By Elliott Wright
Observant readers may remember Jodie Davies from our August 2019 issue. That interview featured her business venture, Next Session, which repurposes retired wetsuits into stylish rings for men and women. Her vibrant, colorful designs impress surfers and landlubbers alike. Since then, her business had been growing steadily up until the stay-at-home orders began in mid-March.
With her work on hiatus, Jodie completely isolated with her family for a month. Missing the ocean, Jodie started driving south most mornings to surf in Huntington Beach before returning to El Segundo to homeschool her two children. I called Jodie shortly after Memorial Day to talk about her business and learn how she and her family have been passing the time during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In what ways has your family unit changed since lockdown began?
Lockdown started and I became, overnight, my kids’ homeschool teacher. I’m really lucky, because my wife works and supports us. You would be getting a very different interview if both of us had no income. I know that not everyone is as lucky as we are.
It’s given me a little bit of time to pause. I have enjoyed the interruption for me to stop and think about what’s important in life. You get on your own treadmill—starting up a business is all-consuming—so I feel like it’s a blessing.
What are some ways, in addition to a dip in sales, that COVID-19 has affected Next Session?
Before lockdown, the business was really starting to gain some momentum. I was getting into more stores. I was having more and more orders from people I didn’t know. After lockdown, of course, sales dramatically slowed down, as you would expect. No surprises there.
From my side, I totally get it. I would rather people be spending their time and money on things that matter during something like this. If they [bought] a ring to make themselves feel good, fantastic. If they don’t, no worries.
What was interesting, and I didn’t realize this at first, but I lost my motivation to be in the workshop. For a while I was thinking, “This is just because I’m homeschooling; it’s really tiring.” Also, when I did find time to get in the workshop, it was in the late afternoon and I was sort of spent.
Then I saw an Instagram post which talked about how this whole pandemic has really impacted [artists’] creativity and motivation. I realized, “I think that has happened to me.” I hadn’t thought about it that way before. So I have a feeling that the issue was tapping into my creative side.
Ever since then, it’s been a nice blend. My focus is more on the kids right now and doing that stuff, but when I get the opportunity to be in the workshop and doing stuff for Next Session, I’m really enjoying it. So it’s kind of a hybrid role I’m playing now, and I like it.
How have you found the transition to homeschooling your children and generally being at home more?
With the family, selfishly the most amazing thing is that the kids have taken up surfing. So, ever since the beaches opened up, each day my two kids are begging me to take them out there. I haven’t caught any waves myself because I’m pushing them into their own waves. We wouldn’t be doing this now if their [sports and after-school activities] weren’t cancelled. It’s fantastic.
We’re outside, being active, watching caterpillars change to butterflies, and growing a veggie garden. It’s been pretty earthy really. My kids are completely into it.
My daughter saved a caterpillar out of the pool, so that was the first time we had taken the time to watch a caterpillar transform into a butterfly. Since then, we have had three more do it.
There are definitely some downsides—such as the kids not seeing their friends—but as a family we have been really lucky. We have had lots of really great stuff come out of this.
You mentioned that you have been reading more than watching films or listening to music. What books have you knocked out recently?
I now have the opportunity to read for pleasure again, which is great. Right before we were in lockdown we were skiing in Utah. Having watched what was happening in Italy, we sort of knew what was coming. I went into a bookshop at the airport in Salt Lake City, and I was looking through the shelves. There were about five or six titles that I wanted to read, but I couldn’t make a decision.
I said to the guy working there, “I need a book to read and I don’t know what to pick.” The guy made a recommendation—The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn. It’s not one I would have picked up, but I just bought it. It was a great book! It’s going to be a movie soon.
Prior to lockdown, a friend bought me the Steve Jobs autobiography; the really big, thick book. When he gave it to me, I told him it was awesome, but I thought to myself, “That’s too big; I’m never going to have the time to finish it.” So I never started it.
After I finished The Woman in the Window, I remembered, “Hang on, I have that Steve Jobs book.” Not a book I would have bought for myself or been that interested in, yet, it was amazing. Just a great, easy read. It’s a big book though; you’ve got to commit to it.
After that, I didn’t have a book again. This woman on the local Facebook group posted a whole bunch of books for sale. I asked if she would pick out for me what she enjoyed, and I would read those. I just finished Amy Tan’s The Opposite of Fate. I had never read her stuff before, and it was also a great book.
Without being deliberate about it, every book I’ve read in quarantine has been given to me, nothing I would have ever picked myself. It’s a subtle mind shift, but in the past I would have been like, “I know what I like and don’t like,” so I would have been quite closed-minded about what I chose. This time, I thought, “Even if I don’t like it, I will get something from it.” I’ve just been reading without overthinking it, and it’s been awesome. That’s been the unintended thread of my reading.
How often do you all sit down and watch something together?
We had thought we would watch a ton of stuff, but we are so tired at night that everything we intend to watch keeps being put off. There have been lots of nights when we haven’t watched anything.
We have sort of been doing a little Netflix binge-watching of Tiger King. We just finished watching Waco, which was the story of the Branch Davidian religious group in Texas. That was amazing to watch, and the last episode was crazy heavy. We had to watch a comedy after it.
We have our RV, which is parked in the driveway. For eight days straight we slept every night in the RV, just for a change. The kids watched a movie in there every night. It felt like we were away camping, even though we knew we were in the driveway. Being cramped in the RV, there is nothing really to do in there other than to just chill out. It was kind of a break; it was lovely.
As an environmentally-conscious individual who donates 10% of each Next Session ring sale to ocean conservation, do you think humanity will learn from the evidence that earth has benefitted from our staying indoors?
I would love to say yes. But I think only those of us who care will continue to do so. If we take last weekend [Memorial Day weekend] as an example, there was so much trash in the beach parking lot and spilling out of the bins. I hate to say it, but I think most people will just get back to what they were doing before. The skies will haze-up again.
I think what makes it even harder is that the world could see how quickly there was a positive impact of our not doing harm to our planet. From New Delhi, to the Himalayas, to Los Angeles. It’s so easy to see the data about how much the planet will do better. To feel confident that as soon as this is over, people will go back to doing the harm we did before—that makes it harder.
I think that it also comes down to our kids. Because of the way I focus on the ocean, my kids see that. If we are surfing, and we see a plastic bag or a container float by, they go, “Mum, quick! Get it!” So we grab whatever it is, stuff it in our wetsuit sleeve, and then throw it away after the session. They are really hyper-aware. I think that the other kids who have been paying attention have seen how our actions impact the planet. They are just kids now, but hopefully over time they will become the change. This has shown us how quickly the earth can come back if we give it a chance.