Episode 9: Running a Creative Small Business with Jennifer Wiese

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Today I’m chatting with Jennifer Wiese, founder of Workroom Social, about running a creative small business, authenticity, and the value of hobbies.

Guest: Jennifer Wiese

Jennifer Wiese is the founder of Workroom Social, a sewing studio based in Brooklyn, New York. She believes that every woman can lead a joyful, creative, and confident life, and she knows that sewing your own clothes (and wearing these you-made clothes) is a surefire way to find joy, creativity, and confidence every day.

She’s on a mission to empower women just like you to sew the clothes they want to wear.


Here’s what we discussed on this episode:



You’re listening to How to Be Creative, a podcast about what it means to be creative across different disciplines, industries, life circumstances, and career structures. You’ll learn tips for fitting creativity into your daily life and hear from a bunch of different people about how being creative has helped them reach goals, open doors, and live a more rewarding–or at least more interesting–life. I’m your host, Kat O’Leary, and I’m excited to introduce you to some of my favorite creatives, as well as to the tools that help me get my most crucial work done.


Kat: So today I’m here with Jennifer Wiese. Hi Jen!

Jennifer: Hi!

Kat: Jen is the founder of Workroom Social, which is a sewing studio based in Brooklyn, New York, where I also live. And Jen’s philosophy is that she believes that every woman can lead a joyful, creative and confident life, and she knows that sewing your own clothes and wearing these you-made clothes is a surefire way to find joy, creativity, and confidence every day. Jennifer is on a mission to empower women just like you to sew clothes, the clothes they want to wear. I love that so much. I think that’s really incredible.

Jennifer: Listen, I’m wearing jeans that I made today and I love them.

Kat: Those are the Claryville jeans.

Jennifer: Yes they are.

Kat: They’re really, I feel like they’re like so flattering and I love the wash of them especially.

Jennifer: Thanks.

Kat: Um, so if you’re listening to this and you want to know what they look like, you can actually go find Jen’s Instagram, which is just @workroomsocial.

Jennifer: Yep, @workroomsocial. Oh. Or you can search #clarvillejeans and see all of the different genes that other people have made.

Kat: Very cool. And [inaudible] am I remembering correctly, you did some something over the summer where you did like a workshop where everyone made their own.

Jennifer: Yeah, so I teach classes here in Brooklyn and we teach people, like you said, how to sew their own clothes. We cater specifically to women, but of course men are welcome too, and we have had men in our jeans making intensives. So that’s what you’re talking about. We teach jeans-making intensives for people who want to, sew their own jeans come to us and you make them together with us. And the jeans pattern that they use in that class is the Claryville, too.

Kat: Very powerful. And that’s like your original design. That’s so awesome. I love that. So I wanted to get started, just talk a little bit about, um, kind of your background, how you ended up starting this business. Um, and I guess maybe the logical part to start with is how did you start sewing in the first place?

Jennifer: I was in an independent study class in high school and I had a friend whose mother sewed, and I don’t totally remember all of the details cause that’s high school, a long time ago. But the best thing that I can guess is that she had made me a couple of things in this independent study class. I needed a project. So was like, huh, maybe I should learn how to sew, just because I had that influence. My teacher at the time was really amazing. She’s one of those special teachers that you’ll remember forever and ever. And she, I don’t know, found me a sewing machine somehow. And um, I taught myself how to sew through that class.

Kat: That’s so interesting. And it’s funny because we’ve been friends for several years now and I don’t think I ever asked you that or knew about that before. Um, sometimes when I’m talking to someone for the podcast who I already know, I’m asking questions where I’m like, I knew the answer to this, but I want everyone else to make it to you. And this time like I was like, Oh no, I learned something. Um, cause I guess in my head I was like, Oh well you must have grown up like your mom must have sewn or your grandmother or something. It must’ve been this thing that’s passed down. So I kind of love that. It’s, that’s actually kind of a surprise. Um, and so from there, like how did you end up, cause I know early on in your career you were in PR, right? And so like you, it’s interesting because I think one of the things that I like so much about you and like your work and one of the reasons why I wanted to bring you on the podcast is I think you have this unique blend of the ability.

Kat: You have this amazing skill which is sewing, right? And the ability to teach. And then you’re also just such a strong strategic communicator. And I feel like that has to be like a combination of like your PR background. Um, and just it needs skill and then also like doing sewing as well, kind of sounds like from high school on. So I’m interested in hearing more about what the evolution looked like from like kind of like a standard like communications career to like morphing into being an entrepreneur and running your own business and this particular type of business.

Jennifer: Yeah, I mean that sounds so like linear and planned. Yeah, it definitely was not like that. I, you know, sewing was sort of, I’ve always been a maker ever since I was little. And I think that one of the things I’ve read somewhere is like the thing that you are the most successful at or can be the most successful at when you’re a grown up is like the thing that you really just naturally gravitated towards. And not that I am, I mean I run a business so I’m not sewing all the time. Like I’m making lots of other things, um, whether it’s, you know, updates to my website or I like whatever, producing some new class curriculum or whatever, but I was always making some and um, so I dunno, just throughout, I guess from being a child to an adult, it was always, I was always trying to figure out how to make something new.

Jennifer: So in college I was really interested in, uh, well I studied economics, so it was all about sort of like psychology and more about like how to make people do things. Um, and then I always loved [inaudible].

Kat: Like behavioral economics?

Jennifer: Yeah. Economics was what I really, yeah, which I always thought of. It’s more of like a psychology than a study of money, but it’s all about decision making. So, um, and then I always loved entertainment and so I was always interested in making videos and like storytelling. And so that was sort of a hobby. In college. I would produce these little like videos that I don’t even know how to explain it, like little music videos with friends and all kinds of stuff like that. And then that led me to film. So I worked in, um, just like interning on film sets and stuff like that.

Jennifer: But it was, I don’t know, that was not a career that I could see myself doing mostly because I think I didn’t have any role models or like no real life examples of that working for people. And so that was when I made the leap into an office job, which I knew people who had office jobs. So like, so then I went into film marketing and then I was making marketing campaigns for days that, you know, I was working on. Um, that eventually led to me deciding that, uh, I dunno, it just wasn’t the right personality fit. It’s cause at the end of the day, movies in that regard are all about money and making money, which we all need to make money, but it just didn’t feel it wasn’t the right fit for me. So I left and, um, I don’t know. I didn’t know what I was gonna do for a long time.

Jennifer: So then I made all kinds of other random things. I made logos, I did freelance, graphic design, I did, um, photographies. So I made images and I don’t know, at some point I, um, decided to make this little business. And at first I thought it was going to be a fabric store. Um, but that was too much of a financial investment. You do produce now I produce fabrics. Yeah. But back then, you know, I thought I would, I don’t know, build up an inventory. It’d be like a regular fabric store, but that’s so expensive, and I funded the company all by myself. So like that just wasn’t feasible. So in the beginning I was actually making the actual fabrics, like screen printing them by hand and that just was not a, that’s not viable. You know, you can’t feasibly support yourself on yeah, no that did not work.

Jennifer: So I started teaching because I love teaching and I’ve always, you know, going back to that thing like what did you do as a kid? Also as a kid I was always like volunteering to teach people. They like run little trainings. This completely trial.

Kat: It makes so much sense.

Jennifer: So I dunno. And then I was like, huh, well I was teaching for other studios, both screen printing and sewing and I was just like, I don’t, I don’t control anything. And I love controlling things. So that was when I decided to start my own teachings. And so that’s what we do now.

Kat: So did you, when you started your studio, did you rent a space or did you have it?

Jennifer: When I started my studio, I actually started it in my house. So you would show up to my house and probably be a little bit confused. Um, but I had a section on my house that was dedicated to the, you know, quote studio area and it was enough space for six students and we did all of our classes there. It was great. That’s awesome. Yeah.

Kat: And then you’ve, I’ve, cause I’ve been to a couple of different, I guess locations [inaudible] around and then you also do a lot of offsite stuff. Like you do a camp right every summer. So maybe we should talk about that. Cause actually I always, I am always so envious of any kind of camp experience.

Kat: And I don’t know at some point like it’s funny, I kind of have like this very like longterm life to-do list thing. And at some point I’m like going to take classes with you and I’m going to learn how to sew because, and I’ve like talked about this like I feel like on a couple of different episodes or maybe I’ve just been having this conversation with people in my life lately, but there’s this, um, this comic that I discovered that talks about this idea of like, Oh, it takes seven years to master something. So if you’re like, whatever age you still have, you know, potentially like 11 other lives that you can live. As I started thinking about the rest of my life in terms of like what are all the careers that I kind of have like knocked off my list because like I’m doing this right now. Um, and what’s, what’s sort of the timeline for like doing some of those things later. And one of them that I keep coming back to is like, I really want to be like an avant garde fashion designer and in order to do that I want to like learn like actually like how to sew garments. Cause like I can sit there and like draw something but I don’t have any sense of like what goes into like ensuring that it has the structural integrity.

Jennifer: Yes. I like where your thinking is going, but so the audience at home can’t see this when you’re wearing a pretty killer jumpsuit, I guess a jumpsuit that’s like, I don’t know, grass, green, beautiful jumpsuit. And you could totally make this.

Kat: You think so?

Jennifer: Yeah, absolutely.

Kat: This is like all I would wear if I could make this, I would just make it in like 20 different colors.

Jennifer: You can, you can, yeah. So that’s, sorry, that’s my kind of little sidebar there. But um, but yeah, like so camp, okay, let’s talk about camp. Yeah. So I produce an adult sleepaway camp. It is not during the summer because we do it at a real summer camp. So they need the space during the summer. It’s fall. Yeah. It’s every October and it’s here in New York state in the Catskills.

Jennifer: And it’s about a hundred women who get together once a year and learn how to sew something over a long weekend and also do summer, campy type activities. That’s sleep in the most uncomfortable [inaudible] in the world, but it doesn’t matter.

Kat: So who tends to sign up for that is that people who are very experienced sewers?.

Jennifer: We have a range. Yeah. It really ranges. Sewer is I think the grammatically correct, but sewist is the, I feel like the modern version of the word that people are using. I think people don’t like the way, sewer is spelled was this sewer, they were so, you know, to each their own, call it whatever you want the person who sews. So it’s a range of beginning level people to experienced people. We don’t do any, just like you’ve never touched a sewing machine. But we do have classes that range in our classes are designed for you to really dive deep into a subject, versus conventions where you might have like 10 classes and they’re all like an hour long, whatever. Our class is designed where you have one and you do it for 16 hours over the course of two days.

Kat: Yeah. I love it. Oh, that sounds so fun.

Jennifer: And you can make the jeans.

Kat: Yeah. Very, very cool. Um, so getting back to what I was saying earlier about how like I’ve just been really impressed with your strategic communication ability and obviously like as a small business owner, that’s huge. Um, so I wanted to talk a little bit about kind of how you’ve built out like using like I feel like you’ve, you’ve done a really great job of like building out a social media strategy to support your brand. And so I wanted to talk a little bit about kind of like what that’s looked like. Um, and, um, and like what, what does marketing look like in general for you? Not to like make this like super businessy like you, like I’m asking this question really badly, but like I want your perspective.

Jennifer: I guess like the big secret is that it is, I just tried to be as honest as possible and as real as possible, which is why you’ll notice that I go through spurts where like I don’t post anything because I actually don’t really have a plan, which is something that my fellow colleagues have challenged me on to actually sit down and like make a real plan. But you know, I, it’s me and sometimes I get tired. So, you know, I then I just, I don’t do that work, but I think in just trying to be as honest as possible, I think that resonates with people a lot. And so, you know, for me sewing is about more than just the act of sewing itself. I think like hobbies are really important.

Jennifer: I think being a little bit more in it and yeah, I’ll keep talking, but I love that. Yeah. I think for a lot of people it’s about having interests that you know, give you more fulfillment in life that build a community of friends. I always say like the hardest thing, one of the hardest things to do as a grownup is to make new friends, to make friends with strangers. And sewing allows us to do that. So you know, as far as like strategic communications goes, it’s just I’m a human and I feel all the same things that I think a lot of people feel. So where I’m comfortable I try to share that I struggle a little bit because I do think if I shared more than I would grow even bigger, faster. But again, back to that like I’m a human just like everyone else thing I’m, I do, I’m not totally comfortable with, you know, just being like fully, fully vulnerable and out there on the internet. And if you listen to some of my other interviews with other people, like I talk a lot about how like I actually don’t really like social media. It makes me very uncomfortable. I’ve been trying to,

Kat: I feel like you’re so good at it and you, and I think this is probably like, this happens a lot where like what, what people who are observing your social presence see is very different from how it feels to you on the other side of that.

Jennifer: Yeah. I’m like a good in-person person. I just don’t feel which is different. Right. I feel like nowadays people love the internet because it gives you the flexibility to like present whatever it is you want to portray. I don’t know. I don’t like that. I’d rather just like meet you and you can actually see that this is just how I [inaudible].

Kat: Right. Yeah, that’s very true. Um, yeah. So, uh, just touching a little bit on your comment about having hobbies, this is something that you and I have discussed, um, in the past, this idea. So I think there’s this pervasive idea and I think with probably in part because of social media and how we’re all so digitally connected all the time, there’s this sense that like anything you’re spending your time on has to be tied to some like greater purpose and in a lot of cases some kind of like moneymaking purpose. And I really do see a lot of value in hobbies and I, I get the sense that they’re devalued in a way now that they, I feel like they were more valued like I don’t know, several decades.

Jennifer: Yeah. Maybe by society, like you’re saying just in general, but I kind of feel like who cares? Like I mean I think that’s the point or that’s part of the thing that you have to figure out what makes you happy and do that thing and like who cares what other people think about it. The times had a, the New York times had a good article a couple of years ago. I feel like it was called some of the case for being mediocre. You sent it to me actually try to dig that up and put it in the shower. It’s talking about just like how people used to have hobbies. And there, there is a lot of satisfaction that can be found in just spending your time doing something just to do it just for fun and you know.

Kat: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s, it’s something that I, um, you know, really tried to do for myself. Um, not just do things where like, Oh, I know if I do this I’m going to be the best at it or I’m going to be really good at it. But I try to do a lot of things where I’m like, I’m mediocre at best at this. But there’s still value in my sitting down. And I think it’s especially true for things where there’s like a finished product associated with it. Um, so for example, you had run, so you and I met through volunteer work and a few years ago you ran, um, a day long training for us, for our volunteer group. And, um, we made part of one of our activities was that cause we held it at your studio. We made these little, um, like envelope clutches and I feel like that was just such a satisfying thing.I still have mine. Like I saw it in my room the other day. It was so funny. I was like, Oh good, I get to see Jennifer this week.

Kat: And it’s great and it’s great. And like it was such a fun project and it’s like we did all of those, like we sent sat down and spent like, I don’t know, maybe a couple of hours on it, but it wasn’t like, all right, and now we’re going to go into the clutch and the envelope, clutch producing business and we’re just going to sell these and we’re going to like, you know, build a brand based on them. And it’s like, no, we sat down, we did the work. We enjoyed the process of creating something for the purpose of creating it. Um, and I tried to do more and more of that when I can, especially with like, I don’t think of myself as a person with like a lot of, um, kind of visual, artistic ability, but I’ve tried to dabble more in like just doing things. Like I know I’m going to be bad at that and that’s, that’s fine. And I still enjoy the process of like sitting down and sketching or you know, doing a watercolor coloring.

Jennifer: Totally, but also like, I think the wonderful thing is like, listen, you’re not going to be the next Picasso, but the more you do it, the better you’re going to get at it. And I move that is totally satisfied. Read completely. Even if you’re not going to be the super bestest, bestest ever in the whole world, you’re going to be better than you were a month ago. And I think that that is cool.

Kat: Yeah. And I think also kind of violates this idea that people have of talent being innate. Um, I like for me, something that I really value is growth and progress and improvement. And, um, I don’t know, at least I feel like I was raised with this idea of like, either you’re good at something or you’re not, or like you like this or you’re not, like, you don’t like this. And I’ve tried to be a lot less, uh, or, um, kind of embraced less of a fixed mindset as I’ve grown as an adult. Um, and so a lot of that for me is like this idea of like, maybe I’m bad at this today, but if I keep doing it, then I will see incremental growth on it and all and improvement. Um, and I think sewing is probably a really great example of that. Like, it’s literally, it’s like no one is going to sit down at a sewing machine. It’s not something you can have an innate skill in. Right. I don’t think so. Like you might have, like,

Jennifer: Definitely certain people are better at just using their hands than others, you know? But yeah, no, it is something you have to learn how to do.

Speaker 2: Yeah. Um, and so I feel like I’m jumping around a lot. Um, but one of the things that I want to talk about, so we were talking a little bit about social media. I wanted to talk about your #sewinginreallife campaign, which as a non-sewist um, you know, I’ve watched it, just from the perspective of someone who is interested in your business, who’s a friend of yours, um, and I’ve really like, uh, and, and I’d like to hear like how you describe it, but my impression of it is like, it’s about showing kind of the reality of what your relationship with sewing looks like. So I think on Instagram especially, there’s a tendency to like show only, and I’m fully capable, fully guilty of this. And like, it’s actually kind of like, I like to have a more polished feed I guess. But I think also like that’s not the reality of the situation. And it’s, um, it’s kind of like people create these polished feeds that are supposed to be very aspirational, but how can something be aspirational that isn’t based in reality? Do you understand what I’m saying? Sorry, I’m asking this in a very roundabout way, but I just wanted to talk to you a little bit about why you started that hashtag and like what that’s looked like and um, you know, and what you’ve seen people doing with it.

Jennifer: Yeah, I started it sort of on a whim. Again, back to that whole, like, I don’t really have a plan, I’m just trying to be honest thing. I just felt like I hadn’t posted on Instagram in a long time and I was wearing a dress that I had made and I didn’t feel like I was downtown Manhattan. I’m not gonna like pop out a tripod and like, I don’t know, selfie myself on the street. I feel uncomfortable even just holding my phone for let alone a dress. And you know, I was at the dentist and I was just, I just needed to give myself permission to post a non-model photo because I to share this dress. And so, you know, I just said like, why? I mean, of course there are no rules, right? Like, of course I can share anything I want, but I do think that there is that extreme pressure, especially on posting from a business account.

Jennifer: You know, it’s not just like, it’s not just me. There is this pressure to look so good and have everything be so polished and whatever. Where does that pressure come from? Again, it comes from myself. Like it’s not, there are no rules, but because I had these feelings, I just felt the need to like give myself permission to do this, like just set to make the rule that I can do this. And um, yeah, I think a lot of people resonated with it too now. And not to say that like, yes, I get it. Some people, their real life is posing for modeling pictures every day. Instagram influencers are a real thing. I get this at work, I mean, whatever. And people make a living doing that. So I get that. I guess I just wanted to also show, you know, what my real life looks like and that’s not my real life. That particular day was, I was at the dentist office, so, you know. Yeah.

Kat: I wonder if some of this somehow is tied to what you were saying earlier about feeling like you’re very good in person and I think the closer you can get on social to like the, I know authenticity is like such a buzzword now, but like the closer you can get to like that authenticity of like what you’re actually like in person, I would suspect that would feel a little bit more comfortable or at least a little bit, right?

Jennifer: Yeah. I mean, yeah, that’s where I personally feel the best. So there are times when I’ll do like Instagram stories about things that I’m working on or whatever, and those feel the best to me because it’s just what I’m doing. I’m not, I haven’t rehearsed a message, I’m not trying to whatever, it’s just this is come hang out with me, you know? And I think people like that.

Kat: Yeah, definitely.

Jennifer: I mean, I like it.

Kat: I think if you start from a place of like, as you were saying, like you’re a human being, you have a sense of like what it’s like to be a human being and what other human beings are looking for. Um, but I think always if you start from a place with empathy, it’s a lot easier to kind of understand like what everyone else is looking for and what the intersection of that is with what you have on offer. So, um, so you’re talking about like being at the dentist, right? And that’s obviously kind of an atypical day and what it looks like in your life, right? Like we don’t go to the dentist every day. Um, so I’m wondering like, is there a typical day in the life of running your sewing studio or like what could a typical day look like or what are the different things that kind of go into running your business?

Jennifer: I think probably no typical day, although I would probably get a lot more done if I did create more structure for myself. But you know, I think in any small business, I’m doing everything from literally cleaning the toilets in the studio space to right now I’m building a new website because our old website is old and buggy and crashing. So I’m doing that. I’m also doing all the logistic stuff for this camp that we talked about earlier. So that’s coming up in about a month and there’s a lot of prep to do. Meanwhile, I’ve got three classes, three big classes that are running in the studio this month. So before I came here, I was just setting up prepping for the class that’s running this weekend. And through all of it, I’m trying to make time to build my YouTube channel because if you remember earlier I said I used to make fun little videos and I’m trying to force myself into being more creative and get back to some of those things that I really enjoyed when I was younger.

Jennifer: So yeah, I haven’t figured out how to build that time and yet I love that it’s in the back of my mind all the time.

Kat: Yeah. Now, another question that arose, um, while I was just listening to you talk, um, is kind of about, so when you’re, when you’re an entrepreneur and you’re kind of, um, I feel like in a lot of ways that necessitates like sort of like building out a career track that it’s not like you can look at someone else and do exactly what they did. Right. Cause like your business is going to differ from any other business that you look at and you as a person and a business owner are going to differ. So I’m wondering how do you kind of uplevel your skills? Like what, how do you get better?

Jennifer: Like it’s really hard. My complaint about being self employed is I don’t have a boss to learn from. I lean a lot on my colleagues so I have really good relationships with several of my, quite frankly, competitors.

Kat: That’s what I was gonna ask, too, like what does community look like in this industry?

Jennifer: But we are super supportive of each other. Even this morning I was struggling with some stuff and you know, texting some friends I need help and everyone rallies and you know, so that’s good. We can learn from each other in that way. But I will say this question that you’ve asked about like how to grow professionally is a really hard thing I think for self-employed people. So especially when you’re so small like me, I don’t know. I did, I imagine like, I’m trying to think about like CEOs or like really top people at big companies. I feel like they have more resources cause more people believe in them because they are more successful.

Kat: So other stuff gets pushed up to them. Like it’s not just like boss in like a traditional hierarchical office situation where like your boss would be like, Oh I think you should go to this training, we’re going to pay for you to fly to this conference or whatever it is. But I think also like if you’re, if let’s say CEO of like a Fortune 500 company, it’s also like you’ve got a team underneath you whose, like, part of their job is probably to know, like to anticipate like what does this person need to know next? Like where is the world headed? And then like help them help ensure that they have all of the materials they need or whatever it is to get there. Um, yeah, so that’s really interesting and I think like also with, with your business where it’s like, I feel like there are so many different types of skillsets that go into it. And so that to me would also like seem like a challenge. Like how do you decide, how do you figure out like allocating your time?

Jennifer: Yeah. Again, another really challenging thing that I have faced because when it’s only you at my size, I have limited resources so I can spend my time doing a or B. And a lot of times I have to balance like making money now versus the potential to make money in the future. And that I think can be a hard thing for a small business because sometimes it feels like if I don’t make the money now, I’m not going to make to make the money in the future. And so you have to sort of, I don’t know, just make your best, most educated guesses to decide how to spend your time.

Kat: Yeah. It’s like that urgent versus important matrix. So getting back to our earlier discussion on hobbies, so obviously you are a business owner, time is at a premium. Um, how do you make time for things that, you know, like hobbies that don’t necessarily correlate or correspond to what you do in your business?

Jennifer: Yes, I have been working on that for the last year because it is really important I think to me. So I don’t, I don’t have a good answer, but I will tell you about some of the hobbies that I’ve kind of been exploring. And um, so one is knitting. I learned how to knit a couple of years ago and that’s a pretty easy and portable thing to have. So I build time for knitting into transit. Like when I’m commuting or travel or sometimes I’m not very good. So I have to look at my, uh, my dream is like one day I’ll be able to like, I don’t know, watch watching to knit or something. I’ve also been trying to read a little bit more because I don’t go into an office anymore. I don’t have a lot of reading time. So it’s like, again, I don’t commute. Um, and so when I do commute, it’s sort of in short spurts versus like a longer sit down. So knitting has been better on my commuting time than reading. So I’ve been trying to read a little bit every night before bed.

Kat: What are you reading?

Jennifer: Oh, actually I’m reading a really book right now called, So You Want to Start a Podcast?

Kat: Oh my God, you are, that’s amazing.

Jennifer: But because of I want to build up my YouTube channel and the book is really about like storytelling. Oh, that’s so cool. Okay. I’m going to add that in the show notes and also I should probably read it. Yeah, it’s great. Well, and it is podcast specific. So, right. It is good. But I have again been wanting to build out my YouTube channel, so that is, it is tied to my business but still had the ish and I haven’t figured out a good way to do that yet. So maybe I can come back next year and tell you more. Yeah, no, that would be amazing. Um, yeah. And then like my other question is even with hobbies that aren’t tied to your business, right, do you feel like they kind of pay dividends in sort of roundabout ways like does doing, does like having like diversity of how you spend your time like positively impact your, your ability to, to do the things that you get paid to do? I’m sure they do. I don’t know if I can articulate exactly how, one thing that I do really like to do that I stink at is building things. So I was going to say woodworking, but it’s not woodworking because it’s so, it’s so, um, I don’t know, remedial, like woodworkers…

Kat: Like a woodworker is going to like come out of the woodwork and I’m sorry to make that joke

Jennifer: But listen, I can use a circular saw and like I can cut some wood. So you know, my old studio location, I had built all the furniture.

Kat: No, that’s awesome. Okay. You might get one for her then it’s

Jennifer: just shelving and desks and things. But you know, so I like doing, we built our, my husband and I built our dining table in our house. So I like doing things like that. And that I think is directly applicable to sewing because sewing, you know, they’re both building things physical flat into something three D. I love that. Yeah. So it’s just another way to exercise that like spatial, I don’t know, visibility in your mind or whatever, like thinking through, uh, an order of operations. Okay. You put this together first and that means you put this together second and if you get the order out of whack, then what does that mean to your final product? And you know, that kind of like a, what point can you, like, is there a point of no return where like you’ve gone too far in like one quote unquote wrong direction where you can’t kind of like, you know, as long as you’re not trying to, if you are, if we’re advocating for the case being mediocre, everything is salvageable in some way.

Kat: That’s very true. Yeah. I mean I recently took this class on um, tapestry weaving. Oh, cool. And, um, and I like, I think I had this cute idea that I was going to be really good at it right off the bat and cause there are other things that I’ve done, like I’ve been doing a lot of these alcohol ink art things recently. Um, where I like did kind of feel like I had like a baseline, like level of decency at it starting off and the tapestry weaving, I was like, yeah, this, it’s almost like, um, what’s that thing called where like, like a Pinterest fail. There’s that show that they look based off of Pinterest fails or it’s like the Cookie Monster cupcakes that like are these pristine, like they looked like they were made by a professional baker. And then there’s like the, like a melted where like it barely looks like cookie monster. And I feel like that’s like kind of where I’m at on my tapestry weaving. Um, and yet at the same time like I feel like doing that is making me is like paying dividends, um, on other creative projects that I’m doing and like things like that I tend to feel, and I don’t know if I can properly articulate this, but like the more kind of the more different, um, like buckets that I have a hand in on like creative projects and stuff.

Kat: It like has this way of making my mind feel more expansive overall. Um, so that when I sit down to do something that is like squarely within my wheelhouse, like I’m, I’ve been writing a lot of fiction this year or um, you know, like , I feel pretty comfortable like talking to people on podcast, things like that. Like, I feel like I come at it from almost like a different, um, like with a different energy that all the other stuff feeds into. So I think that’s really interesting. Yeah. And so, um, yeah, as we start to wrap up, like I, I’m wondering like, so I think there’s this idea of like people are creative or people are not creative and I think creativity can be kind of an intimidating word sometimes for people who don’t view themselves that way. Um, and so sometimes the way that all like reframe it is like creativity can also be seen as like a synonym for like resourcefulness. So I’m interested in like what that looks like in your business or like if you have any examples of how you’ve been, have you used your creative mind to like be resourceful to solve problems that have arisen as a business owner? I know it’s a big question. Sorry. Just throw that in at the end.

Jennifer: Yeah, that is a big question. I love solving problems and I think that this comes from my old career as a publicist. My favorite job used to be attending press junkets and sitting in the like headquarter room, the war room. And I would just sit at the phone. And so anytime anyone had a problem, they would calm my line inside. It would be like, you know, have one phone receiving the problems, come up with a solution, pick up another phone in like, or you know, dictate what the solution was.

Kat: I wish this were a video podcast. [inaudible] people that have like the video of you, like just pantomiming one phone, and then a second phone.

Jennifer: I’m using my hands to like fake the phones in my ears. Um, so, you know, I don’t, I am not totally sure when you say like business problems, you know, of course I think of sort of abstract-y things, but I can think of are the camp that we produced.

Jennifer: There’s always problems with that. And so I think being able to think creatively or, you know, just think differently to fix something that is broken. I do that at that events a ton. Our first year we blew electricity in the building and I to run a sewing machine you need electricity. So, you know, that was a problem that had to be solved. We did that by finding really long extension cords and running power from the one part of the building from the actually the kitchen that ran all of the industrial refrigerators.

Kat: Oh my God.

Jennifer: We unplugged all the refrigerators and ran power. There was nothing in them. And we ran those throughout the building. Um, I’ve had, you know, for the camp, I have staff that fly in from the United States and sometimes out of country. And I’ve had two situations where staff members weren’t able to attend last minute.

Jennifer: So it’s like, who’s teaching this class? How, you know, what are we doing for that? And so, you know, being able to, to, to solve those problems, I think it requires special creative skills. And yeah, I don’t think creativity means just being able to draw a pretty picture. You know, it’s, there’s lots of different kinds of creative and one of my favorite things that I think you should link to is the, I don’t remember if it’s Harvard or, I feel like it’s one of the Ivy league schools. They have a department on creative problem solving or design, I think it’s called with design.

Kat: So Stanford has a design, the d.school, the Stanford d.school.

Jennifer: There you go.

Kat: They have an amazing, their website is actually really great. They’ve got a lot of resources. So I should share those. But sorry, continue.

Jennifer: Yeah, I just love that philosophy. It’s all about like having a problem, you know, coming up with a solution and then trying that solution and if that solution doesn’t work, you know, going back like why. Yeah. And you know, I think that that is a great way to think about creativity because your problem could be, I want to make this pretty picture. I don’t know how or it could be, I have this like really important bad thing happening. How do I make it fixed? Yeah. Or like you think you’re solving one problem for a client or customer or student or whatever it is. Um, and you’re actually, the problem you are trying to solve is not the problem they’re coming to you with. And maybe they’re not articulating it. So, yeah, because you, and I think this is like one of the tenets of, of actually designed thinking is like getting to the bottom of like what is the actual problem you’re trying to solve. Yeah. So I love that. Um, so where can people find you? Well listen, you people in podcast land are interested in learning how to sew your own clothes. Cause let me tell ya, everyone’s got to wear clothes every year.

Kat: That’s true. Sadly, this oppressive society we live in.

Jennifer: You can find me at worksocial.com where we have all of our classes listed for right here in Brooklyn. And sometimes I traveled to teach other places too.

Kat: Very cool. So I will include all of that in the show notes as long as where to find you on social media. Although obviously we’ve.

Jennifer: Workroom Social everywhere. Luckily I have a weird name.

Kat: Okay. Actually, I’m sorry, I said we were wrapping up, but can we talk about where the name came from and how you,

Jennifer: so I was actually talking to some friends about this recently because um, you know, if you have like a sewing sounding name, you run the risk of other people using that same name without knowing or whatever. So my, the original company name was going to be Top Stitched or Top Stitch or something like that. I don’t know which is uh, just visible stitching on clothes.

Kat: I know that from legally blonde, but that’s it. There you go. Yeah, that’s my reference.

Jennifer: And the recommendation to me was do not do that because you might be faced with, you know, infringing on someone else’s rights or someone coming in later and infringe on yours. So I went back to the drawing board trying to figure out a name. And you know, I think sewing and any kind of hobby or creative endeavor is work. Right? And I don’t think that work necessarily needs to be like, it needs to have a negative connotation where it can be a positive thing.

Jennifer: And we do work in a room. So I don’t know, that’s just how that came together. But I also wanted to communicate this idea of building community and having fun and making friends. So that’s where the social part came in. I love it. It’s perfect. Um, I’ve wondered that for years and I never thought to ask you until now. So there you go. Work room Social.

Kat: Great. Um, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. Thanks for helping me bring this to my audience and, um, again, I’ll drop everything in the show notes, but Jennifer, thanks so much.


So that’s this week’s episode of How to Be Creative. As always, you can find show notes, including a complete episode transcript and links to everything discussed at howtobecreative.org.

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