- Associated Press - Monday, May 23, 2016

ALEXANDRIA, La. (AP) - Anne Champney has taught herself how to do a lot of things, but spinning yarn was one of the toughest.

“I made one skein of yarn and it was so full of mistakes I was like, ‘this is trash,’” she said.

So her spinner sat unused. Yet there she was at the May 13 Maker Showcase, not only smoothly turning loose fiber into yarn, but showing others how to do it.

Champney was one of several local people who showed their creations from the “100 days of Making” challenge. The challenge came out of Maker Mornings, an initiative that seeks to bring together creative types from all fields to forge connections and encourage innovation.

“It kept me accountable,” said Champney, who is currently learning to crochet. “It kept me from saying, ‘I’m being lazy today, I’ll learn how to do it tomorrow.’”

“It’s really nice to set a challenge for yourself and meet it,” said Kephren Pritchett, who set a goal of designing a knitting pattern that reflected the character of Alexandria-Pineville, which turned into the Red River Wrap.

The creations displayed included everything from painting to pottery to jewelry, photography, plants and soap.

“Did it accomplish anything like we were hoping? Yes, and then some,” said Jim Clinton, president and CEO of Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance. “We discovered a lot of interesting people making interesting things. This room is a representation of it, but it’s not nearly all of it.”

“I just think it’s so inspiring to see the diversity of makers in our region,” said John Dean, director of regional innovation for CLEDA. “Whether you’re a manufacturer, you knit hats, you’re a poet or a painter, it’s less about what you do. For us, all makers bring something to Central Louisiana.”

The idea behind Maker Mornings is that creativity and innovation are drivers of success in all manner of fields, not just ones most people think of as “creative.” By bringing together people who make things, the hope is they can help each other with creative problem solving.

“In any burgeoning creative community, people fire off each other,” Clinton said. “They feed off each other’s ideas and get better in the process.”

“When you make things, it’s a solitary thing,” said Cindy Blair, an art educator at the Alexandria Museum of Art who makes illuminated sculptures, such as the bear displayed at Friday’s showcase. “You don’t feel so alone anymore. You feel connected to other people who make different things.”

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Information from: Alexandria Daily Town Talk, http://www.thetowntalk.com

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