The magic of “&”
A mini-spa in a 1970s Denver home transforms into a creative hideaway and super studio | By Betsy Wiersma
When we toured the 1970s walkout ranch home in the Denver area, the smell of chlorine wafted from the basement. Really chlorine. And as we explored that dark basement, led by our real estate agent, we saw the source. Down in the back corner of the low-ceilinged hall was a room, and in that room a 1972 orange, full-size hot tub! Wait it gets better. Around the indoor tub was a short, wood-paneled deck and mirrors on all the rest of the walls, and nestled in the wall of the room was a full-size wooden sauna. This room in our soon-to-be-new home was for somebody a mini-spa and for us a nightmare!
Let me tell you my backstory:
On March 21, 1983, seven Purdue University seniors thought it was a “good idea” to go out snowmobiling at midnight in a farmer’s field outside of the Indiana school. Funny, as I look back, the truck wouldn’t start. It had to be jumped. But as all determined seniors do, we pushed on and made the 30-minute drive in the blizzard (yes blizzard) to go get some late-night adventure.
I loaded on the snowmobile sled with Paul, a really large guy, who sat in front of me. Then our friends started the snowmobile and pulled us on the sled. The other three friends were “out there somewhere.” We quickly discovered that we had done the sled seating all wrong. Paul was the bigger guy, and he should be on the back. So we pulled off the road and switched spots…there we go! Now Paul was on the back of the sled holding me in front of him and we were ready for action. We were pulling back onto the main road when it happened…………the moment that changed everything, seeded my life of service, and built the core that expresses in my art.
Our friends were driving their snowmobile up the main road super-fast and hit the back of our sled. Paul was killed instantly by the impact, and I was thrown down a gravel road 78 feet, literally grinding the roadbed into my face and smashing my head, shoulder, and right hip. Twenty-one days later, I woke up in intensive care at the University hospital. The first thing I remember was overhearing a conversation between the doctors. They were discussing, “Is she brain damaged? Will she walk again?” I had two questions, “Where is Paul?” and “Why am I still alive?”
The new home & happy family
So back to the chlorine. We had to work around the hot tub mess, because we were on a mission for a new home. We needed a home in a “good school” neighborhood because we had just adopted a newborn baby girl. After a long recovery from the fateful day and horrific accident, I was very aware of my physical limitations. The best idea for creating a family for us was adoption. So, at the age of 41, I was the mom of a newborn. Goodbye stinky mini-spa, hello Craft Room!
Committed to the mission of a space for creativity and play, my husband, Doug, drove to IKEA in Arizona to bring back the furniture and then plumbed a sink for the “Craft Room.” The floors were ready for anything a kid (or mom) could spill and the color and energy were bright. This was the space purpose-built for art, inspiration and connection. This was the place for “The Magic of &.”
Mom & Sarah
Coloring and crayons gave way to pottery painting, bead bracelets and watercolors. The Craft Room called by my husband the “Crap Room” was our indoor playground and in the early years a source of fun conversations, messy projects and great joy.
To this day, Sarah’s amazing art of every “grade” mixes with scraps of inspiration from my “real job,” creating and building the CampExperience™ Network, which I started in 2006. I so needed to find “my tribe” after moving to Denver and transitioning from a marketing consultant and event planner who was constantly traveling, into a “work-at-home-mom” raising Sarah. Today, the Network is 5,000 women strong who live our motto Do Good & Have Fun.
Transformation & Healing
And then she was a teenager! An interesting shift happened when Sarah hit her teens and MOM was a four-letter word. And there were some of those too. And in this life of love and hope and gratitude for just being alive, I felt the rejection of the teen and it hit home … hard. Really hard. So, at the age of 55 life changed again as I entered a whole new season of art as transformation and healing.
With Sarah raging and my work stressful, I literally “checked myself in” to a workshop with Kelly Rae Roberts at 1440 Multiversity in California. I had read Kelly’s book about 10 years earlier and something in my soul called me to that class. After five days of paint, glue and inspiration, something new inside me was born. This messy, imperfect process of mixed-media art was the soul fuel I needed to regain my energy, relax in the moment and have FUN again. Amen & AMEN!
Art & the World
So, I was hooked and I began creating. First, I practiced in the “Kelly Rae” style from the class. Out came 50 art angels and friends. But different than my teacher, I always created like I live, a little “off the page” and in 3D. And when Sarah was mad or sad or just not needing a mom around … I had a respite, in the Craft Room where I found some peace, my favorite music and gobs of colored paper, glue and wild-colored paints. I am pretty sure this is what heaven will be like!
As my art came through, I could feel the healing of many years of sadness and pain through creating uplifting and inspired art! I created the brand Betsy Wiersma Art on Purpose and met the perfect, on-demand, women-owned, product development and fulfillment house Vervante. Founder Cindy Tyler and I were fast friends and she asked, “Can I make some products with your art?” Now the angels, friends, and new inspired patterns live on card decks, blessing journals, planners, calendars, card sets and new things all the time. Also, Society6 can put my art on backpacks, soft goods, phone covers and technology and even masks….the masks were a big seller in 2020!
The Craft Room & Covid
Sarah went away for high school to A+ World Academy, a boarding school on a tall ship. She left home after her sophomore year and traveled to 40 countries in her junior and senior years. The strict life on the ship and the world adventure was perfect for her style of learning, and she was away from her parents! The Craft Room was now a bustling art empire that was mine, all mine.
And in 2020 with all that “stay-at-home-ness” my Craft Room became the broadcast studio for my growing Global Sisterhood Podcast Network and location for the Saturday Artsy Afternoons sister gatherings. Literally my Network of “Sisters” connected on Zoom for 4 or 5 hours to do art and “act normal.” The conversation and creativity were our lifeline … and all that art time birthed a big idea: The STEW: Smart Talk Exceptional Women, my first art and insights book.
No one can say no to “Momma Betsy” in my role as founder of the CampExperience™ Network and no one said no to writing 1000-word essays on how they would uplift and inspire women of the world. Sixty-two women shared their stories as I created 100 pieces of art in a labor of daily LOVE. Yes, I basically LIVED in the Craft Room. It was fun to personally write the “back stories” of my art angels and the other creations that came from my soul to the canvas. Funny, it is like the images and their messages took on a life of their own. I could hear them as I worked the mixed-media creations. They wanted to come forth, and The STEW book was the perfect place to serve the world. The STEW was published by Cindy at Vervante, and we began distributing it to the world in October 2020. Another AMEN & AMEN and a strange blessing of “The COVID” that our group of diverse and amazing women had the time to gift our art and inspiration to the world!
Art & Ideas for everyone from my Craft Room Super Studio
But wait there’s more. I mentioned that I have a Global Sisterhood Podcast Network, and in the “good old days” I traveled the world interviewing all kinds of women and hosting my brand of Powerful Purpose Vision Board Workshops. With the Covid pandemic, I had to change my approach a bit to courses and workshops produced from my studio in the Craft Room. I do promotional videos, interview guests and shoot sessions for my MOVE Ideas Into Action online courses.
MOVE Ideas Into Action was born to share my Process on Purpose and to meet the need of not only artists and makers but anyone who has ideas and dreams and wants to take them to the world. I felt like reaching the milestone of 60 years “young” was a good time to review my process for manifesting ideas and to teach it! We transformed the Craft Room into a working studio with production lights, sound and my new GoPro overhead camera to capture the art segments. The funny part was putting blankets over the basement windows and finding time to record when the neighbor’s dog was not barking and no one was cutting their grass!
I also produce my Boost Power Podcast dedicated to uplift and inspire listeners with stories of amazing women from all over the world. My next big adventure is to grow my Global Sisterhood Podcast Network to include many more women podcasters so we can help each other promote our shows and amplify the voices of women. We are planning Art & Insight Adventures to travel, do some philanthropic good and create with artists around the US and the world. Please find me and let’s plan an adventure! Find Boost Power Podcast on Apple Podcasts, TuneIn or any podcast app and look for my interview of Jo Packham, editor-in-chief of Where Women Create. Plus enjoy my TEDx talk Choose Your Family Change Your Life on YouTube or the TEDx site.
My belief is that art and creativity is the key to a happy and healthy life. Delivering podcasts, books and my virtual MOVE Ideas Into Action course from the Craft Room supports the dreams and ideas of people from around the world. That is the best blessing of the
Here is the Magic of &
So, I collect the symbol “&” and it lives all over my Craft Room to remind me of the magic.
The doctors & nurses saved my life on March 21, 1983, in Lafayette, Indiana.
In 2002 we had the phone call from the adoption attorney
& we were blessed with a one-day-old baby girl, Sarah.
We found a stinky & spacious home to grow our loving family complete
with our two dogs, “sons” Oreo & Finn.
When I was lost & sad, art saved me and inspired my Art on Purpose,
with funky products & services that I use as my gifts back to the world.
Sarah & Mom are all good now as she brings her art of fashion design to the world and enjoys college at The Istituto Marangoni in Milan, Italy.
Sarah even contributed an essay and illustrations to The STEW book.
Moms & daughters & friends come to the Craft Room
to create & share & LOVE
Content produced in the room supports people’s best ideas & dreams.
The love & power-filled outreach from this very special
room can change the world…
one person, one scrap of paper
& one belief at a time.