We sat with the Creative Lady, Rose, behind the Facebook group, Creative Ladies Berlin, to learn what brought her to create such a fast-growing community (many of you are likely already members of). Find out what her plans are for the future of the community, too!
When did you come to Berlin and what brought you here initially?
A few months after we started dating, my partner (who’s Chicago born and bred, like me) told me he’d always dreamed of moving to Berlin and asked if I’d like to join him. Like the openhearted, head over heels, wildly adventurous lunatic I am, I said yes. It took us about a year and a half to prepare –– I quit my content marketing job to become a full-time freelance writer, put my collection of vintage prom dresses and my grandma’s antique mirror in storage, worked up the courage to tell my mom our plan (she was not thrilled), and registered our pup as my emotional support dog. And on February 1, 2018, our family of three... two humans, one border collie mix… moved from Chicago to Berlin.
The results of the 2016 American presidential elections were definitely an impetus, as well. :)
One of the biggest challenges when arriving here is finding a network of friends and collaborators. Did you struggle with this? What were some things that helped you to expand your network here?
We’ve been incredibly blessed in the friendship department… finding a network, to be honest, is one of the only aspects of Berlin life that I haven’t struggled with. We knew two phenomenal women living here before we moved, so we mostly just mooched off of our connections’ connections in the beginning. I can trace most of the relationships and opportunities that have come my way back to those same two women (shoutout to my homegirls Erin and Joanna!).
I’ve also found that there’s a great deal of solidarity in the expat community. Moving to a new country is sort of like going off to college: we’re all newcomers, we’re all scared, and we all need love and support, so many of my closest pals are expats like me. I’m a shamelessly effusive person, though, and creating community has always come naturally to me.
On the collaboration front, before founding Creative Ladies Berlin, my partner and I nurtured a little expat community through our newsletter and tiny zine publishing company, Rat Dream Club. We interviewed a Chicagoan turned Berliner every month, which gave us an excuse to befriend artists we admired.
When and how did the idea for Creative Ladies Berlin come about?
In April of 2019, I was starting to see the light at the end of the burnout tunnel. Since the start of 2019, I’d been working full-time as Senior Editor at an advertising agency and full-time freelance writing to support my partner and I (he has had a much harder time finding professional community than I have… I think men need a Clustered, too!), so I was overworked. Plus, simply surviving our first 14 months or so left me feeling depleted. By April, though, I had found a rhythm that worked for me, and I was feeling almost kind of sort of grounded for the first time in a long time. So I spontaneously wrote a post in the Expat Ladies in Berlin Facebook Group about how I had come to Berlin to make art and I wanted to collaborate with other women. I’m a writer by trade, but my background is in opera singing and poetry (long story), so I’m a performer at heart… and I like to draw, take photos, model, you name it. After I shared this post outlining my interests and my desire for co-creators, I got around 500 messages from women who wanted to collab. 500!
Truth be told, I was very overwhelmed. I already had two full-time jobs, and getting coffee with all of these babes would more or less be another full-time job. So I made a home for them… to preserve my sanity. And that’s Creative Ladies Berlin!
Has founding/managing this FB group helped you to feel more rooted in Berlin? Do you feel that it's supported you in "finding your people" / expanding your network?
Absolutely. Creative Ladies Berlin has personally provided me with dozens of projects… some lucrative, some just ridiculously fun and weird. I was gifted an engagement photoshoot from a really talented member, Roberta Schmoi; I modeled for Louise O’Mahony’s LOM Fashion and got to dress up like Grimes; I co-hosted a Kokedama workshop with Joanna Buchmeyer and a journaling workshop with my visiting author friend, Katie Dalebout. I found two different artist studios to work out of, and then… my favorite collab of all: I got together with Sophie Kirby to help produce/script/promote/puppeteer/perform in Sophie and Friends, a YouTube channel that teaches kids about emotional wellbeing. I have definitely found my people and my network is poppin’!
Do you have any advice for new expats in Berlin in regards to reaching out and finding like-minded people to collaborate and socialize with?
Just ask! One of the best things about Berlin, in my humble opinion, is that there are no gatekeepers here. If you want to start a business, you can do it. If you want to learn a new skill or create your own magazine or host an art exhibition, no one will tell you you can’t or put you through your paces. Berlin is home to so many powerful projects that were started by hobbyists or people who had no idea what they were doing but learned as they went along… so there’s no need to be intimidated. Truly. I get the sense that we’re all beginners here.
People can be flaky here, I know… and I sympathize. But in that case, ask again. This city is made for the shameless among us, so cultivate that quality. If someone ghosts you or a project falls through, just approach someone else. It takes persistence and kindness.
Oh, and join Creative Ladies Berlin. :) (Search Creative Ladies Berlin on Facebook and answer the questions so I can approve you.)
As the mastermind of Creative Ladies Berlin, do you have any advice for other newcomers who are considering starting their own projects and/or businesses?
Gosh, I don’t think I’ll consider myself a mastermind until Creative Ladies Berlin can stand on its own two feet (I have plans to make it monetarily profitable for members. Stay tuned!). It’s easy for me to brush CLB off as no big deal because it all happened so organically, but I also think it’s important to pay attention to the things that do come about organically, things that aren’t a struggle. If you pursue the stuff you’re drawn to, your path will start to make sense one day. There will be challenges and heartbreak along the way no matter what, but if you stay open and you stay committed to doing the work that lights you up… you’re going to wind up in a life that lights you up and it’s going to feel like magic.
Bonus question from Rose
Any Clusterettes out there who want to help me turn Creative Ladies Berlin into a sustainable business? I’m looking for a business advisor and maybe a partner!