Can’t decide where to dabble creatively? Or work on perfecting your skills? Do you like the stimulation of working with a group, but don’t know where to find one? Amy Vallejo and Social Creative Workshops may have your solution. Amy, lover of hands-on creative activities and bringing people together in a common pursuit, organizes events (many virtual ones these days) with a project to work on or skill to learn, along with music, instruction, conversation, laughter and – when able to meet in person – yummy food and drink. It’s a lot of balls to keep in the air, but Amy’s enthusiasm keeps them all moving.
Tell us about Social Creative. What inspired you to start it?
Social Creative Workshops started out of an inspired idea and a mid-life awakening. Funny, but true. I had been planning weddings & events with my other company, Anticipate Weddings & Events, for about 10 years, and as can happen, was feeling burned out. I needed to re-evaluate my passions again.
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Coincidentally, my 40th birthday stoked a fire in me to pursue something new; guided only by what truly inspired me and ignited my soul. I knew I had to find a way to bring women together (eventually men too), celebrate good food and beverage, use creativity as the common thread to connect people, and offer an experience that would be worthy of time, investment and a desire to return.
Social Creative’s purpose is to cultivate community, inspire relationships, and celebrate creativity. I wanted to showcase the various gem venue’s in our city, highlight the incredible small businesses, and bring people together to make a face-to-face connection (unfortunately, a dying concept in a digital age-and now especially thru a pandemic!).
In order to do this, I had an idea to host experience-based creative workshops held at a different local venue each time. We’d feature local small business collaborations and make it a one-of-a-kind experience open to all creative skill levels – from dabbler to designer. I asked two friends, The Mint Gardener and Letters by Ellen, (also well-known creatives in Seattle) to join me for the first one and “see how this goes”.
We hosted it at a local winery, taught water-color and hand lettering and included social time for mingling over wine and yummy food. We emailed all our friends, family, school moms, basically anyone we knew and hoped for at least a couple attendees for our inaugural event. Within a day, we sold out capacity with over 40+ women purchasing tickets. Turns out it resonated! Also, turns out it was a success and launched the start of my new passion project Social Creative Workshops.
In the last 4 years we’ve grown to host a myriad of experiences featuring incredible makers teaching macramé, cooking, watercolor, lettering, floral, baking, embroidery, jewelry making – or combinations of them together. Additionally, we also launched Social Creative’s sibling, if you will, called Social Engagement – which includes the gents. It is open to all. These are less about hands-on creating and more about engaging and learning from someone else’s creativity in a social setting.
With the onset of the pandemic, we went virtual with our live Instagram “WE: the makers” series, highlighting the women behind successful creative brands and sharing stories to connect us. We’ve continued to cultivate relationships and connect community by sharing stories of incredible women leading creative brands through our new podcast, Social Creative Conversations.
What we do is a contributing portion of who we are, but there is so much more. Stories connect us so much deeper. The podcast offered another avenue of keeping connected to our community, despite not being able to be face to face. We are eager to get back to in person experiences; this is where my heart sings. Until then, we are slowly figuring out how to produce virtual creative experiences via screens. Our Galentine’s Petite Soirée was a great success and we have more planned for the future.
How does making together connect people?
I’ll speak mostly to “pre-covid days”, but even during the virtual world, we hosted “Maker’s Hang” zoom rooms to just hang out, work on whatever project needed finishing, and be together in the relaxed comfort of our cozy creating spaces. We could talk, or not talk, but most importantly just be present with each other during a crazy time we all collectively felt.
There are a couple ways I have seen “making” act as a connector for people. First, it serves as a commonality for all. It doesn’t matter what you look like, what neighborhood you live in, how old you are or what your skillset is. Each person comes to accomplish the same project and experience the same creative freedom. I love hearing the encouragement, compliments, and laughter that happens around a table full of materials. Everyone is on the same team, wanting each person to walk away with an inspired piece of art – even as individual the designs are!
It doesn’t just stop at the event either. A bunch of individuals leave with a tangible “memento” that connects them as a making community long after the event ends. Additionally, (and hopefully) they continue their connection through social media, or in their neighborhood or another industry event.
Also, creating acts as an icebreaker in many ways. I noticed something interesting happens when we are heads down, letting our hands create…we start talking! It’s as if the focus shifts from “I don’t know her” to “how is she doing that?” Without even realizing it, our anxieties take a back-seat, and we find ourselves among friends who are dipping into the same paint palette or trying to find the knot pattern just like us. It’s scary to attend alone, or sit next to someone you don’t know. But, when our gaze is down our fingers can do the working and our mouths can do the talking – and that’s just what they do.
I don’t know if there is anything more beautiful than hearing a table of strangers produce a collective buzz of conversation and rolling laughter. I could listen to that tune all day long.
Where do your events happen? Do you have a dedicated space for creating?
Our experiences were set up with the sole purpose of bringing people together face to face, so this year has been increasingly hard. In the “before” times, all of our experiences were hosted at various locations around the city of Seattle. It was meant to highlight spaces and places that were hidden gems or could be future celebration spaces for our guests.
I really felt it important to offer a unique experience for each event, so we would rarely be in the same location twice. Part of the experience was appreciating the design, aesthetics, and charm of the space. Many of our guests would return for their own celebrations, and I loved that. We have taken a pause from all in-person events and have taken to zoom.
My own personal creating space tends to vary-depending on what my hands have found. I love creating in my kitchen, or at the table where the swirl of life happens around me. I have a dedicated room in my house for all my projects, materials, and virtual teaching.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?
This is such a funny thing-and, if you were to ask anyone who knows me very well, they would say one of my biggest fears is music turning off at an event. I almost think of music as essential white noise, or one of the participants. I get fidgety and unsettled without it. Ha! I need it to work productively.
Also, it’s often the part I spend most time considering and thinking about for any event. Ambiance is extremely important to me, and I don’t see the perfect ambiance at a social event without music. It absolutely sets the tone and energy of the gathering. I had the most fun creating a play list for one of our experiences, The Freedom Movement, and I shared it with all the participants at the end. I still listen to it to this day and every time I do, it reminds me of our time together. That brings a smile to my face.
In my own personal work time, I defer to what seems right for each activity. I am a big-time listener of podcasts and audiobooks for work that requires no thinking, just doing. Some work requires background Billie Holiday, Bon Iver or Bonnie Tyler – you know, depending on the mood!
If we asked a good friend of yours to describe your work, what would they say?
Detailed and thoughtful.
I put a lot of effort into the details of every event, whether music, or vessels materials are in, or photoshoots, or presentation of food, or the way guests are welcomed. It all matters. I often spend way too much time on the small details. Hilariously, these can often go unnoticed to most guests. But I know it, and care to make a lasting impression.
An experience’s details start from the moment of inception (the idea) and last into the future every time the attendee sees the finished art they have created or makes that recipe they learned. Each decision that is made, or food that is prepared, or paper material that is created is designed to work together in cohesion. I love to create “Beauty Begets Beauty” intentions for the guests to take home and ripple to those beyond the immediate sphere of the event. They are an extension of the experience beyond the event walls, passing the beauty they experienced to others they meet. It also creates connection, which I love the most.
When it comes to creating, are you more of a planner or an improviser?
I am both. There are magical moments that come from both.
A good plan and foundation are essential in the process leading up to any event. It keeps all collaborators on the same page and excited about the common goal. (We can have anywhere from 6-15 collaborating partners for any workshop experience.) I like to plan out everything, and my event plans for each experience can often be a little overboard. However, I always know, in the back of my mind, that most of it is fluid. Only 65% of it will be followed, and the good stuff comes from allowing things to go off track or take shape organically.
Also, planning out certain “Can you have a plan for unplanned things?” That’s what I do. It’s also very important to me to not plan the instructor’s portion. I believe that we all own a part and bring our talents and gifts to the table to bless others. The beauty is when all the parts work together seamlessly. I provide general parameters for timing, but the teaching portion is where they shine, and I am there to offer support.
Do you think that creativity comes naturally to people, or do you think creativity is a skill that people can learn?
I believe that everyone is born with the ability to create. I also believe everyone should create in some capacity every day.
There are so many creative outlets and flexing those muscles in various mediums is helpful to strengthen skills and confidence. Sure, there are creative skills that are honed to perfect the creative art, but everyone’s skill can be increased with practice and learning. There is creating for fun and creating as a profession.
So often, I have heard the barrier, “Oh, I’m not that creative” as a reason to decline our workshop experiences. This is silly. Creativity is so subjective. I catch on and shine with some creative arts, and others I don’t. But it doesn’t mean I’m not creative nor does it mean that I love my finished art any less. If I created it, and I am proud of my work, then I am a creative.
I am not the world’s best embroiderer or watercolorist, but I sure do have fun creating that way and you better believe my finished art is proudly displayed in my home! Now, would they sell for money? Nope, they are priceless. Plus, that’s a different category of “professional creative” altogether.
When you have time to create for yourself, what kinds of projects do you make?
I am an enneagram 7 personality type, so I love all new experiences and creative things to get my hands on. There is never enough!
I usually have about 50 projects started and “in process” at the same time! I love getting my hands on different textures and engaging my mind in different creative areas of expression. And I love to create in the kitchen with food, in my garden with flowers or interior projects in our home.
I have never met a creative project I didn’t like. I have met some that were frustrating, but nothing beats that sense of accomplishment and acknowledgement of “I did that!” when it’s completed.
More about Amy:
I live in Seattle, am a mom of 3 boys, wife of awesome husband, owner of 2 small businesses, podcast host, runner, appreciator of good food and beverage, connector of people, cheerleader of creative women, seeker of adventures and designer of experiences.
Social Creative Workshops
IG: @socialcreativeworkshops, #wearesocialcreative
Email Amy: [email protected]
Social Creative Conversations Podcast
#socialcreativeconversations hosted on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Stitcher and most podcast platforms
Interview posted February 2021
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