Hi Brooke! Please tell us a bit about yourself. By the way, your macrames over at Ciocco Design Co are absolutely stunning. Can you share with us about how you got started and what the journey has been like for you?
Thank you, you’re so sweet! I’ve been doing textiles in some way or another almost my entire life. I studied design in school with a focus in textile art and furniture. Once I graduated school, I moved up to Portland and began trying to find a career job.
This was hard, as I’m sure most people my age will tell you, and I needed some kind of creative outlet to stay sane. Macrame had always interested me as I did a lot of weaving in college, so I tried it out. Creating macrame pieces came very naturally and I just couldn’t stop!
My background is very business oriented, so naturally I had to put all my pieces up on Etsy to see how they did, test the waters if you will. Turned out, people really liked them! I sold a bunch in a short amount of time and decided to make it a real business. It’s been very natural since then. Of course there are ups and downs, as any small business owner would say, but overall this business just seems right for me.
As creatives, fear is no stranger to us. How you do deal with the voices of fear and self-doubt when they come up?
Fear is definitely always lingering. For me, limiting my amount of social media really helps me not compare myself to other makers. Also, making sure I have a healthy balance between work and other aspects of my life really helps keep fear and anxiety at bay.
When I do feel fear or anxiety surrounded around my creativity, I like to take a step back and try to relax. Do something else I love like taking a bath or going for a walk with my dog. I’m very cautious because sometimes when you make your craft your business it can become more work than fun, so I try to make sure it stays something I love to do not something I have to do.
Can you share a recent struggle you had and how you overcame it?
I just want to start out by saying, life is a bitch sometimes.
Last fall, I had a massive mental breakdown. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced one, but it’s the worst thing I’ve ever had to go through in my entire life so far. Basically, I woke up one morning just knowing something had changed in my head, I was balling uncontrollably and couldn’t stop shaking. For the next few days I couldn’t do anything - couldn’t eat, could barely talk, couldn’t get around on my own very well… It was so scary because there was nothing life altering that happened that caused it, nothing I could clearly blame it on.
I was so afraid, I felt so alone. It turned out, I was having extreme anxiety and depression. This was happening to someone who has never felt depression or anxiety - so let’s just say, I was a horrible mess. I took the next 4 months off work and away from my art, leaving Portland and living with my parents. It took a long time for me to even feel slightly like myself again. I was determined to feel better because I knew I couldn’t go through life feeling so sad and lost. With the help of friends, family, doctors and therapists, eating right, exercising, my creative outlets and just making a conscious effort to feel better, I finally was able to move back to Portland and restart my life.
I still can’t tell you exactly why this happened to me, but it changed my life forever. I learned so much about myself and gained so much compassion for people who experience depression and anxiety. It’s still an up hill battle every day, but you just have to keep going and consciously trying to be happy.
As women, I think there’s a lot of topics we’re afraid to talk about. What’s something that has been on your heart recently?
Honestly, I talk about everything with everyone. But, I do think that it’s really hard for a lot of women to talk about their feelings when it comes to depression/anxiety. Society makes us believe that women who have those kinds of emotions are “crazy” or “mentally unstable”. It’s a load of crap. Especially when it comes to men, I feel like a lot of women hide their feelings because they don’t want to seem unstable. Any man or partner who doesn’t appreciate a woman’s emotions is not worth your time.
If I could give any advice it would be let yourself feel the feelings you have. If you’re happy, feel extremely happy and soak it up, if you’re sad or anxious, let yourself feel that and ride the wave. The more you hold your feelings back, whether you’re ashamed or afraid of what people will think, the worse off your mental state will be.
The online world can be a noisy place sometimes. How do you stay authentic and true to who you are?
In an age where in order to be a successful creative or entrepreneur you have to have a strong online presence, it is hard to separate your every day life and the online world.
For me, it’s as simple as limiting my online time to only a small amount a day (usually in the early morning), turning off notifications (I don’t see anything until I open my apps to check), and just understanding that Instagram and all those social medias are just a facade. You can’t compare yourself, your work, or your life to anyone else. I try to post about my work and my life an even amount.
My goal as a creative entrepreneur is to be authentic to my followers, to be someone they can look to and say “she is really down to earth”, because that is me. I don’t want to show anyone anything else.
What’s the best life advice you’ve ever received from someone else?
Wow, this is a hard question. I’ve received tons of great advice from many people - but recently my Mom told me something that stuck! She said, “Don’t take anything too seriously”. It’s simple really. I know it’s easier said than done for most people (like me!), but it’s true. If you take things in life a little less seriously, you’re able to relax a little more. You’re able to relieve some of that stress you might have had surrounding that thing you’re worrying about.
When you’re able to let go a little bit and just see things for wha they are, you’re life is so much simpler and happier.
Can you share your own nugget of wisdom with our readers?
Do things that make you happy! If running your own creative business makes you happy, do it! Just take that leap. Sure, there will be hard times, but if you love it then you’ll succeed. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, use the people around you as resources. Life is short, so grasp onto anything and everything that makes you feel good.
What’s next for you in your journey? How can we support you, and where can we find you online?
Right now I am focusing on balance in my life. I’ve always been a go-getter, but I’m trying to balance that with taking care of myself physically and mentally. I’m always working on new projects, adding to my skills, doing workshops and shows here in Portland - you can find all my work, what I’m up to, and a bit about me on my website: Ciocco Design. If you want to follow my life (and my puppy, Leia), sign up on my monthly email list!
Thanks so much for letting me interview you, Brooke. One last question before we leave, what does being a wholehearted woman mean to you?
To me, being a wholehearted woman means being yourself. Fully loving yourself for who you are and what makes you, you. Striving everyday to be the woman you want to be, with no hesitation, no apologies, and no fear.
Rapid fire q’s:
- A woman who inspires me: My mother who does whatever she wants with no apologies or regrets.
- Favorite place to hang out online: Instagram - hands down.
- Best book I ever read: You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero (if you haven’t read it, do it!).
- My core values: Love yourself, love your friends, love your family, and smile.
Did you enjoy this interview with Brooke?