The Enchanted Life

Photo by Jacob Avanzato

Eeeeeeeeeeek! Where has 2016 gone? How is it mid-July already? Oh, and by the way, will I see you next weekend at Enchanted Forest Gathering? I better. For the last few months, my life has basically been consumed with producing and marketing my favorite festival.

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This post sat blank as a draft for weeks as it grew closer and closer, and somehow it just never got done, with all of my jobs, attempting to pull off a garden this summer, and getting ready to move. Again. (More on that later…) So here we are, less than a week until gates open, and still far from our ticket sales goal, and I am hoping for a miracle as I write my annual love letter to my enchanted family.

The past few months have taught me more than I can really wrap my head around. This entire year has been a roller coaster. Through it all I have been working on Lucidity and Enchanted Forest. I have taken on more than ever before in these roles, doing everything I can to help my team succeed and learning from amazing collaborators in the process. It blows me away that in the span of two years, I have gone from attending and volunteering at festivals to helping create them. I never thought my hobby would turn into my dream job.

My favorite thing about working at these events has been getting to pull my friends into roles in the organizations I work with, giving them a chance to shine, and watching them completely amaze me with their brilliance. I am inspired by the people I have the pleasure of working with every day, and at my friends’ capabilities when given a platform and a purpose. The plans have been in the works for months. Our team has been working our asses off, and this precious child we’ve incubated together over the past six months (honestly, more like six years, as this will mark year six of EFG) is about to be born, ready or not, into a world that may or may not be prepared for it.

I never feel ready. No matter how early we start planning and marketing, the event itself sneaks up on me. But I jump anyway, trusting the hard work I’ve put in, the team that surrounds me, and my community.

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Listening to our amazing music lineup, checking out the weather forecast, and planning our camp full of locals and collected friends from near and far have left me buzzing with excitement.

Last weekend I traveled to Seattle and back to my little sister’s wedding. I feel like being so busy working on festivals has left me with way less time than I’d like to help her plan her wedding, but luckily, she is superhuman, and the entire thing was meticulously planned and went beautifully. We even managed to avoid the rain that was on the forecast. In SEATTLE.

I hated that I had to take my laptop on a wedding trip and spend down time working. But alas, with this labor of love, I can’t give enough. EFG, you have my heart.

I am not only the Marketing Operations Manager, helping keep the marketing machine moving along, but this year I once again co-coordinated the Flow Zone workshop space. This time I got to share that honor with my partner in flow, James, and we are super excited about the talented roster of teachers & performers we’ve put together.

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This year boasts our most epic lineup yet, with some exciting new micro-environments, a HUGE variety of workshops, and all kinds of magic in the making. This year our team, our website and branding, and our systems all got a major upgrade. We’re finally growing into our new venue, Black Oak Ranch, and collaborating with some of the people we could only dream about working with even a year ago. I am truly excited to see where this YUM train goes… I just hope we get enough people there to make this dream viable.

It’s become a very tough and oversaturated market in the last few years, and with so many festivals it has been hard to draw the crowd we need to sustain the ridiculously epic production we’re putting on. The intention is on point, the team is amazing, our lineup is strong, and now as we set sail on this adventure, we can only hope for the best. I believe. I always have. I always will. There is no place like home. And for me, home is among my friends in the Enchanted Forest.

I hope you’ll join me in the dream… We’re building it. Who will come be a part of it?

Strides Forward for Animal Rights in 2014

I began working with PETA about nine years ago doing web design, and at times it can be challenging and heart-wrenching having to see footage of undercover investigations in industries that use and abuse animals or to put up with trolling and hate on the internet when I mention where I work. But it is also one of the most rewarding parts of my life. I may not play a large role in this very dedicated, hard working, and compassionate organization, but I am proud to be a small part of an amazing team. The people I work with inspire me every day. The video below shows some of PETA’s accomplishments on behalf of animals in the past year. 2014 marked many strides forward in animal rights, but we still have a long way to go.

Sacred Shape: A Work in Progress

Sacred Shape Web Site Screen ShotWeb design is a fast-paced field that I have a hard time keeping up with, but the fact that I have to stay up to date on my skills or risk being rendered obsolete by changing technology certainly keeps me on my toes! I have been reading and learning about WordPress for the past couple of years and was looking for a way to put what I had learned so far into practice. I learn best by doing anyway, and fake projects for tutorials are great and all, but what’s even better is finding a patient friend who needs a web site and has a limited budget but plenty of flexibility to allow me to learn as I built them a site.

Enter my good friend Kelsie of Sacred Shape Hula Hoops.

Kelsie and I fell in love with hooping together during several years of hoop groups on the bluffs overlooking Mendocino village and Big River Beach. She taught me a good chunk of my trick vocabulary and a few years ago she started making hoops. Kelsie is a jeweler, excellent chef, organic gardener, creative crafty type and very good with her hands. So of course once she sets out to make hoops, she makes gorgeous, high quality, handcrafted hoops with love! Over the years she has tried all different kinds of tubings, tapes, connectors, fire hoop wicks, sizes, and variations to find what works and looks best, and I’ve been happy to help try out all the different hoops along the way. We came up with a logo concept for the business that blossomed out of her hoop-making craft, Sacred Shape, and I designed her identity and business cards.

Sacred Shape IdentityKelsie sold hoops at a few small festivals and local events, began wholesaling hoops with the local FedEx stores, taught workshops and did a few performances with me, but soon she wanted to grow her business into something that could bring her more sustainable income. She had a friend offer to build her site but then stall for years without the project ever coming to fruition, so I offered to give it a try. We worked out a deal that allowed me time to learn the platform as I went and included partial payment in hoops. A hooper can never have too many hoops!

I knew I wanted to use WordPress for Sacred Shape’s site because it allows the control of having a site on your own servers, the freedom to completely customize the site while still running it with a WP backend, and once it was set up with a custom theme design, Kelsie could easily use WordPress as a CMS to update her site without having to know code or ask me to make endless updates. WordPress has a solid community of developers behind it and is the most widely used Content Management System, as well as being open source, updated constantly, and easy to use. But I also had to choose a plugin that would securely handle the e-commerce side of the site. After a bit of research, I decided to install WooCommerce, a free, expandible plugin that processes transactions, handles the shopping cart functionality, and does all the nerdy number crunching that’s over my head.

Building the site took about a year of planning, meetings, taking and gathering and preparing product and hooping photos, writing and editing content, learning WordPress and WooCommerce and just enough php to make them work (thank you Lynda.com), finding green web hosting, installing and configuring WordPress, designing a custom child theme to deck out the site with sacred geometry colorful fabulousness just like Kelsie’s hoops, and entering countless product details, descriptions, photos, prices, parameters, shipping costs, etc. etc. as I learned how to configure WooCommerce largely by trial and error. It was quite the long process, especially since we’re both so busy with other work! But the result is the first e-commerce site I’ve designed by myself and  the first WordPress custom child theme I’ve ever created, and it came out so pretty that I think it was worth the wait.

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We launched the site at the end of September 2013 and threw a big launch party to celebrate. Kelsie and I practiced choreography for weeks and put together a fire show with friends. We had music, food and drinks, raffle prizes, and of course, lots of hooplah! Kelsie pulled together a lot of awesome people and put on an amazing event. Never has a site I’ve created been launched with such gusto!

Of course, launching a web site is just the beginning of the adventure. Creating and updating it with fresh content to keep people interested, fine tuning the site’s design and code, constantly updating the site and looking for ways to improve it, keeping track of stats and improving SEO are all ongoing. I showed Kelsie how to make updates, post blog posts, add images, and edit and add products and we’re both constantly learning more and updating the site. This project has most definitely been a labor of love.

Kelsie and I were friends before we ever worked together, so I’m sure that helped this project go smoothly, but our business relationship is exactly the type of connection with my clients that I crave for every freelance project I take on. I love being involved with a client’s business from the beginning and helping them express what they are all about through my designs. Especially if I’m involved early on in the creation of the business, I feel like a trusted and essential part of the team and I care about the success of the client’s business as if it were my own. It’s very rewarding being a part of the entire creative process and working with a business over the long term, carrying creative concepts through various mediums and campaigns. As a jack of all trades type designer, I love the variety of working on logos, print materials, web sites, graphics, banners, and all kinds of media, especially combined with the stability of steady work from a client over time. Building long-term symbiotic relationships with clients is what I strive for with every project, which is why I select them carefully and focus on a limited number at a time. After this project, it’s obvious that Kelsie and I make a good team whether we’re hooping or just trying to sell her hoops.

Launching Sacred Shape has inspired me to keep learning as much as I can about WordPress and keep experimenting with it. I finally archived my own site that I had designed in 2005 and replaced it with a clean install of WordPress with a plain, default theme. I have big plans to build a custom child theme and try out new things here as I learn more, but of course my own site is always on the back burner since I design for others to pay the bills.

Projects like Sacred Shape that combine my various passions are always a joy to work on. I hope that Kelsie’s web site will help spread the love of hooping and flow arts far and wide. Flow arts have played a very special role in my life and I love helping my friends go for their dreams, so this project was the perfect combination flow, friends, and lots of fun! Now, everyone go order hoops from Sacred Shape! They are amazing and I’ve been hooping with them for years, plus you’ll be helping a very deserving small business blossom and doing yourself lots of good, too!

My Work with Moscow Hempfest

Moscow Hempfest 2014 Poster

Today up in Moscow, Idaho, where I lived for six years and attended college, there’s something slightly revolutionary going on, for Idaho at least, and it’s been going on for 18 years now: the Moscow Hemp Fest. This day of live music, local artisans, food, tie dye, and of course, hemp advocacy and education, happens in the middle of the small city’s main park. It has been over six years since I left Idaho, but I’ve had the pleasure of keeping some roots there by designing the posters and t-shirts for Hemp Fest each year.

I went to Hemp Fest while at University of Idaho, and first got the opportunity to design the poster and t-shirts in 2006. Almost every year since, I have created posters, flyers, and t-shirt graphics for the event, collaborating with Arlene Falcon, the colorful organizer of Hemp Fest and owner of Tye Dye Everthing.

You would think I would get tired of designing with pot leaves year after year, but it’s actually one of the projects I most look forward to each spring. Hemp is a versatile plant with so many various uses and benefits to humankind, so naturally I have endless inspiration for design concepts. And until it’s legal, Moscow Hemp Fest will keep fighting the good fight in a very red state surrounded by medical and now legal cannabis states (which we made painfully obvious with this year’s poster design). We usually try to think of a theme for each year and over the years there have been some pretty great concepts.

My first Hemp Fest poster was in 2006. Hemp Fest was on Earth Day, so my very simple retro design used the recycling symbol, Earth, and of course, lots of leaves!
Hemp Fest 2006 Poster Hemp Fest 2006 T-Shirt
And speaking of retro, one of my favorite designs was created in homage to the Woodstock poster for Hemp Fest 2009, on the 40th year since the festival that started it all.
Hemp Fest 2009 (Woodstock)
And the poster that I am probably most proud of for Hemp Fest so far was in 2012: our theme was “We Can Do It. We Can Change the Law.” and Rosie the Riveter was our mascot for the poster.

Hemp Fest 2011: We Can Do It! I hope that there was sunshine and a great turnout for Hemp Fest 2014 today. I usually try to go back up there for a visit this time of year but haven’t been to Hemp Fest in a couple years now. It has prevailed through rain, shine, wind, and snow, minimal funding and a very stubborn state government, but thanks to the tireless efforts of a small handful of volunteers, the people of Idaho are learning about cannabis hemp and demanding safe legal access to its benefits. Hemp Fest has succeeded in gathering signatures for voter initiatives and even gaining the support of a Republican Idaho State Representative, Tom Trail, who has written several bills on the issue.

I love design projects that promote a good cause, educate and inform people, and bring communities together at events, so working with Hemp Fest has been very rewarding and inspiring. When clients become friends over the years, working together is a joy and the annual project challenges me to come up with creative solutions and a unique concept each year. Long-term client relationships like this one are a blessing, and something I strive to maintain with all of my clients. And I couldn’t ask for a more fun project than getting to design with pot leaves while promoting a revolutionary cause. (Didn’t you know? Hemp can save the world!)

Why I Love Working With PETA

For almost nine years now, I have worked with the interactive media team at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals as a web design contractor. As the largest animal rights organization in the world and one who fearlessly confronts animal abuse on many levels, PETA tends to get a lot of press, and unfortunately much of it paints the non-profit organization in a negative light. But anyone who pushes to change the status quo or stand up for the rights of the disenfranchised and oppressed is met with opposition and resistance, so I see this as a sign that we are moving in the right direction.

I invite you to check out this feature on PETA’s Community Animal Project. This division of PETA deals with the tough and heart-wrenching realities of very desperate animals who have nowhere else to turn. Animal overpopulation due to breeding instead of adopting is a huge problem that PETA tackles by offering free and low-cost spaying and neutering and encouraging animal adoption. But when severely neglected, sick, abused, and dying animals have nowhere else to turn or languish and suffer in “no-kill” shelters, PETA isn’t afraid to step in and deal with the brutal realities of the overpopulation crisis. The video below gives a glimpse into CAP and the animals they help, and gives some context to PETA’s numbers and stance on animal euthanasia. In a cruel world, the most humane option in some animals’ cases is a painless end to their suffering. PETA is one of the few organizations that has the guts to do whatever it can for each animal it helps and for as many animals as possible.

I may only play a small role at PETA by updating their web sites and designing bits and pieces of their online presence, but I am continually blown away by the compassion, dedication, talent, creativity, and brilliance of the people I work with. I just returned from Norfolk, Virginia, where our department got together for a retreat to train, plan, and meet face to face since we are spread out all over. After a week of crazy winter travel, playing in the surprise snow, learning and training, meeting and strategizing, hanging out with the people I work with, and petting plenty of adorable rescued animals, I return home inspired, awestruck, and with renewed dedication to this brave and hard-working organization.

The hardest part about working with PETA has always been dealing with people’s misunderstandings of what we do and ugly comments and misguided hate towards the organization. And the best part, that far overshadows having to deal with the bullshit, is the people I get to work with. I am so grateful to be part of such a big-hearted, talented, dedicated team and organization. Thank you for all you do for animals, PETA people! And thanks for taking in a silly circus freak like me and giving me a flexible job that allows me to use my skills for a good cause. I love my job!