Sharing myself with you all has been incredibly helpful to feel human in this very inhuman experience of social distancing. It’s also helped me recognize that even more than sharing my story, there’s a much bigger opportunity for Neon Fabrications.

We’re making a structural change to the newsletter. It’s no longer going to exclusively feature my single perspective or content. Instead I’m expanding my gratitude to the overly talented makers I have as friends, colleagues, family and inspirations (aka. obsessions) by bringing you into these newsletters. It’s about to get a lot more colorful!

With that, we’re kicking off with a true wildflower herself and good friend of mine, Sara Lum!

There’s just too much delight out there that deserves celebrating and sharing!! Forgive me, I’ve just finished binging The Big Flower Fight on Netflix and feel a sensual overload. It’s no surprise. Every episode was about challenging makers skilled in small-scale creations to scale-up with the most outrageous and ambitious constructions they had never imagined.

Still you might ask, why are we talking about going big? It even sounds like a risky premise at this time. We’re all stuck at home. In fact, making big is largely on pause worldwide right now. Construction sites, factories, fab labs and so many other places for making on every scale have had to close their doors. Why is it important that NeonFab focus on large-scale making? It’s because large-scale making requires:

  • A leap of faith to believe you can do something that you haven’t or can’t figured out yourself
  • A team of different minds with varying backgrounds coming together around a project they achieve together

Large scale making is what we’re fighting to be able to achieve by collectively flattening the curve. And it’s all birthed from small scale personal creations so many people around the world have shown an affinity to make. That’s no matter if your medium is embroidery, gardening, cooking, painting or squirrel obstacle courses!

In a nutshell, large-scale making builds community and fosters inclusivity.

With that in mind, I can’t wait to share our first artist with you today! Sara and I met as classmates at the Rice School of Architecture in Houston about 8-years ago. She now lives in South Dakota, has also recently left architecture proper and is making some unexpected, paper flowers sculptures.

Do you see the theme yet??…Ha. It wasn’t even originally planned when I was binging on Netflex last week and finally caught up with Sara weeks later than we planned. How WILD!

Sara has very thoughtfully shared her time to talk about her scalar shift in making along with photos of her very personal creations! Thank you for opening yourself to us Sara! See part of her interview below and amazingly, she has offered to join on IG Live Friday 6pm EST to get into the grit about some serious big-life questions on creativity, career paths, self-judgement and color. What a dream.

May Paper Sculptures be the next big Netflix show!!

You mentioned it was difficult to pivot to constructing these ‘cute’ paper sculptures (or to even have fun listening to Destiny’s Child) because of feeling a need to aspire to a certain aesthetic or taste level. Can you expand on what has happened recently to shift your thinking?
I recognized the toll that pre-judging my creativity was having on me. I had become too obsessed with understanding the ideas I was supposed to like instead of appreciating and developing a curiosity for what I was drawn to. In 2020, even before COVID-19, I decided to reconnect with my love of making, without judgement. My creativity has exploded, and with the onset of COVID-19, my perspective has shifted even further. I don’t have time to worry about what others think about what I am making or the fact that it doesn’t qualify as an art. That is not why we make art (or craft, in my case). It is much deeper and important than that.

Why do you think you’re drawn to making, whether architecture or anything else?
The desire to make is part of my natural state. Just as if I am not eating well, moving my body, or caring for myself emotionally, I can be thrown out of balance if I am not making. Balance is important to me. Sometimes, I struggle to express myself verbally, making is my form of creative expression and one of the ways I discover myself and the world around me.

Why paper flowers and plants? Why do you think you’ve been drawn to these delicate creations?
In January, I took a paper plant making workshop led by Corrie Beth Hogg from the Crafters Box. I have been hooked ever since. I am still working out why I love it so much. One of the childhood memories that sticks out in my mind is walking to a flower shop and buying my mom flowers. I would do this once every few weeks in the summer and buy them one stem at a time by scrounging together loose coins around the house. Giving a plant or flower to oneself or others is an act of care and love. 

It also comes from a practical place. I have debilitating allergies, so I have to be careful about keeping flowers and certain plants around the house. Also, paper plants require little water or sun, they last much longer than their live counterparts, and it is possible to make them from high quality recycled and responsibly sourced materials.

If you were able to give your 18 year-old self advice right now, what would you tell them?
I would have told myself to get to know myself better. Growing up in South Dakota was wonderful, but I also had limited exposure to outside ideas, culture, and creativity until after high school. I learned recently that I am an enneagram 3, which is depressingly accurate. I spent too much of my life achieving goals that were not necessarily my own. I didn’t stop to think about what I wanted or the possible lives I could live to be professionally and personally fulfilled. My professional life has been a creative experiment in itself and I am iterating and figuring it out.

A Sequel to Identity:

When you ask, you receive. It’s seriously true. I hard questioned the role my queer identity plays in my life and starting Neon Fab just weeks ago. When I signed up for an event at Queer Art around a conversation with an artist fellow and senior queer artist, I had no idea they would speak directly to me. What they ended up concluding together was that: Community is stronger than identity.

This was my big take away from the Queer|Art Flashback Series with Kate Bornstein and Raja Feather Kelly. I was delighted to be personally invited and it was an incredible hour of intimate discussion between the two. Kate, a senior trans person and mentor to Raja, said something beautiful that really hit home for me. The dialogue went something like this: (forgive me as I was typing as fast I could after the eloquence prompted me to take to the keyboard)

We build entire communities with our identities. But that’s a slippery move. We believe identities are deeply personal. But as soon as you say ‘this is how I identify’ you’re saying ‘and you’re not’… It’s why I like the word queer. It’s a big umbrella word that a lot of people don’t like.

Values over identities, create stronger communities. A simple value of ‘service’ or “I wanna make a safer world for kids at risk’. I would love to belong to that community. It doesn’t matter if they’re queer or part of a church that appears on the surface to be homophobic or transphobic.

Why do you think we are forever striving to find or create community? It’s an endless desire, what is missing or what are we doing wrong?

The last 15 or 20 years I’ve stopped searching. I’m trying to see the commonality of all people. Every single being wants to stop suffering as much, wants a little happiness… we’re looking for community, it’s kind of self serving. I want to be with people like me, but that only lasts for some years. Then you feel like your community is falling apart. No. You’ve grown…The word is equanimity.

Thank you Kate, Raja, Jen Jack Gieseking and those of you who have reached out to me about this exactly. Your words have helped shape me to understand the greater strength it takes to build a community around service instead of identity. By uniting through service we can champion everyone, especially marginalized Queer POC but also including straight white cisgender men.

Roshi Joan Halifax reminded me on a recent and INCREDIBLE episode of 10% Happier that these white men have been given the gift of getting to work even harder than all others at this time. They deserve our compassion.

And we better give it to them too or they’ll only feel more threatened and we’ll all be farther from our goal.

With equanimity,

With that, we’ve evolved the mission of Neon Fab to:

Dream Big! Make Big!
Large-scale making is possible by all. NeonFab provides the tools to support and inspire you to realize together what you only previously imagined.

Dolly Parton “Wildflowers”

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