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Mikaela (Heal ’21) Raum
Mikaela (Heal ’21) Raum 

It is possible that Mikaela (Heal ’21) Raum has the distinction of being the youngest TAC alumna to run a thriving business. “Tangle and Poke is a Catholic embroidery and homemaking small business that I have owned now for four years,” she says. “It drew its name from the constantly tangled thread and poked fingers that make up the skill, and I have been astounded by what it’s become over the past four years!”

Mrs. Raum has always been artistically inclined, but never expected to focus predominantly on art for Catholics — and certainly never thought she would make money doing so. “I won my first statewide art contest in third grade with an oil pastel drawing of a hummingbird,” she says. “I went on to win several other writing, poetry, and painting contests in middle and high school.”

What had begun as a cherished hobby, however, was soon transformed by an encounter with the beauty of Thomas Aquinas College. “I attended the High School Summer Program in 2015,” Mrs. Raum recalls. “For the first time in my life, I was utterly pierced by the profound and yet somehow intangible power of beauty. The campus alone made me want to be worthy of living there: Every nook and cranny of that little haven in the hills was abounding with roses and poppies. … Without ever stepping foot into a classroom, or even the Chapel, the beauty of the very place was radiant. But that’s really the special thing about beauty: It pierces you in a way that you probably cannot understand, and then lingers and refuses to be dismissed.”

That residual radiance began to shine through Mrs. Raum’s artwork long after the Summer Program concluded. “I carried that dazzling encounter with beauty for the rest of high school — though it is more truthful to say that that encounter with beauty carried me,” she adds with a smile. “I created many a prayer card and large saint portrait as gifts for friends and family during later high school, and my family often encouraged me to try starting a business, given the demand I was already receiving.”

Toying with that idea, Mrs. Raum found her way back to the California campus as a freshman in the fall of 2017. By the following summer, she was no longer merely toying. “After an intense year of reading and studying Euclid, I really just wanted to spend time creating something with my hands,” she laughs. “I taught myself how to embroider after watching a handful of YouTube videos, and I spent those two months practicing this new hobby, making dozens of pieces for friends and family. After seeing the demand that my very unrefined embroidery skills had already accrued, and seeing that I was just about out of materials to keep it up, I decided to start a small business at the end of the summer.”

From so simple a beginning, Mrs. Raum’s business has grown considerably. “It’s expanded into hand-embroidered religious décor, journals, bags, and comprehensive embroidery kits for those looking to pick up the craft, as well,” she says. But that success has not spoiled the spiritual quality of her craft. “I've fallen in love with the unique way in which embroidery can capture light, texture, precision, and motion,” she reflects. “I also love how very therapeutic it is, perfectly lending itself to prayer and contemplation.”