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IT STARTED WITH A CLOWN

New owners, the Franks, were getting veteran actors of Wisconsin Fear Grounds ready for the 2020 haunt season. They told us of their plans and gave us old dolls to destroy to be used in the haunted house later that year. I was excited to get creative with my doll, but had no idea it would lead to me finally investing in my art.

 I drew inspiration from one of the new owner's character, Sketchy. The simple idea was to make a clown with blue hair as well. At the time I was still working in Human Resources and unaware of the chaos that would come with 2020. When COVID-19 hit, I was a new supervisor who was coping with the challenges by taking on way too many things. Crafting had always been an outlet for me, so to release some stress I started to destroy the doll I had been given. What a relief to just cut out pieces and if it wasn't coming out perfect it was ok. Making a creepy doll didn't need balance and any "mistake" felt like the doll was coming to life instead. When I finished the doll I lovingly named him Doodles and showed him off to anyone who would let me. I was hooked - I needed to make more friends. While making Doodles, I had felt connected to my own haunt character Hazidel as if she was creating him instead of me. I realized I didn't need to wait until October to get my much needed haunt fix and that this journey had started long before I cut out my first doll eye.

WHERE IT REALLY BEGAN

In 2013, I was lost. I had gotten out of a bad relationship in the spring and was still spiraling. I didn't realize at the time that I was so numb and in need of healing. Instead, I just kept stumbling around in the dark, until I found my way to Wisconsin Fear Grounds when looking for something fun to do that would pay and got me away from everyone I knew. Honestly, the pay was barely enough to cover the cost of driving there, but the people kept me coming back. I needed a change and I needed new friends. 

I hadn't acted at a haunted house before, and I didn't feel like I was great at it. But there was something there that pulled me back each night. I was placed in the second house of three "Carnevil", which was a broken down freak show and I was in the twin room. There was a hilarious new actor to the room next to me who had me laughing all night as we fed off each others' energy. There was a whole storyline we created between my room and the ones on either side of me. I was finding it was ok to be strange, to be me. Then when we had enough people working, I got to have another actor be my twin. We were tied together and somehow moved together like we had always been attached at the hip. We spun and sang creepy songs.. fighting about who was the evil twin and who got to keep the guests that walked through our room. It felt so good to just play in that creepy little room with someone who had enough energy to pull me out of my numbness. I will never forget the first person that dropped to the floor at the sight of us. He was twice my size and realized I could be scary instead of being scared. I was starting to heal without even realizing it. And that actor who was tied to me became one of my best friends, my sister, and my only twin.

I struggled to keep that feeling outside of October, and though my first few haunt seasons I didn't feel worthy of the family I had found, I watched the original owners Timmer and AMT interact with each other. They were changing my understanding of love and support without even knowing it. I didn't think it was something I would have, but at least I had found a group of people that accepted me and saw a side of me that I refused to see until years into my haunting. I wanted to make my haunt family proud because even though I didn't share my struggle with all of them, they were pulling me through. Even though I only spent a few months out of the year there, Wisconsin Fear Grounds changed my life and helped me get to a place where I could accept love again.

So what does all that have to do with my dolls now? Well, through my own struggle with mental illness and the diverse crowd at the Wisconsin Fear Grounds I connected with my passion for learning about and practicing Diversity and Inclusion. I watched AMT handle any curve ball thrown at her and still put so much care and energy into her relationships. I watched Timmer be loud and 100% himself without apology. I watched as together they built a magical playground and changed so many lives. I was so grateful for everyone and every night, and I wanted to do everything I could to feel that throughout the year.  Following the example of magic they created, I came out as bisexual at the fortune 500 company to help others learn about the importance of community and acceptance at work. I wanted to make it easier for others to be 100% themselves too. I wanted to sprinkle the magic I had found everywhere I went. I learned from the diversity at the haunted house and the diversity at the company for years. It turned into a passion  - a mission. And though I am working through art now instead of the policy changes and corporate red tape, that mission is the same.

 

Be of service to others to find healing and acceptance. 

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I AM AN ARTIST

For as long as I can remember, I have been doodling, building, or creating but I shied away from being called an artist. I just didn't think my art was worth more than a hobby; and as much as I enjoyed making things, I didn't feel like it was the "right" path. Even though art therapy has saved my life during different major depressive episodes since I was a kid, it seemed like a luxury. I whole heartedly believed I was not worthy of that luxury for many years. I was lucky to have people that supported my artwork, and encouraged me to keep practicing. However, sometimes the way they said artist felt like a dirty word. Like it somehow made me less than those with "real" careers, or that my art wasn't good enough to outweigh the risk. So I became a business woman and felt uncomfortable whenever someone called me an artist. 

No, I wasn't an artist. I just enjoyed making art, because there were no limits or walls or rules. It was freedom. Art has been and always will be my coping mechanism. When I stop listening to the excited chatter of my inner artist my mind gets dark. After years of therapy, I have become more protective of my inner artist. Protecting her from judgements so that she can play. Reminding her that the art is her expression and it's awesome that others want to be a part of it, but they don't get to feed any of those nasty shame demons. I set up play dates to work with other artists and find a safe space for crafting. No starving artist or flaky creative type stereotypes cross my boundaries. Here is a safe place to explore for me and any other artist who needs it.  It took learning boundaries for me to be able to create dolls like "Envy" (middle picture on the left) who highlights so much of my vulnerability. It took reinforcing those boundaries to be sure that abusive people did not come back into my life, and that I didn't feel endless shame for taking time off to explore my art when I had the opportunity.

The odd thing was that the more I allowed my authentic self, beyond the crazy dog mom and people pleaser, to be  seen the more colorful my outside appearance became. I felt like I was shedding some of my trauma armor when I got my first sleeve tattoo. The tattoo covered up my self harm scars in a spiritual way that was anything but shameful. everyday it reminds of me to balance my chakras and be thankful for the universe and mother earth. It reminds me that I don't need to hide any part of me that might not be mainstream. Check out Jeannie's Instagram for more of her art! (https://www.instagram.com/jeanniebeanstattoo/)

THE STORY BEHIND EACH DOLL

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NEBULA

Nebula is a young adult who was born into a world of greed and consumption. She was labeled odd because she never grew out of playing in nature and seeing the spirits around her. She took a lot of abuse for being different and now lives with PTSD. However, Wakazi, the Life Goddess, saw how she protected the spirits and granted her the power to travel dimensions to find a place of acceptance. Instead of settling in a kinder place, Nebula uses this gift to travel dimensions and teach about diversity and inclusion. She hopes that all dimensions can become a little more accepting. Nebula carries a lot of my struggles and also my passion for Diversity and Inclusion. I was diagnosed with clinical PTSD, Major Depression, and General Anxiety Disorder in August 2020, though I have been living with these illnesses for most of my life. In November 2020 I finally accepted that my mental illness with the stress of working in Human Resources was too much for me and began to focus on my art. Nebula's collection focuses on exploring creativity and mental illness awareness.

HAZIDEL

Hazidel is based on my haunt character of 7 years. Her dimension and collection focuses on the creepy and odd bits of my mind. She was the character that helped me through my early stages of healing before I even recognized what I needed. For a long time I thought of Hazidel as my inner child. After all, she is a child who died because she enjoyed playing tag with knives. She sang creepy lullabies and just wanted everyone to be her friend, but many people don't know what to do with oddly happy, creepy cute people.

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FAZEN

Fazen is the Energy Goddess. One of two of the oldest goddesses known across the dimensions. She came to me during one of my morning meditations and is based off of the Chakra systems that took me through my next stages of healing after building confidence as Hazidel. Fazen lives in a garden dimension that travelers and spirits visit for healing. Her dimension and collection is filled with fantasy characters and spiritual healing practices that bring me balance from chaos. 

WAKAZI

Wakazi is the Life Goddess. One of two of the oldest goddesses known across the dimensions. She is the protector and mother to all. She lives in a forest library that holds the secret and/or traumatic stories that need to be heard without shame with the help of her Story Keepers. Her character was inspired by Clockwork ArtShop's "Bunzi" watercolor that I keep in my meditation space. (Go to Etsy shop: Clockwork ArtShop) I often lose myself in the spirit of this painting, as her strength inspires me to keep going. After purchasing the painting, I needed to know more about Bunzi and other African goddesses. Wakazi is mainly influenced by African Goddesses Bunzi and Oshun. Her collection focuses on cultural awareness and dolls/characters inspired by people across the world with a percentage of sales going to charities that support people within that culture. For example, 30% of the cost of Wakazi dolls will be donated to Black Lives Matter and all of her clothes are made from fabric from Africa or black owned businesses. Wakazi's Story Keepers are inspired by my therapists, mentors, and other lost souls who have helped me through my healing journey. They hold a part of me that was too heavy for me to keep and I cannot thank them enough for that.

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