back arrowView show

#16: Artist Mark Dejong Turns His Profession Into His Passion

Episode description

It took a while for Mark Dejong to call himself an artist.

Mark Dejong was born in The Netherlands, but his family moved to Cincinnati when he was a child. In his 20’s he took classes at the University of Cincinnati’s prestigious School of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (better known locally as “DAAP“, pronounced “dap”), but didn’t pursue an art degree. Following his interests, and principally doing work that would allow him to pursue his passion for travel, Mark worked as a carpenter into his thirties, and his original interest in art languished.

Through those years, the title of “artist” conveyed something Mark wasn’t ready to inhabit. So it lie dormant while Mark honed his skills and paid the bills. But those years gave him the skills and confidence he needed to eventually combine his interests into his own unique “work.” And it was in finding that work that Mark found the willingness to call himself an artist.

How many of us let concerns about titles and perceptions stand in the way of the work we have to do? How many of us never get back to picking up the thing we laid down? Fortunately for us…Mark did pick it back up.

The Intersection of Art and Housecraft

Mark talks about “housecraft,” a combined term for the skills that go into making and re-making living spaces. While he’s the first to say he’s not an expert, or necessarily a master craftsman, Mark’s interests lie at the intersection of art and housecraft. He’s figured out a way to combine his passion and his profession into something uniquely his. Sometimes it may lean toward the professional, as in Mark’s “Circle House” where creating a livable space where the artistic elements are secondary to the practical concerns. Or, as in the Swing House, the skills of housecraft may combine to make something wholly new that, while technically functional as living spaces, are designed more to be enjoyed as art than lived in.

Mark Dejong Links and Information

We met Mark on a rainy Tuesday afternoon. The kind of afternoon where a brief, torrential summer downpour overwhelms gutters and downspouts. Where the roadways are overwhelmed, and hilly neighborhood streets turn into raging rivers. On the tail-end of one such storm, under overcast skies we sat at a small table and nursed bourbon drinks while we investigated the turbulent waters of finding one’s work. If you listen close you may hear the thunder that accompanied our discussion.

Talking Art and Work Over Bourbon at The Comet

The Comet is a perfect place for such a discussion. Originally opened in 1997, The Comet has remained essentially unchanged as a quaint, mostly quiet, welcoming neighborhood bar of the best variety. The craft beer case is always stocked with something exotic. The rotating taps boast a perfect mixture of interesting novelties and low-budget standbys. The back kitchen turns out cheap, delicious, abundantly sized burritos with options like jerk tofu and pineapple salsa. When in doubt, always go with the salsa-of-the-month.

Yeah, Comet has regulars, but it’s easy to feel like a regular at The Comet, no matter how many times you’ve been there. Stop by for bike night on Tuesdays and you’ll see a mix of re-tooled classics, scooters, crotch-rockets, and more. The riders all just happy to be there, with nary a judgmental comment between them. Or come Sunday night and dance the new week in with the Comet Bluegrass All-stars. Whatever your speed, The Comet is the perfect canvas, as it was for our discussion of work, art, and the difficulty in assigning meaning to the work we do.

The Work of Finding One’s Voice

Mark talked about returning to art as a result of seeing an exhibition that reawakened the need within him to have a voice in the culture. He’s still finding that voice, and he’s still figuring out what he wants it to say. But for Mark, that no longer means he’s waiting for the next thing. It means he’s embraced that the process is the work he needs to do. As he looks ahead to his next project, The Stair House, he’s embraced the way he works. It’s okay that he doesn’t have the words to explain it…He knows for now that pursuing the work is pursuing his voice.

We’re excited to watch, and listen to, that voice as it develops.

The Distiller Podcast with Artist Mark Dejong



The post #16: Artist Mark Dejong Turns His Profession Into His Passion appeared first on The Distiller.

episodes iconMore Episodes

#31 – Design Impact’s Ramsey Ford & Kate Hanisian On Truly Meaningful Work

February 7th, 2019

Design Impact Was Built To Make A Difference

It sounds simple when you hear it, but the idea of involving those most affected by social problems …

#30 – Filmmaker Yemi Oyediran On Work That Builds Community

January 24th, 2019

Yemi Oyediran is full of surprises.

We might have expected Yemi Oyediran to immediately jump into promoting his new film, “Queen City Kings,” …

#29 – Songwriter Kim Taylor On Sustaining a Life of Creativity

January 10th, 2019

Kim Taylor knows how to be vulnerable.

After all, as a songwriter with five full length albums and two EPs under her belt, she’s …

#28 – The Distiller Podcast 2018 Year In Review

December 24th, 2018

The Distiller Podcast is one year old.

Our first episode aired on December 16, 2017, and featured Danny Korman of green general store Park & …

#27 – Kelly Dolan of Ingage Partners On the Impact of B-Corp Businesses

December 6th, 2018

Kelly Dolan knows business can do good and make a profit at the same time.

Kelly, along with her business partner Michael Kroeger, are the …

#26 – FireLab Creators Anne-Marie & Luis on Immigration, Work, and Hope

November 22nd, 2018

There’s a lot of talk about immigration right now.

In fact it’s become one of the central hot-button issues in our political discourse. But studies …

#25 – Tree House Builder Django Kroner On A Life In The Trees

November 8th, 2018


#24 – Piano Technician Nevin Essex On Craftsmanship and Mastery

October 25th, 2018

Nevin Essex doesn’t play the piano.

At least he wouldn’t call himself a pianist. But he’s directly responsible for thousands of pianos, and tens of …

#23 – Melis Aydogan of Ruya Coffee On A First Generation View of Meaningful Work

October 11th, 2018

Ruya Coffee is the realization of a lifelong dream.

That’s not surprising, since Ruya means “dream” in Turkish. Melis Aydogan, the founder of Ruya Coffee, never saw herself as an entrepreneur, or a small-business …

#22 – Justin & Tasha Golden On Navigating Work Transitions as a Couple

September 27th, 2018

Tasha and Justin Golden have been married a long time by any standard.

Just about twenty years, in fact. And you don’t stay married that long without …

#21 – Humanist Chaplain Bart Campolo on the Intersection of Work and Belief

September 13th, 2018

When Bart Campolo lost his faith, he didn’t lose his desire to minister.

After all, the word “minister” was a verb before it became a noun. The fact …

#20 – EcoATM Founder Mark Bowles On Entrepreneurship and the Tech Startup World

August 30th, 2018

Mark Bowles Is Not Afraid to Fail, He’s Done It Many Times Before.

Talk with Mark about his experience in technology startups and venture-based …

#19 – Theatre House Owner Marty Boyer on How Values Guide Decisions

August 16th, 2018

Theatre House owner Marty Boyer is a high-character individual.

Marty is a unique individual in that his ego has (apparently) almost no bearing on what he does for a living. Marty is the most pragmatic individual I’ve …

#18: Potter Christie Goodfellow and Sculptor Beth Graves on Creativity in the Gig Economy

August 2nd, 2018

Christie Goodfellow and Beth Graves Are Two Very Different Kinds of Sculptors.

The similarities and differences between Christie and Beth’s work …

#17: Libby Hunter on Overcoming Poverty with Literacy

July 19th, 2018

Libby Hunter Believes Storytelling Is the Key to Overcoming Poverty

When you talk with Libby Hunter about literacy, you’d better buckle your seat belt. Libby talks quickly, and with purpose. Aside from a brief stint in …

#15: Homeschool Mom Liz McEwan on the Work of Family

June 21st, 2018

Liz McEwan is not your typical homeschool mom.

Or perhaps she is. Maybe the “typical” homeschooling parent doesn’t actually exist.

Most of The …

#14: Chef Derek Dos Anjos on the Business of Food

May 31st, 2018

Chef Derek Dos Anjos’ Secret Weapon May Surprise You

Ask a chef or restaurateur what skill is most important to running a restaurant, and you’re likely to get a lot of different answers. Maybe it’s the ability to …

#12: Corben Bone – Professional Soccer Player

May 17th, 2018

Corben Bone’s Work Is Play

On the field or off, Corben radiates energy. Watch him play in his midfield role for the F.C. Cincinnati soccer team, and …

#11: Dr. Meredith Shockley-Smith – Equity, Inclusion, & Community Specialist

May 3rd, 2018


#10: Michael Wilson – Photographer

April 19th, 2018

Michael Wilson Is More Than Just A Photographer.

He’s a Master. A storyteller. A record-keeper. A history maker.

Michael Wilson has been making pictures* for nearly 40 years, and in that time he’s developed a look and …

#9: Julius Jenkins – Dancer, Educator, Community Activist

April 5th, 2018

Julius Jenkins Wants to Bring Street Culture Back to Life.

You may already know of Julius Jenkins, or his work, and not even know it. You may have …

#8: Megan Trischler – Community Designer

March 22nd, 2018


#7: Tamaya Dennard – Cincinnati City Council Member

March 8th, 2018

Tamaya Dennard is the future of local politics.

As one of the newest members of the Cincinnati City Council, Tamaya Dennard represents everything …

#6: Matt Hart – Punk Rock Poet

February 22nd, 2018

Matt Hart Is Not Afraid to Go Deep.

When discussing motivation, or empathy, or the pure punk rock power of a kick-ass poem, Matt is not afraid to get …

#5: Stephen JohnsonGrove – Public Policy Attorney

February 7th, 2018

Stephen JohnsonGrove is a professional do-gooder,

the Deputy Director for Policy at the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, a non-profit law and advocacy …

#4: Matt Gunderman – Director of UC Health Air Care & Mobile Rescue

January 25th, 2018

Matt Gunderman saves lives for a living.

Some people do work that seems sexy…exciting…but when you dig a little it’s just another job. Other people make a difference in the lives of individual humans every single day. …

#3: Musicians Ric Hordinski & David Wilcox at Brew House

January 11th, 2018

Ric Hordinski and David Wilcox have known each other for over 20 years.

They’re craftsmen in the truest sense, and two guys who bring a great deal of …

#2: Dominic & Judi LoPresti – Spun Bicycles

December 28th, 2017

People talk a lot about “work-life balance” these days.

But what if your work is your life, and vice-versa? What if your work life is also your marriage? And what if the combination of the two is tied to your mental …

#1: Danny Korman – Small Business Owner, Outdoor Advocate

December 16th, 2017

Danny Korman has been a fixture in Cincinnati for the past decade, but things change.

In the inaugural episode of The Distiller, Danny talks about moving from Chicago back home to start his “green general store” Park + …

Episode 0 – The Distiller Promo

December 8th, 2017



The Distiller is a podcast about the soul of work.

In this short preview clip, host Brandon Dawson talks about what you can expect from The …

Loading ...

Download the RadioPublic app for
 FREE and never miss an episode.

Get it on Google PlayDownload on the App Store