The original Thicket was positively dreamy. Clover and I hung out in it every day, reading books, nursing, napping, eating lunch, playing, waiting for the birds to land on the willow above us, listening to wind rush through the giant Maple leaves overhead. It also became the place where we’d retreat to during those volatile days in the life of a very assertive and expressive 2-3 year old. Whenever she’d get flooded with those high level emotions, we’d slowly walk out to the Thicket and just let it aaaaaaaaaaall out. It helped both of us calm down. It was such a comfort having this nurturing, safe spot to go do this “work” in. It became a healthy habit–of knowing it was okay to have those strong emotions and of developing the understanding that they would indeed pass.
During the warm Spring and Summer nights, Dan and I would escape to the Thicket after her bedtime as often as we could. We’d bring out candles, cocktails, and the baby monitor. (the latter was a bit of buzz kill at times) Those nights were magical. As new parents, we needed that time together. And Dan is such an incredible dreamer himself, our conversations in the Thicket often turned towards the blossoming CHEERIUP scheme. Every night out there, I wanted to figure out how more folks could experience this nurturing space. Who were they? How would I reach them? How on earth could I make these over and over again?
I began putting together a plan, talking to as many folks as I could about the viability of this as a business, making tiny prototypes, and researching how to scale up the entire process. If I was going to do this, it wasn’t going to be a hobby. And I’m too fixated on utilitarianism to just make pretty things. (Form follows function!) I remember being shocked that no one else had created a accessible “product” like this in the US. (Of course, there are fine artists doing public art peices or super high-end commissions to celebrity clients. And Judith Needham makes romantic woven playhouses in the UK) All natural materials, beautiful, human scale, sustainable, safe, hand-woven, etc. A simple and timely idea, it seemed like a “Duh” to me. The more I talked about it with people and hinted at it in my social media, the more momentum it picked up. Before I’d even gotten my first studio space, I had my first paying client and some local press in the works. I remember getting an email on my phone from someone at Martha Stewart Living while putting the baby down for the night. My website wasn’t even done at that point! And year one continued at that light speed pace, I barely kept up and couldn’t slow it down. I'm still catching up.
But I also remember the moment I realized WHY no one has done this before: it’s kiiiiiiiind of bananas. It requires a level of patience, tenacity, and endurance I'm pretty sure I learned during childbirth. It was after 8-9 months of driving around MN, countless cold calling and emailing to all kinds of Minnesotans who may/may not have access to wild willow–I’d finally made a connection with someone to do a large scale wildcrafted harvest, and it was in a very unexpected place. It took 9 months to a year, just to get a foothold on sourcing the raw materials for this work. (See? Kiiiiiiiind of bananas.)
It’s been beyond difficult to figure out and sustain this operation, almost impossible actually. Creatively, technically, and business-wise, it’s been a LOT to invent and solve all at once. There is no model for this: no “stick weaving” degree to attain; no industry standard for shipping weird, large, HEAVY hand-made items across the country; and certainly no standard process to respectfully wildcraft native plants here in MN at this scale. Most folks would have given up by now, certainly most business-minded folks anyway. But I also know, more than I’ve ever known–this is what I’m supposed to be doing. That's not to say I've answered all the questions, but I'm no longer fundamentally restless. And with every hiccup or failed experiment, a louder opportunity swoops in to egg me on. I try to really notice those too, to notice where the energy I’m putting forth grows and where it stalls.
Every facet of this work (well, maybe not insurance and taxes) taps into the things that make me the happiest: making, learning, working hard, cultivating social relationships, playing, teaching, designing, feeling, experimenting, inventing, and connecting with the natural world. And every time I make a Thicket for someone and witness how it activates them on a basic, sensory level–when they reach to touch it, comment on how it smells, widen their eyes, smile brightly, and just kind of soften overall– I’m reminded that function and beauty are not separate. The magical space a Thicket creates is valuable. Beauty and delight on a physical level, are necessary to our daily human life and a lot of us CRAVE that right now. I’m so lucky to be doing this work. And for the first time in my life (!), I wholeheartedly feel proud of this “art” skill I have.