade goods, including coiled rope bags and pie plates, at her site, ColeMamaCreations.com

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Have an idea for Speak With Your Craft? Know some interesting makers, crafters, cooks, bakers, food growers, woodworkers, herbalists, photographers, writers, actors, musicians, painters, fiber artists, and creative forces in your life? I have friends lined up in the near future, but I'm open to suggestions! Leave a comment or contact me: speakwithyourfood [at] gmail [dot] com. Remember, makers or creators need not fit into a neat box to be featured. So, here’s to more creating, crafting, listening, learning, and collaborating!

In 2016, introducing Speak With Your Craft

Ah, a new year, new goals. Not to brag (but it is my site, so I can) but 2015 was awesome: I completed and ended up loving my capstone project…and conquered that mammoth thing called graduate school. I learned how to drive a school bus and drove one across country with my brother, which is sorta weird, but I learned to just go with it. I went to Oaxaca. I spent valuable time with family and friends. I found time to meditate, learn that I’m good in a crisis, and actually read some non-food related books (none of those things are necessarily related, but that’s how my brain works). And, above all else, I have my health intact.

For the record (and because my boss may read this), my day job keeps me very, very busy. I’m fortunate that I get to grow food, experiment with marketing and publicity when I’m not growing food, travel, take photos, and have a fair amount of creativity built into my responsibilities. In short: I’m not looking for more work, and I’m not making a radical career change, so don’t freak out.

Get to the point, Al. You’re burying the lede here. Well, when I started this site in 2008, it was a placeholder for articles or new ideas on environmentalism, food politics, recipes, rants about the injustices in our food system, and a spot to process everything I was learning about food and farming. I’ve peppered in some special features, including music, food and travel finds, and used it as a way to self-publish commentaries and photo stories.

Now, in an attempt to dust off my writing chops and give myself a new challenge, it’s time to add another another element to the site, which I’m super psyched about: a new feature called speak with your craft

What is speak with your craft? It’s my chance to interview the many makers, crafters, cooks, bakers, food growers, woodworkers, herbalists, photographers, writers, actors, musicians, painters, fiber artists, and creative forces in my life. For some, creativity is their career, but for most, it’s a joy-filled hobby. Selfishly, it’s really just a chance for me to write more (**maybe** dabble with podcasting at some point...), chat with my talented friends, pick their brains about the process of their craft, and give them a little publicity in the process. 

At first, I’ll be starting with creative folk whom I already know. My goal is to publish interviews (à la my Aunt Terry***) twice a month - but hopefully more. We’ll see what happens. If you have suggestions about some interesting craftspeople, I’d love to hear! (e-mail: speakwithyourfood [at] gmail [dot] com). Remember, makers or creators need not fit into a neat box to be featured. So, here’s to more creating, crafting, listening, learning, and collaborating in the upcoming year!

(***Fun fact: Terry Gross is NOT my aunt, although we do share a last name and people assume we're related. But, I do <3 you, Terry, and I do wish that we were related!)

And, now, a song to share, because I can: