A Conversation About The Creative Process With The Wells Makery
Episode #02 | paying attention to the things we're passionate about and sharing a story with our lives.
I promise I’m not exaggerating when I say today’s guest was BORN to be creative.
Born into a family of traveling musicians - and to an artist mother - it’s no surprise that Annie Brooks grew up into the absolutely brilliant creative and maker she is today!
What does she do, you ask?
Take a little peak at my newest Emma Rose and At Home with Emma Rose Logos. You know, the adorable mini me + mini rose family paintings that I’ve been absolutely obsessing over? That is what Annie and her business parter, Whitney, do.
Well, that and so much more! (Seriously, check out their Instagram and prepare to fall in love.)
Ok. Back to Annie’s Story.
Her family being who they were, Annie always knew she would pursue something creative.
“I think that from a really young age I was able to see the practical side of being creative. We had lot of fun and we worked really hard on our creative projects…I think that has a lot to do with why I've always thought that pursuing this kind of thing is really practical. It works just like pursuing law or pursuing medicine…”
Annie was married young. Like, really young.
“I was 18 when I married Jake. We lived in this Tiny Town…there was nothing else to do…I wouldn't recommend that to anyone (which is kind like a really vulnerable thing to admit) Getting married young is super crazy, but Jake is amazing and we're still together 15 years later.”
Doesn’t this just sound like the next great Nicholas Sparks Novel? Her story gets even more novel-worthy (and oh-so-relatable) when she describes their work when they first got their start.
“We were terrible terrible photographers and terrible artists. We made really hideous things. We waited tables and bartended; We worked fast food…we did everything that we could to (almost) make ends meet and in the evenings after work, we would just work on our art projects until we couldn't keep our eyes open anymore.”
Annie reflects on this time as kind of magical, but admits she would be lying if she never felt scared or missed home.
The next big chapter of their lives (and the next chapter of your book, Mr. Sparks) consisted of them moving to Durango, CO to work with a missions team that takes medical and dental teams to serve in third world countries. They worked with this organization a while before finding teach jobs at local schools teaching extracurricular courses. They relied heavily on the support of their new community.
“I can't say enough about just relying on the grace of other people to be supportive when you're trying to make it as an artist…it's those families that were hiring us to take senior pictures or to host a dance or to draw pictures for them…[that] really became the trellis upon which we started to grow.”
Little by little they saw their work improve and their business grow to where they were able to quit their jobs and pursue photography together full-time.
But just like any story worth reading, it wasn’t all sunshine and daisies.
“We did that for a while until I realized that Jake and I working together was not a good idea for us…[It was] Two hard-headed artists trying not to take things personally and trying to have a professional conversations that didn’t blend into the marriage a little bit….”
(Sidebar: I’ve never actually worked with my husband on the ranch, but it’s safe to say I don’t see that going well for us either, Annie.)
It was in 2014 when Jake and Annie decided it would be best if she quit. Talk about a tough decision! She admits to being angry, resentful and even a little lost in that season.
But, dear reader, not all was lost. Sometimes it’s in the darkest hour that we are able to see the light!
Enter: The Wells Makery
Using the contacts she still had in the wedding industry, Annie dove headfirst into marketing her first works in illustrating and calligraphy. She admits to taking a while to learn to paint, and to find her specific voice and style in her work and that Grace played no small part in the success she found early on.
Like many creatives looking to start a new venture, Annie struggled with the fact that the earlier paths she had chosen had not panned out. (And it’s at this part of the episode she gives us what is possibly the most important bit of advice we creatives will ever hear).
“…I just kind felt a bit beat down. Like, ‘Man! Nothing is working!’…I think that being in the head space that you are a failure if your art fails is really sad and dangerous. If we lose that joy in the process then ultimately we kind of lose our creative voice and we lose the potency of the product…I catch myself slipping back into that sometimes. Little by little I’m learning that holding onto the joy of the process is actually quite a practical (not just mystical) idea.”
“It really does make the work better and gives me more energy to be able to do it as much as I need to keep doing it in order to get better.”
Why Wells Makery?
It all goes back to Annie’s family (The Wells) lineage, of which she she says she is so proud.
“My great-grandmother was a cellist in a band when she was a kid…her daughter (my grandmother) was an incredible painter and she taught me calligraphy. She was also the most creative and childlike mind I've ever known…her daughter was my mom who was a musician and an artist (professionally) and one of the most eccentric people I know. Wells is something that I am proud of and I definitely want to keep that blood going.”
Annie settled on the word ‘Makery’ in order to keep her business name - and the type of work it suggests - open ended.
“I wanted to call it a makery so that I could leave things kind open-ended for me to change my mind if I wake up some day and decide that, you know, I want to be a baker or something… there’s freedom to grow.”
How did she meet her business partner?
Dissecting a deer head. (Naturally.)
Ok, I should clarify that it was in a biology class. Seriously, you just HAVE to listen to this episode if you want the whole story. It’s as sad as it is moving and really speaks to Annie’s resilience and the lifelong friendships that can spring out of difficult seasons.
It was creative kismet with these two right from the start with their homemade scrunchies, choreographed dances, and puppet shows.
“We got along so well and she kind of saved me in that time of my life…”
And the rest - as they say - is history!
Annie’s thoughts on the creative process:
It all starts with a conversation with the client.
“It is really magical to talk about those abstract ideas and feelings…[how] people want their brand to feel and then to like capture those things in concrete way and to have that happen through a collaborative conversation (sometimes only over email). It definitely feels like it's bigger than me and it's really cool to get to be a part of it. It makes me really proud…really humbled.”
Inspiration can come from anywhere.
“There just things that spark our interest and get our attention that we find ourselves pinning on Pinterest over and over again or color schemes were drawn to…even cafe’s that we feel like we want to be in because we like the way they feel…collecting and noticing things that we don’t [normally] notice…if we allow ourselves to be fueled by these things….”
One of the ways Annie loves to be inspired is through travel. She calls it the number one tool in her art box, saying it keeps her “young, curious, humble and unafraid.” She describes seeing hot hair balloons on a recent trip to Turkey:
“Talk about a show for the senses…I totally cried. Hot air balloons are such a beautiful testament to the playfulness of humans. It’s meaningful to me that they are just so silly…I think that makes them so profound…and to see them over such a beautiful landscape was more than I could contain….”
“We're [not always] going wake up with this like Angelic bout of inspiration…that happens every now and then but I think there's this willingness to sit down and do the work… to give the opportunity for that magic to happen…I admit that the hardest part is just starting every day.”
Allow yourself to be changed by the process.
“…[The] process will kind of lead us to our true creative selves because we're collecting things from what we like (not just from what we think the “algorithms” will like)…social media is a great tool but it's a horrible master….paying attention to what we love will eventually lead to this true creative voice that we have and in itself is a story. You know, it's a character Arc. It's a hero who does something… who steps out of the norm and goes through this process…whether or not we end up where we want to end up, we still risked. We're still brave. We've still creative…. it has still changed us. That is what humans crave in a story is for the hero to be changed the process of pursuing something that they love.”
Social media is an excellent business tool but…
“I think that as long as we're not catering our work to social media that not limiting ourselves to those tiny little squares then think it's okay to enjoy and to inspired by social media and to tell our stories on that platform. But I also would encourage any artist to remember how limiting it is if this is the scope of your creative world. It does not match the feeling of experiencing something in real life.”
Remember To Play
“There's something about playfulness that is essential and that has to happen face-to-face in the world…where you're able to make mistakes and be goofy…to feel with all five senses what is happening…that is the gateway to our creative self.”
Create for yourself
“Making a business off of what you love to do is - in a small way - a disadvantage because your business is trampling all over your hobby.”
Annie admits to envying those who can leave their work at the office and come home to their hobbies and that there are times she does not feel like painting anymore, after finishing her work (painting) for a client. She advises making time for creating for yourself at the start of the day so that you are not too burnt out by the end of it.
“Otherwise, we'll find that like this dream life of living and making money off of our passion is actually just kind of stealing our hobbies. We have to be really careful not to let that happen because then our joy [becomes] all tied up in money and what shame that would be.”
Take care of the artist.
Yup. My all time favorite question to ask guests: How does Annie take care of Annie?
“I love waking up early and doing slow mornings. I'll meditate; I just started doing that recently and absolutely love it. I love to read in the mornings and get my brain going and to feed into that curiosity. I also love yoga, dance classes, Barre, and the gym…I'm not good at any of those things at all, but I just like to to play and to get into my body that way….”
Ps. If you’ve never meditated. Give it a chance. For real.
I was always kind of closed off to the idea thinking I could never do it but I gave it a shot and it has been a SERIOUS. GAME. CHANGER. When I get feeling overwhelmed or heated up; it’s a safe place for me to retreat to and to regroup.
It all takes learning.
Whether it’s knowing the right questions to ask a client, how much time to devote to a project, or how much to charge, Annie will tell you it takes just doing it to know. Just don’t let that keep you from starting!
Ahhhhh. So good. Just so, so good.
I absolutely LOVED my conversation with this beautifully creative and insightful woman. It left me feeling so excited for this next season of making and for the other creatives who might be tuning in! You are going to want to give the episode a listen because there is just so much wisdom and life packed into this and there’s just no possible way I could get it all down on “paper.”
Be sure to follow along with Annie and The Wells Makery over on Instagram! Wisit their Website for major inspiration and to check out their offerings because, friends, these gals will totally make you fall in love with your brand all over again.
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Emma Rose is a Squarespace website designer and photographer based out of the Pacific Northwest. She helps photographers not only stand out online, but dig deep to find the why in what they do. She strives to work with like-minded entrepreneurs who want to grow an audience, start and thrive their online business and change the freakin' world. She aims to help people create not only meaningful businesses but lives. For more about Emma, click here!