The first time I made something with my hands happened by chance when I was ten. I stood on the side of the freeway next to our stalled red Toyota watching my mom shrink in the distance as she walked to the call box. The tow truck would pull up in hour just like it always did when our car broke down. This had become a routine with us. Breakdowns and tow truck rides with drivers who looked like the kind of men my mother warned me about—the kind of men who were the subject of her ‘million little pieces’ speeches. The speeches that warned me about the kind of men who lurked everywhere and who would do unmentionable things to me, then proceed to chop me into a million little pieces.
I waited in the dirt edging the breakdown lane. I kicked gravel with the tips of my white Keds— remnants of car crashes and litter scattered at my feet. Slivers of tail and brake lights. Rocks. Depleted fast food drink cups. Rubber chunks of blown out tires. I picked up a chunk of tire, some dull orange and red plastic light covers, a few rocks and small round metal canister with holes around the top (a car part I couldn’t name and still can’t). i shoved my finds in my backpack. my mom was too preoccupied with the situation to notice.
The tow truck came and the big-bellied ball-cap-wearing driver ushered us into the cab. Usually I spent the ride to the auto shop breathing through my mouth to avoid the scents of sweat, full ashtrays and grease that accompanied these trips. This time, I was distracted by imagining what I would make from the objects I found on the side of the road…a pencil holder, perfect for my collection of Hello Kitty pencils with grape and strawberry scented eraser tops. The driver towed us to the gas station where my aunt picked my mother and I up then drove us home.
The second we walked in the door I plugged in my mom’s glue gun and began creating my pencil holder…fashioning the metal canister on top of the tire rubber, and fusing the rocks and bits of shiny orange taillight in place around the edges. I showed the piece to my mom who was impressed, then disgusted when I told her where I sourced my materials. She handed me a box of anti-bacterial wipes.
“You have no idea what sort of germs are on this stuff. The side of the road…really.”
My roadside sculpture period only lasted a few months, but I never stopped making. Since then my genre has changed…drawing, writing, sewing, knitting, painting, design and eventually the art of business. These days I rarely find time sit down and make something for the pure joy of the process. I spend my days creating in a different way. I create experiences and opportunities for others. My love of making (and lots of hard work) allowed me to make a living doing something creative when I had my clothing line random nicole. Now, I help other creatives find a way to pay the rent through doing what they love.
It started when i had a bitter break-up and a broken heart. i moved back to the oc and my aunt and business partner Delilah and I put on our first patchwork show, giving creatives an affordable venue to sell their goods. nearly three years ago we produced our first craftcation conference. Not only had we never produced a conference before, but I had never even been to a conference. we tried to create something that we would want to go to. something that balanced the three things we love most: learning, making and meeting.
The first craftcation blew my mind. I remember standing in the elevator with attendee, sarah james (instructables + betabrand), a stranger at the time. sarah turned to me and introduced herself (candid intros are pretty constant at craftcation) then she showed me a text she was in the midst of writing to a friend.
“the women here are amazing. I had no idea. I feel so strong and significant.” In that moment and now as I write this, I had/have goose bumps. I felt the exact same way. sarah’s sentiment made all the hard work leading up to and during craftcation completely worth it. over the past two craftcations I’ve watched businesses start, grow and evolve. I’ve had attendees tell me that after craftcation they finally have the confidence and know-how to start the business they’d been dreaming about for years. One presenter with a thriving company reevaluated her business and personal life after a craftcation panel and decided to rearrange her work so she could spend more time with her family. The goal isn’t to work harder, it’s to determine and achieve your idea of success, whatever it may be. At craftcation I’ve become instant friends with strangers, learned tools to make patchwork and craftcation better, laughed like I hadn’t laughed since elementary school and cried from being overwhelmed by pure emotion. I’m not the only one.
Whether you’re a creative who simply enjoys making or wants to make a living making, you should attend craftcation. There’s something indescribable and wholly inspirational about being in a room surrounded by such talented and creative human beings. It doesn’t just make you feel like you can accomplish the things you desire but also gives you the resources and support to make it happen. The relationships with fellow makers I’ve met at and because of craftcation have fueled my own reevaluation of my work and business life. The skills I learned and relationships I started at craftcation are priceless.
Yesterday a woman emailed me and asked if we had age requirements for craftcation because she wanted to bring her twelve-year daughter.
“Of course, bring her!” I wrote back. I thought about the kind of girl that her daughter must be…an artist, a maker, a human being who even at a young age feels the need to make. Then I thought about that day my mom’s Toyota broke down for the millionth time. I wondered where I would be now if that engine hadn’t stalled and I hadn’t made my first piece of art. I thought about the first time I made something with my own hands and how my career helping others make a living at making stems from that moment.
back then, I had no idea that I would end up with a burning need to pay my bills doing what I love. Now, even though I’m no longer scouring for roadside castoffs to turn into art, i am grateful to be a part of a community of creatives who make me feel a little less alone in the world.
excited about craftcation yet?
lucky you, we are giving away a free ticket to craftcation, along with some other rad prizes. it’s all in preparation for our upcoming event patchwork edible. if you’re in southern california, we hope to see you at patchwork edible. p.s.- patchwork edible is free to attend!
friday, september 27th @ 5pm on our instagram + facebook pages
winner must email hello@patchworkshow by friday, october 11th to claim prize.