Karen Robinovitz, of the Sloomoo Institute, on how slime helped her through tough times — and inspired a new career chapter
After enduring unthinkable tragedies, Karen Robinovitz unexpectedly found peace… in playing with slime. She went on to co-found an Instagram-worthy, interactive slime experience, the Sloomoo Institute, in New York City. Here’s Karen’s story, as told to our producer Emily Pinto.
About three years ago, my life imploded. My marriage, though we loved each other, was in shambles. And after fourteen years together, we separated. A few months after, my husband passed away. It was sudden. It was tragic. It was accidental. And it nearly destroyed me.
For about a year after Todd passed, I barely left my house. I cried myself to sleep every night. I was in a foggy state of disbelief, confusion. I almost felt like a ghost of a person. I left the company I had started — which, while successful, wasn’t fulfilling me. I needed to focus on my healing, not work, and I knew I couldn’t do both at the same time.
I went through long stretches of self blame and hate. To be honest, I still do. I replayed every moment of our relationship and had so much regret over where things went wrong. But I couldn’t go back. I had to learn to live in the present. I saw therapists, psychiatrists, support groups, healers, shamans. I was desperate.
About nine months after I lost my husband, my cousin Alyssa was killed in the Parkland, Florida, school shooting. This brought me to a whole new level of despair. The idea that an innocent child was killed in class… the agony of our family… the anger at our culture. I hit an all new rock bottom.
During this time, a friend came to visit me. Her 10-year-old daughter Mattie brought ingredients to make slime (and slime she had purchased from an Etsy shop) because she imagined she would be spending the afternoon playing alone while her mom and I hung out. But I grew up with slime the first time around in the ’70s. I knew there was a phenomenon and community online. And I was curious to play with it.
Four hours later, Maddie and I were still sliming. As she was leaving, I realized that during those hours, I wasn’t focused on my grief or my depression. I felt joy. I had my smile back for the first time in a very long time. I thought, if slime did this for me, then I needed more. I started to buy slime online — massive amounts of slime — and found the more I played with it, the more I could be in the moment.
I wanted to understand the medical efficacy of this, so I spoke with a psychiatrist. I learned that when you play with something like slime, which is incredibly sensory and you’re tapping into four of your five senses, it’s almost impossible to think of something else. It’s visual. It’s tactile. It smells good. And it makes satisfying pops and sizzles as you play with it. I became a slime connoisseur; there are about 15 main textures of slime, each with a unique recipe. Some feel smooth and buttery; others are crunchy.
The more I played, the more I felt a little bit of life coming back into my soul.
I brought some slime to a good friend of mine, Sara, who was also going through a tremendously difficult time. Her husband had had a massive stroke, which led to a brain injury and she now cares for him as well as their special needs child, plus another child. She and I definitely grew closer as we found comfort in each other through such tense times.
The minute we played with slime together, we started cracking up. It was also so beautiful to watch her special needs daughter find such happiness in such a simple thing. We made weekly slime dates.
We have different and complementary skill sets at work and we had been dreaming of a project together for years. We thought, why not bring the magic of slime to the world? Kids love it and adults, whether they realize it or not, need it!
Sara’s background is in hospitality — she’s built a dozen or so commercial spaces in the city over the last decade — and my background is in communications. With our combined knowledge, we knew that we could do something really special, artful, and playful, while looking elevated and being accessible at once.
We put a business plan together. We both like to move and act quickly. We invested ourselves and raised money from an incredible entrepreneur, Toni Ko, who was a friend of a friend. Toni had recently sold her brand NYX to L’Oreal.
Within a year, we opened our interactive slime haven in New York called the Sloomoo Institute. We came up with the name because of a rampant behavior in the slime community online, where people were saying, “Replace the vowels in your name with ‘oo,’ and that’s your slime name!” We were like, “Slime is Sloomoo! That’s a brand. We can build that.”
The Institute is a 90-minute experience; every minute has something to play with or interact with or touch. There are giant vats of slime inspired by contemporary art, an area to learn the history of slime (from the 1830s polymer invention to today), add slime to a wall as if it’s graffitti, see your brain on slime with an EEG machine, experience ASMR sounds and visuals, create your own slime, get slimed, amongst others. Oh, and there is a lake of 250 gallons of butter slime. (Don’t worry. We provide hand wipes from Honest and change the slime all the time. It’s clean!)
Sloomoo, for us, is about more than just slime. It’s about inclusivity, warmth, and play. Whether you’re a child or an adult, it’s about finding joy. And for me, it’s about having a new life, reconnecting with myself and finding a way to make peace with my past.
This “As Told To” essay has been edited and condensed.
This originally appeared on Medium .com