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One could probably describe Jill Johnson in many ways — founder of Purity of Play, owner of The Paint Mixer, an exceptional skier...but the most accurate description would be abundantly joyful. Jill is an exuberant, vivacious person, full of light and energy, who makes you feel like you're getting to know each other while sitting side-by-side in a warm, luxurious coffee shop, instead of over FaceTime while you're in your frigid apartment and she's parked in her car on the side of the highway! Jill's work centers around creating spaces for self-expression, self-awareness, healing, and play through art therapy. She says, "Creativity is often overlooked or perceived as frivolous. However, it is an essential piece to life’s puzzle and whole-hearted living." Get inspired by Jill via my personal interview with her below...
Tell me who you are.
I am Jill Johnson. I am forty-two years young...
Yeah, you are!
[Laughs] and from Park City, Utah. Born and bred.
What kind of work do you do?
So, I have two things going on right now. I have Purity of Play, which is my mothership LLC. It’s where I do my art therapy with private clients and group clients. Specifically, right now, I work with survivors of sexual assault, military sexual trauma, and survivors with PTSD. So, that’s kind of been my passion project. And recently I bought a business, which is two storefronts and is called The Paint Mixer. It’s a paint and wine studio. I’m kind of mixing my entrepreneurial background with my creative self and am just beginning a transition to a business owner. I'm figuring out all the nuances that come with adopting a team and investing in leadership roles, and sometimes wondering what the hell I got myself into!
That’s amazing! Tell me more about the art therapy that you do.
When I was in Chicago, I was working in Pilsen with a lot of in-treatment and out-treatment clients who had schizophrenia or who experienced trauma. I was drawn to the trauma piece because I saw a really beautiful way for art therapy and creative expression to help people who have experienced trauma express themselves outside of their story. Often, in trauma, we have a repeated script on how we talk about our trauma. Creative expression gets us talking about it differently because we can use metaphor or imagery. It fascinates me every time. I don’t interpret the art — I just create space for expression to unfold.
So one day, I was doing an art group for children with epilepsy, and the program director came up to me after the session ended and asked if I would ever facilitate a group for survivors of sexual assault. I said absolutely, and we created this grassroots program from there. Now it has expanded and we are actually on a military base in Utah. We are doing this group with guys in combat boots! I can’t believe it. It fuels my soul.
I can just imagine you walking into a military base…
Right? I introduce myself and say, “I get it…I’m a redhead with art materials. Could there be anything worse?” But I am always fundamentally shocked that, out of all of the groups I work with, it is these mixed groups of male and female military who show up in ways that astound me every time. It’s a long journey, but when we show up for them, it really is amazing.
What would you say is the biggest challenge in your field?
You know, it’s funny. In Utah, we’ve had a lot of pushback. I attended one of the best art schools in the nation, in Chicago, but gaining licensure in Utah has been really hard. I’ve actually opted out of gaining professional licensure because it has been so difficult. With that in mind, I’ve finally let go of trying to fit into the profession. Instead, I just honor that what I do is a creative, expressive experience. Before, I was so worried about those letters behind my name. But right now, I just think that if it’s meant to be, it’ll come around. I know how to diagnose, but that’s not what I want to do. I kind of look at it like a passport — there are some places I can’t visit, but this is where I want to visit right now.
Where do you see your businesses in the future?
As for The Paint Mixer, I’ve always believed that art is supposed to be an outlet for people to create, not an outcome. It’s really relieving to make something and then trash it. Art allows us to access our body, mind, and spirit in a way that’s just not possible with a normal conversation. But I'm practicing being content with where things are at right now.
What motivates you?
Right now, a powder day!
Oh my goodness, the powder has been so good. That is kind of my soul language; that’s where I am the most me. Powder days are always good for me. The mountains and outdoors are definitively a motivation. My friends and family. My kids. My sisterhood. I feel so fortunate that I can tap into that sisterhood for seriousness, but mostly laughter and play. Play is a huge motivator. When I take myself too seriously, I am in a whole lot of trouble. If I can move and play and look at difficult things in creative ways, then I can get out of my own critical spirit and into a good space.
This is my favorite question — what is the title of your future biography?
“When Someday Became Today”
That was so quick!
It’s the one I’ve always wanted to write.
I love it. What is the best piece of professional advice anyone has ever given you?
I mean, lately, it has been “Just be you. And don’t forget to pause.” The pause has been really important because I don’t want to be too reactive. You have to honor the pause. I also want to add insight that Jen has given me about the importance of creating the culture you, as a leader, want to reflect internally and externally. Sometimes, we attempt to work with what we have, instead of letting go of an individual or an entire team that isn’t jiving with you or their co-workers. Falling for “potential” versus what is right in front of you can keep the business stalled and toxicity current.
What are you passionate about?
Well, we already know it’s skiing! I’m also really passionate about women and honoring femininity. I am passionate about honoring difference and kindness. I see that a lot in my kids. I am passionate about “awe.” I love being awed.
What does being an idealist mean to you?
Being an “idealist” to me, is honoring the radical dreamer within me and believing the infinite possibilities that exist in me, in others and the overall realm of life and beyond. Beyond dreaming, an Idealist believes in anchoring dreams into here and now. As an Idealist, I believe that opportunities and insights are always unfolding and it is my job to be open to the many perspectives and possible outcomes that may unfurl. When I am seeing the world through the lens of an Idealist, my perspective transcends the limited boundaries of thought and planning…instead, ideas and creations expand beyond my imagination.