Happy FriYAY, my friends!
I'm excited to bring you the return of interviews with amazing makers! This week, I learned more about Katie Ross and her shop, The Sick Box. Katie and I attended university together, so I was privileged to see the beginnings of this journey, but I'm delighted to see where she and her work are now as well as learn a little more about the in-between.
Tell us a little about yourself—your family, your journey, your creative background, etc. I have always been a multidisciplinary artist. Some of my earliest memories are of standing on the kitchen step stool for hours, bent over a flurry of brushes, paper, and watercolor. They are quickly followed by evenings spent with elderly ladies smiling over me as I showed them my first rows of knitting and the first time I brought a woodworking project home. Each year sees me add a new medium to my collection, and The Sick Box is a testament to the many interests that have caught my eye over the years.
You launched an Etsy shop this fall. Can you tell us about The Sick Box and the motivation behind your work? The Sick Box has always been about sustainably taking care of others. This sustainability goes beyond what materials I use and following zero waste practices; each item is designed and created to last. A single purchase goes towards years of exploring and learning how to take better care of yourself so you can in turn take better care of others.
As for what keeps ME going day in and day out? Receiving notes from those who have been inspired to take care of others or ordered boxes of their own. I am constantly moved to continue and improve as I receive notes about a sister who has just begun chemotherapy, a wife who is battling crippling anxiety, a woman who is learning how to take care of herself for the first time. These notes let me peek into that moment when they open their package and feel empowered to move forward; to heal; to care again. That is a weighty privilege and I pray that i will never forget that.
Tell us more about your passion for responsibly sourcing your materials. What inspired this effort, and how do you put it into practice? As I am personally always practicing to improve my own zero waste rhythm, it was only natural for me to have the same principles flow through my little shop out into the world.
Keeping The Sick Box waste free can look like a myriad of things from filling mason jars with loose leaf tea at the local farmers market to hoarding away sweater scraps so they can become stuffing.
It isn't just about avoiding trash though. I also source from small locally owned shops, pacific northwest farmers, and other indepemdemt makers. The effort is well worth the cost as I get to send off beautiful creations knowing that they helped build up my community without hurting it and people can receive them knowing that they will not hurt their own homes and communities. Not only that, but everything is made to last. Once you buy something from The Sick Box, it will take care of you for years to come. That is sustainability.
How is creative community important to your work? There is nothing more uplifting or stimulating than bouncing ideas back and forth with another maker. It doesn't matter what their discipline is. Creating an object with your hands, placing value on it, and then making it available to others is an often frightening, always rewarding, and quite unique experience. Once you can find a community of like-minded creators, much of the fear and confusion melts away into laughter, acknowledgement, and healthy critique. None of us could do it on our own but banded together we can not only take care of ourselves, but others as well.
What advice do you have for makers along their creative journey? To my fellow makers: Take care of yourself. Perhaps that means that you don't get as much done today. Perhaps it means explaining to your followers why you haven't been posting in a while or that you have a disgruntled customer now and again. Don't worry. These things are not failure. They happen no matter what you do. Soak up the rhythm of ups and downs, chat with a fellow maker (I'm always around), and know that you're working to keep your business sustainable long into the future.
To my fellow buyers: Be patient with your makers. They are people first, and by supporting their decision to acknowledge that tricky balance, you give them permission to take care of themselves. This in turn will allow them to take better care of you and sets into motion a self-propelled cycle of mutual care. What more could we all ask for?
Follow Up: What set you on your journey of zero-waste? I know it started while we were at school, but I'd love to hear the background. My move to zero waste was a gradual progression. After successfully managing a chronic illness with a strict medical diet, I started to explore other ways that I could improve my health by making things from scratch. After starting with my food, i moved into household products and then body care products (you can find my favorite go-tos in The Sick Box with more to come soon!). It wasn't long before I started to purge plastic from my apartment, though it was mainly for the grounding that wood and stone provide in a room. Several months had gone by before I decided I wanted to try zero waste as a discipline and by then it was just a simple matter of whipping together some cotton shopping bag and snagging a few more mason jars.
Zero waste for me is about more than just not throwing thongs away, though that is a huge benefit. It is a huge part of my personal self-care rhythm. It challenges me to think through every purchase and keeps my apartment clean and uncluttered.
I am far from perfect. I certainly can't fit a year of my trash in a mason jar, and some things I still choose to get even though they come in plastic (such as some of the food items I need for my medical diet). But I keep at it and keep improving. And that decision to keep taking care of myself and others in this way is in itself proving valuable.
Thank you, Katie! Your work and your photographs of it are gorgeous! Y'all, if you or a friend are in need of some extra comfort, Katie has wonderful products. Be sure to follow Katie on Instagram (the source of all these lovely photos) and visit The Sick Box on Etsy! While you're at it, don't forget to follow @stringandstory, too!
Make something special this weekend!
PS If you didn't see on Instagram, I finished the first E Pluribus Unum Project quilt top-- the Atlanta Skyline. Part of this project is honoring the brave kids who have fought for their lives against childhood cancer. If your child or a child you know has or had cancer and lives in Georgia, USA, please email me their name at stringandstory (at) gmail.com so I can include them in this project! (And if your child lives in another state, email me any way because there are more quilts coming!)