Okie from Muskogee: Building Community by Sharing Skills | Lifestyles


Sheila Gray says she’s always enjoyed doodling and crafting.

“Looks like I would draw my name and put hearts in it,” Gray said. “I’ve always liked tinkering, scrapbooking, making cards. I really like decorating and changing things up.”

People around the world can watch Gray do her handicrafts on Facebook Live. She offers her craft tips every day except Sunday on Simply Simple Creations by Sheila.

Gray has worked for Advantage Controls for five years, currently in Accounts Payable. She earned an associate’s degree in accounting.

Gray said she had been crafting on and off forever, but only started sharing her work online in 2020. Her sister died in February of that year.

“She always encouraged me,” Gray said, recalling how she painted and crafted with her nieces.

A craftsman she met through Facebook asked to do a Facebook Live project with her. Facebook Live allows users to broadcast live events on the social networking site. Viewers can post responses to the content and can be viewed during the livestreamed event.

“I started and I never gave up,” Gray said.

Gray said she taught herself most of the techniques used for various types of crafts.

“I looked at people — I started looking at people making on Facebook,” she said. “I looked at a lady who would do Chalk Couture. I just started watching and learning.”

Chalk Couture involves chalk paste, stencils, screen printing and other items.

Gray also creates a variety of house signs, allowing him to demonstrate techniques like wood burning. She shares tips with viewers as her work takes shape, as well as information on where to get materials and step-by-step instructions for projects.

“I’ve met a lot of really nice people through it,” she said. “I never imagined he would become as big as he did.”

THUMBNAIL

Learn the basics

Sheila Gray remembers making that first Facebook post on May 28, 2020.

“I was a nervous wreck, I was nervous, and my lighting was terrible,” Gray said. “My project – I didn’t let the glue dry and a bow fell off – it was memorable, that’s for sure.”

This first project was an Independence Day decoration.

“I had an office here, and I just stuck my phone,” she said. “I didn’t have a light ring. I didn’t know what I needed to get started. I just put my phone down and just worked there at my desk.”

Gray recalled “he was shaking everything”.

“I never watch my own videos, so I don’t know for sure,” she said. “Everyone said I was fine. But I guess they liked it.”

However, she said she got some good answers.

“People wanted me back, those who watched me,” Gray said. “There weren’t many people on my first one – probably 10-12 people – but they liked what they saw.”

Gray said his first messages were broadcast from a bedroom. That was before she realized how poorly lit her scenes were.

“I moved into the dining room, so I had to take all my accessories, whatever I needed,” she said. “Then I moved into my porch for a while.”

Gray originally published his work on Wednesdays and Thursdays. That changed as she learned more about what viewers like.

“I’ve found that to be visible to people, you have to be more consistent,” she said. “I have to do it every night.”

Attract an audience

Gray built a following in the first two years – at least 28,000 Facebook users follow his streaming events. But she won’t call them followers.

“Jesus has disciples, I have friends,” she said.

These friends are seeing from places as far apart as the UK, South Africa, Iraq and Australia, she said.

“Usually 300 people watch me regularly, lately it’s been more,” she said. “When I started, I was lucky to have five.”

Gray started taking Sundays off.

“Sometimes I do it twice a night, sometimes three times a day,” she said. “I help my fellow artisans if they need me.”

Gray said she meets a lot of “really nice people” through her craft program.

“You don’t realize how many people don’t have anyone in their lives, so they love being on Facebook Live so they can interact with people and find people they have things in common with,” she said. “We take prayer requests for each other – I have another group specifically for prayers.”

Gray also has an online mentorship group with nearly 30 people from across the United States. Gray uses this group to help other artisans get started.

“I got them from Ohio, Arizona, Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Oklahoma,” she said. “I have one from Fort Gibson.”

Create a community

Gray now has a more professional way to set up Facebook Live events.

“The only thing I really use is my ring light,” she said. “I turn on my ring light and I have a small lamp next to me, which brings more light.”

The ring light produces soft, even light and reduces shadows. Gray said the ring light also illuminated the room.

She gets her phone ready and straps it to the lamp post, adjusting it so she can see the project on the phone.

“Make sure it’s low enough so they can see me, but also see what I’m doing,” she said.

Everything is live. If she makes a mistake or there is an accident – a bow falls or something similar – Gray could correct it immediately. If her nose itches, she scratches.

Sometimes the cat comes into play.

“Everyone knows my cat,” she said. “We’re just all friends there.”

The duration of the sessions depends on the project.

One night, she made a sign in 24 minutes. Another project, a wood-fired board displaying the words “My perch, my rules”, took an hour and a half to complete because techniques like torch bonding take longer.

“You have to put your stencil on, you put your paste on, then you have to dry it,” Gray said. “As it dries, it burns into the wood.”

Gray said she strives to be aware of artisans — up to 800 at a time — because she knows people want to support others. She tries to limit her events to 45 minutes to an hour because “my attention span isn’t that long.”

Q&A

HOW DID YOU COME TO BE A MUSKOGEE OKIE? “

I was born and raised here, I never left.”

WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT MUSKOGEE?

“I love the small community. I love that they are opening shops downtown and bringing more activity. I love that you know everyone. This is my home.”

WHAT MAKES MUSKOGEE A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE?

“We need more stores, more clothing stores.”

WHICH MUSKOGEE PERSON DO YOU ADMIRE THE MOST? Kelly Payne pastor of Timothy Baptist. “He’s there for anyone who needs him. If you need him anytime, day or night, he’s watching over you. He’s uplifting. He’s encouraging.”

WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE THING THAT HAPPENS TO YOU AT MUSKOGEE?

“Having my kids. One was born in Tahlequah and one was born in Tulsa, but I was pregnant here and they were all raised here.”

WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR FREE TIME?

“I do crafts. I spend time with my family. My mother-in-law has a pool, we spend time at the pool. I love to travel. I’ve traveled to Ohio, where my little ones live. -kids. We went to Kentucky. We went to Illinois. We went to Arizona, Broken Bow.”

HOW WILL YOU SUMMARY MUSKOGEE IN 25 WORDS OR LESS?

“It’s a family-oriented town, and it’s a tight-knit community.”

MEET Sheila Gray

AGE: 50 years old.

HOMETOWN: Muskogee.

EDUCATION: Pershing Elementary, West Junior High, Muskogee High class of 1990. Attended Connors State College

OCCUPATION: Accounts Payable Department at Advantage Controls.

FAMILY: Husband, Terry Gray; four children, five grandchildren including one on the way.

CHURCH: Timothy and The Brick Baptist Church.

HOBBIES: DIY, shopping, being with family and friends.

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