- How did you come to be the executive director of Cathedral Squared Enterprises?
This whole project happened very organically and I'm the Executive Director because in order to get incorporated as a nonprofit, we needed someone who could fill that role and I'm very honored and happy to get it moving - though ideally, the person in this role will be a woman who has entered into the process from the entry level, so that's our goal someday. So you could say my career aspiration with this particular role is to work my way out of business!
- What is it like being a part of an organization like this?
I'm so inspired by the women who have helped to get this project moving along - people willing to take a risk, invest time in something that is community-oriented and other focused, willing to endure the bumps and changes along the way. It has also been really inspiring to meet small business owners - the folks we sell our products next to at community markets and events. These folks are pure courage - making work for themselves out of their passion and interest, without the support of an organization behind them like we have in the Cathedral and Cathedral Center! I'm encouraged to keep on marching forward, though the process is slow, due to the example I've seen by these small business owners.
- What is the most important, or your favorite thing that you’ve learned from this group?
That creativity heals!! Over and over I've witnessed women learning a new skill, applying it and then watched them stand a little taller and smile a little broader when they complete a project. Especially when that project sells - when someone shows they value their handiwork by purchasing an item, it really is a boost to the spirit. I know I've experienced that - and it's a joy to watch it happen for other women as well. I also love being a part of a group that works together toward a goal - probably the old volleyball player in me recreating a team atmosphere! Throughout our time together, we've had artisans set up projects for us to work on together - and so many artisans have been happy doing work that benefits the group (i.e. attending markets to sell items, sorting and flattening bags, finding colors for other artisans) that might not benefit them individually, at least in the short-term.
- What do you like best about the group?
I love the grassroots nature of our work - creating something out of little. I love that we upcycle materials that would otherwise be seen as throw aways. In my years of working with people who are in and out of homelessness, I know there can be an intense loneliness that accompanies that experience. Even though a person who is homeless is constantly living in the public sphere (on streets, public transit, shelters, drop in centers, meal programs, etc) there is an isolation that people encounter. The happiest people I've known who live on the street (as well as those who aren't homeless, as it turns out) are people who have reconciled with this loneliness by finding that place inside that no one can touch - that place where we are all whole, where we are all connected - I call it a soul, some might have another name for it. But those who have found a way to nurture that place inside know that they always have a home, wherever they are. They know they are worthy of belonging. And so for people who may be treated as if they are throw-away, I think this group has the potential to help women see that they are worthy of belonging - they are capable of healing those parts that feel shut out, thrown out, no good - and I think this happens through creativity, through relationship, through mindfulness and reflection on the ways the difficulties of our lives give us the opportunity to create something new. The group has done this for me - early on when I was spending a lot of time in the circle getting things off the ground, I really loved the chit chat that happened around the circle when our women got working. I always found support, guidance, wisdom for the situations in my life that were causing me heartache - parenting woes, friendship difficulties, the daily grind. Knowing I wasn't alone helped me to find strength to move through the emotional hardships I was encountering.
- What do you want people outside the group to know?
There's a place for you at the table!! You have so much potential - we need you! Join us!
- How have you grown since being a part of the group?
This effort has forced me to think strategically and to stick with a slow-moving project, focusing on process instead of on outcome. I'm a fast moving person in general. I have big ideas and then the implementation and follow through on those big ideas is where I struggle. There have been people along the way who have helped move this project forward that keep me focused. It also seems that the right people and situations show up at the right time to guide our way. So I'm learning, slowly, to trust in that. By trying to stay connected to the primary focus of being a healing entity for women and remembering to focus on that helps to attract the people, resources and ideas we need to move forward.
- Anything else you’d like to say?
I'd just encourage people out there to find a creative outlet! I have LOVED adding more art to my life in recent years - it's so relaxing, grounding and rewarding!
We thank you Shelly, for taking the time to do this interview, and for just being you!