I'm often asked, “How did you start doing this?!” I’m always initially surprised by how impressed folks seem to be by CHEERIUP. While being all-consuming and tremendously difficult, making these structures and building this business has always “felt” right to me. That said, as I go through telling the story of how I changed the whole trajectory of my life to start this, there are always two parallel trains of thought going through my mind: 1) Whoa. I have accomplished A LOT by myself in this, and 2) I’m clearly bananas for doing this.
In all my previous work–ceramics, fashion retail, graphic design, art direction, branding, new product development, creative direction, academia–there were always big questions for me about the work. Questions about it’s purpose, about it’s quality, it’s culture, it’s ethics. I chalked it up to being a critical thinker and a “deep diver.” (When I get inspired, I dive deeply into every nook and cranny of the topic. This can be kiiiiiiind of annoying to be around.) In hindsight, I realize I was always restless. But every day with CHEERIUP, I access skills and truths I learned from those various roles, disciplines, and industries. I realize it was all leading me here.
In 2009 I had a baby, something I never thought I’d do. Like so many Mothers, I was blind-sighted by the hugeness of it all. Pregnancy, birth, postpartum depression, sleep deprivation–it exploded my self and my entire world into bits high up into the air. And when things fell back down again, they settled in a very different, but very true configuration. I had clarity of self, clarity of purpose. First ring of truth: I knew I had to stay at home to nurture this inspiring little creature vs. go back to work. That was one of the best, but most challenging choices of my life–simultaneously very dark and blissfully bright. I lost friends and colleagues, but eventually gained truer and deeper relationships with new friends and future collaborators. I also gained crucial insight to my future clients–primarily Mothers of young children. As a compulsive maker, the creative frustration I felt during those two + years as a SAHM was deep. Then came my iPhone 4s, which our then 9 month old daughter learned to use all on her own, and coincidentally, I’d started reading Richard Louv’s “Last Child in the Woods,” where he talks about “the staggering divide between children and the outdoors.” Lastly, mix in my own preexisting snobbery for natural materials (way too much plastic in kids’ lives) and finally learning to knit after decades of unsuccessfully trying. I was inspired to try to “knit” my daughter an outdoor play dwelling with found vines and saplings.
I started hunting for material to weave this “wigwam” out of via Craigslist ads and FB messages. People were SO excited to support me. It was kind of overwhelming. This was the first taste I had of CHEERIUP’s momentum. Some Design friends offered to let me come cut some TALL sumac from their yard. My adventurous and ever supportive hubby was thrilled to help tie those 10-12 ft saplings to the top of our hatchback and drive them across town. Over the next six months, I’d steal away a couple hours here and there when the baby was napping or off with Papa, weaving this giant thing in our backyard. It was empowering, therapeutic, and oddly logical. Clover (my daughter) was STOKED about the entire process too. It really felt like we were doing it together. When the original “Thicket” was finally done, I wasn’t. The more time we spent in it, the more inspired I was to make another one. I began putting together a plan, a life-changing (and clearly bananas) plan.