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Bridge & Burn

Bridge Burners Vol. 18- Sarah Wolf of Wolf Ceramics

Creating Bridge & Burn required a leap of faith. Founder Erik Prowell quit his job as a software developer, lit the proverbial match, and threw it—burning the bridge of working for anyone else behind him. With no formal training, he trusted his smarts and his strong work ethic, and took the plunge. In that spirit, Bridge Burners is a series showcasing people who are taking a similar leap. This month, we chatted with Sarah Wolf of Wolf Ceramics

What was your first foray into the world of ceramics? Did you always know this was a career you wanted to pursue?

I definitely didn’t know that I would find my way to a career in ceramics! I always loved making art and had the good fortune of having a mother who was a professional painter and parents who encouraged both creative practices as well as math and science, which I also enjoyed. I was attracted to making objects that are useful and functional, from sewing my clothes, to making beach forts and knitting hats.

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Bridge Burners Vol. 17- Kelly Cox

Creating Bridge & Burn required a leap of faith. Founder Erik Prowell quit his job as a software developer, lit the proverbial match, and threw it—burning the bridge of working for anyone else behind him. With no formal training, he trusted his smarts and his strong work ethic, and took the plunge. In that spirit, Bridge Burners is a series showcasing people who are taking a similar leap.

 

Kelly Cox has her own television show and it’s called: The Original Fare, where she’s credited as its series creator – her brainchild provided in part by the generous friends over at PBS. The concept is beautifully simple: she travels the world to locations like Spain, South America, Barbados, Italy, Sri Lanka and Alaska – doing what she wants, when she wants – and her insane work ethic mirrors that level of feral tenacity.

Her show streams nationally on PBS Foods and is distributed internationally to places like China, Thailand, New Zealand, and Eastern Europe – and boasts a global audience of approximately 22 million viewers – all eagerly watching as she “searches for the best ingredients on Earth.”

Kelly asks, “You know those days when you don’t even know what you did… what your life’s been like?” I absolutely do, and that’s why Kelly’s so accessibly relatable. She talks with a charming, yet curt responsiveness, as she drifts in and out of the metaphorical streams of her own nostalgia, searching for the root of her divergent career path – and one thing’s for certain: Kelly was never the corporate type.

She didn’t burn her bridge with a dim-witted employer, leaving behind a cushy career in finance or marketing to fulfill her dreams. “I burned my bridge with mediocrity when I was fifteen and that basically set me on the path of chaos.”

She re-examines the complexities of her of own persona, but with a stark rationality, this jet setting, television personality, with an untiring devotion to a singular narrative – her narrative, but with food. Her “good food” manifesto transcends the modern tropes of culinary video journalism – this isn’t Man v. Food, she’s not eating cherry pies with her arms tied behind her back. 

Kelly crafts buttery narratives of moral validity, but her creative outlook is thoughtfully simple: highlight the real people, with the real jobs: the artisans, the connoisseurs, the laborers, the naturalists, the historians, the families, and any other weirdoes she might stumble upon, (cause why not?).

Kelly’s trajectory can be traced back to her formative years: kicked out of high school at seventeen, left rural Missouri at eighteen, then traded it all in, for the unexpected magic of New York City. “When you live in New York and you’re not of legal drinking age, with a GED – and a little bit of college, but no real formal education. You realize early on that if you’re going to survive in this city: you got to hustle.”

So she hustled, and waited tables for many years, which provided the humble foundations of her unique origin story, but she inevitably grew tired of the rigorous monotony of restaurant servitude – and did what any young, streetwise upstart would do: join the gig economy.

She juggled a variety of odd jobs and freelance gigs, effectively weaving herself through the sporadic randomness of her alternative education. She was once the personal assistant to the self-proclaimed “nightlife impresario” of New York City –a career path that sort of just found her.

“It was kind of a crazy job. You go from handling cash under the table for the Ferraris he’s bought. To procuring the pleasurable company of attractive young models for his wealthy clients.”

Kelly singlehandedly facilitated the nocturnal emissions, and omissions, of a who’s who of eccentric nightclub “personalities,” and through all of that, literally learned how to run a business and became a successful entrepreneur, by proxy.

“So… you’re cleaning up his dog’s shit off the cobble stones of Soho and then through that, you just keep going.”

Though frankly she admits she never really intended to create a “travel show” or be on television – or even become a filmmaker. “Where I grew up. Being in the arts just wasn’t a thing people did.” So she moved on; probably worked harder than most people ever do in their entire lives and still created a show, through perseverance and with a self-taught mentality of failure is not an option.

In her post-club life, Kelly recounts the story of how she met her long-time creative partner and collaborator (now her husband), who at the time was also an unknown filmmaker with a similar creative vision.

“So basically, overnight,” the two formed a production company and started developing content for major brands like Disney, Cisco, The U.S. Open, and ... Alec Baldwin – and then all of a sudden, she had arrived. “I was in this industry… One hustle after another,” eventually snowballing into her unintended dream job.

Kelly’s show developed organically from the core beliefs of her environmentally conscious backbone, and her simple desire to educate young people. Which is easier said than done, but Kelly devised a plan: to create a show that balanced the science, with a sense of humor. To engage the world’s disenchanted demographic – the youth generation, whom she feels are overly pandered to and blasted in face with needless data – “and if the kids won’t listen. It just means they’re bored.”

Her transition into a certifiable television host came with its problems too, as she explains a situation in the early stages of her career, where she was inevitably forced to ride “shotgun” to her own achievements, simply because she was a woman, but Kelly is – well Kelly. Her resilient dedication to passionate storytelling directly led to her working with PBS, but she frankly admits to the financial realities of producing anything as a woman: “I fundraise for every single story I tell.”

During her initial pitch of The Original Fare, ­long before PBS, Kelly faced the harsh realties of corporate, male-focused entertainment expectations (otherwise known as the “male gaze”). She started receiving phone calls about possible deals with the Travel Channel or Food Network, but with a sexist twist.

“They don’t want to see a woman. So, either replace yourself with a man or be behind the scenes. Or get a male co-host.” Kelly promptly refused and held out for better offers (obviously). “I’m a woman and I do stuff they just don’t want us to do.”

Fast-forward to now, Kelly has a successful series that’s spawned its 5th season, that’s richly satisfying, entirely original, and in her own voice – simply because she refused to compromise. Which is Kelly’s thesis through and through, but like most complex and incredibly original personalities, she driven by the constantly nagging obsession to create stronger, bolder content: “It just depends on the day. There are some days where I’m completely obsessed with making a better show. Or making the show I want to make.”

Yet, she’s ultimately satisfied with the flexibility of her own perfectionism, allowing her to focus on the storylines that are ultimately the most important. The ones that take “sober looks” at the way we, as a culture, raise and consume food (which is also easier said than done).

Kelly Cox is unafraid of the obstacles that stand before her as a female writer, director, producer, host, entrepreneur, and bon vivant – and in the moral compass of her life, Kelly is completely aware of her north star - steadfast, persistent, and precise. She’s completely in control of her own ambitions and the singular goal that steers her: to give a voice to the voiceless.

Kelly challenges the semantic bullshit of our current global dilemma, with heart, humor, knowledge, and I’m assuming whiskey (regardless of quality). She’s the spoon full of sugar and the medicine, all rolled into one – and that’s what makes her so effectively authentic. She doesn’t harsh away from the bittersweet realities our environmental impact, but instead offers her viewers an enlighten state of being, built on optimism and consciousness - and that inspires change.

She’s got stories, (presumably) written with a typewriter and printed on crumpled paper; covered in whisky rings, cigarette burns, and a variety of sticky food sauces (Thai or Oaxacan probably). She’s a party animal, but she knows how to button it up and respond to major (food-related) issues with a sincere honesty that’s timely and emotionally stirring (her episode on chickens in America is graphic and disturbing, but incredibly important). No one really likes to talk about where our food comes from, and we should. There must to be a dialogue – and Kelly helps to foster that line of communication, making her a cultural moderator of sorts.

 Kelly Cox is an unstoppable force that will chop you down if you get in her way, like a bullet train, racing at breakneck speeds. So either get on or get off – otherwise the train is leaving with out you.

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To read more about Kelly Cox and Original Fare, visit Original Fare or follow along on Instagram @originalfare

 

Written by Jackson Schrader

Bridge Burners Vol. 16 - Macy Price Ciszek

Creating Bridge & Burn required a leap of faith. Founder Erik Prowell quit his job as a software developer, lit the proverbial match, and threw it—burning the bridge of working for anyone else behind him. With no formal training, he trusted his smarts and his strong work ethic, and took the plunge. In that spirit, Bridge Burners is a series showcasing people who are taking a similar leap.

Macy Price - Moondog

A moon dog by definition is a bright circular spot on a lunar halo. Picture the moon and a mock moon beside it—a false image, yes, but none-the-less specular. This anti-shadow of the moon exists and doesn’t exist, like our own fantasies. It’s alive in the same way the person we may really want to be lives out a magical life in our mind, but perhaps not in reality. As you sit behind a desk somewhere, maybe your moon-dog self is crossing the Gobi with nomads, or boldly trekking into Borneo’s lost world, or summiting the wondrous roof of Africa—Mount Kilimanjaro.

For Bend-native and explorer Macy Price Ciszek, an ordinary version of herself—the humdrum desk jockey—never quite existed. Instead she sought out the fantasy from the start—through middle school and high school, through her college years, and now in her thirties as she co-captains a thirty-foot sailboat named “Moondog” with her husband Quintin. A week after they married, their adventures on the great high seas began, island hopping for three months, from the West coast of the U.S. to Baja, then to Hawaii and French Polynesia.

The earliest moment of reckoning for Macy occurred when she was just thirteen years old. When other girls her age were trying out for the soccer team, Macy had to make a life-changing decision: Do I join my peers in after-school scholastics or accept my first offer of sponsorship by surf, snowboard, and fashion brand Roxy and complete in the US snowboard circuit.

As history goes, she chose the latter and said adios to that rigid path of ubiquitous teenage experiences. Instead, she became the youngest girl to be invited to the US Open for snowboarding, and she was soon to appear in national ChapStick commercials, as well as regularly appearing in magazine and catalog adverts. By the age of sixteen, Macy had won first place in the US National Championship for snowboarding and turned professional the following year to the tune of sponsorships by Billabong, Von Zipper, Dakine, DC, and Ride Snowboards. Up until age twenty-two, she was a mainstay in the Vans Triple Crown Slopestyle Circuit and the US Open, as well as squeezing in modeling gigs for companies like Nike, Adidas, REI, and Eastern Mountain Sports to earn a little extra cash on the side. A traditional childhood, this was not.

Macy Price - Moondog

While Macy was traveling the United States, from snowboard competition to competition, her friends back home were attending their proms, graduating high school, and entering college—all things regular kids do. But Macy had missed out on that. A sudden sense of longing consumed her; she contemplated if her path was the right path. Though she had enrolled in online college classes here and there while traveling and competing and posing for photo shoots, she was not on the same trajectory as her peers. For Macy, her thoughts turned to what she had missed out on, which prompted a sudden retirement from professional snowboarding in her early twenties. Acting quickly, even impulsively, she completed her Associates degree and finished her Real Estate License, and for her, a new “normal life” was off to a fast start—selling a half-dozen houses in her first year on the job. But in 2006 the market crashed, and her only backup plan was to return to what she knew, and she moved to the City of Angels to pursue modeling. But with an open mind, this leap would actually land Macy in the hospitality industry—or more accurately, hospitality on the high seas.

“When I got to LA, a friend introduced me to world of Yachts,” Macy says, explaining that this transition did not seem strange but almost normal in comparison to the previous lives she had lived. “I became a Yacht Stewardess and First Mate, and in four years at sea I clocked over eighteen thousand nautical miles and learned everything from engine maintenance, to navigation, and even professional cooking.”

During those four years, Macy crewed for a ninety-foot yacht that sailed from San Francisco to the Panama Canal and New York, and then back to Panama and SF; followed by another stint on a one-hundred and ten-foot craft zipping up the West Coast from Seattle to Sitka, Alaska, and then a final trip on a one-hundred and seventy-foot vessel, whose captain steered them back from Alaska to the land of the famous Tarrazú coffee bean—Costa Rica.

“Life has different chapters,” Macy says. “A lot of people don’t have the opportunity to get to the next one because they’re tied to something: their house, their dog, or their job. But I don’t have that, and I wanted to sustain the adventures of my snowboarding years; I knew instantly that boats were the answer. Plus, I made better money on the Pacific than I did at Mt. Hood.”

Macy Price Ciszek - Quintin Ciszek

As Macy’s timeline in the United States unfolded, another in Australia was also taking shape. In his early twenties, Aussie surfer Quintin Ciszek, set out to visit relatives in Encinita, California, where his path briefly overlapped with Macy’s, who was—at that time—twenty-three. They delighted in a three-week whirlwind tryst, but it was bound to end once Quintin’s vacation subsided. During that short time, their secrets were shared, and day-tripping fantasies were hatched. Quintin charmed Macy with his dreams of someday buying a boat and sailing the world, like he had as a child—that boat captained by his father. Even though Quintin’s California vacation would end, their relationship did not.

They carried on as long-distance pen-pals, and after seven years of saving and planning and growing up, Quintin found his dream boat, the one had he imagined so many years early, but he would have to return again to the United States, where it was docked. When he arrived on the West Coast to purchase it, he immediately contacted Macy, and they realized that their love was stronger than any geographical distances that had previously separately them. In September 2014, Quintin and Macy married, and a week after they married they set sail in their dream boat—the word Moondog stenciled across the stern—from the West Coast of the USA to Hawaii and then charting the wild Pacific all the way to Australia.

Moondog Sailboat

“We gave ourselves two years to have adventures like this,” Macy says, “but it’s turned into something much bigger and open-ended.”

Home in Bend for the first-time in nearly three years, Macy is now working in a restaurant and selling her artwork—"Portholes”, which are photos in resin with the latitude and longitude of their locations around the world stamped on the back. For the last eight months, she has been preparing again to return to the Moondog. But with each visit home, it becomes harder and harder to leave friends and family, and she is all too aware of the next moment of reckoning that is on the horizon for herself, and Quintin: How do we support ourselves on our next trip? And more importantly, how can we possibly start a family at sea?

“The dream is to buy boats in North America to sell in Australia where there is a shortage,” Macy said, grinning. “From sail to sale.”

She tells me about a friend, a web developer who shares time on the Moondog.

“Technology is changing the way we live. He can work while on the boat and surf during his lunch breaks. Sure, it costs him $4 USD/MB to upload his work, which is incredibly expensive, but when you factor in that he isn’t paying rent or car insurance, that bill sounds pretty good,” Macy says. “I lived for years jet-setting and snowboarding around the country, and now I’m on a boat, and, honestly, life has been incredible.”

The basis of life, as she explains, is to enjoy ‘it’ – and Macy and Quintin are happy doing what they want to be doing. Macy recognizes how difficult it can be: the lonesomeness out at sea for months at a time, or enduring heavy, unexpected bouts of rain with seemingly no shelter except the compact hull of the Moondog, or the immense physical strength and endurance involved in routine tasks in her life at sea.

Macy Price Ciszek - Pacificist

“It’s not uncommon for your anchor to get tangled around coral, so you might have to free dive thirty feet to retrieve it,” she says. “Life on a boat is an athletic endeavor.”

She concedes that even after all that, the feeling she gets accomplishing something like surviving the sea, gives her the confidence that anything is possible—achieving one dream is just the starting point for a series of new dreams to be revealed. The moon dog in the distance might not be a fantasy, but one will never know until they reach for it.

“We’re looking forward to putting down roots,” Macy says, her voice strong and sure, “but we’re intent on growing from them too.”

To read more about Macy and Quintin’s adventures at sea on the Moondog, visit: Looking Further and to enjoy Macy’s artwork, head to: @KeelCollection.

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