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Maker Moment: Crafting to build community with pastor, lobbyist, and bike-commuting yogi Reverend Laura Everett

Posted by Melissa Massello  October 17, 2013 10:06 AM

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reverend_laura_everett.jpgPhoto: Leise Jones Photography

Sometimes it can be difficult to comprehend seeing mentors or authority figures out of context — running into your company CEO at the gym, or seeing your dentist in a reenactment costume on Patriot's Day — but Reverend Laura Everett transcends her role in the clergy and as executive director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches, seamlessly blending her maker and mentor lives by using crafting to build community.

A young, hipster religious leader big on bike commuting, yoga, sustainability and social media, Reverend Everett uses canning and other hobbies to connect with her congregation, her larger community in Jamaica Plain, and Bostonians at large, tapping into that deep vein of self-sufficiency and Yankee ingenuity inherent in New Englanders.

"The status that religious leaders had in a different era isn't there anymore, and I think that's a good thing," Everett said. "It requires us to be more involved and more multifaceted and more human."

After growing up in Northern New Jersey, Reverend Everett — like many Bostonians — found herself here for graduate school and never left, falling in love with the city and feeling connected to it as home after becoming a bike commuter.

"The parts of the city I formerly whizzed through on the T were now visible to me, because the speed of a bike asks you to pay closer attention to what's around you," Everett said. "I fell in love with Boston as a city once I really understood the geography and the people and the history and how it all connected. My church in JP is full of folks who are trying to make those same [sustainability and self-sufficiency] decisions, and it feels like a little bit of a throwback living here — walking to church or biking to church. I love actually having a parish that is neighborhood based, that the community takes care of each other, and that the church can have a wider global perspective."

An avid collector of vintage church cookbooks, which she calls "fascinating artifacts of women's history and community history," Everett is a consummate maker and student as well as mentor, taking local classes in everything from canning to Japanese indigo (at the New England Quilting Museum in Lowell) to introductory embroidery (at JP Knit & Stitch), sharing all of her projects on Instagram regardless of whether they succeed or fail.

"I learn best from other people, and a part of what I love about crafting and making and canning is that it's a great way to build community by asking someone else to teach you something," Everett said. "There is sort of the tyranny of Pinterest, but the reality is that we all have projects half done — it's not that beautifully curated a life. Pinterest is such a staged preciousness and that's not the reality of crafting. I enjoy sharing my mint jelly that didn't stick together, or the pair of leg warmers that just wouldn't stay up."

Here's more about Reverend Laura Everett in her own words in this week's Maker Moment:

What's the first project you remember making/crafting?
My third grade teacher taught some of us knit after school. I still learn best from someone else. I grew up in a very crafty family — my mom is a graphic designer, one aunt is a silk screen artist and another is an architectural renderer. My mom led our Girl Scout troop — so there were a lot of sit-upons, and things made from twine. I did break my mother's blender trying to make paper pulp once.

Most successful project? Biggest fail?
I'm really happy with my felting projects from old sweaters. I made a bunch of potholders for Christmas gifts a few years ago. I think crafting failures are part of the process. I had a recent canning fail when my mint jelly didn't set. I ended up with cans of minty, sugary goo. Recently, I had a dear friend who was leaving Boston for New York, and moving into a smaller apartment, so I wanted to give her something small so that she could 'always find her way back to Boston.' I had just taken an introductory embroidery class with my sister at JP Knit & Stitch and wanted to do something with straight lines, so I embroidered a simple MBTA map on a handkerchief I bought from a thrift store and it was really beautiful — so well received that I did another one with some store-bought linen for myself. Every one of the T stops was a French knot. It was an exercise in patience in the Green Line, but it was great fun!

What do you DIY the most?
Small projects or things that are portable. I'm more a hats and mittens knitter than sweaters. I do a fair amount of canning to try to eat more seasonally. On the canning front, I've realized the last few years of eating seasonally that 15 plates of pickles are more than I can eat in a year, so I only make things that I can use or give away. One of my favorite old New England tricks is taking the end of season apple cider, boiling it down, and making cider molasses syrup, which I use on pork or in salad dressings all year long.

Favorite/least favorite tools/materials?
I really love working with found objects or things I've scavenged. I'm a horrible crocheter.

Has a project outcome ever surprised you?
I worked on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 event at the Boston Hatch Shell and witnessed the power of working on a craft project as a community. The amazing Boston artist Clara Wainright invited people to sit down and mend the torn fabric. We have such a wonderful tradition of quilting bees and knitting circles. There is real power in gathering people to create something together.

What's the best advice you've ever received?
Modify and adapt — I'm a big fan of finding something that you can tailor, or repurpose. I've got a old wool cape that I'm adding reflective piping to so I can use it for bike commuting. Also, make things that people will use and then give them away.

What's your top tip for first-timers?
Learn from someone else if you can. It's both more enjoyable and you pick up tips that aren't in tutorials. The people I gravitate to the most are the ones who are honest about their failures, because DIY and crafting are all about experimentation.

Anything you DIY now that you never thought you would?
Yogurt.

What won't you ever DIY/when do you call in the experts?
Woodworking. I'm also a pretty mediocre baker. We've got tons of great bakeries. I'll make the jam and am perfectly happy to buy the bread. Or partner with someone else. I grew some hops this year for the first time (they grow so fast, it's very gratifying) and my downstairs neighbor is going to brew the beer.

"When I'm not making stuff, I'm…" scheming about making stuff!

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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About the Authors

Melissa Massello is a newspaper journalist turned startup junkie and lifelong Bostonian who prides herself on her do-it-yourself attitude. From making her prom dress out More »
Tara Bellucci is a Boston-based writer that lives for fonts, food, and flea market finds. Whether decorating jars of her homemade jam for The Boston More »

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