Decoding contemporary art and hand-crafting matters.

Archive for the tag “quick tip”

Sucess! (In Small Measures…)

So, only because it’s still fresh in my mind, I’d like to note how happy I am that an online crafting article can pick up steam (while being surrounded by “sexier” content like references to currently-hot pop culture TV shows, Fashion Week and viral cat memes).

My BuzzFeed article, “21 Things You’ll Find At An Enormous Craft Fair” – not my headline but there you go – ( hasn’t done too badly at all for a writer that is currently unknown to the BuzzFeed core readership, about a topic that only about 50% of Americans are stated to pursue. (And shouldn’t crafting have a much higher percentage than that?)

I did reach out via e-mail and Twitter to the companies covered in this article. I also did reach out to the local indie craft stores that I’m a customer at, industry professionals that I personally know (and some that I personally don’t!), as well as other creative and business luminaries in the field.

The result? Encouragement, positive vibes, page hits reactions, re-tweets, re-pins, and a bit of a moment on Facebook. So yay – crafting got some mainstream love. I also got a couple of nice thank-yous from some of the firms I featured. As a freelance journalist (I am also a designer myself, educator and a few other hyphenates – but I had no personal stake in this piece and no professional relationship to anyone in it), it’s great when the feedback is 99.9% positive. One person did put a BuzzFeed “fail” button on my post, but there’s always gonna be haters!

So, lessons learned? When you have a legitimate reason to contact others in a way that can help them too (without spending money, I’m talking more about the exchange of information here), be bold and do it. They might stop and take note.

Next step: putting a personality to my activated yet dormant Facebook company profile; also, join Pinterest and LinkedIn (don’t judge; I need to be writing more than I need to be doing stuff online, ideally!). Woot!


Change Your Cooking – Change Your Life!

In order to preserve my sanity, I’m changing my cooking schedule to better reflect my life’s realities.

Big dinners from scratch are on the weekend. Week days are reserved for frozen dinner options courtesy of Trader Joe’s supermarket (with fresh fruit and yogurt from the farmer’s market). When I’m feeling posh, jarred sauces from Williams Sonoma are a well-earned luxury – because they really do taste better than the average grocery store find.

Some years I’m Nigella Lawson, others I’m that mom from Malcolm in the Middle. Depends on the life stage I’m in!

Brainstorming: Prepping for a Quick Meeting with Potential Contacts

When preparing to meet with new potential clients, business partners, design professionals and their ilk, take time out while researching them to devise a list of questions that they can answer. It doesn’t need to be long (if you’re a natural conversationalist), but open ended questions – ones that can’t be answered with a simple “yes/no” reply, could lead the conversation into new and interesting directions.

Ask them about plans for the upcoming year, what their biggest professional successes were in the past year, and what challenges they may be facing next. The more you find out about them, the better insight you’ll have into the company – and the clearer the picture will be of whether or not they are right to partner with.

Quick Tip: When You Need Your Stitches to Disappear…

…use silk thread to sew with. It is pricier than cotton, polyester or rayon, but it has a wonderful stitch quality.

Quick Tip: Know Your Dye Lots When Shopping!

If you are busy working on a project that is fairly large, don’t forget about dye lots! For anyone not familiar with the term, a dye lot commonly refers to the batch number yarn, fabric, even paper will have been manufactured under.

Have you ever worked on a design that was compromised because you couldn’t get enough similar materials together to finish it? Personally, this has happened to me in various ways. Once, while constructing a costume, I had to hit up several locations of the same sewing retailer to find blue fabric that matched up perfectly. The SKUs (product numbers) were identical, but the manufacturing process differed enough that one bolt in one place was green-tinged, while another one elsewhere was more grey. There was also the time I was teaching a paper-crafting class: while prepping and cutting pieces of the kit, I discovered that although I had multiple sheets of the exact same pink paper – bought off the rack in a huge stack from the same shop – there was a distinct color difference. Some were salmon, while others were more pale pink. Quite a bit of fancy cutting had to happen before I could finish the kits, because I couldn’t match the pink I selected with anything still available in-store. Yikes!

Whatever your project may be – matching curtains, hand-decorated team T-shirts, an elaborate sweater, or a huge princess outfit – always procure enough supplies to get the job done. It’s even a good idea to measure your fabric (or paper) to your pattern before cutting, just in case there isn’t enough. That way, if you’re short, you can always try to source more, or choose an alternative that will be in ample supply. It’ll avoid any last-minute 3 a.m. freak outs when things don’t square up – and trust me, that’s not a place you want to be!



Quip Tip: Folding Clothes Consistently

Years ago, I stumbled across this nugget of wisdom: keep a new cutting board handy in your closet. It can help to uniformly fold sweaters and shirts for even stacking – towels too (Martha Stewart’s site mentions storing one in the laundry room for such a purpose).

And for those of you with fabric stashes, this folding tool can tame your remnants into a neater piles. So simple!

Quick Tip: Shop Clearance Racks Now, Craft Later

Just in passing: don’t forget to look at clearance-priced holiday merchandise in stores. This can include decorative tree baubles, garlands, home dec and floral decor. Many of these things can be used in crafting projects throughout the year. Don’t be afraid to pull elements apart and place them  in separate projects (bits of flowers can be fashioned into brooches, while the remaining greenery can brighten up a bird house mixed-media piece). I am a huuuge bargain hunter, and this is a great way to add items to your stash inexpensively.

Quick Tip: Storing Wool Effectively

Usually, several projects are going on at once in my creative life. Because many are design-related, it means I’m amassing all sorts of odd lots that don’t store so easily! Currently I’m preparing to work with wool in a few different ways. I’ll be recycling thrift-store sweaters, upcycling them into chic new fashion and home accessories.

Wool is a natural material that is very attractive to moths. Whether you have family heirloom blankets, well-loved sweaters, or an assortment of crafting materials, there is one thing you can do to make it hard for moths to attack your precious wool: make storage airtight. Plastic bins are a natural choice for containment, but all lids aren’t made equal. Find good quality tubs with tops that suction as they close; loose-fitting lids will put your possessions at risk. Plastic vaccuum-sealed bags are another great option. Oversized freezer storage bags are a handy way to separate your skeins of yarn and loose roving, while providing another level of protection. Don’t forget about sun exposure! If your bins are clear, they shouldn’t be exposed to direct sunlight, or even the elements of a bright room. Consign them to a closet – or get opaque color bins if they must remain out in the open.

Finally, clean furniture and carpets around your stash on a regular basis. This promotes a clean environment that can help reduce unwanted guests.

And now, I’m off to do some felting.

Quick Tip: Keeping Track of Creative Ideas

Ideas are commonly referred to as “a dime a dozen.” But they’re often worth a lot more when they’re harnessed, combined and used in a cohesive way.

Early on in my career, I started writing spec screenplays and television episodes (I was partial to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Frasier). When it came to screenplays, I would make notes, do research, work on scenes, write some dialogue – but never put down a full draft before, on average, a year had passed from my idea’s first lightning bolt of inspiration. What can I say? I take my time – if I’m going to commit to an idea, it better be one that I’m in love with for the long haul. It’s not unlike looking for a person to marry, in a way.

Currently, I’m working on different design projects in different mediums, while balancing my writing workload. It’s a lot to deal with, especially when ideas range from small to medium to big. At any time of day, something may pop up – from a phrase, to a crafting idea, to a design layout, to an entire article I’d like to cover.

Many of you rely on PDAs, smart phones, or laptops to track these things. I am more of a Neo-Luddite when it comes to idea-generating, since I am both forgetful and visual as a person. I discovered, from my spec writing days, that sticky notes – ever so helpful when breaking down a script’s scene order – are fabulous for keeping track of your brainstorming genius. They’ll never suffer from a data crash, be forgotten in a nightclub bathroom, or get pilfered from jackhole thieves. They can, however, burn in a house fire.

So if you’re like me, and easily forget about your ideas if they’re not in front of you, consider jotting them down on sticky notes and tracking them on an oversized memo board divided with headers that make sense to you. Some category listings could be: short-term, long-term, new “song/poem/photo/product/pattern/outline/art piece/design,” etc. You get the idea. Creative journals are a standby that many people use; I just prefer sticky notes because they can be splayed out en masse to be manipulated, switched around and swirled into different configurations. Not only is this liberating, it’s great at getting creatively unstuck. Sometimes, when you see two unrelated ideas grouped together, a new and interesting concept will emerge.

Even if being digital is hard-wired into your DNA, consider putting your ideas to bits of paper and mixing things up.  You’d be surprised at what order can arise from chaos!



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