Maker Monday: Mikee Layaoen



Mikee was born in Manila, Philippines, and also spent her childhood in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. She currently resides in Ontario, Canada. Having grown up in three different countries, it has always been a difficult question to answer where she is from, but she understands that living in these parts of the world all played a role in shaping who she is today. Mikee was, is, and will always be an artist who views life as a collection of fleeting cherished moments. She creates as an act of permanence, reliving memories as she draws, and sharing them with others to keep them alive.


When did you first become inspired to start creating? My earliest memory of drawing is of me as a young girl sitting around my maternal grandmother's dining table with two of my cousins. I saw them drawing on scrap pieces of paper with pencil crayons, and being the curious child I am, I wanted to draw something too. I remember copying their drawings, trying to understand how shapes and colors formed something completely new. From there, I began to explore the world inside my head and bring my imagination to life through drawings.

Tell us about the progress you've made since you first started Since I first started in February 2021, I undertook one of my biggest projects thus far, which is a 19" by 27" poster for a friend. I contributed my products to goodie bags for a local artisan market, was featured in a Small Asian Businesses and Asian Creatives and Entrepreneurs Holiday Gift Guide with 62 other AAPI owned small businesses, and successfully hosted my first Halloween giveaway. I'm grateful for this progress so far and the people who have continued to support and encourage me since day one of opening my shop and before that.

What does success mean to you? I think success means enjoying the journey towards a destination that you love and believe in. It's about being proud and happy of our achievements without comparison and embracing and learning from our failures.

Were you born an artist or made an artist? I believe my artistic skills are a gift from God, which to me, means that my creativity can be taken away at any moment. So while I still have these skills, I want to use it to leave my mark in the world, inspire goodness, and remind others to use their God-given talents in a way that gives back.

What are your hobbies outside of creating? I love to hike! I enjoy visiting new places and sharing first experiences with others. I think it is special to make memories with others in this way. I also enjoy reading, playing board games and going to the arcade, journaling, and trying new food.

What advice would your current self give your beginner self? My past self was someone who dreamt of doing big things, but always became overwhelmed with doubt, a lack of confidence, and that others will always be ahead of me. Now that I am in this journey, the advice I would give to my younger self is to start and remember that we always begin again, in many ways. Do things with confidence and at your own pace, appreciate failures because they keep you humble, and be grateful towards everything in life.

How did you come up with your business name? I think choosing a business name is an arduous process for most people, and even now I am still trying to fully accept the name I have chosen for my shop. When I was brainstorming, the word 'story' kept repeating itself in my head. I was in a state of convincing myself to share my art with the world then, and continuously told myself I needed to overcome the doubts and fear that were preventing me from working towards my goals. I realized then that although many people own a stationery shop, it doesn't mean that I should deny myself of this opportunity because it already existed. Therefore, my shop name 'This Is A Story' is an ode to allowing myself to courageously live out my goals and tell life stories and thoughts through art. I wanted all of my art to have the main concept that connected them with each other and with people who resonate with them too, which is the idea that we are all connected through stories, and that's how my brand was born.

Which of your habits help and which hinder your creativity? I believe rest is crucial to creativity. Giving my mind a break by taking a walk, getting enough sleep, doing nothing, or stepping away from artwork and coming back to it later all help me in this process. We cannot always force ourselves to be deeply engaged in our work or hobbies. I find that ideas come to me after I distance myself from constant brain activity and allow myself to rest.

What do you love most about being a creator? Experiencing several failures keeps my life invigorating. The cycle of trial and error allows me to view and solve things from different perspectives. For someone who is imaginative and enjoys creating something, it is a blessing to experience when things go wrong or in the ways I want them to. I don't find myself bored with my mind. I like that there is always something new to discover, and when I finally witness the moment where the outcome is as it should be, it becomes the definition of euphoric.

Where do you find inspiration? Much of what inspires me is pulled from different realities in my life, but most of all, it's the memories I have with people, places I've seen, and dreams - both night and day - that play a role in my art. Time will continue to tick while memories fade away and dreams and people are forgotten, and through my creations, I hope that these stories will live forever for others to remember too.

How much of your life inspires what you make? I am a person who keeps a journal that documents different chapters of my life. I like to have a keepsake of my memories and the freedom to go back and read about the people who have left a mark on my life. I would say that these memories continue to inspire what I make; however, I also think that my dreams and daydreams play a significant role in my creations. When I draw, it almost feels like the characters or stories in my head awaken and take ownership of the pen. While I have some control of how I want the artwork to look, most of the time I work with my intuition and "trusting the process". What I like about what happens during these moments is that the end result will surprise me because it becomes something different from what I initially imagined.

Which of the pieces you've created is your favorite? The creations that speak to me most are the ones that were born out of other people's wishes, and not my own. To me, it is an honor and privilege when a stranger, family, or friend asks you to create something for them. In my eyes, it means that they not only trust me to collaborate together to turn their visions into a reality but that they also value my art as much as I do. I treasure the pieces that are made for others the most. At this moment, we become an audience to each other, spectating and listening to the performance that occurs when creating art.


What are some future plans for This Is A Story? The future is unpredictable, but This Is A Story will always be creating. This year, one of the biggest lessons I've learned is to go at my own pace. I'm curious where the future will take me.



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