We have been eager to share this interview with you! Today we get to talk to Jaymie Shearer of Mug Life Project. She used a simple object, in this case a person's favorite mug, to create conversation and develop new friendships and community. Her three month road trip took her through 8 states and plenty of adventure all in the name of mugs! We hope your heart is consumed by this concept, interview and amazing travel photos just as ours were! Meet Jaymie!
**all photos provided by Mug Life Project
what inspired you to start Mug Life
Mug Life came about after a period of waiting. I was going to school and spending most of my time trying to focus on my studies over the nudge to create. During this time I was inspired by photographers who were doing what I wanted to—of least somebody could be out there, documenting and storytelling while I'm here trying to pass my classes. Then that day came... when I finished my last semester and with the anticipation of my lease ending, I had the chance to act on one or all of the wild ideas that had been mulling around in my head. So naturally, I found a way to combine all the things I love (people, community, photography, traveling, and mugs) into one project—Mug Life. Community is something I've always been aware of and interested in. I learned about community from my time working at summer camps, to my time working for Invisible Children, to living in San Luis Obispo. I loved the communities I've been a part of and wanted a chance to learn more from others across our country. So I tagged this heart to my silly love for collecting mugs and started telling people about it. I invited them to help support this project and 25 days later, my kickstarter was fully funded and all the green lights were on!
How you decided who to contact and include?
The way I wanted to approach this project was through connecting to people—so when it came to finding who to interview I figured people already in the communities I was visiting would know best. When I arrive to a new location I start asking around "Who do you see in your community that is actively giving to the community around them? Who isn't just saying they want to foster community but is actually doing it?" Those are the people I want to talk to. Then I am given a bunch of leads, send random emails and make cold calls to strangers to see if they want to talk to me about mugs and community. When we do sit down for an interview they usually ask me why I reached out to them and I have the gift of letting them know people around them acknowledge them as people who build community.
What your conversations were about?
I set out on my travels with one thing in mind: to interview people about community. I went about it in a way that made it look like a photography project but as time progressed I realized where my true intentions lie. I really wanted to meet people face to face and have a conversations about community. I worked out a series of questions to ask and stuck to that general format for each interview. I figured if I asked similar questions, I could see when a new idea was being shared or when the same theme kept popping up. Some of the themes that came up time and time again in way started to haunt me, because it made so much sense but yet I wasn't applying it to my own life. Some of these things included committing to a group of people and sticking around to see the seasons change.
The beauty about sitting down for a coffee together?
To sit down with a perfect stranger over a cup of coffee is quite magical. It's an approachable way to get to know anyone, especially when the conversation is centered around mugs. Opening with the question "what is your favorite mug" is a great way to level the playing field because it's something almost anyone can relate to. It shines light beyond the surface level of things and gives room for strangers to bond over something as simple as a mug. Their favorite mug might be one their grandma gave them, or some they picked up while traveling abroad, or maybe it reminds them of home, or a friend gifted it to them. Whatever the back story is, there is something we as humans can relate to.
Tell us a little bit about your road journey.
No person, book, movie, or story could have prepared me for life on the road—yes, the romantic side of road life is easy to anticipate but what about when you're confronted with loneliness amongst a crowd of fresh faces? or when you're confronted with the choice to embrace your fears rather than run away from them? or when your integrity is tested—will you hold to your character when no ones knows who you are? On the flip side, during most of my time on the road I was learning and growing in ways that I didn't even know I needed to. I learned that people are kind. Connecting with the random strangers along my path was as inspiring as the people I tracked down to interview. Each time fell back in love with humans and reconnected with the vast family that we are. I was reminded time and time again that this trip, my project, all that I worried about was not about me. "It's not about me" because a mantra I held onto as the journey and distance away from home began to weigh on me. Then a second part of that mantra was developed—"people are worth it".