As another year concludes, it seemed fitting to reflect on the new jams that helped get me through it. Like seriously, as I develop more and more as a creative i realize the importance that music plays in that. I am always on the hunt for new artists, and always looking forward to new tracks from my favorites. Well here you go, my top 5 albums from the last 12 months (plus a few extras):
5. Dustin Tebbutt - First Light
4. Local Natives - Sunlit Youth
3. LANY - Kinda
2. Gregory Alan Isakov - Gregory Alan Isokov with the Colorado Symphony
1. Blind Pilot - And Then Like Lions
Bad Suns - Disappear Here
Glass Animals - How To Be a Human Being
Bears Den - Red Earth & Pouring Rain
It first started with this man, Don. He rides his motorcycle nine months out of the year and is one of the happiest people I've had the pleasure of meeting.
I didn't have to ask him much. He's the type of guy that's initially shy, but when you ask the right question(s), he'll open up immediately. I heard story after story of his countless motorcycle trips, meeting new people on each route, running into familiar bikers at rallies and random diners in Texas.
Don rides nine months out of the year. During the three months he's home, he gets his affairs in order - pays his bills, completes his yearly tax forms, sees family and friends - and then he's off again. And despite the constant moving, he doesn't feel lonely.
I was late to work that day - happily so. But since Don, I've run into people that have their passions and are pursuing them in some form or other, with or without full-time jobs.
And here I am, struggling to get out of bed each morning, my eyes feel as though weights, or glass jars are pressed around them, and I sit at my desk, dependent on my cup of coffee, wondering why I'm so unhappy in a position my friends tell me is great. In fact, sometimes I sense envy.
And I don't get it.
I'm still waiting for Conde Naste to call me and say, "We love your work, come join our team at Travel Magazine. We'll send you places." Or some humanitarian organization will email me saying, "We see you love to capture the essence of a person as much as we do. Come be our photographer."
But then today, a guy like Fred, an 80 or 90-something piano tuner - easily one of my top 10 favorite people - comes in and he lets me take a picture of him working. People like Fred, like Don, they brighten my day. They remind me why I pursue any sort of creative endeavor at all.
This is not to say that I've forgotten the ultimate purpose of creating, which is to glorify my Creator - Jesus Christ. It is to say that Fred and Don and everyone else that comes along, remind me. They are the Creator's creations as well, and physical, tangible reminders of the purpose God gives us - gives me - to live, to breathe, to create.
I'll still wake up feeling the pressured rings around my eyes - or maybe, after five attempts over the years I should just stop trying to use an eye cream. And I'll still be dependent on coffee. And I'll still have days when I'm angry about where I am and where I'm not. Cue Fred. Cue Don. Cue someone else that will enter into my day and give me a gentle slap on the face.
Because I can still be creative and creating no matter what my full-time job is or where I live.
“Make what you love and love what you make.” These are the words on a piece of paper sitting on my desk as I write this. A reminder to pursue creativity and to just simply... start.
Hey there, my name is Hannah-Grace. As a writer, occasional musician, songwriter, storyteller, and photographer, I am most at home and alive when doing those things. However, I also struggle with just that, making time and space to sit down and create.
This has led to me wrestling with the question of “Why is it so hard to pursue what I love?” and “What is the purpose of this art if it never goes anywhere?” And instead of facing these questions and creating through this tension, I’ve been in hiding.
I've been running from the ways I was made to create. From the work it takes to bring out that beauty I see in the world around me. From who I was made to be...
I bought a guitar at sixteen, then let it sit there while my passion to learn faded. By the time I tried self teaching videos and eventually lessons, I wasn't ready to start back at square one with learning an instrument.
Senior year of high school I took a songwriting class, and it took me until the day before, staying up all hours to actually finish my projects. Writing and playing for others felt daunting. Fear over opinions and other’s comments and the pressure of deadlines made me question my creativity, rather then embracing the opportunity to grow.
I often forget my love for the arts and feel frustrated with the whole creative process. I fear a lack of originality. Instead of letting the fact that others are also expressing these truths push me to do it in a unique way and treasure it, instead of pushing myself to get better, I spend my time comparing and let that steal my joy. I get disillusioned. I wonder what the worth of this is.
What if no one ever reads it, listens...cares? Will I choose to believe that creating to reflect my Creator is enough? Will I keep choosing that everyday?
And then I come back. Five minutes on guitar turns to thirty, simple piano songs learned long ago resound in my soul, lyrics perfectly capturing and expressing emotions make me feel alive, the beauty I see with my eyes freezes on the camera lens, concerts feel like home. I choose to sit and let every thought flow out, and as it does, it’s like the world becomes a little brighter and I feel like my heart is where it’s supposed to be.
Often, the results aren’t what I expected or envisioned. The projects appear to be so far from finished. But it’s a start, and from that initial spark so much more can follow. And while it may never go far, I can’t ignore or shake the burning feeling that I must create. Though it is challenging, there is a beauty and joy from doing it, and that alone is rewarding and makes it worth it. So I will continue to find space, to push myself to grow on the difficult days, and to remember how much I love it deep down. To keep making what I love and starting to truly love what I make, because I was designed by my Creator to do just that.
I love that Dead Last is all about this, all about encouraging creativity and community. A place where we can all keep growing and find inspiration through the work of others.
Keep creating friends,
Sometime back in December, as we drove home late from a concert, Jesse asked me if he could share a passion of his with me. As I turned from staring out the window at the night sky, feet kicked up on the dashboard, I found it odd he would preface it with a question but I of course said yes. He began to share about his love for creativity (knew that) but also about his desire to form a community of creative people - one day even a physical place where other makers and creatives can work, share, inspire and be inspired. I don't remember my reaction fully. I think I turned to look back out the window as I knew just hours before, that very afternoon, I had shared the same dream with my parents over dinner...
"Does that make sense?", he asked me.
"More than you know," I replied.
- - - - - - -
Since then it has been our desire to build that very community first mentioned on that drive home. Simply put, that's where Dead Last Collective all began. We are dreamers...but we also want to take our dreams and become doers. I felt it was about time to put some faces to this creative lifestyle Instagram with a funky name that keeps showing up on your feed once in a while.
We want you to know our story, and to journey with us as it grows and transforms into more. The best part is, we can't do any of this alone and we wouldn't want to. Your story is part of ours. So as we grow and learn and create - our desire is that you do as well.
Let's do this together.
Whether you say it’s purely talent; whether you’re certain it’s a learned trait; I like to vouch for inheritance—that is, from our Father up there. I’d say He’s the ultimate craftsman. Isaiah 64:8 has always been my favorite verse: “But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.”
I’ve loved art since I was a child; I’m pursuing it more deeply as an adult.
Of all the different techniques, understandings, mediums and methods I’ve picked up, one thing has not changed.
When I create things, I know I will never be finished with them.
I can work on a piece for a couple of hours, sit down, and say, “Wow, I really like this, it’s finished.”
And I promise to you within the next days, weeks, months, years—I’ll look at that same piece and think, “Wow, I could change this or that and this or that could be so much better, now that I know this and that.”
There’s always something to finish, fix, or refine. Leonardo Di Vinci was one to recognize this, famously observing, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
Ultimately, our Lord is the same way—with us. He is never finished with us; He will never abandon us. We’re a work of art He’s never able to set down, and yet we’re the work of art He’s most pleased with. He’s enraptured with us; dedicated from our first formation to our ongoing transformation. He knows as well as any of us artistically-inclined, that just as ability is sharpened over time, so are our virtues. So is our knowledge. So are our very lives, then, in all fullness.
What a beautiful deliberation to belong to. What a beautiful inheritance."
I was sitting in an ice cream shop in Woodstock, NY having a milkshake for my birthday with my family when a Facebook message from Carissa popped up on my phone. I had the privilege of living in the same unit with Carissa my freshman year and am honored to call her a sweet friend of mine. I thought it was just a quick “happy birthday!” and didn’t think much of it. As I opened the message, half paying attention, my jaw dropped - first at the length of the message, second at the content as my eyes quickly skimmed to see what she was saying. I read it over a few times and just sat there wondering why in the world Dead Last Collective was approaching me. (Apologies for sounding like I’m copying Dom’s post word for word but this is the honest truth!) So anyways…I then read the message to my family and started to low-key freak out that I had been asked to join with them!
Humor me by letting me introduce myself. My name is Kasey and I love to create. I like to think I’m confident in my work but when it really boils down to it, I have a lot of insecurities. Please let me explain…
Ever since I started finger painting back in Kindergarten I’ve struggled with feelings of inadequacy in all things creative. Although I’ve always loved to create and even am pursuing a major in graphic design right now I’ve always had this feeling that I’m not good enough. I remember telling my mom as I packed up to go off to college that I wasn’t sure I was creative enough to pursue a design major - maybe I should just do business… (not that there’s anything wrong with business - I’m actually minoring in marketing - but you get the picture). Because design has always been something near and dear to my heart and I really felt the Lord drawing me to it, I decided to stick with design. As I’ve sat through numerous drawing classes, Illustrator tutorials, and workshop tours, I’ve learned a few things that I hope and pray might speak to some other person struggling with something like this.
So here goes: first, I’ve learned that there will always be someone better than you. For three years now, I’ve looked up to Hayley, Carissa, and Jesse as creative superiors. I’ve always viewed them as the best of the best and something that I should try to be. While this is absolutely true, I have let this get me down at times. I’ve worked myself into a tizzy convincing myself that I can never reach their level of creativity, confidence, and professionalism. Sitting in my classes, I always seem to find the person who is already an expert in whatever we’re learning and then compare myself to them. Comparison sometimes is the biggest enemy of creativity. I think that’s what Dead Last Collective is all about - being who you are and not being what is considered “right” by society. Lesson One: There will always be someone better - don’t compare.
The second big thing that I have learned is: sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and put yourself out there. I’m an introvert through and through therefore, I hate putting myself out there. I hate being the one to make the first move, say the first word, take the first step. Unfortunately, the world does not wait for those who hide in the shadows. As I finished up last semester and was looking for an internship, I found a company called Felt that had a note on the bottom of their website, “email us at *generic business email* if you’d like to design for us”. I knew nothing about the company but bit the bullet and made the contact. Through a series of nerve-racking FaceTime interviews and emails sent, I landed an internship at FeltApp (a company that got to be on Shark Tank while I was working for them !!!! ). They needed work done, I had basic training but really no clue what I was doing, and they hired me. I have learned SO much through my internship this summer it is unbelievable! Lesson Two: Be bold and put yourself out there!
Okay this is getting wicked long, let me wrap this up with a quick summary (cause that’s what my profs have taught me to do for an A+ essay apparently). I love to create. I am so honored and humbled to be asked to be a part of Dead Last Collective. Don’t compare yourself to other people - you do you! Putting yourself out there is scary but it can really pay off! I promise that although not everyone may like your work, there are definitely people out there who do and Dead Last is doing a PHENOM job of finding said people.
Follow Kasey and her creative life on Instagram @jokingnotjoking
"I think that’s what Dead Last Collective is all about
- being who you are…"
Somewhere I once read this cutesy pintrest-like quote that the "earth" without art is just "eh." But theres a lot of truth in that statement. This past weekend I joined the family on a short vacation. We spent the majority of our time touring museums and an aquarium. And I can tell you, the earth IS art. The earth, the skies, the surrounding cosmos…everything that God breathed into existence. It is all a magnificent, incredible, beautiful, perfectly designed work of art.
I've seen butterflies, fish, little insects that look like leaves...and I've sure marveled at the intricate beauty each posses. But as I was walking through a side exhibit, one filled with thousands of species of insects, it made me want to fall on my face before my Creator and worship him. I stared at the color of the butterflies and I was overwhelmed by the creativity of God.
He could have made one kind, one color, one design...He could have done that with every living thing, but He didn't. My God is a complex and creative Designer, and He so appreciates beauty. He has hand crafted, hand painted millions upon millions of living things. Each so unique, so beautiful. And for our enjoyment.
I love that God loves art. It blows me away that he allows us the gift to create and to bring Him glory in doing so.
So now that I have your attention. Go outside. Go stare at the sky and thank God for the moon and the sun so we can see the moon…and the bugs that crawl between your toes and then look down at your toes and and your hands and think about how even more beautiful and complex he has created you to be…and how out of all he has ever made, he chooses to have a relationship with us.
And that's why the butterflies made me cry.
“What is this world? What is it for? It is art.
It is the best of all possible art, a finite picture of the Infinite.”
― N.D. Wilson, Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl
"I'm Benjamin Engle. I'm 20 years old, studying to be a mechanical engineer. And I am a Maker.
What is that you may ask? I believe it is anyone who has a passion to create, design and make something rather than going to simply buy it off of a store shelf. You gain much more knowledge and there is a greater satisfaction knowing that you made it yourself.
About 6 months ago I had the itch to take on a big project of designing and building my own CNC machine. CNC stands for computer numerically controlled which means you can take an image in a computer and cut it out or carve it with that machine. After about 5 months of countless hours in the garage (and lots of YouTube videos), I finally have a working machine! I built it mainly to be able to accurately build more electric guitars but there are many other applications as well. Recently I had been playing around with making solid walnut and maple rings. With the CNC I can get exact dimensions to custom fit any finger. So after a couple prototypes and modifications I am putting them up in the dead last page for you to enjoy.
I am excited to see how my business will grow. It is accomplishing to step back and see and know you are inspiring people through the things you make. I hope my craft will remind people to keep creating and to support the handmade."
Across the board, creativity is just careful destruction. As poets, we dissolve comfortable thoughts on what’s important, or maybe on what’s possible. As painters, we rid the world of empty canvases, replacing blank space with ideas. As musicians, we do away with overused chords and simplified rhyme schemes. In art as a whole, we examine what exists and determine how we can best alter it to change the universe for the better.
I’m Dominique and I create.
That sounds suspiciously similar to an introduction at an Artists Anonymous meeting, but that’s the reality of...me. Creativity is my default mode. I’ve been a songwriter for eight years; a poet, author, and spoken word artist for four; a voice actor for four; a fledgling photographer for almost one; and an incredibly amateur visual artist for maybe eight months. Oh, and 96% of my free time is dedicated to either reading or singing. Loudly. Simply put, I’m a raging fan of all things right-brain.
Before any of that arose in me, I was just a curly-haired pastor’s kid who liked words. Some things never change. I definitely have, though. You and I are still at the “hi, my name is…” stage, so let’s start slowly: I’m an artist. I’m an introvert. I’m a Christian. And if you’re not one of or any of those, I appreciate you just the same. Lately, everyone seems immersed in a war of opposites and it’s tiresome. There are plenty of white cops who don’t hate minorities. I know countless extroverts who don’t like small talk. Some of the loveliest and most fluid conversations I’ve ever had were with engineers. There’s no shortage of non-Christians who don’t have agendas. People just differ sometimes, and there’s art in that (note: this is not me saying all differences are good).
This is the part where I get a taste of my own medicine. When Carissa approached me about becoming a part of Dead Last Collective, I was stunned. Honestly, I read through her message (which was not short) several times and wondered if it was real for a while. Then, I spent quite some time wondering why she asked me. Wondering whether I was qualified. Whether I was good enough. If you’re somehow unaware, Carissa Engle is a ridiculously talented painter, craftswoman, singer, and [whatever else you can think of, probably]. Her boyfriend, Jesse, who’s the founder of DLC, is a brilliant graphic designer and photographer. He’s got his own clothing brand, for goodness’ sake. And, while I don’t know Hayley Gray personally, I’ve seen her work and it can’t accurately be described as less than amazing. Remember, Carissa was asking me about working alongside ALL THREE OF THEM. As in, people would be able to see my work and theirs. Do I need to say it? I still will. That was terrifying. I thought. I prayed. I weighed. And, in the end, I figured it was worth the risk. Because the four of us are very different and, again, there’s art in that.
Hey, this part is important. God didn’t phone me and give me the go-ahead. Jesus didn’t materialize across the table and say, “Why not?” I wasn’t visited by an angel in phosphorescent white who nodded his approval and disappeared. Sometimes, God wants us to act based on what we know about Him. Personally, I know that God is thrilled when we use the talents we’re given, or the skills we’ve developed. And He’s never going to be upset when we work together to create beautiful things. By the way, you’re in for a whole mess of beautiful things, so stay tuned.
Oops. This post was supposed to be about me and who I am. It sort of was, I suppose. And, to be fair, my work will probably speak for me in that regard better than a blog post can. Suffice it to say that I’m insaaaaaanely excited to see how this venture pans out. Hopefully, I’m able to encourage you or challenge you or affect you positively in some way very soon. And I’m sure I’ll be encouraged and challenged, too. Or, to put it another way...I look forward to us being carefully destroyed together. Sound good?
Jewelry can seem like such a petty thing. It’s a possession that people pay tons of money for and sometimes only wear once. It can enhance your appearance, emulate a specific identity for yourself, or draw the eye to you. All of these things can be true, but I love seeing jewelry not as something that improves the way you already look, but rather something that emphasizes it. Something I really love about jewelry is that it can carry memories. My grandmother recently went through a few of her old jewelry boxes with me and gave me a few of what used to be every day accessories for her. As she pulled out each piece, she had a specific memory attached to each one. It was so special for me to receive jewelry that my grandmother had once worn.
My boyfriend, Dex, loves Haiti. He has visited multiple times, sponsors several Haitian children, and plans to work towards the betterment of the lives of the Haitian people for the rest of his days. He has truly invested in this country. He has become a part of it, and it has become a part of him. Before he went on his most recent trip, I made necklaces for Rouslie and Saraline, the sweet girls he sponsors. I put them in a jewelry box I wasn’t getting much use of and gave it to Dex. While we were catching up about his trip and talking about his visits, he asked, “Remember those pearl earrings that were in the box with the necklaces you made for the girls?” I tried to rattle my brain. Pearl earrings; when did I make pearl earrings? I replied, “I really don’t remember. Why?” He said, “Saraline loved them so much, so I gave them to her. She wore them every day.” He showed me a picture of her wearing the earrings and I realized that those were the same pearl earrings that my grandma had given me just a few months before. Apparently I didn’t take them out of the jewelry box when I was emptying it!
I was ecstatic. She looked so happy wearing them. She wasn’t happy because of the earrings, but she was happy in the earrings. She wasn’t beautiful because of the earrings, the earrings looked beautiful because she was wearing them. Those pearls had seen decades of memories. They’d seen tears, laughter, smiles, anger, hugs, fear, romance, new lives being born, old lives passing away – years of memories were held within the white spheres that Saraline now wears on her own ears, making her own memories. I like to think that one day, Sara will pass them on to someone special to her. This is why I create; to make something that you can experience beautiful moments in so that whenever you wear them, you can experience the beauty all over again.