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"It's seamless": How Shannon Roudhán and Jason Bowlsby embrace creative chaos

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Shannon and Jason — Courtesy photo
Shannon and Jason — Courtesy photo

Shannon and Jason have the magic touch — they can make something out of nothing! The two Seattle-based makers share a passion for crafting, which they have been doing their whole lives. "Both of us come from crafting families," Jason said.

"We were raised by makers, people who make things for a purpose," Shannon explained "and that crosses into what we do. Everything is made with a purpose. We were raised by people who came from the Depression — makers. That's where our background came from, so when it comes time to express ourselves, this is how we do it. We create using whatever the heck is in front of us."

For Shannon and Jason making includes a wide variety of crafts, from quilting to crocheting to sashiko (decorative reinforcement stitching) and everything in between. "The world has changed, and people are multicrafters. They just want to do things for the sake of doing it," Shannon said. "People ask what our business is, but it is everything: graphic design, photography, cooking."

After falling in love 30 years ago on the dancefloor of the Timberline, a once-beloved Gay bar where the current Cornish College for the Arts' Raisbeck Hall is located, Shannon and Jason decided to come together in a crafting partnership and started their business. Now, they teach classes, give tutorials, commission art, and write crafting books.

Shannon and Jason have different talents and skill sets, but their business works because they know what they are good at and have passion for their work. Jason typically handles the photography while Shannon does the tactile work. "Shannon always has to have her hands moving," Jason said.

"I have to do something, or I am maddeningly bored," Shannon added. "I'm always working on something. Embrace the creative chaos, that's our thing. It's our idea that there's so much stuff going on, and we have the choice of fighting that chaos or embracing it and creating with it."

Courtesy photo  

Magic in transformation
Together, Shannon and Jason are changing the way people see crafting. For them, the magic is in the process of transformation. There is freedom in crafting without expectations. Sometimes, new crafters will get caught up in the functionality of what they make, but the secret Jason and Shannon have found is that things don't have to be useful to have a purpose.

"I have no purpose for this except I like how the colors look," Shannon said as she held up a square of different fabrics sewn together. What was once just scraps is now a gorgeous piece of art.

"Our last book was about Japanese embroidery — you're counting threads and making designs by weaving fabric — and these are small things, and it's like, 'What do I do with that now?'" Jason continued. "You look at it. You enjoy it. It's art. It's something to be enjoyed, looked at, and sometimes touched and felt. Sometimes, the creation is the destination."

Embracing the chaos helps Shannon and Jason find balance, not only in their business but in their personal lives. They add crafts to their repertoire slowly, trying not to take on more than they can chew. "There is a constant flow. We go where the current is taking us," Jason said. "After a while, you can only fight so hard against that current, and eventually, you have to let go and see what's around the bend."

"The balance is seeing it's all one thing," Shannon added. "It is a magical thing, to plant a seed and see food come off it. You do the thing that's there. It's all a part of the same energy and the same chaos."

While so many Americans live in the "profit over passion" mindset, Shannon and Jason have found a way to make both work. "You can be creative and get paid for it. This is how Mama pays the mortgage," Shannon said with a laugh. "We don't have to like that we live in a capitalist society, but we still exist in it, and I still have to pay my mortgage and keep the lights on. There's the balance between being a socially conscious creator and also taking care of us and our community."

Shannon has advice for anyone hesitant to take the leap and pursue their creative passions as a career: "Just do it. Stop thinking about it and just do it. Stop planning to live your life, and just live your life."

Embracing the chaos not only helps Shannon and Jason uphold a successful business and follow their passions, but it is also their philosophy for their relationship. "We have been through all the changes. We're growing together as two people," Jason said. From shifting business models to changing economies to the personal growth that comes with transitioning, Shannon and Jason have stuck together through it all.

"Working together and being a couple — it's all the same thing," Jason said. "I couldn't do what I do without her assistance. We have our own spaces, but we're still constantly talking to each other, like a play that never ends. It's seamless between the two of us."