Mia Schillace Nelson
Welcome to Our (Virtual) World....How's it Goin'?
For years, I've thought about our little corner of the world, and how we have used current and ongoing technological advancements in our day-to-day work life. From a business standpoint, our team has been a hearty mix of real bodies in the shop busily building, and a whole lot of creative energy exchanged long distance. With everyone else joining us in our virtual world these days, it seems as though now is the time to share our story and experiences working creatively, remotely.
Our little-business-that-could began as an idea drawn from the inspiration of a trip to the rainforest. I was along for the ride while Paul and DeWaine were dreaming up exhibits for an eco-lodge in Costa Rica.
While others at the lodge were there in search of elusive rainforest birds or perhaps a howler monkey sighting, I was bowled over by DeWaine's uncanny ability to notice and share fascinating facts about the teeming insect life all around us, even on the path on the way to dinner. It became clear to us that showing others how easily one can interact with the natural world through insects and other misunderstood and under-appreciated organisms was the way to go. A new business concept was born!
As time moved on, Paul and I got married and settled in Minneapolis, and DeWaine and his
family moved to Alaska (and later, Hawaii). We have never been deterred by the distance, and have used the technology at hand to stay connected and work together. In the year 2000 this meant phone calls, text-only emails (had to be sure the phone line was free before you dialed in), faxed sketches and overnighted zip discs. We kept at it and before too long (okay, maybe it took a couple of decades) we are editing documents in real time, filesharing with ease with a ton of options, and have kept plugging away creating exhibits.
Our experience working long distance in this way has opened up the world to potential and possibilities. We found Lorenzo Possenti through his website and were able to collaborate internationally and make BUGS: Outside the Box (Fun Fact: while DeWaine and Lorenzo had met at Lorenzo's cottage and studio in Italy during that time, Paul and I did not meet Lorenzo in person until the day we opened the exhibit for the first time!). We've continued this tradition and enjoy collaborations and partnerships from coast to coast and all over the world.
If you're new to this hardcore version of telecommuting, we have some tips and tricks that you might find helpful:
GET YOUR TECH ON
The tools at your disposal are improving all the time, and it keeps getting easier to meet in (virtual) real time. Find what works for you and your team and go for it. We like Google Suite, Zoom, Dropbox, and even FaceTime. We have even had audio Skype on at the same time on speakers. Though our desks were thousands of miles apart it was as if we were sitting across from each other. Ambient sounds from each other's environment enriched the experience. Dogs barking at perceived intruders, roosters crowing, exotic birds calling, kids' questions, yawns, the occasional belch, you get the idea.
THE WORLD IS CURRENTLY YOUR OYSTER...TAKE ADVANTAGE!
If you're not too weary-eyed after all of your meetings online, there are a plethora of free online courses, classes, and downloadable activities available right now - as I write this in March, 2020 - while we are all on lockdown. I'm thinking about taking a free, Ivy League class while I can.
You can download coloring pages from many museums too!
HAVE A LITTLE FUN WITH IT
What an unusual opportunity to get to know our workmates in a different way. I have always loved when one of my co-workers has a pet wander into the shot while we are working, be it dog, cat, or lizards. Joking around is allowed and encouraged! Except for DeWaine's jokes. We don't encourage those.
EVERYONE IS ONLINE RIGHT NOW, PRETTY MUCH ALL THE TIME
It's been fun to have almost everyone I know at my fingertips 24/7 these past few days. If you've been waiting for the right time to put something new out there (for me, it's this blog post I've been wanting to write for ages) go for it!
KEEP YOUR TEAMMATES CLOSE
For us long-in-the-tooth telecommuters, it is important to find a tangible way to remind yourself that you are not working alone. For me, as the writer and researcher of the crew, it makes a big difference to remind myself that my team is out exploring both the realms of the extraordinary physical world in which we live, as well as the esoteric wonders of cyberspace, waiting for our next jam session.