Friday, January 30, 2009

Where's the crafter in the craft?

As I mull over the CHA convention and trade show, I've come up with a few observations and thoughts.

First of all, scrapbooking is huge. I mean ginormous. I venture to guess that 60 or 70 percent of the show was comprised of scrapbook vendors. That's a lot of paper, my friends, not to mention cutters, stamps, inks, paints, bindings, and paper punches.

Let's be honest: I think scrapbooking is sort of considered the red-headed stepchild of the crafting community, at least to indie crafters. Or maybe that's just me. When a friend's husband assumed I liked scrapbooking because of my crafty nature, I was offended.

Now I'm asking myself why that is. And the show provided an answer, at least in part. I saw a lot of products geared toward crafters who don't actually like the process of crafting. Seriously. There's the Cricut and Cuttlebug (FYI: I just had a hard time writing those product names, as they are just so treacly), machines that allow you to cut and emboss by pressing a button. The finished product is attractive, sure, but where's the crafter in the craft? Part of the joy for me when creating something is the pleasure I get out of the process, whether it's tens of hours knitting a sweater or 30 minutes wire wrapping earrings. I like manipulating materials, seeing genius (and yep, failure) unfold in my fingers. I can't jones on a machine-made card in the same way. I'd rather just go buy a $6 letter-pressed card that someone else made with love. (Now let me also say that I think there are loads of scrapbookers who do enjoy the process of designing and building each page, but the industry is just making it easier to step away from the hands-on part of the process, and when you are crunched for time, it's tempting to just press a button. Scrapbooking winds up getting a bad, and perhaps undeserved, rap.)

Now, for fear of being a hypocrite, I must confess that I did fancy the Yudu, a home silkscreening machine that the maker of the Cricut, Provo Craft, also introduced at the show. They were churning out custom t-shirts like nobody's business. The stencils and designs that came with the machine were not, as my mom would say, my cup of tea, but the machine offered a lot of possibilities for the artistic crafter. I am tempted to add it to a wish list.

I realize that I may offend some people by talking about all of this, and I certainly do not mean to demean anyone. After all, if crafting gives you any pleasure or satisfaction, then it's worthwhile. I'd love to hear your thoughts on scrapbooking, electronic tools, and the creative process. What do you enjoy or dismiss about various crafts?

Oh, and I also included a few photos here of the over-the-top and just plain weird stuff I saw at CHA. The mosaic mannequin was exquisitely crafted but whatcha gonna do with a mosaic mannequin? Duncan has some incredible new products and to demonstrate one glitter paint, they made a crazy camouflage hoodie. Check out their site in the coming months, as they are planning to add projects, expert tips, and a community feature. Then there was the grown woman who dressed up like a baby doll and sat in a giant chair, talking to evweeboddy wike a wittle girl. It was so not cute.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Expanding Craft Community

I’m beat.

I’ve been in California since Sunday working the CHA trade show on behalf of Craftstylish. I was hoping that this show and being surrounded by crafters, craft tools, and cool materials would recharge me, provide an antidote to the sickly few weeks I’ve had.

Yeah, not so much.

No matter where I go, I’m still there lugging around all my baggage. But I made the most of it. I loved, loved, loved meeting my fellow Craftstylish bloggers and other various craft authors. I have craft crushes on them all. So I thought I’d take some space to write them a virtual thank-you note for what they gave me this weekend.

I feel I could be lifelong friends with Diane Gilleland. A fellow Northwesterner, Diane exudes intelligence and quiet confidence from every pore. A thoughtful speaker, I hang on every word, as I know it’s said with consideration and deliberation. I can’t wait to roadtrip to Portland with Michaela to hang out with Diane and Susan Beal.

Erika Kern is downright wackalicious, which makes her downright delicious. Wildly talented, I found her to be a partner in crime for my snarkiness and irreverent chatter.

I want to move to New York in the hopes that I can rub elbows with Jeff Rudell upon occasion. He doesn’t know it but he’s my new gay boyfriend. Okay, I just got so excited that I spilled cold water down my shirt (I’m on the plane as I write this). He’s a genius, sure, but he’s got miles of personality and a huge heart to match his height (dude is tall).

Kayte Terry is so talented and style just exudes from her, so it's no wonder that she's a stylist as well as crafty gal. After hanging out with her, I want to start tucking my jeans into knee boots and growing my hair out.

Deana Tierney is so self-possessed. Her poise and calm will serve her well as she takes over the reins at Threads magazine and continues to post for Craftstylish. I'm glad I got to spend some quality time with her at Buca di Beppo (I wish I could also say I enjoyed their Celebration Cake, which is definitely NOT a red velvet cake. Yuck!).

Jessica Aframe did an exceptional job with show logistics and keeping everyone on schedule. While she works behind the scenes much of the time, she worked the booth like the rent was due and learned to crochet in her "spare" time.

Crafty Chica Kathy Cano-Murillo was working tirelessly at the Duncan booth for much of the show but she still managed to pop over to the Craftstylish booth and chat with us. I'm going to bring a lot more glitter into my life, both literally and figuratively.

Creative Juice hosts Cathie Filian and Steve Piacenza were also working hard at the show, doing "make and take" projects with show-goers. But they were sweet as pie (mmm, pie) and are a great example of why the craft world is so generous and supportive.

Speaking of generous spirits, Sarah Hodsdon of sarah*n*dipitous delighted us all with her giving, giddy personality. She works a lot with teens in Michigan and they all helped to build her amazing cardboard booth, a showstopper and show winner for best booth. She helped to remind me that whatever you put out into the world will come back to you tenfold. While crafting is serious business, it's also about passion and joy.

And then there's the driving force behind Craftstylish. In less than a year, storyteller, writer, editor, and crafter Michaela Murphy has become one of my closest friends and mentors. Her indomitable spirit makes her a formidable, larger-than-life woman who doesn't see the limitations, only the opportunity. She makes life big, and I can't help but be inspired and energized whenever I'm lucky enough to spend time with her.

I'll post more on the sights and sounds of the show in the next few days.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Make a Mantra Mirror

As promised, the Mantra Mirror tutorial is finished and up on It's amazing what a little paint and a Vicodin can do.

I'm currently at the CHA show in Anaheim, surrounded by talented, funny, and supportive crafters and writers. Once I do a brain and photo dump, I'll take you through my adventures in Disneyland, I mean, Craftyland.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Beware the Vicodin

Initially, I cursed the Vicodin. Instead of extra-strength Ibuprofin, I accidentally took one this morning for some slight discomfort (residual pain from some recent surgery).

Normally, this gaffe wouldn't be a problem. I could have just laid down and weathered the nausea and drowsiness that ensued. However, I have a few deadlines to wrap up before I leave for the Craft and Hobby Association Convention & Trade Show tomorrow, including a craft tutorial that requires several coats of paint and drying time between coats.

In addition, I went with some friends to a tasting at Seastar, an Asian fusion restaurant opening next week in the Pan-Pacific Hotel. Things did not go well. I was heavy-lidded, nauseous, and overall a hot mess. When I started to slur my speech, I officially became the comic relief. Think of Molly Ringwald's sister coming down the aisle in Sixteen Candles.

Thankfully, things improved as I nibbled on salmon poke and Thai seafood salad. In fact, the food (from Chef John Howie) was absolutely incredible and I can't wait to go back when I'm not drugged up.

But toward the end of lunch, I started to fret about my craft project waiting at home. Thanks to a bit of brainstorming with Leslie Cohan, I came up with an even better idea for my craft project. It's amazing the kind of creativity that is borne out of desperation. I often feel that my creative cupboard is bare but then, when my back is to the wall, I come up with something that I truly love and that can hopefully jumpstart someone else's creativity.

Look for my tutorial Monday morning on CraftStylish, and stay tuned for posts from the CHA convention floor.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Looking forward to Chinese New Year

I'm calling a do-over on the New Year. To that end, I'm looking forward to Chinese New Year, which is Monday, Jan. 26. This is the year of the Ox, and as someone born in the year of the Monkey, I'm encouraged to slow down to Oxen pace, vacationing and paying attention to fitness and health. I should trade in my twittery nature for a more restful one, and use the year to assess where I am with career, health, love, family, and life in general.

That sounds good to me.

What's not so good is the prediction of a hair-raising accident sometime in the spring. That I can do without. That I'm choosing to ignore. At present, I can't bear any more unsettling or upsetting news.

For now, I'm planning on wearing some red on Monday and, in a nice meeting of the Asian minds, I'm painting a mirror red to bring a bit more Feng Shui into my home.

For more information on your Chinese horoscope in this year of the Ox, check out this site. And for more on Chinese New Year, there's always wikipedia.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Make a Creamsicle Body Polish

I spent part of the weekend concocting this yummy body polish. Raid your pantry and you too can have silky skin that smells like a creamsicle. The tutorial is up on CraftStylish.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Through adversity comes strength and beauty

It's been a bad couple of weeks, I'm not gonna lie.

Putting Mac Daddy to sleep was probably the hardest thing I've ever had to do. This week, I found out that a book project that I've labored to finish with a crazed deadline was being canceled, along with a group of other titles, for budgetary reasons. Yesterday, I had surgery. But by the time I donned the hospital gown, I figured the procedure was the least of my problems. Indeed, it was a snap.

Along with my friends and family, knitting has helped me. Keeping my hands busy somehow stills my mind. After working on a feather and fan shawl for months—through a bachelorette weekend on Whidbey Island, on Election Night, and through my grief—I finally bound off and blocked the sucker.

Here's the result. Lovely, don't you think? I can't wait to drape it around myself and think of all the comfort and joy it has given me over the past few months.

I'd best start a new project before the next raft of challenges hits. Any suggestions?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Mac Daddy: A Love Story

Mac Daddy picked me.

Ten years ago, I went with my friend Heidi to the Humane Society in Seattle. She was in the market for a dog. While she was reading a book on breeds, I strolled through the cat area looking at one adorable ball of fluff after another. Toward the end of the row, a black paw darted out and signaled to me from the cage.

It was love at first sight, or maybe bite.

So began my co-dependence with a cat. Mac Daddy wasn’t just any cat. He was lousy with personality, sporting a goatee, notched ear, and more attitude than a sixteen-pound feline has a right to. If he was a dude, he’d have had a gold tooth, platform shoes with fishes in the heels, and a sweet gig as a pimp.

He was a bit, um, cranky from the start. While he cuddled with me, he also got overstimulated in short order and would bite or scratch until blood was drawn. This happened frequently. Like memories, I have scars that will never fade.

Shortly after bringing him home, I moved across the country, stopping for a week in Michigan and then living in a hotel while looking for a new home in Philadelphia. Mac Daddy handled the transition with grace and nonchalance, wandering around mom’s farmhouse or lounging under the hotel bed when the maid came in to vacuum. When we moved into a trinity house on Delancey, Mac Daddy and I discovered a new family. Nan and her brood of cats (and French bulldog Bogart), along with Janine and Barry, loved visiting with Mac Daddy, if only to chat with him as he sat in the bay window, offering up silent pink meows in greeting. He never fell down the steep stairs (unlike me) but he did manage a perfect somersault off the bed more than once. And the deep windowsills were perfect for his big-boned body.

Nan got Mac Daddy’s essential chi. This past week, when I told her of his passing, she wrote to me. “How blessed I am to have shared life with him; the many times I would walk back through our quaint little breezeway and see him basking in the window pillows…if only each of us could soak in all that is good in life as he did.”

Yeah, he was a sensualist, that’s fo’ sho’. Whenever I brought sushi into the house, he’d wrap his paw around my chopstick and try to redirect the roll to his gaping maw. If I wasn’t vigilant, he’d chew through a bread wrapper to carbo-load. When rubbed in the right spot, his purr was kickstarted like a lawnmower. While he fiercely protected his catnip cigar, clamping it between his paws if not his lips, he equally relished chasing an old phone cord to and fro.

But only if he felt like it. Make no mistake, no one could tell Mac Daddy what to do, even though my pal Jared has tried more than once to make him do his bidding. Silly Jared, tricks are for kids, not Mac Daddy.

Mac Daddy even had his own theme song. My friend Justin, a former pop singer, scatted an appropriately badass ditty that suited him to a T. “Ma Mac Daddy. Scat a wadda doodle a dee YEAH.”

When I decided to move back to Seattle, my chief concern was transporting my little guy. I medicated him and watched as his carrier was taken away to the cargo hold. I cried the entire flight, partly for my conflicting feelings about the move but in good measure in worry for Mac Daddy. My friends Kerry and Rob met me at the airport, unprepared for the tears running down my face. I was only consoled when at long last, an airport staffer lugged out the cat carrier with a smirk, saying, “Here’s Mac Daddy.”

His name never failed to elicit a smile, especially at the vet’s office. Soon after our move into an empty apartment, Mac Daddy became deathly ill, his bile ducts blocked and his bilirubin number soaring. Surgery ain’t cheap, for humans or our little critters. When I got the call about the severity of his condition, as well as the rough estimate, I was in a coffee shop with Kerry. As I sobbed, she asked me, “If money wasn’t a factor, would I have the surgery?” “Yes.” There was no question. She said that she and Rob would lend me the money for his treatment. Since then, whenever she came over to my place, I’d say, “Mac Daddy, it’s your benefactress.”

He recovered like the miracle he is. And I don’t say that lightly—during his surgery, Dr. Johnson discovered he had two gallbladders, both functioning and connected by a conjoined bile duct. Since they were both functioning, he left them in. Whether you view him as a miracle or freak of nature, he was undoubtedly a gift.

After the surgery, he became slightly diabetic and needed a couple of other meds to keep pancreatitis at bay and his liver functioning properly. Others helped out with his care when I had to travel. Thank you Liz, Jenna, Wendy, Kerry, Rob, Kerry, Laurel, and Marlena for helping him feel loved even when I couldn’t be there.

He had two other serious trips to the vet and bouts at home with subcutaneous fluids (my bedroom will forever have a saline splatter pattern on one wall) and pills, but damn if he didn’t pull through over and over. Each time, areas of fur that had been shorn away slowly grew back and he quickly put on weight, topping out at around 16 pounds. You may think he must have looked like a sickly cat. No way, José. He was a large mound of rebound and he felt like a furry bowling ball when he crawled onto my lap.

He soothed me when I wasn’t well. When I went under the knife last year, I was concerned that he’d pounce on me while I was sleeping, so I shut the bedroom door. That was ill-advised. As my mother watched from the other side of the door, he first meowed politely. He threw his considerable girth against the wood. Then he figured out that the door swung out so he slipped his paw under the door and tried to pull it toward him. Mom’s exact words? “That little shit is smart.” Yep, he was, and he probably sensed that I needed his comfort…like always.

Mac Daddy spooned me through more than one heartache. He was my true love, the one who never dabbled with cross-dressing, belittled me, or strayed. He was true. The last time he had a serious infection, I was a world away pursuing a doomed-from-the-start love affair. This week, he fell ill as my romantic allusions about a new man were unexpectedly freefalling away. He seemed to sense my roiling tumult and forced me to turn my attention back to what mattered: him, naturally.

And so I come to the hard part: I had to let him go. It was time. We both knew it. Trying to nurse him through this sickness would not have been fair to him, and I was finally ready to say goodbye, strong enough (I hope) to carry on. I can never thank enough Darcey, who went with me, or Dr. Westerdahl, who cried along with me as we watched him slip away, or the staff, who hugged me and shared stories of how they made out with Mac Daddy over the years or had been made a member of the club by receiving a not-so-pleasant love bite from my little beast. Mac Daddy was more of a curmudgeon than a cuddle monster but he won everyone over. He slayed me with a narrowing of those sea-green eyes. He calmed me by pressing his plushy body against mine. He aggravated me by waking me up each morning with a bat on the face or a nip on the nose. He amused me with his Diana Ross “I love you. Don’t touch me” attitude.

Kim called him The Perfect Gentleman. Dan greeted him as Buddy. Jared liked to say Mac the Daddy. Laurel called him Muffin. For Nan, he was her Sweet Boy. But to me, Mac Daddy was my heart.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Time for some winter cleaning

No, I'm not dead. The holidays didn't kill me. I've been missing in blog action for two weeks because I've been finishing up the sequel to The Prairie Girl's Guide to Life. It's chockablock full of 50 new projects, all of which make great and easy gifts for everyone (even hard-to-buy-for men). As you can imagine, I'm really quite tired.

But that didn't stop me from concocting and testing out a new floor polish, made with simple pantry items and safe for critters. It's now up on Craftstylish here.

The idea came from a request on this blog so Gustav, this is for you and Elliott.

A sampling of my books