ASHES TO ART: Finding Joy and Purpose in Adversity

In 2012, Lori Joseph was driving back to her home in Nebraska from Colorado with the devastation of wildfires in her rear view mirror. Lori recalls, “there was smoke in the sky and what I remember is how much the locals were taxed with the burden of trying to move their livestock and help their families and their homes were burning. Some of the firefighters lost their homes while they were fighting the front lines.” The next morning she went for a walk and was struggling with finding a way to help. She was not in a financial position to just write a check so came up with an idea to use charcoal from the fires to create art. Artists throughout the country made art from the charcoal and the auction proceeds were sent to the Poudre Canyon Fire Department.

The concept eventually evolved into a workshop of the same name. Participants use sensory exploration using fire, art and a “dress up” box to explore fear and adversity to find purpose and joy. The “playfulness of the workshop gives people permission to play because we take ourselves so serious as we grow up and we forget that it’s important that we give ourselves recess so that we still go out and play.

Lori said there are three levels of empathy:

  1. The first is to be able to relate to the person or the situation.
  2. The second is that you relate because you had a similar situation
  3. The third is where you feel a call to action

The third level is what Lori hopes participants at her workshop discover.

“When we set our fear aside, that is when we really grow into who we were meant to be.”

We discussed so much more in our interview including Siegfried the Elephant (her giant stuffed elephant who helps at her workshop) and how our connection to the environment helps us connect to one another. Her book, My Embrace, is part of her journey to face her own fears and how she uses nature and service to continue to find positivity and purpose. The back page of her book wraps up her life philosophy well, “Today’s a good day to list all of your accomplishments, big and small. After all, you took baby steps, then ran and leaped and oh yes, you took flight!”


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