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We’re delighted to feature the career journey of Jess Crow, a lifelong maker, epoxy and woodworking artist, and owner of Crow Creek Designs. The DeBruce Foundation team originally met Jess at Make48, a collaborative innovator and maker challenge in which participants have 48 hours to develop a great idea and bring it to life. Jess served as an influencer, creator, inspirer, and resource for participants. Here, we catch up to chat about her career path to becoming an immensely popular maker, teacher, and influencer.
Tell us about you, your career journey, and what led you to become a maker.
Hi! I’m Jess, and I’m based out of Anchorage, Alaska. I grew up in very, very remote Alaska, and I can say to my children, “We had to walk a mile in -60* to get to the bus stop.” Like legit, that was my life.
My journey started very much by accident. Building and tinkering, taking apart things has always been in my blood. Art has been a large part of my life and how I have lived it. When I started, it was simply by building a coffee table. Didn’t like it, moved through it pretty fast, posted it on Craigslist. Turns out there was a lot of demand for it!
Then I started flipping dressers. But I was flipping them by adding a lot of art to them. Adding designs, vintage leaves, art deco style, things that really speak to me. Then, I started running out of dressers in Alaska to flip. So then I had to learn how to build dressers…which I don’t like. Not on my favorite list. But I did discover that I loved finding ways to incorporate woodworking and DIY and art.
My maker adulthood has allowed me and afforded me the ability to travel across the nation, teaching other people, not only how to make, and make do with the spaces they have, but make their spaces fit them as well. Over 20% of the United States population has some sort of either learning or physical disability, and I, myself, have a rare genetic disease that causes me to have to adapt my space. Through my classes, I want everybody to feel empowered.
I like hearing people feel like they have created something that they’re excited to give to their grandkids or something they’re so happy with that it creates an emotional attachment. So I’ve kind of turned that into my quest. Not only am I a maker, but I think I’m starting to skirt that line where people look at me more like a teacher instead of just a maker. Which is a place never in my life that I thought I would be. I was the kid that got ‘absent’ in class all the time because I was so afraid to raise my hand and just tell the teacher I was in school, nonetheless stand in front of thousands of people and encourage them to follow their making dreams.
What are your current top Agilities, and have they changed over time?
I would have to say that early on, my strong suits probably would have been Managing, Organizing, and Working with Information. Managing and Organizing, which is an area I have actually done my entire life, in one way or another from being, not only, on my own since I was 13, but also having my oldest daughter when I was 16. So I became very good at managing and organizing situations. And having a child who is exceptionally medically fragile, I had to learn very much how to navigate that – so, Working with Information.
And as I have developed, I really feel that Serving and Caring and Developing Others, and still Communicating are Agililties where I’m finding the most happiness as well as my most strength. Not only from showing other people, but personally – I’ve had more personal growth in the last three years than I have ever experienced in my entire almost 43 years of life, and it’s been from honing in on those skills.
How do your mindset and your network play a role in your journey?
[As makers], if we don’t know how to do [something], part of that problem-solving is finding people who do know how to do it. I’m willing to accept that I will fail along the road, and if I need help, I know to reach out to other people. For me, learning to ask for help was actually huge. And I’ve met a lot of makers who, like myself, have either experienced homelessness or very bad problems, and learning to ask for help is not easy if you’re used to relying on yourself.
So part of personal growth has been learning to ask for help from other community members. And the maker community, they take that theory, and they embrace it every single time. I’ve never met another maker who will not stop what they’re doing, or at least accommodate you, in a way to help.
What advice do you have for others who are trying to figure out their passions and leverage their Agilities to build their ideal future?
Embrace your weird! We all have stuff that we feel is weird or off or not going to be socially accepted by our peers. Finding that one thing (or maybe a dozen things!) that is a little bit different about you is the thing that makes you shine. So, that thing, that makes you feel a little bit weird, is actually probably going to be one of your greatest assets you can bring forth in this world to make people not feel alone and like they can take the first step.