Words and photos by Hailey Hirst
When’s the last time you unplugged? Really, truly, off the grid for more than one day, no wifi, no cell reception, unplugged?
It had been a while for me, too. Ever since my family got wifi at our cabin, we don’t really “unplug” anymore. I work from the barstool in the log-walled kitchen. My 12-year-old cousin scrolls Pinterest on the futon. My grandparents play Words With Friends with each from their recliners instead of playing with the real Scrabble board gathering dust under the couch. We don’t live outside like we used to.
The thing is, it feels difficult to disconnect these days. Our brains crave distraction, our friendships extend into apps, our work is tied to email, to social sharing, to always being reachable. It’s easy to go months, even years, without truly unplugging.
When Bobbilee Hartman first set out to plan Lodged Out – a retreat series for makers, where creatives collaborate and connect at lodges, camps, and lakeside cabins – one of the first things she knew was that the retreats would be unplugged.
Like going for a long hike or spending the night at a friend’s cabin, unplugging for a few days transports you to a different kind of space, both physically and mentally.
Like going for a long hike or spending a night at a friend’s cabin, unplugging for a few days transports you to a different kind of space, both physically and mentally.
Physically, we were sleeping in cabins and gathering in the lodge on a cove of Lake Coeur d’Alene in Northern Idaho. We spent days hiking the camp’s trails and participating in creative workshops. Mentally, we weren’t as pulled in multiple directions and had the headspace to find a more focused present. And more importantly, spending days without digital distraction left us extra open to connection.
The group was 35 female-identifying creatives. Photographers, painters, writers, artists, and designers of all types flew in (or road tripped, or took the train) from across the country to meet for three days at Camp Four Echoes in Worley, Idaho. We soaked in the soulful edge of autumn and got cozy with tea during drizzling rain. We shared stories of creative entrepreneurship, how we got where we are, the struggles of self-promotion. We swapped tips on everything from writing contracts to saying “yes” to creative collaborations.
The space we inhabited and the conversations we had were inspiring. While we all face the unique challenges of different mediums and industries, we have a lot in common. Even for those of us who don’t run our own businesses, or create on the side just for ourselves, it’s inspiring to know the stories behind the Instagram feeds – to connect in real life, in that sacred cabin space.
Beyond all the meaningful conversations we had on the trail and otherwise, outside the fireside chats, the retreat was structured by hands-on workshops. Four creative entrepreneurs shared their skills and knowledge with us, and let us try our hand at their craft.
I spoke with each of these four women about their work and “unplugging.” Find out more about each of them in the brief interviews below!
Where do you currently call home? Spokane, Washington
What do you make? Vegan, organic, and all natural beauty & skin care products.
How did you get into this work? It’s just a labor of love that I started for myself to solve a [skin] problem, and then more people liked it, so, it kind of just happened. I started in 2015 while I was working in product and packaging design, and I nerded out on botanicals because I needed so much to escape from my job.
What are some challenges you face in the work you do? Sometimes I will make stuff that I love but can’t necessary afford to produce, or can’t get the minimums since I’m a small operation. Sourcing is also insanely difficult for cosmetics when you’re not some huge corporation with a manufacturing lab, and my sourcing is more difficult just because I want to make sure that it’s all ethical and clean. And since I do everything myself, that whole dynamic has just been overwhelming.
What inspires/motivates you to create? Other creatives, always… other people doing something fantastic. I love Chef’s Table on Netflix because I see these chefs being so passionate about what they’re making, how they source it, how they present it, and I feel like that always inspires me and makes me think, “I’m not doing enough.”
When’s the last time you unplugged? Last week, but before that, two years? I was in Alaska in the middle of nowhere.
Where do you currently call home? Minneapolis, Minnesota
What do you make? Timeless functional, versatile, and sustainable clothing.
How did you get into this work? I was interested in clothing design from a really young age. I almost didn’t ever question wanting to be anything else, which is funny because I only questioned it in my adult life. I went to the University of Minnesota for clothing design, then spent a few years working in the fashion industry around Minneapolis, waiting tables, sewing at night, taking part in runway shows. I worked at Target Corporate for three years and started Winsome on the side while I was there.
What are some challenges you face in your work? Both personally and with people, are the issues of body image. It’s a really difficult topic for a lot of people, myself included, and it’s something I try to be aware of. Creating garments for people who are built in so many different shapes and sizes, yet society is telling us we’re supposed to be one particular shape and size, and sort of balancing what reality is versus what society tells us we should be, versus what I can afford as a small business, all of those things are really challenging.
What inspires you to create? I want to create clothing for people that makes them feel good. I guess I’m most inspired by people feeling really good and confident in what they’re wearing and like knowing what their style is.
What re-inspires you if you’re in a creative rut? Shaking up the norm. Traveling or taking a walk in a place I haven’t been, or watching new movies… Just any way to jog my brain a little bit or see new things gets me thinking in a new way. Even being on this trip I have all these new ideas, because I’m in a new location and my brain is operating in different ways.
When’s the last time you unplugged? I honestly couldn’t tell you. I’ve been camping a few times where I didn’t have service the whole time, but I don’t think I’ve gone a day without it since I bought my first iPhone. I don’t unplug because of my business. I definitely will avoid going on social media or texting with people for personal reasons sometimes, but I feel like I need to always be plugged in because I have an online store and a physical store and I have employees and there’s something going on all the time, or something could be going on, so I’m constantly checking in.
Where do you currently call home? Carbondale, Colorado
What do you make? Art that helps tell a conservation story. Sometimes that’s a watercolor painting, sometimes it’s an illustrated story map, sometimes it’s a mural. My art is less about medium and more about message, and that message is protecting public lands and water conservation.
How did you get into this? I got into painting [after many different careers] because I really wanted to have a creative outlet. I started doing illustration and realized that that would give me an opportunity to work within the outdoor industry as a creator, and also to message what’s close to my heart. I work with brands, non-profit organizations, towns, and any entity that wants to tell a story. My artwork is a visual story telling tool. Being the event director for Five Point Film Festival definitely helped me get into this and have a head start in the outdoor industry because I was facilitating an event for industry creative so I knew a lot of people and had a sense for, basically, everybody is just vulnerable and pushing their limits and making it up as they go. I realized, oh, that’s how it is for everybody, then I could do that too.
What are some challenges you face? The unknown, not knowing where my next job’s going to come from, or who’s going to hire me to do what I do, but I’m enjoying learning about not having as much expectation and just believing in what I do and trusting that the work will come.
Another challenge is being really discerning about what I say yes to, what I say no to, and being willing to turn work down because I want to be really specific about the work that I make. Finding that line between practicality and execution of a vision.
What inspires you to create? The relationships I’m making along the way. Being an artist has been an expansive experience where my art is leading me towards new opportunities and people along the way. I feel so loved and I feel like I have community around me everywhere I turn, and I have this widget, which is my artwork, to interact and create those opportunities, so it is a means to just a joyful life. The more people I meet and the more experiences that my art is offered me, the more I feel I’m on track.
When you’re in a creative rut? I don’t force myself to create. I go mountain biking, I go hike a mountain, I turn my phone off. It’s hard though. Sometimes you’re so hungry for that sense of productivity. I love going places where there’s no cell reception because I’m just not strong enough to not look at my phone. I’m interacting with it a lot. I love those forced scenarios to just not know what emails are coming or not coming.
When’s the last time you unplugged? I unplug pretty frequently. I try to do it at least once a week. I live in the mountains so it’s easy to do these little mini-adventures. I do a lot of 24-hour backpacking trips. I leave by early afternoon and get somewhere really amazing and camp out, and get back by early afternoon the next day.
Where do you currently call home? Fayetteville, Arkansas
What do you make? Abstract sculptures, mainly made out of clay, but I venture into mixed media with textiles and wooden shelves and tables.
How did you get into this? Really it was just a challenge conceptually and technically when I took my first ceramic class. It was one of those things where it just felt like I couldn’t pinpoint why I wasn’t being successful at it, so I wanted to figure it out and I took more classes, and then I was just hooked.
What are some of the challenges you face in your work, creative entrepreneurship, etc? Currently it’s trying to figure out balance. I’m a new mom navigating parenthood, I also teach at the university, and have my creative practice. It’s trying to figure out how to juggle all those balls and find where priorities are. For studio practice, it’s just making sure that I have enough time to make the work that I need to for deadlines, and also give myself time and space to be inspired.
What inspires/motivates you creatively? A lot of it happens either through play in my studio, allowing myself to just make with no agenda, but it’s also just mundane moments are most inspiring to me throughout the day. Where they’re not planned and you just run into something like “Oh, wait a minute, this is something!” The most inspiring things that happen are the unexpected moments in a day. It happens the most when it’s not forced.
Also, what keeps me going is that I’m really doing this for myself, but now that I have my daughter I’m doing this for us. I want her to have parents that are strong and driven and I don’t want to give up this path. The momentum is fueled by my daughter now. I don’t want to let her down.
When’s the last time you unplugged? The summer of 2014, my husband and I did a road trip from Fayetteville, Arkansas to the Arctic circle on an adventure bike with two other couples. We rode all the way up. We tried to do a lot of back roads so most of the time we were pretty unplugged. It took five weeks. We only stayed in a hotel twice.
My husband and I are also both actively trying not to spend too much time on our phones in front of our daughter. There’s some sort of weird pressure that comes with social media and it feels really nice to actually feel like you have a connection, actually sitting down and fully interacting with somebody or my daughter, not feeling like I’m half thinking about her and half thinking about Instagram. The engagement feels deeper and more sincere.
The Lodged Out Retreat at Camp Four Echoes in Worley, Idaho was the first of a series of unplugged retreats for makers. To learn more and stay updated about upcoming retreats, check out lodgedout.com and follow along on Instagram.
Hailey Hirst is the Content Editor for She Explores and a multi-passionate creative who thrives on the often-overlooked details. She lives in Kelowna, British Columbia and rides motorcycles in her spare time. Find her on Instagram.
Editor’s Note: Big thanks to Bobbilee Hartman for dreaming up and orchestrating such a wonderful retreat series, and bringing us all along for the ride. Thanks also to Stephanie Guerra, Kathryn Sieve, Sarah Uhl, and Linda Lopez for their thoughtful contributions to this article.