My Next Project!

I am so pleased to announce that, after 2 years of discernment, I have found clearness on my next steps.

Dear Friends,

I am so pleased to announce that, after 2 years of discernment, I have found clearness on my next steps. Together with a group of powerful Friends from across North America, we are building a 21st century Quaker media project, dedicated to authenticity, spiritual courage, and speaking out of silence.

A Vision for Quakers in the 21st Century

Please click below to watch our introduction video, and learn how you can support this important initiative:

TheeQuaker.org

in peace
Jon

My Trip to Sierra Leone and Kenya with Right Sharing of World Resources

In 2019 I received a message from Right Sharing of World Resources to see if we might feel called to work together on a series of videos documenting their work supporting women in Sierra Leone, Kenya and India.

In 2019 I received a message from Right Sharing of World Resources to see if we might feel called to work together on a series of videos documenting their work supporting women in Sierra Leone, Kenya and India. Of course COVID delayed our plans, but I’ve spent the past year speaking with board members and hearing about the transformative nature of this work. Last month we finally got to go! I boarded a plane with the Executive Director Jackie Stillwell and we spent a week in Sierra Leone and another week in Kisumu, Kenya.

It has not been uncommon to collect a group of onlookers as we visit with the women's groups here. Sama village, in the far Eastern corner of Sierra Leone, was no different.
It has not been uncommon to collect a group of onlookers as we visit with the women’s groups here. Sama village, in the far Eastern corner of Sierra Leone, was no different.

Even before we arrived, I was inspired by the stories of these women who have banded together to embark on new business ventures that uplift their communities. But meeting them in person has been another experience altogether. I am awestruck by their joy, their gracious playfulness and their collective ingenuity.

Leister Village Freetown Sierra Leone
Rextina Louis started a farming project with a community of 30 women in the Leister Village section of Freetown. I was amazed… the tour of their farm just kept going and going. Super accomplished woman.

Everywhere we went, Jackie and I were met with joy and celebration, and the women we interviewed shared stories of serious challenge and hardship all while praising God and giving thanks. This video is an accurate depiction of the reception we encountered every time we visited a group. Unfettered joy, celebration, welcome.

I’m humbled by the project of telling these stories for a broader audience. Thanks to Right Sharing of World Resources for entrusting me with the task. My job on the trip was mostly to shoot video (and there is a lot of it!) but I couldn’t help but snap some photos while we were in these incredible places. Here are a few of my favorites.

The third leg of our trip was delayed this time due to COVID restrictions in India but as Omicron calms down, it looks like we’ll be able to make it out in March. Prayers appreciated.

Kassasi Village, Sierra Leone

Just wrapped a week of filming here in Sierra Leone. Even before we arrived, I was inspired by the stories of these women who have banded together to embark on new business ventures to uplift their communities. But meeting them in person has been another experience altogether. I am awestruck by their joy, their gracious playfulness and their collective ingenuity.

…and I’m humbled by the task of telling their stories for a broader audience. Thanks to Right Sharing of World Resources for entrusting me with this project.

Sharing this short clip in the brief window as we prepare for the next leg of our trip. Hope to share more soon, but first: headed to Kenya tomorrow!

Just wrapped a week of filming here in Sierra Leone. Even before we arrived, I was inspired by the stories of these women who have banded together to embark on new business ventures to uplift their communities. But meeting them in person has been another experience altogether. I am awestruck by their joy, their gracious playfulness and their collective ingenuity.

…and I’m humbled by the task of telling their stories for a broader audience. Thanks to Right Sharing of World Resources for entrusting me with this project.

Sharing this short clip in the brief window as we prepare for the next leg of our trip. Hope to share more soon, but first: headed to Kenya tomorrow!

Domes and Drones

For the past 7 years, my partner Jess has been working with her family to build these earth sheltered domes on the mountainside of their family property in Redwood Valley, CA. This January I had the opportunity to get some footage in between family visits. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful place, and it was a joy to shoot this footage. The music is an untitled composition I’ve been working on.

Live from Philadelphia!

Last winter I was streaming live every week from my studio here in Philadelphia. It was so magical to share that space with you, and to see what happened when we all gathered to listen in my studio. As the weather gets cool again, I find myself reminiscing and missing it a bit! Here is one of my favorites.

Last winter I was streaming live every week from my studio here in Philadelphia. It was so magical to share that space with you, and to see what happened when we all gathered to listen together. As the weather gets cool again, I find myself reminiscing and missing it a bit! Here is one of my favorites.

Cover of Bon Iver: “715 – CR∑∑KS”

Lately I’ve been challenging myself to learn the work of artists who inspire me. After years of living in my head, this piece by Justin Vernon seemed like a good start. Trying to re-create the magic of this song has been a humbling process, as it took me to school in all sorts of ways.

Lately I’ve been challenging myself to learn the work of artists who inspire me. After years of living in my head, this piece by Justin Vernon seemed like a good start. Trying to re-create the magic of this song has been a humbling process, as it took me to school in all sorts of ways.

A Few Songs Occasioned Anniversary Concert

Riding donkeys into Bristol, burning instruments, cobbling shoes in the middle of a church service… the early Quakers were nothing if not dramatic.

This Spring marks the 15th anniversary of my first music project, wherein I attempted to tell the stories of some these radical 17th century Quakers. You are invited to come help me celebrate in a virtual concert!

I’m very pleased to be joined by the professor whose storytelling started it all: special guest Max Carter!

Saturday, April 24th
7pm EST
Virtual Concert

Sold OutConcert Admission15.00 USD
Sold OutAdmission + Album Download20.00 USDYou will receive a download code along with your ticket
Sold OutDiscounted tickets5.00 USDPlease use if the others are out of reach financially!
Your eTicket will be emailed to your PayPal email address upon payment.



Deep Breath

I’ve been dealing with a ton of anxiety over the past couple of days, as I’m sure many of us have. Sometimes when I’m anxious I sit at the piano and play something slow just to remind myself of the beauty that naturally unfolds when I wait and listen and focus on my breath.

I hope you are also finding ways to reconnect to beauty today, even amidst the turmoil, and that this music helps you to get back to your breath, even if just for a minute.

I’ve been dealing with a ton of anxiety over the past couple of days, as I’m sure many of us have. Sometimes when I’m anxious I sit at the piano and play something slow just to remind myself of the beauty that naturally unfolds when I wait and listen and focus on my breath.

I hope you are also finding ways to reconnect to beauty today, even amidst the turmoil, and that this music helps you to get back to your breath, even if just for a minute.

It has been an honor to serve Friends as the founder and director of QuakerSpeak. Now I am pleased to announce my next endeavor, a Quaker media project for the modern era. Find out more at TheeQuaker.org

The Candle Suite

Dear Friends,

Please enjoy this new recording, just released today:

“The Candle Suite was completed during a time of not-knowing. It is about venturing deep into the darkness–with all that entails: disorientation, comfort, envelopment, loss of perspective. And it’s about the ways that we emerge, humbled and new. I hope it serves to comfort and give you hope in times of darkness.”

The Legacy of Clarence and Lily Picket

Clarence and Lilly Pickett were Quakers who lived in the mid 20th century and had an outsized impact on Quakerism and on the world.

Clarence and Lilly Pickett were Quakers who lived in the mid 20th century and had an outsized impact on Quakerism and on the world.

Filmed and edited by Jon Watts
Sponsored by the Clarence and Lilly Pickett Endowment for Quaker Leadership

Quaker/Puritan Valentine’s Day Cards

These Puritan Valentine’s Day cards are so hilarious they may as well be Quaker.

Quaker/Puritan Valentine's Day Cards
Quaker/Puritan Valentine’s Day Cards

These Puritan Valentine’s Day cards are so hilarious they may as well be Quaker valentine’s day cards.

“Roses are red
Violets are Blue
And neither are useful or necessary
at all.”

“I need you
to help raise
livestock and crops
or surely we will
starve to death
come winter.”

“You almost make
my heart dance
And dancing is
forbidden.”

“Being with you fills
me with impure
thoughts, and I am
ashamed.”

The Story of QuakerSpeak

In 2012 I had a dream for a Quaker video project that featured simple, intimate, weekly interviews with Quakers, but I didn’t know where to house it or how to fund it. Two years later I was announcing the QuakerSpeak youtube channel. 223 videos and 6 years later, the channel had accumulated 3.5 million views. Here’s how it happened.

It has been an honor to serve Friends as the founder and director of QuakerSpeak. Now I am pleased to announce my next endeavor, a Quaker media project for the modern era. Find out more at TheeQuaker.org

WATCH the the videos mentioned in this story
DOWNLOAD the music from QuakerSpeak

Are Quakers Christian?

Are Quakers Christian? I talked to 11 Quakers from across the United States and asked about their relationship with Christianity.

Are Quakers Christian? I talked to 11 Quakers from across the United States and asked about their relationship with Christianity.

[+ show transcript]

It has been an honor to serve Friends as the founder and director of QuakerSpeak. Now I am pleased to announce my next endeavor, a Quaker media project for the modern era. Find out more at TheeQuaker.org

Announcement: Moving on From Friends Journal

Dear Friends,

I am writing to announce my decision that this will be my last year as the director of QuakerSpeak. This has been such an amazing journey for me, and I’m really proud of the work I’ve done. What an incredible impact the project has had in just 6 years.

When I first had the vision for a Quaker YouTube channel, I never imagined it would surpass 2.5 million views or generate the kind of widespread support it has seen. I am overwhelmed with gratefulness when I think of it. Remembering back to the discernment process that brought about the idea for the project, I am truly humbled and feel more confident than ever that when we listen and follow the leadings of the spirit, we often have an impact beyond our own imagination.

I’ll be staying on at Friends Journal through the end of the year to finish this season and help transition the project to a new director. I am interested and excited to see what a new creative voice can bring to the project and am glad to know that QuakerSpeak will continue beyond my time at Friends Journal.

My plan in 2020 is to give myself some space for reflection and discernment as I seek clarity about my next big project. My work on QuakerSpeak has been a tremendous opportunity to grow in my skills as a videographer, storyteller, and project manager… skills that are incredibly helpful in getting the word out about organizations that are doing good work.

If you, your meeting, or an organization you work with needs help spreading the word about a program or event, feel free to get in touch. I’ve updated my portfolio page to provide a sense of the scope of my collaborations.

I may also do some traveling to share with Friends what I’ve learned in my experience designing and implementing this groundbreaking outreach project, and welcome inquiries about visiting and speaking with Friends in your area.

Finally, if you’d like to follow my journey, I encourage you to stay in touch through my occasional newsletter:

It has been an honor to serve Friends as the founder and director of QuakerSpeak. Now I am pleased to announce my next endeavor, a Quaker media project for the modern era. Find out more at TheeQuaker.org

Thanks so much for your interest and support over the years, and here’s to the next leading!

In peace
Jon Watts

How Quakerism Influences My Artistic Process

As a lifelong artist, Maggie Nelson began to notice some similarities between her experience in Quaker worship and her approach in the studio.

As a lifelong artist, Maggie Nelson began to notice some similarities between her experience in Quaker worship and her approach in the studio.

[+ show transcript]

It has been an honor to serve Friends as the founder and director of QuakerSpeak. Now I am pleased to announce my next endeavor, a Quaker media project for the modern era. Find out more at TheeQuaker.org

How We Win

How do people concerned with peace and justice operate in times of intense polarization? According to Quaker author and activist George Lakey, it’s a moment of tremendous opportunity.

[+ show transcript]

It has been an honor to serve Friends as the founder and director of QuakerSpeak. Now I am pleased to announce my next endeavor, a Quaker media project for the modern era. Find out more at TheeQuaker.org

Growing Up Quaker in Indiana

As a kid growing up in holiness-influenced Indiana Quakerism, Max Carter was taught to avoid a long list of sins, including soft drinks—“which led to hard drinks!“—and dancing—“a vertical expression of a horizontal desire!”

As a kid growing up in holiness-influenced Indiana Quakerism, Max Carter was taught to avoid a long list of sins, including soft drinks—“which led to hard drinks!“—and dancing—“a vertical expression of a horizontal desire!”

[+ show transcript]

It has been an honor to serve Friends as the founder and director of QuakerSpeak. Now I am pleased to announce my next endeavor, a Quaker media project for the modern era. Find out more at TheeQuaker.org