IN THE SEATS: Design Your Life Through Creativity and Play Workshop

Photo by: Bree McCool Photography; view more fabulous pictures from this event in our  Women on the Rise 2019  album

I first met Van Lai-DuMone at this year’s Women on the Rise luncheon. I had gotten a peek at the list of RSVPs and had poked around on the internet to find out more about a couple of the women I didn’t yet know (or know of). Van was one of them. 

Van Lai-DuMone leading the workshop

I texted Carrie after looking up Van’s business, WorksmART, and begged her to seat Van at my table. I know that sounds a little stalker-y and, okay, you’re not wrong. But I was instantly intrigued by what this badass woman does and the brand she’s built! 

Not only does she teach individuals and teams at companies (top-level brands to SMBs) how to incorporate creativity and play into seemingly mundane tasks like problem-solving, but she does it WITH LEGOS AND PAINT AND COLLAGES, OH MY! I was hooked. 

At Women on the Rise we became fast friends and have stayed in touch since, but I hadn’t yet had the pleasure of attending one of her workshops. That all changed this month when I took her three-hour workshop “Design Your Life Through Creativity and Play”. 

I decided to bring my husband (of all people) to the workshop last minute. This is a dude who has never taken a workshop or read a self-improvement book in his life and would have happily continued on that merry path unperturbed if it hadn’t been for me and my bright ideas.

As soon as we arrived, Van and Kip were quick to help break the ice, throwing us seamlessly into introductions. There was no time to start feeling shy or weird because the environment was so warm, communal and welcoming. 

Throughout the workshop Van was constantly disarming the rude little voice in our heads by reminding us that no idea was too crazy. I loved that. I’m often fairly measured in the actions I take, but this reminder gave me permission to throw out some really wacky ideas (including lighting everything I own on fire - no joke). 

Every exercise we did incorporated a collaborative element, but there was never a moment where I felt people were being bossy with advice or being domineering know-it-alls and I think that’s all due to how Van built the areas where we gave feedback to one another. Even my husband (who hates sharing “in front of the class”) did so with confidence. 

We employed divergent and convergent thinking while we played with LEGOS, getting our creative minds active to help us brainstorm. We distilled core values using pictures and magazines and we ruminated on how some of those values are reflected in major areas of our lives (home, career, finance, intellectual, health/fitness, etc.). 

It was really interesting to look at that and see how I’m living well and in alignment with my values and in what areas I could use some improvement. 

Van also reminded us that just because we’re doing well in an area, doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to shift our focus off of it. We might be keen to take it from 95% to that full 100%...or we might want to make sure we’re allocating enough focus to that area to keep up the good work and not let it fall by the wayside. 

We ended the workshop by creating artifacts that represented what we were going to be working on in our lives and how we would feel when it was done. I don’t think my husband has done an art project since elementary school (which was evident when he needed Van’s help to glue down the edges of the pictures he’d selected, bless him) and I was incredibly surprised to see what he made.

We talked about the exercises we’d gone through and our answers to the questions that came up throughout the workshop the whole way home (we had time for a good conversation--the workshop was on the west side and we live in NoHo). 

I was amazed at how eager he was to share what had come up for him and what he really dug about the workshop. He LOVED (to my surprise and his) this exercise Van had us do where we looked at a random picture (his was of tropical fish, mine was of a waterfall in a lush, green landscape) and applied whatever came up for us in thought to the area of our lives we’d chosen to work on to align with our values. 

I love that this workshop was the start of conversations I know we’ll continue to have for...well, ever. I know we’ll be holding onto our worksheets and artifacts to remind us of what we unearthed in our subconscious minds by incorporating creativity and play. I love that, even in such a relatively short period of time, we were able to tackle issues from our real lives in meaningful ways that are applicable over and over again to any and every area of our lives. What I love, perhaps most of all, is that I learned very quickly in those three hours that problems we relegate to the analytical side of our brains could greatly benefit from hearing from the creative side of our brains and I’ll be reminding myself of that from now on.

I’m so happy that I met Van through BRA and I love that I’m a part of an organization that encourages us to support one another and keep the money flowing between us. If I wasn’t a member of BRA, I wouldn’t have met Van or known about this amazing workshop and I don’t know that I’d be so active in my search for ways to ‘shop’ with fellow female entrepreneurs. 

I’ve always been passionate about supporting female business owners, but it’s been something I’ve done more passively...oh, this jewelry was made by a female designer in business for herself! Neat! (But I was already buying it and still would have purchased it if it had been made by a male designer.)

I can’t wait for the next time I can support one of you amazing ladies to see what you’ll have in store for me!

Casey Killian

Casey Killian