Describing Vod’s Here, owner Michelle Atkinson uses the term “organized chaos.” And she would not have it any other way. Walking into the business’ space is like opening a life-sized miscellaneous, craft drawer; the space is covered with fabrics, notebooks, crochet materials and various other items used to create pieces of art.
Atkinson, endearingly known by her nickname Vod, which came from her roller derby days from her alias, “Vod Killah,” says the “organized chaos” around the studio is a direct reflection of her mind – a combination of a creative and a controlled “Type A.” “I am upfront and completely honest in saying I’m not an expert in anything,” Vod explains. “I see myself more as a cheerleader. My thought is, ‘You can do it, or we can figure it out together.’ Teaching is not about being an expert; it’s about just being a little bit further ahead than the person you’re teaching.”
Mission: finding creativity and having fun
Vod’s teaching style reflects the mission statement of the craft studio: Finding your creativity and having fun doing it. Vod does not encourage participants to make perfect creations. Vod wants her students to create something for themselves and for the purpose of mindfulness rather than to become hung up on perfectionism.
The idea of perfectionism, however, is, oddly enough, what sparked the idea behind Vod’s Here. After working in higher education for over 20 years, Vod quit her job during the coronavirus pandemic. Feeling burned out and ready for a change, she walked out of her job without a plan for what she would do next.
She began sewing and spent time crafting and working with the Juvenile Court, running a program called “Crafting to Calm.” The mental health benefits that come with crafting, the calming of mood and a time to think and relax, are motivating for Vod and her clients. “I noticed when I was in lockdown, I would start getting into repeating actions: knitting, crocheting, cross stitch, slow stitch, wrapping sticks with yarn — things that I did over and over and over. All these things get you into a movement meditation of really focusing and getting lost.”
Movement meditation and solace
The practice of movement meditation and finding solace through crafting inspired Vod’s Here, as a studio space last October at 2910 W. Central Ave. in Toledo, and also with the idea for a Meditational Craft class. Participants are assigned a craft-like activity as a way to get in the rhythm of crafting without worrying about creating something perfect.
Though fabric and yarn are her two main mediums, Vod’s classes are open to any type of craft. Vod offers a B.Y.O. Crafty Hangout, where people can bring in their own crafts or purchase a set of materials to craft with, using the studio as a space to connect with others. Additionally, for those who want a more guided session, she offers classes like Crocheting 101. “Sometimes, though, you have to teach people how to be silly and how to have fun,” Vod explains.
Assistance and encouragement
Vod’s children help with the business in various ways, including running the website, and her husband of 30 years provides encouragement and support. Vod credits her core group of friends for consistently supporting her and helping out. Vod has connected with her family and friends more and more since opening Vod’s Here, but she is also deeply connecting with herself, learning how to slow down and enjoy every aspect of life, which has been mentally beneficial.
“Everything that I’m advertising right now is just the tip of the iceberg,” Vod said. “I’m just getting started. And if somebody wants to learn something specific, they have a specific pattern that they’ve been looking at, or they have an idea, I’m developing this as we go. I’m open to hearing what people want.”
“I feel more alive than I did a year ago, because the train is going,” Vod said. “There’s no dipping your toe in, you just jump in. I just want people to know that I’m Vod, and I’m here for the people who need me.”
For more information about Vod’s Here or to sign up for a class, visit vodshere.com.