Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Secret Ingredients for Creative Fun

I just wrapped up a most pleasant afternoon with the delightful Patricia Zapata of A Little Hut. Patricia and I first met at Maker Faire Austin back in October, and instantly bonded (talk of balancing kids/crafting/work/laundry will do that for ya) I love following Patricia on Twitter, and was giddy to see the following tweet from her yesterday:

Getting everything ready for overnight trip to Austin.

After suggesting we try to hook up for a "paper playdate" and realizing our kids (who are almost the exact same ages) could play together, we arranged an afternoon meetup to play with the Cricut paper cutting machine.

Patricia recently wrote a two-part review of the Cricut that included some beautiful projects. I got a Cricut from the Provo Craft folks during Maker Faire Bay Area a few weeks ago, and had been dying to try it out. We introduced the kids, tossed 'em out in the back yard and dug in to the Cricut box. With Patricia's skillful guidance, it wasn't long before we were cutting out all kinds of fun shapes and designs.

There was so much laughter - even when the kids started running around inside the house, screaming at the tops of their lungs - and we had fun trying out all kinds of different things on the Cricut. After Patricia left, I headed back to the table to pick up a little bit, and was struck by the remnants of our crafternoon.

The kitchen table was a "mess" but it was a beautiful example of the most important ingredients to creative fun: collaboration, experimentation, and a big huge .... MESS.

Because we didn't have anything specific we were trying to make, we were completely open to just trying anything and everything. We both had some similar ideas we were wanting to try, and somehow, working together made it much easier for us to just throw caution to the wind and try every crazy idea we had.

I'll be posting pictures of some of the things we made in the next day or two, but I think what's more important than *what* we made was our *process*. I love to be on my own and work alone, but sometimes the creative spark you need can only be lit when you are with someone else. And having a special "playdate" or occasion also seems to free up some of the inhibition to making a mess. When you have collaboration, laughter, lack of fear and lots of mess, you are pretty much gauranteed to get something really beautiful in return.

The afternoon was also a great lesson in spontinaety. Patricia and I laughed at the thought that this fantastic afternoon was in thanks to Twitter. But it was also being sponatneous enough to say, "Hey ... why don't we..." and "Yeah, that sounds like fun" I had to not worry that my house wasn't clean (it's summer, folks, things are in a constant state of chaos over here) and Patricia was really great to be so flexible and willing to just come over to the house of someone she'd only met once before. Those little risks added up to big time fun. So what little risks are you taking today?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Get a Sneak Peek at My New Embroidery Class Schedule

In case you missed it in my previous post, the new Stitch Lab Sewing Studio schedule is going out, via email, to more than 1,000 folks tomorrow (Wednesday) For my oh-so-special blog readers, though, I'll give you a sneak peek and priority enrollment in my embroidery classes! Just shoot me an email today (Tuesday) at averagejanecrafter [at] gmail [dot] com and I'll send you the list of new class dates through September. These classes always fill up, so this is your chance to nab a spot early! I want to see you in class!

Here's a little sweet feedback from recent students:

"I can't believe we learned so many stitches and I feel competent to do them all! It was super fun! You are an amazing teacher; patient, smart, funny and encouraging." - Wendy Morgan, took the Mother/Child embroidery class with her daughter, Ruby.

"Thanks so much for the class last week. I have been embroidering the heck out of anything I can get my hands on now!" -Jessica Gass

Communicrafting Wrap-Up!

Me gettin' chatty with awesome embroidery visitors! Picture from Jenny Hart.

Thanks to all the Austin folks who came out to the Communicrafting event at AMOA last week. We had an incredible turnout (200-300 people!) I had such a blast doing quickie embroidery demos and seeing loads of people get that little twinkle in their eyes when they saw that embroidery was something fun and simple and totally within their reach.

These two kiddos didn't want to stop stitching! They closed the place down!

There was an adorable mother/daughter pair who picked up hoops and sat down and started stitching together, and left with extra floss and their designs so they could continue stitching at home. There were also two adorable kiddos who came up close to the end of the evening and took to stitching like nobody's business. They closed the event down and didn't want to give up their needles! They went home with enough floss to finish their projects, and an excitement for embroidery that made me positively giddy.

It was her first time to pick up a needle and stitch, and she did a fantastic job! She made the most perfect tiny lazy daisies on the flower!

I also got to see some of my awesome embroidery students from my classes at the Stitch Lab sewing studio. I was tickled to hear that they were all stitching or dreaming up new projects to stitch. One student has already emailed pictures of projects she completed within a week of taking the class, and another - who was in the mother/child class on Mother's Day weekend - told me that her daughter has been stitching bookmarks as gifts for her friends. How fun is that!?

If you've been itchin' to get in to one of my embroidery classes, now is your chance. The new Stitch Lab schedule will go out tomorrow to the Stitch Lab email list (more than 1,000 people). For my oh-so-special blog readers, I'll give you a sneak peek at the dates and will get priority enrollment for you so you can be sure to grab a spot. Just email me at averagejanecrafter at gmail dot com with "I wanna stitch!" in the subject line, and I'll get you all fixed up.

This is Jordan from Sublime Stitching. When you order from the Sublime Stitching Web site, Jordan's the pro who packs up your order and ships it out & handles all the order info. Plus, he's super nice! (picture from Jenny Hart)

Teaching embroidery is truly one of my all-time favorite things to do. I love sharing all the tips and tricks on everything from various ways to transfer images to fabric to where to find the best linens on which to stitch. The classes aren't just about learning stitches, but give you all the fundamental information and confidence you need to leave and keep stitching right after class is over. I get such joy hearing from so many students who reveal that they've been bitten by the embroidery bug in my classes and can't stop stitching. That's the kind of habit I love spreading! Join in on the fun!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Community and Crafting - My two favorite things!

Austin folks - come see me and a great group of very cool Austin crafty folks this Thursday at the Austin Museum of Art for the first-ever Communicrafting event. The event is hosted by Jenny Hart and the Sublime Stitching crew to celebrate the two new Sublime Stitching releases from Chronicle Books (The Bib Kit and the Stitchable Stationery Kit)

Along with Jenny and the Sublime crew, I'll be there doing small embroidery demos. Also doing her craft thing will be Kathie Sever of Future Craft Collective with cool projects for kids. Leslie Bonnell from the Stitch Lab will also be on hand, sharing her infinite wisdom. And more!

I love events like this because it's a great chance to get out and mingle, meet knew folks, learn new things and celebrate the thriving craft community here in Austin. You need to be there! Please come by and say hi, take a few stitches and learn great stuff from some really special folks.

Check out the Facebook event page for more information to and RSVP to show that you'll be there with all the cool, fun kids. See you there!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Maker Faire, how I miss you

What is it with me and not being able to wrap up amazing crafty weekends? (remember Portland?) And then - because I can't bring myself to wrap them up - I get a mental block to posting anything at all. Blerg! So here goes. It's long winded, but worth the read. These are folks you should know and follow. They inspire me and are some of the nicest, most creative folks you could ever hope to know. *

There's no way to express how much fun and how inspirational Maker Faire was. Of course, there were amazing things to see like the dress knit from surgical tubing and filled with colored liquids. I could get lost in things like modifying Barbie dolls and stitching on the Thousand Hands Quilt. I wanted to sit in a pile of glitter and never get up, and there couldn't be enough button rings to keep me satisfied. I wanted to tinker, glue, cut and create for hours on end.

Becky, me, Crafty Chica Kathy Cano-Murillo and Nat, with our Crafty Chica bobble head dolls!

I'm not a stalker, promise!
But more important than the cool things I saw, were the amazing people I spent time with over the weekend. Getting to meet Natalie for the first time, and getting to hang out with Becky and her and the whole amazing O'Reilly gang was just flat out awesome. I mean, I always knew I had the best job in the world, but spending the weekend with everyone just really sealed the deal. I really hope we can find some way to get together before the next Maker Faire so we can just hang out and play and dream up cool stuff to do. (can you believe I didn't get a good picture of the three of us together? Sigh!)

Diane and me. CBFFs. Love you, Diane! :)

And there were loads of other amazing folks there, too! I got to see my crafty BFF, Diane, which warmed my heart bigtime! I also finally got to meet Kristin Roach of Craft Leftovers. Her blog is one of the first blogs I started reading years ago, and I was so excited to finally get to meet her! She's flippin' adorable, super sweet and makes the coolest stuff. I got to see Michaela Murphy and Jennifer Worick, whom I met in Portland but didn't get to hang out with nearly enough. I also finally got to meet Sarah Hodson, who has more energy in her little finger than I have in my entire being!

Not the world's best picture of me, but really captures the total elation of the moment of meeting the very awesome Jeff Ruddell.

There were three folks who generously tolerated my over-excited reactions to meeting them. You know when you have folks you follow online, interact with a bit and just love them like crazy? Well, that's how I've been with Moxie and Jeffery Ruddell and John Edgar Park for a while now. Aside from being an amazing paper artist, Jeffery is a truly gifted writer. I've followed his work on Craft Stylish for a while, and always appreciated the thoughtful writing he brought to his project posts. I have to admit to being a bit ... fangirl over him. So when Diane introduced him to me last Friday while they were setting up the Provo Craft booth, I couldn't help but literally squeal and jump on him with a giant hug. (You think I'm kidding? I only wish I was) He was even more gracious in person and continued to tolerate my frequent drive-by hugs and general OHMYGODs. Thanks, Jeff!

Brookelyn works her needle felting magic with a student.

I had a similar reaction to meeting Moxie for the first time. She's somewhat of a legend in the craft world, ya know, and she's just about the most fun, hilarious person to follow on Twitter. I was walking through the CRAFT area and came around the corner and saw her standing there. I stopped dead in my tracks, squealed like a teeny bopper and shook my fists for a full 30 seconds or so before smothering her with a hug. Fortunately, she's ok with that kind of public display of affection. She and the beautiful and charming Brookelyn Morris were heading up the needle felting playground in the CRAFT area, and it was such a blast to have them nearby all weekend long. I even finally tried my hand at needle felting! Super fun!

Moxie's hiding there on the couch, but she sees you and she loves you ... :)

Finally, we stopped in to the show office Friday afternoon to check out a walkie talkie, and when I turned around, who did I see but the charming John Edgar Park! John is an animation expert, tinkerer extraordinaire, cocktail & coffee connoisseur and the host of Make: TV. He also worked on the movie BOLT, which is one of my daughter's all-time favorite movies. When he heard how excited she was about the movie coming out, he sent her an awesome one-sheet for the movie and even signed it by Rhino (the character on which he worked). It was so generous for him to do when he hadn't even met us before! As soon as I saw him I .... well, you know the drill by now. Squeal. Shake Fists. Hug Way Too Hard. Like the others, he was more than courteous to not cringe and make like I was a stalker ... at least not to my face.

Back at the CRAFT booth
We were in the most happenin' section of the Expo hall for sure. Right across from us was the Craftster booth and next to them was the I Love to Create booth with the Crafty Chica herself. Could we ask for better neighbors? Not a chance. I got to meet Kathy Cano-Murillo at Maker Faire Austin back in October, but didn't get to really spend any time with her. I'm so glad that changed this time. She is one of the sweetest, funniest, happiest, genuine people I've ever met. I literally couldn't stop smiling while I was listening to her talk. It was kinda ridiculous. I just wished we could hang out the whole weekend and make stuff together.

Craftster gal, Pam (kittykill) and her mates absolutely *rocked* the Craftster booth. And their handmade banner was awesome!

The Craftster gals were amazing, too. They had one of the smoothest-running booths around. They were making three different simple crafts, and folks rotated in and out of there with ease. They were a very well-oiled machine. I finally got to meet Pam (kittykill) whose amazing embroidery I've admired for ages. I've also admired her gorgeous embroidery tattoo. When I saw the Craftster gang setting up their booth, I ran over to introduce myself to Pam and promptly said, "OHMYGODCANISEEYOURTATTOO!?" I'd been dying to get to see it in person. Holy smokes, y'all, it is one amazing piece of art. The details are exceptional and it is just beautiful. Thanks, Pam, for putting up with me ogling your tat. ;)

OMG! That's me! With my just-borned-first-ever needle felting project! Yipee!

As I was walking through the Expo Hall on set up day, I spied the Eye Can Art booth and bolted over to gush about how much I loved their printing can. I reviewed the kit for Craftzine back in December and really, truly loved it. It was so nice to literally pick the can up and head out the door and have everything I needed right there. Plus, it was just a super cool project to do with my kids ... and on my own. As I went on and on about how much I loved the product, the business owner realized who I was and whipped out a promotional card they'd made that included a quote from my Craftzine review. I was thrilled they used it, because the Eye Can Art printmaking kit was honestly one of the best craft kids I've ever played with. We chatted throughout the weekend, and she sent a bookmaking can home with me as a sweet gift. I can't wait to make some little books with my daughter this summer!

Seriously, this is like the only time I didn't see Rob smiling from ear to ear.

I also saw Rob and Corinne from Threadbanger (they hosted a rad Twitter-based scavenger hunt at Maker Faire - how cool is that!?) I met them briefly at Stitch about a year and a half ago, and it was great to see them again. Rob is seriously they smiley-est person I have ever met. Adorable.

There were so many other cool folks, and amazing things to see at Maker Faire. I couldn't help but walk around and feel like I was completely at home. Somehow, I felt overwhelmed with contentment and with excitement all at once. I never wanted it to end. And though I couldn't make it go on forever, I'll have the pictures and online friends to keep up with until the next one, which can't come soon enough.

* Special thanks to Nat, Becky, Diane, Kristin and Brookelyn for letting me use some of their pictures here! :)