I am now telling the story of artists in Freeport, Bahamas. Here it begins!
The Bahamas is a beautiful place. Most of us who do not live there dream of going on a relaxing vacation to the white sandy beaches with crystal clear water. I hope anyone who is reading this gets this opportunity at some point in your life. And if you do, you must stop in Freeport and meet our friend Leo Brown! Leo Brown is a local artist in Freeport who has quite the inspirational story! He is a man of faith and just a lovely person to meet. He serves his community through his artwork, helps other artists in Freeport, and shares his culture through art with many tourists everyday!
I want to tell you more though. How did I meet Leo? And how does his work inspire Wildflower Enterprises? I was asked to go on a mission trip to Freeport by my good friend Lenore Hosier. She is now a pastor in central PA and served as a pastor in Freeport as well. Lenore is passionate about healthy cross-cultural relationships and having conversations about race, faith and culture. Therefore, she designs mission trips to fit these purposes! I was blessed to go with her to the Bahamas. I learned the importance of sustainable healthy relationships while on a mission trip. One out of many ways I saw this was learning how Lenore and Leo became great friends!
This picture of the children holding hands is titled "Unity" Leo describes this picture with the words from the song Jesus Loves the Little Children. "Jesus loves the little children, all the children in the world; red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight; Jesus love the little children of the world." (Leo, 2018). Also, Lenore’s passion for equality shines through this picture. This picture is how I was introduced to Leo.
Leo makes custom work for people as well. I have seen how he has blessed families with custom pictures such as the painting on top. This was painted for Sandi. It is her son Nathan. Both Sandy and Nathan were part of the church group I was with. Leo's art speaks about his culture. He helps people from all backgrounds understand themselves with his art as well. With all of this he shares the message of faith through his art, and he is not afraid to tell this story.
However, one special painting of Leo’s now hangs in the Wildflower Enterprises PA office.
The title of this piece is Field of Joy Leo says, "Field of Joy is about the celebration of women, women can accomplish enormous things individually and particular as long as they come together. I use seven women because seven is a spiritual number depicting completion. This represents the complete woman out of many. They are one."
What a perfect message for Wildflower Enterprises! Leo is truly inspiring our work! What’s going happen with our new relationships in the Bahamas? Stay updated for more stories!
You can help Wildflower Enterprises tell inspirational stories by purchasing one of our picnic blankets!
These upcycled designs promote sustainability in multiple ways. Created for conversations these blankets are made to empower you to do justly, walk humbly and love mercy.
They are all different sizes, textures and use different colored threads. Some are made from clothing, vintage fabrics and other fabrics that were meant to go in the trash. The imperfections tell a story.
We hope you tell many stories on your picnic blanket, make lifelong memories and make the world a better place!
-These are handcrafted in Pennsylvania.
(Notice the fan in the picture above. This is handmade by Emily Strachan, Bahamian artist)
(Closure is made from vintage lace)
I've been reflecting on the randomness of trips I took the past 10 weeks. I flew on 12 airplanes in less than 10 weeks and lived in 4 time zones. For flight attendants and business women and men this seems like nothing, but for me someone who is terrified of flying and has panic attacks and gets sick the night before a flight this is a big deal. I've been working on an independent study through my graduate school program with the University of Denver. I created the study to research the structure I wanted for Wildflower Enterprises. So in the Paulo Freire praxis education way I traveled to gain some hands on learning experience. I also went in with a plan to learn about sustainable social enterprises, but was very open to learn from the unexpected. The books I read were From Dependence to Dignity by Brian Fikkert and Russell Masks, We Are Not the Hero by Jean Johnson, Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken and Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton. I had plenty of air time to read these books. :) And I faced some fears during this study. I now have a framework for Wildflower Enterprises and excited about the future of this!
My schedule throughout this summer looked like this: I taught a social justice summer camp for teens in the Williamsport, PA area. On the last day of camp I met a mission team and headed toward Baltimore for our flight to the Bahamas. I gained new relationships and saw beautiful relationships of life long friendships between Americans and Bahamians at Freeport Methodist Church. (More stories to come about this!) I spent a week working with the church and children at the primary school. I also spent time meeting talented Bahamian artists. I flew back to the U.S. A day later my husband and I drove to JFK to hop on our Wow Airplane (wonderfully affordable flights) to Dublin, Ireland. We spent two weeks backpacking the country and two days in Scotland. I read my books, learned a ton of history dating back to St. Patrick, and found surprising ways to fit Ireland into my study. We unexpectedly found ourselves in Northern Ireland during their July 12th holiday, and learned about the time of The Troubles and years of conflict between the Protestants and Catholics. (More stories to come about this as well). We caught our flight back to the U.S. and had an 8 hour layover in Iceland! So I went from the Bahamas to Iceland..crazy! We made it back to the U.S. Then a week later I traveled down to Tennessee and Kentucky to see my family. Kaitlyn and I came up with some ideas for bringing Wildflower to an antique shop in Kentucky where she lives. We also caught up with the world's longest yardsales on route 127! We held a baby shower to welcome Kaitlyn's son Anders!!!!
However, I also spent time in Nashville with my mom to learn about the successful enterprises for women survivors that are there. I toured Thistle Farms, was introduced to ABLE and met up with the women who run Strings for Hope. (More stories to come about all of this). Check out the links to these organizations for now!
Why do I tell you all of this? Because most importantly I have realized I was open to meet extremely random people I never planned on meeting during all of this time. The people that come to mind that made an influence on me and were willing to tell me their story were: Emily in the Bahamas, the artist I am working with; Mike the taxi driver in Northern Ireland who opened up his life by touring us around his neighborhood Shankill on his holiday; Cayanne and Emily of Strings of Hope in Nashville who were willing to tour me around the coolest art studio and describe the history and current business structure of the organization; And also Larry the Broadway composer I sat beside on my final airplane back to State College, PA. The lesson I have learned from this is that being open to step outside of your initial plans and goals is important for research. You never truly work alone either, and community is important part of connecting academia and the world. Part of cross-cultural learning is to be open to learn from the unexpected. This is also a lesson I learned from Jean Johnson's book.
So in other words you never know what you will learn, and who it will come from. One lesson from Larry that I am taking with me is one I will use to inspire artists I meet through Wildflower Enterprises. These are the three points every artist needs: 1. Money to survive
2. To work on their craft, whatever it may be, and 3. Relationships. These are the keys to a happy life. And I truly believe that cross-cultural workers are artists!
This was my summary of events, and I am incredibly privileged to have these opportunities. I now know it's time to take Wildflower Enterprises to the next level and build women leaders through this sustainable social enterprise in both rural America and around the world--now that starts in the Bahamas and the small town I live in today. I am truly trying to create a bridge for rural America and the rest of the world. Stay connected as Kaitlyn and I tell stories about the experiences I mentioned in this post. Love all of ya'll! We are excited to continue this journey.
A large part of Wildflower’s purpose is to tell stories through art. This can be through writing, sewing, painting, songwriting, etc. This is the framework for future enterprises that will be established. This will let women around the world tell their story and passion for art and culture at the same time as creating social change for women’s rights. Maybe in time I will develop a teaching framework for the best ways for someone to tell their story or telling someone else’s story for effective advocacy for social change. I learned from my director while interning for Bread for the World in Chicago that some of the best advocacy is storytelling. The focus of Bread for the World is food justice for healthy and sustainable world. They do excellent research on food justice issues. During and after this internship I began to take this storytelling advocacy idea with me to D.C. where I led a group of undergraduate students to advocate on Capitol Hill for food justice. I have traveled to D.C. a few other times to meet with senators and staff in D.C. to advocate for issues for marginalized individuals. I also do all of this with a faith background. I am true fan of the teaching of being a voice for the voiceless.
For instance, Proverbs 31:8-10 says,
“Speak out on behalf of the voiceless,
and for the rights of all who are vulnerable.[a]
9 Speak out in order to judge with righteousness
and to defend the needy and the poor.”
After doing this and learning many stories of a variety of individuals I have realized one question, why can’t those who fall into the category of marginalization based on global systems tell their own stories? So, this is where I am now with Wildflower and the enterprises that will be established. I want to empower women to tell their stories the good and the bad. If someone is ready to tell their story I want to provide a space where they can. Is this in D.C.? Or is this only with them and me? Either way is okay. Because social change is happening both ways. It is happening when a woman is brave and tells her story to our president. This is because there is chance for privileged individuals to hear another point of view to change systems. Social change is also happening when a woman is brave and tells her story to me through an empowerment counseling session. This is because she can be empower herself while doing this. A newly empowered woman’s personality will shine to all she encounters. There are also special moments of random acts of kindness that happen from one on one encounters. Can all of this create systemic change to lift the voices of those who are marginalized? I think so, with effective story-telling from many different voices.
So talking about all of this I think it is time to fully tell the my story and Wildflower’s rich history. This will come in a several weeks of blog writing. My story is my inspiration to build Wildflower with my twin sister Kaitlyn to really serve women and offer brave spaces.
Well, we couldn't do Wildflower alone. This weekend Kacie had the opportunity to attend The United Methodist Women Assembly 2018. The daily themes were Power of Bold, The Cost of Bold, and Bold Action. After networking with amazing mothers and sisters in Christ we have truly seen God's vision for Wildflower. Thank you to all United Methodist Women!
We learned from many inspirational bold women this weekend including Michelle Alexander who discussed how mass criminalization is a women's issue, Leymah Gbowee who has worked passionately for the women's peace movement in Nigeria, and many more.
This was truly a life changing experience for us, and life changing for the future of Wildflower. We are committed to continue letting Wildflower help raise up the voice of the voiceless, be bold, and let women lead!
This summer is an exciting time for Wildflower. We are taking Wildflower to places we never imagined we would years ago. Kacie will be traveling to the Bahamas to meet with women to explore possibilities of sustainable community partnerships. As you know we are passionate about giving survivors of violence a place to heal. Therefore, we are traveling to research many intersections to violence against women. This summer our blog will be full of updates and stories about these bold moves.
We are excited to share with you guys some new fair trade fashions we have bought for you all to try out. As we make it through the month of March, spring will be here before we know it. I don't know if you guys are like us, but winter is not a favorite! We are excited to share some other exciting news on Easter as well with our Wildflower family :) Keep following us, and as we march our way through March. Remember to always look for something positive in everyday, even if some days you have to look a little harder!
A new journey has begun. Wildflower Closet has been in the books for around 10 years. However, the vision has been a dream with a shield hiding two lost future entrepreneurs.
Here’s the story: Wildflower Closet started as K and K Closet back when we, Kaitlyn and Kacie, were around 16 or 17 years old. What we were doing, we had no idea. Our love for creativity and fabric led us to look at the fabrics of the clothing in our own closets. We had too much clothing like many American teenagers. We also needed extra money to save for college, and we wanted to help our mom. We began selling some of our used clothing on Facebook and to friends. Many of our mom’s teacher friends and their daughters can be thanked for our love of selling clothing. We grew up buying used clothes from the daughters of the teachers in our small town. We then passed our clothing on to other teacher’s daughters. What a fun “tradition” this was for the Portland, TN teachers!
However, through family crises and college downfalls we struggled financially to make ends meet. We needed to do more than sell used clothing. We needed to start a business. We began making dresses and skirts. We sold just a few, and not enough to make any profit.
We separated in 2011. This was very hard on us. Kacie was in Chicagoland, Kaitlyn in Nashville. Our Wildflower dream did not end. The Facebook page stayed open. Friends still asked for us to make custom dresses or alter clothing. Designs were used during a fashion show for, Women at Risk International, an awesome organization that has been part of shaping the official Wildflower dreams. Designs were still being drawn. Kaitlyn was making coffee cozies, bracelets, curtains, skirts. Kacie was getting lost in Chicago while interning for some twin designers.
There have been times of success, and our vision continued to change as we gained more life experiences. Kaitlyn has gained some business experience. Kacie has learned about women’s rights, and fair trade. Through many heart aches, downfalls, and constant learning we have held strong. There are currently heartaches in our lives, but at this time we have decided our new Wildflower vision will carry on, but even stronger than ever before. Although there are heartaches we are at a better understanding for a purpose of this. We are still learning every day. This time we decided to take the chance to build Wildflower while learning about social entrepreneurship. Plans have been drawn, and we are excited to venture on this journey and learn from all of you!
This is more than a clothing business. This will be an artwork of empowerment, healing, and design. We want to help women who have experienced similar disappointments as us and other women in our lives. We want this to be a story of how women around the world can come together to empower one another. Clothing will be sold, speeches will be made, and empowerment will be given to every woman young or old around the world.
Our vision is big, we have no funding, but we have a plan and it will carry on. Stay tuned as the vision unfolds!
Love K & K
Coming early November...
For now we have added a sneak peek! These skirts will be available and made to order November 2017.
Stay tuned for the official announcement.
Nina wrote a Facebook status asking for alterations help. Her daughter Lexi needed someone to make a corset back for her senior prom dress. Kacie read the status and initially thought Nina’s request was huge. She was asking for someone to take out the zipper and add a corset back to a ballroom style dress. Kacie hesitated, but then responded. She decided to look at the dress to see how much work needed done. Time was the big issue…did she have enough free time out of her busy work schedule to do this project?
Eventually she said yes, and a corset was created for Lexi’s prom dress! Kacie made the small loops and carefully sewed them into the dress. Lexi looked beautiful in the final project and danced the night away at her senior prom!
Here are some final pictures of Lexi in her prom dress.
“Thanks Nina and Lexi for allowing me to work on this dress. It was a pleasure. I needed the break from my stressful work schedule to focus on design.” -Kacie
Note to reader: Take time to do something you enjoy. It may be random sewing projects like Kacie and Kaitlyn enjoy or something else. This was not an overnight project for Kacie, but a few months’ work. There are always barriers like busy work schedules or other events that do not allow us to take time to do something creative. When you do find the time to create something you may also be helping someone else—like in this story.
Kacie G. Hopkins
Living life to inspire women and be an advocate for women's rights.