Kelly Thiel, 45, at The Wilds

A few weeks ago, I asked Charlie for a recommendation and he passed along his wife's information to me. That's high praise, right? I've only spent time individually with Charlie and Kelly, but the way they speak about one other leads me to believe that they have a very loving relationship. I met with Kelly at her co-working space on a quiet Sunday morning and something about being in a very productive space on a non-workday was simultaneously energizing and relaxing. And Kelly was an absolute pleasure to speak with. She's very thoughtful and so obviously full of kindness. 

Who are you and how would you describe yourself?

You know, that's always kind of a tough one. Who am I? I'm a mother, wife, artist, business owner, dog-lover, plant-lover, snowboarder. Now I'm a West-Coaster. I did come from the east, but I feel like I fit in here so I'm a Pacific Northwest person now.

We were living in Charleston, South Carolina, which I absolutely adore - I still love it - but I found that people were much more prone to run in these cliques or families. You know, there's a lot of history there and if you didn't belong to those families, it was incredibly hard for you to break into that. But here I feel like everyone is so much more open. Think of Bend - I mean we're all transplants, right? So I feel like everybody is kind of creating their own community here in Bend. We're all here for the lifestyle, right? We're all here for the love. So I think that that is more welcoming than what we came from in Charleston. 

What matters to you? 

That is kind of a hard one, isn't it? I'll answer it on a personal level first. I will say that what matters to me is creating the life that I want. The balance that I want - like with work and my family. I'm basically looking for happiness, right? That's what motivates me. Yeah, my work, my family, nature, and success. I love achieving goals that I didn't think I could actually achieve. Bigger picture - I'm really upset about the state of our mental healthcare. I would love to see more time and energy and thought put into caring for one another in the mental health arena. This interview is coming on the heels of that suicide at Summit High and that kind of stuff devastates me. The mass-shootings really upset me - I feel like it's a mental health thing. And our homelessness - in Bend, but also everywhere - I feel like that contributes. So I would love to see people really taking more care of each other. And that can happen in a lot of different ways, but mental health right now is one thing that's bothering me. 

Were you raised in such a way that breeds empathy and compassion for others?

Okay, so, I was born and raised in the deep South - Georgia. My father was definitely not full of empathy (laughs). That was not him. But I would say that my mother had it. She was an artist, as well. I grew up working the land. You know, we had a garden. And doing crafts and doing creative things like that. But I think I saw it in her and I think I learned it from her. She always had this bond with older people that, as I became a little bit older, I really appreciated. I saw how gentle she was with the older folks and it really struck a chord in me. And when she passed away in 2008, I decided that I wanted to be more like her. I wanted to be more caring and more generous with things and time and love and make an effort to be more like her. 

What does community mean to you?

You know, I think it takes a village. Or a tribe. Or whatever you want to call it. But I feel like creating a small community in which you live is so important for support and happiness. And what we have done here in our studio - we've created this small but very open, very friendly community and I love coming to work every day. I love seeing these faces. And everybody's different and I love their different stories. And I feel like we appreciate each other and we do take care of each other. I feel like that is community in a nutshell. 

What do you think you can do as an individual to push community to grow in those uncomfortable ways?

Oh boy, you are trying to dig a little bit deeper, aren't you? I want to do some work with the education system here. Setting up scholarships or whatever, but I feel like there's a lot of folks here who are not getting the education that they need in Central Oregon - Bend even. So that's one way that my husband and I want to help out. And then I also want to move forward with artwork. I want to somehow incorporate my artwork with raising funds for... I have this idea that I want to do where I want girls to learn how to take care of themselves either through self-defense or just raising their self-esteem. I haven't figured out how I'm going to do this yet, but I feel like the two are going to come together. Because I'm passionate about females being able to stand up for themselves and be strong. That is something that is not always taught to young girls. And I have two daughters and, by golly, they're gonna know how to stand up for themselves when they get a little bit older. I think that is going to be a future project for me for social change that I really want to see - I really feel strongly about. 

As the mom of a couple of young daughters, what gives you hope in light of all the social injustice? 

When Trump came into office that was a big deal. That's part of why I want the girls to be able to stand up for themselves. And what gives me hope is that his term is going to come to an end before too long. But also, I loved the #MeToo campaign that went viral. I was happy to see women speaking up about that kind of thing. And that gives me hope. And already my girls have strong personalities and I feel like they are gonna stand up for themselves. Which is ultimately what every parent wants, right? They want to raise a strong child who can take care of themselves and give back to society. I feel like maybe we're headed in that direction. I don't know, we haven't hit the teenage years, though. So, we'll see. 

What do you wish for the future?

(Laughs) I'm not sure how I want to answer this one. I think that the future holds some technology changes, yes I do. Not necessarily like living on the moon - I have no interest in that. But I want the world to understand that we are all connected. And I want us to start doing a better job of taking care of Mother Earth. You know, our CO2 emissions are way high - so much higher than they used to be. And we need to reduce our waste and start recycling more. That is what I would love to see in our future. My husband went to Laos a couple of years ago and he said the pollution there was just horrific. Because they don't have clean water! And so they all drink water out of plastic bottles and then the plastic bottles just end up thrown in the river, thrown on the ground, or whatever. And that kind of story just kills me. And I know that's happening worldwide. I would love to see that cleaned up - Mother Earth. 

Why does a communal workspace matter to you? 

We have created our own little community here at The Wilds. We've been open for over two years now and I will say that this has been a game-changer as far as our life here in Bend. I've met people and I've had opportunities that I never would have had had we not opened this. This is, by far, better than working in my garage. I've developed relationships and friendships - my partner is probably one of my best friends. You know? Working here in a space like this allows for collaboration like nothing else I've ever seen. This is the first time I've actually ever worked in a co-working space and I'm totally hooked. If I ever left Bend or went on a trip or whatever and needed a place to work, I would find a co-working space. I think it's that important.