Making something from nothing spurred Karen Corliss to form her nonprofit, I am a maker. She wanted to create a space for people to come together, make something and to break out of societal expectations and into creativity.
"A maker is anyone who makes something from nothing. You're making something from scratch, or you're making something from parts that aren't intended for a purpose in particular, but you make something different," Corliss said.
Creating a community is one piece of the puzzle for I am a Maker's mission. Corliss went looking for a community where she could find an alternative to the sterotyped maker — one who focuses on technology.
"The main reason for starting a nonprofit was that the Maker Movement was pretty much a boys club and I did not make robots, I did not do circuit boards, technology, I was not a programmer, which the modern Maker Movement really was coined around. So, I do fiber arts stuff and I felt like I had to declare that I'm a maker, too," Corliss said.
Not only did Corliss wish to make things, she wanted those things to be meaningful to the community. She and the I am a Maker community sought out local organizations and wracked their brains for ways to give back. Two ideas popped up: one for the houseless and another for veterans in the VCP Village — a tiny home community for veterans in Longmont.
"I got another donation of yarn and we are crocheting hats for the houseless community through Harvest of Hope pantry in Boulder," Corliss said. So far 12 hats have been made and donated to the cause. More are expected to be donated as fast as the makers’ fingers can work.
For VCP Village run by the Veterans Community Project, Corliss and I am a Maker members are making sure veterans have some basic necessities when they move into their new homes: potholders. .
"... I remember when I moved to a new place, I had nothing," Corliss said. "We figured the potholders were something that we could make with our donated fabric that's functional with a metal layer in there. We spent the money on the materials and they're really hardy."
For Corliss, making something for herself brings its own joy. As she settled into the at home mentality during the pandemic, she started finding many things to make for herself. After a bit, she began to suffer from neck pain and made a therapy heat wrap.
"The heat wraps were kind of a personal choice when I started making them for neck pain. And I started making a bunch of things over the pandemic stay-at-home world," she said, "that was one of them where I just said I need to make a neck wrap for myself."
She did not initially intend to sell them, but as she began researching materials and getting benefits from them, she realized that others may need the same therapeutic relief.
"I figured, wow, this would be a great thing to sell. I tested it out in a number of different ways for the right size and the right weight. I chose flaxseed for the contents because it has a lot of resilience for heating and cooling; it has a lot of really good thermal properties." Corliss said. "They're pretty, unscented and heavy. They just feel good around your neck."
Although Corliss decided to sell the heat wraps, she wants people to know that there doesn't always have to be a financial gain from the things they create; makers can make things just for fun. .
"There are a lot of makers who don't make for the purposes of making a product to sell, for example. There's a lot of personal creativity that people sometimes feel pressured to be entrepreneurial with, but you need to give yourself permission to just make and to make something for yourself," she said.