Amber, Julia and Kaylee Neel
If you are a creative—a “maker,” if you will—trying to break into the market for the first time, or have been at it for a while but still struggling to find your niche—you know it can be a bumpy journey.
To help address this issue, a local mom and her teenage daughters in 2020 created a social media presence called We Are Makers’ Market.
“We are based in Cleveland County, but support makers, services and small businesses who will serve, deliver or ship to Cleveland County as well,” says Amber Neel, co-founder with daughters Julia and Kaylee.
“We Are Makers' Market is a social media space we are building for like-minded friends to share their works and services. Our definition of makers is inclusive and supportive of not only makers of the arts, but also for those small businesses that make differences in our lives as well,” Amber added. “Marketing can be tricky, and advertising can be expensive. We're all about utilizing resources and supporting each other.”
She notes that the space also is intended as a one-stop-shop for people to locate and support artists, services and small businesses.
Asked which of the three is responsible for doing what, Amber replied, “I have always referred to us as ‘organized chaos.’ Julia often takes photographs and posts on social media. Kaylee likes to brainstorm and organize. She also handles sales and shipping for orders placed. I mostly deal with communication and tying up loose ends. All of these roles are interchangeable at any given point. We aim for ‘teamwork makes the dream work.’"
The three shared their philosophies:
“I express myself, my views, my ideas and interests through art and fashion,” says Kaylee. “I create a variety of things, and I often try to use materials that would otherwise end up in the trash or being wasted. I also upcycle clothes. My personal inspiration was wanting to create a space where others can feel comfortable and included.” Kaylee also enjoys making costumes.
Sustainability is also important to Julia.
“I love thrifting and showing others that you can be fashionable shopping secondhand,” she explains. “I also really enjoy photography. Capturing precious moments and images allows me to express myself creatively while connecting with others. My personal inspiration came from the desire to steer away from corporations that are taking away from small businesses and to create a community for our smaller businesses to thrive.
Laughing, Amber declares that her “favorite thing to do is make a mess!”
Calling herself the “Master Maker of Messes,” she added, “I love glitter. I love crafting. I can make just about anything at least once. The most amazing things I have ever made are my children. Julia is 17. She graduated at 15 and is now a sophomore at OU. She is incredibly motivated and resourceful. Kaylee is 15. She graduated at 14 and will likely attend OU when campus opens. Her creativity and desire for exploration guide her. She is great at everything she tries. They are young makers, starting and running small businesses.”
Amber also likes to make a myriad of accessories, headpieces in particular, as well as face masks constructed from scrap materials. She also enjoys event planning/decorating.
“My personal inspiration was to have a space to encourage and support makers. I get a lot of ‘Can you make this?’ messages. I also get a lot of ‘Do you know where I can find this’ messages. We Are Makers' Market is the answer to that question.”
Following, two other local makers share how they became involved with the makers’ market and what they do.
Angela Atkins, 47, said a friend mentioned the makers’ market social media space to her and that it “seems like a great way to connect with other artists and creators in my area as well as get the word out about my own work.”
“My first job was in interior design, a creative field, and after I moved on from that with the birth of my second child,” she says. “I tried some other outlets for my creative. My first quilt was for my daughter. It was very basic, but I loved the process, the potential, and stuck with it to gain the skills and knowledge to do more.
Many of Angela’s quilts start with a stack of cotton fabric she’s pulled together from her collection.
“I may use a pattern designed by others, or a vintage block I see in books or magazines,” she says. “Lately, I have also been doing more improv work, especially with scraps. I also have a sketchbook to generate ideas of patterns to try and lean toward those more now than magazines, although I still find inspiration online, especially when seeing how others adapt vintage quilts.
Angela shares that her philosophy is “to create beauty that is something someone can treasure and use. Quilts are a great comfort for our bodies as well as our souls!”
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“Norman is my home!” Eric Price declares with evident pride. “I had a friend through networking introduce me to the We Are Makers’ Market group, and the ideas and the positive messages from everyone there has been absolutely incredible. I believe the benefit from being in the group is parallel with my philosophy, as well, and that is to be able to bring and capture images from my viewpoint and to be able to grab moments and memories for people that will last a lifetime.
"My goal is to bring the overlooked and unseen, whether that be moments on a family shoot or wedding, to being able to do my traveling and road trips and to be able to capture things for people that spark memories for anyone and everyone."
Eric previously worked as an oil field worker and is an Army veteran, but last year he took a different direction in his life.
“2020 took its toll, and I was laid off a few months back and decided to pursue my dream and to work hard and to show people that if you dig deep enough even on the tough days when you don't want to, anything is possible!” he says.
“I am looking to eventually have my own studio and to pursue this full time, but for now it is every moment I get to be able to do it. I am a huge advocate of small business and keeping the money local, so I do advertising shoots and have done a few stories for Norman Parks and Recreations—one in particular that generated a lot of feedback was the shoot I did for RKFC Norman and the Habitat for Humanity on a bunk bed build for foster kids, which resonated a lot with me seeing how that's how I grew up.”
He added: “I do shoots of any sorts and work my tail off to be the best and will continue to do so because work ethic and discipline trumps all in my book. My overall goal is to just be able to capture what we as humans become comfortable and complacent with in our everyday journeys and to have and show a little reflection through my art daily.”