This episode is a little different from the rest. I talk with two creatives on how they’ve been keeping the adventurous alive through the hum-drum of life during a pandemic. Emily Theisen and Jordan Mileski are two Minnesota-based photographers, but their creativity flows through a variety of outlets. Today we emphasize that creativity is a form of adventure.
Follow Jordan Mileski’s projects and adventures at @jordan.mileski. See even more at www.jordanmileski.com. Jordan recently released a new font! (The creativity seemingly doesn’t end)
Follow Emily Theisen’s projects and adventures at at @emilytheisen_. She’s a wedding photographer at @litecreatives. Learn more at www.LiteCreatives.com.
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Emily T: I remember just like going to her room one day and just being like, you know what. I’m going a little nuts. Like, let’s just go outside, let’s take your cameras, and let’s just like take portraits of each other in the backyard, even if we can’t go anywhere. And that’s exactly what we did.
Leah Falyn: Welcome to Wander By Proxy, a podcast featuring women’s travel stories that connect them more to themselves in the world around them. I’m Leah Falyn, and today’s episode is a little different. I thought I’d take a step back from travel stories this week and dive into another topic I’ve been thinking a lot about since March, which is: how to keep the adventurous spirit alive during a pandemic.
In this case, we’ll be talking with two photographers about how creativity can fill that cup adventures love. Jordan Mileski and Emily Theisen, two Minnesota-based creatives that happen to be roommates, seem to just ooze creativity. Here’s Jordan first, then Emily will be the second voice you hear.
Jordan M: we’re really lucky because we’re roommates. So social distancing still means that we get to be together quite a bit. And that’s a huge blessing. I think for both of us, the challenge was definitely you shut down happened. And it was almost this like, wow, I’m going to get so much time to work on all these projects that I haven’t had time for before.
And then the few weeks. A few weeks into it. It was like, Oh my gosh, I have no motivation. And my creativity is gone. I don’t know where it went. So at first I would say maybe even the first three months, it was really a challenge to have any, any desire to work on anything creative. And I think that was a lot of people that also experienced that with us.
I don’t know that it was just me. And I know Emily can also say a few words to talk about this. And then I got a few jobs. I got a few, photo jobs, which I was really fortunate that we were all cool with wearing masks and social distancing, and it was outdoors, so worked out. Okay. And I think it kind of kicked my butt back in gear.
So I was like, okay, I’m going to, like, I’m going to pick up film photography. I’m going to do a few logo designs, more for fun than anything. And then after I started just pushing myself, then it all sort of, the flow came back a lot faster than I had expected it to. And it was just a matter of pushing through for me.
Emily T: Yeah. I think for both of us, it was just amazing having each other as roommates during this hard time, because there so many people that were, just alone and going crazy, courting themselves and all that kind of stuff.
And, I definitely think the first couple months were very hard on both of us and, didn’t know really where. my business was going at the time because this is like my third professional year in wedding photography and, all of that. And it kind of put a pause on. my business for a little bit, and I didn’t know how scared, you know, I didn’t know where it was going.
you know, I wasn’t making any money during this time and just really nervous and shook. And, so I kinda shut down myself a little for a little bit, but then, I think we started to both, you know, speaking for both Jordan and I a little bit on this and it just kind of had to kick each other in gear and, kinda just.
It had to re like woke up one day almost. And it was just like, okay, got to get back to business here. Like, come on, like positive, trying to just stay positive and keep that mindset going. because a lot of it is mind over matter. and I think what definitely helped me through that time was having Jordan too.
I remember just like going to her room one day and just being like, you know, what. You know what I am, I’m going a little nuts. Like, let’s just go outside, let’s take your cameras. And let’s just like take portraits of each other in the backyard, even if we can’t go anywhere. And that’s exactly what we did.
and we just kept pushing each other and ourselves to just keep that creative mindset going. And, I was also just doing a lot of. Like, reading a lot of books, not like book, book books, but more like poetry books, I guess kind of just keeping the mind, going in the flow, going and the creative juices going, and just drawing every once in a while for fun on my tablet and, Recently, was kept me kind of going to was, watching a lot of documentaries and just kind of keeping up on that.
And one of the most recent recent things for me has been watching, Charlie Sally’s, ah, creative workshop. I got that as a birthday gift.
Put back in gear again, and you’re just going, which feels amazing. So, but it was definitely key having each other, I think during that time, that was probably number one for me, that kind of kept, both of us going.
Jordan M: Do you remember too? One thing that we did that really didn’t have a lot of creativity to it, but we started fishing.
Emily T: Oh yeah, that’s right. We did. we were fishing like every day we would go down to the dock. wouldn’t catch much. Yeah. so Jordan, she, she actually, heard her husband live on the river here in Brainerd, I should say. And I rent from them. And so that was another thing.
Just going down in our backyard and going down to the dock and just putting some leaches and worms on our line and just casting it out and catching some fish. it was so relaxing and just like,
Jordan M: it was a huge blessing because I know, and I think I can speak for both of us when I say this, but we both need the outdoors.
Yeah. And we need to be able to get outside. And whether we’re taking pictures or not, I think fishing is. It was a really good thing for us. Yeah, totally. I not a Fisher woman.
Emily T: No. And I was like, I, you know, I haven’t fished since I was so young and it was like, just bringing back all these fun memories and nostalgia and just kind of just, I dunno, it was something random that took us out of the creative or took us and got us back out of, or took us back from that creative area and got us back into that creative mindset.
So that was really. Really fun to have that. That’s so cool. Yeah. No, and I, I completely understand what you’re saying and, I find that. Probably many people are kind of going into those like simpler activities that you don’t have to be around a ton of people and you’re enjoying the outdoors and not sitting inside your apartment or house or anything.
Leah Falyn: And yeah. So that’s great. That sounds like a great activity to kind of, and especially to spark that, creative video that you guys wanted. and I also really liked what you guys were saying about like, as a creative, you don’t always have those juices flowing. And so it’s kind of that balance between having the creative bursts and like other times you just have to put your foot down and do the work type of thing. so Jordan, like how did you overcome that obstacle?
Jordan M: I think at first it was really hard even feeling like I was going to get past that. That sort of creative block, but after the day where we both kind of just decided it was time we needed to get out and shoot, even if we didn’t end up with any photos we liked, it was just time to get out there.
It sort of started the ball rolling, and it was a very slow roll at first. And I think maybe I didn’t even notice it, but after a little bit, it’s like, Oh yeah, I have those photos. I need to take a look at those on my computer. And then after that, it’s like, Oh, I actually kind of liked this one. And then.
After that you’re like, Oh, you know what would be really cool? We’ve got a close line. What if we like, put some sheets up on the clothesline and just did a sunrise or, or something, you know, even if it’s not significant, it’s not like, Oh, we’re going to the North shore for the weekend. Oh, we’ve got models and we’re going to go do this.
Fabulous shoot. It’s you know what? The light looks kind of nice right now. And I think I’m just going to go in the field and, you know, do a little dance or whatever. So it was a really, really small steps. But then after a little while your brain sort of starts figuring it out again. And I think for us to fishing was great because we didn’t need to have any creativity.
We could just go sit on the dock and enjoy being outside. But then after you get enough time where your brain is relaxed, it’s like, Oh, you know what? I kind of had this cool idea. And now I’m a little bit more motivated, so I think I’m going to try it.
Leah Falyn: That’s great. That’s awesome. and it’s kind of funny cause this conversation started as like about adventure, but we’re now we’re getting into more the creative process.
So do you find that being creative fuels your adventurous spirit or what do you think the parallel is there?
Jordan M: I really think so. I would have probably never started traveling if I didn’t want to go take the photos at those places. So for me, photography is almost more of an excuse to travel then the opposite.
And so many times you go to take that photo and you don’t end up ever taking it. You end up somewhere totally different. And that’s part of the adventure. And that’s why it’s so fun. So I’ve grown to appreciate traveling more and more, but I don’t think that if I. You know, wanted to go to a certain spot or wanted to go take a certain photo.
I don’t know that I would really have traveled as much as I have.
I’m curious now, do you think for me, it’s like, okay, the motive is the photo. Like, I want to take the photos for you as the modem where like, okay, I have this vision. I want to go execute. Or is this like, I need to go to this place and explore it.
I’m going to take photos.
Emily T: I think it goes both ways. Cause sometimes I totally have a vision and like, I’m like, Oh my God. I have this idea of this like, photo that I want to take and I’m going to go chase it. I’m going to go get it. and then other times, and you know, and that’s kind of what gets my foot out the door.
And other times I just have to completely tell myself, just go. And like, you don’t know where you’re going to get, but that’s fine. Just like go enjoy nature. It’s almost like. Those are almost the days where I, you know, contemplate even bringing my camera with me. It’s like, you know, go on this hike without your camera for once or do this without your camera or whatever.
So sometimes I think it’s important to also do that. And when to put your phones down, social media down, take a break from social media, all of that stuff. and then it kind of refuels my adventure, adventurous juices when I can just completely put everything down and clear the mind and have a completely fresh mind the next week or the next month or something like that.
so yeah, that’s kind of. Kind of, for me, I guess sometimes
Leah Falyn: Absolutely kind of reminds you of why you are doing what you do.
Emily T: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. our good friend, Ashley fwho I’m sure you, follow on Instagram she’s has amazing work. she, she, does like meditation’s, and all that kind of stuff and yoga retreats.
So, there’s that side too. I think that that’s really important too. like tapping. To your, like what your third eye kind of a thing. Just kind of breathe, meditates, and get out there.
Jordan M: And I think I’ve, I’ve seen a lot of other creatives. It’s simple things like, okay, I’m buying a bunch of plants today.
And I know we both did that too. Okay. Gardening. the fishing, Ashley and her yoga and her retreats and stuff has been really fun to watch. We’ve seen a lot of people take up these sort of, sort of more simplified outdoor. Hobbies, because as there’s the need and there’s the drive to go outside, like your brain wants it so bad.
And so it’s like, okay, well maybe I can’t try five hours from the North shore. Maybe I shouldn’t go be, you know, in that small community that could get COVID really easily. If I go up there and bring it to them, what’s something I can do. That’s more simple. Okay. Like let’s, let’s start a garden. Let’s do something.
I’m going to build a tree Fort. And I, I we’ll see that with a lot of people that are friends with us, just people we meet on social media and they’re like, Oh yeah, I haven’t taken photos on forever, but Hey, I got like all these cool peppers growing up.
Emily T: Yeah. Well, and it’s funny that Jordan brings up the guardian thing too.
we both were, we both got into gardening, heavily during COVID at the beginning. And this was something that kind of, I don’t know, it just felt nice and peaceful to go get plants and like put our hands in the dirt and just like in touch with mother nature and just kind of.
Do something else. And, It just felt good. so that was really, I kind of spaced on that part and I don’t know how, but the gardening was definitely key a key part too
Jordan M: I had a bridal shoot, like a stage shoot, right? It’s not. Not a real bride. She’s, she’s, they’re married. They’re a beautiful couple. And I just messaged them.
I said, Hey, like, I’ve got this idea. Would you be, if, if I got it, if I got it all put together, would you be down to be my models? And they said, sure. it was really fun to work with these guys. So that was a great shoot and was really glad with the, with the end result.
I think what it was is I had so much. Sort of like, I don’t want to overuse the term creative juice, right. It’s actually kind of a weird term to me, but I had so much of that stored up from not being able to shoot for a while that I ended up kind of going all out with a shoot. So we had, you know, smoke bombs and we had, my husband made us backdrop and we had all these flowers and these props that I had bought is really fun.
So that was a great sort of way to almost like vomit out all the things that I’d been wanting to try for a long time. And then also, so that was kind of like, okay, let’s speed things up a little and get really creative here. And then also shooting film more and more lately has been sort of a, okay. It’s like, let’s take a step back.
Let’s breathe a little bit. Let’s think about everything that we’re, trying to do a little bit more carefully. So I recently got a funerals, a film back that had been really fun. Just shooting up on the North shore and. Kind of appreciating, taking things slow a little bit more. So those have been two really fun things for me lately.
Emily T: I’m actually, it’s great that Jordan brought up the, film stuff again, because, she’s, she’s kind of getting me back into that realm as well. which is awesome. I have a couple film cameras from my grandparents. they gave to me before they, will be for my grandpa, passed away.
so I’ve been diving into getting some film for those and Jordan actually for my birthday, bought me some film and some gift cards and stuff to kind of finally dip my toe back into that. Cause foam can be expensive and it’s definitely a, a different investment that you’re making and stuff. So, as she’s kind of helping me get, get my foot back into the door with film as well, which I’m super thankful for.
Jordan M: I’m drawing a lot more lately as well.
Emily T: Drive. Yeah. Yeah. I’m really into drawing for a while on your iPad. Yeah, I was, I was getting back into, I got this cool, the iPad tablet with, you know, it’s got procreate on it and I was just. Going to have at it for a while. And, once which was awesome, it definitely helped me during COVID.
but then, and then after. You know, things kind of slowed down a little bit, like with COVID stuff. I wouldn’t say like completely slowed down, but, people were still trying to get married obviously. and not a lot of my clients wanted to push that back a couple of years. So they, more went towards the low payment side, which is fine by me.
I had so much fun doing that and I had a really be busy. Busy crazy season, which I was so fortunate and so happy to have that. so then I kind of stepped away. Back from my drawings a little bit, because I was so busy with my photography. but now that my photography is kind of slowing down and wedding season is coming to an end.
I can finally dip my toes back into drying and as well as getting back into film, which will be, which will be a lot of fun, a lot of fun.
Leah Falyn: That all sounds really fun. I can’t wait to see more. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Jordan M: To anybody who’s listening, who might be still feeling that block just. Reach out to some friends or even reach out to us. We’ve been there. You can’t be creative without creative blocks at times. So just know that that’s a thing like.
Every creative goes through it. It’s not a solo experience to see you. And the best way, the fastest way I’ve found to get out of it is to connect with some other people. So feel free to reach out to either of us at any time, if you are feeling stumped or, you know, maybe you need to choose a different media for a little bit.
Like I got really into the, to the hand-drawn design stuff, which shameless plug I’m still working a lot with. And it’s been just a huge, a huge blessing and a lot of fun to work with a few different media. Digital film and hand-drawn design has been really fun. Switch it up a little, you know, and invest in yourself.
If you need some nice new pens or you need some great cotton paper or whatever you need, if it’s going to help you get out of that, like, Don’t feel like you’re not worth investing in a little bit. If it’s going to get you back on your groove, you know, that’s something that I had a hard time learning, but I’m there now.
I figured it out.
Emily T: Yeah. Great sentiment. Yeah. Yeah, I would, yeah, I would say the same, just reach out anybody that is listening and having a hard time or whatever. please reach out to us. we’d love to chat. it’s just so awesome. Like talking with new people, meeting up with new people, and you know, we can always meet up sure.
Or around our area or whatever. and it can be. Safe, you know, outside, which is kind of nice with COVID. You can be outside and practice, social distancing, and, you know, dive out of that creative route and get back to it and stuff. So, yeah, reach out to us. We love to chat,
Jordan M: not being a creative is you have this great community behind you.
I know there’s not, not everybody’s great. We’ve run into that individually, but for the most part. It’s a really great community. It’s fun. They love everybody. You know, it doesn’t matter where you’re coming from. If you’re digital or not, it’s fun to collaborate and just piggyback off of other creatives, no matter.
What type of, you know, we’ve got friends who do pottery, we’ve got friends who do all this kind of like flower pressing. I know Emily’s even getting into like the dried flowers and stuff, and it’s really fun to see where she’s going with it. So, yeah, just reach out, have fun. Like, remember why you like doing it.
It’s it’s fun.
Leah Falyn: Thank you. and remind me, you guys… you’re not in Duluth anymore, right?
Emily T: I, I am not. I am now living with, Jordan pillager now in pillager, Minnesota. It’s right outside of Brainerd. I was in Duluth for, like around six years. When I went to, I went to university of Minnesota Duluth.
so yeah, I lived there for six years and then I did Vanlife, and then when I came back, it’s, that’s kind of where, what brought me to. the Brainerd area, cause I got back from van life and was like, Oh my God, like, Hey, I’m kind of looking for somewhere to live, you know, all this stuff.
And I was really getting into my business and Jordan, I was thankful to have met Jordan, actually through Instagram. And when we met up, we. she was like, yeah, well I have an extra room come and just live with me. And I was like serious. I was like, yay. Cool. And so ever since that, she opened her, her home to me, I’ve been so thankful and fortunate for that.
Jordan M: So definitely.
Leah Falyn: Thank you for listening to this episode of Wander By Proxy. Checkout Jordan Mileski’s projects on Instagram @jordan.mileski and Emily Theisen’s projects @emilytheisen_. Handles will be in the show notes. Be sure to follow along with Wander By Proxy @wanderbyproxypodcast and subscribe, rate, and review wherever you’re listening.