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Sunday
Feb192017

Flaming Stars & Burned In Memories

This evening I went out and looked up at the stars. The smattering of constellations littered across the blue-black backdrop made me think about how generations of people looked to the stars to somehow see themselves more clearly. The fire burning light years away guided the navigators and explorers, heard the grandfathers pass on stories of their grandfathers while lover's made confessions and bare-footed children chased fireflies. We would have no idea that Orion had a belt or the Little Dipper poured out into a larger one had not someone pointed them out to us methinks. As a child, sitting around a campfire, my Uncle Mark guided my eyes upward as he explained how the pointer stars led to Polaris, my North Star and guiding light. He was a carpenter by trade, a master woodworker who was perpetually curious and passionate about transferring his skills to my brothers and I... those memories are forever burned into my memory and branded on my heart. Although he has been gone for many years now, his legacy shines on in my children and those they inspire.

This past Summer at the Detroit Maker Faire, we as a family invited a number of kids from a local FIRST robotic team and Kettering University in Flint Michigan to come and teach leather working with us at The Henry Ford. It was a surreal experience for everyone involved. The idea that one learns twice by teaching, that they gain a deeper understanding when they serve others by transferring their skills, is a life changing event... Later that evening around the campfire in the backyard, our invited guests talked about what Maker Faire meant to them and how, despite being dog-tired and completely spent, that they could never just "attend" a Maker Faire as a consumer ever again, that they felt compelled to continue to give back and transfer their skills. Those kids felt what our family has felt for so many years... they felt like the luckiest people on the planet to have spent the weekend surrounded by and rubbing elbows with the most bold thinking, wildly innovative and vibrant makers in the world. Under the stars, those kids found their North Star, a way to use the skills they had learned to Pay It Forward to others. Needless to say, those same kids were at our front door at 5 in the morning when Maker Faire came to our local Barnes and Noble stores later that Fall... each and every one of them eager to teach strangers the skill they had acquired that Summer with our family in stores across Michigan. It got me thinking.

In early January, we invited those same kids over to take part in our family's yearly Maker Faire Project deciding day. In following with our core mission of teaching a skill to share, we narrowed it down to either woodworking or glasswork. Our children, (Ben 16), Noah (15) and Abi (13) have never lived in a world without being surrounded by makers and craftsman or Maker Faire. Abi was 5 years old when she taught at her first Maker Faire. As the kids have gotten older, their passion for spreading the Maker Mindset and Hacking Education have only deepened. I suppose that is why I was not surprised when they asked if we could rent an RV and take their band of newly minted Makers of Merit across country with them to San Mateo to teach. Our eldest kidlet Ben said it best... "Some people want to burn the world down and some of us are just happy being the campfire that is warm enough to hear just one more story." I looked across the table at my children and their friends. Like every old oak, our lives are told in rings, 365 day rotations collected and cross-sectioned for some future generation to ponder. The greatest gift an old oak could ask for is to be made into something useful, something that inspires others to be a better version of themselves somehow I suppose... My husband and I looked at these young saplings (in keeping with the metaphor) and could not be more proud. 

We look forward to teaching the ancient artform of woodburning... and although we hope that no campfires are started at the table, we do anticipate some incredible stories and burned in memories destined to inspire the next generation of young makers.

 

 

Wednesday
Jun012016

Wearing Our North Star

There is a palatable want bubbling up throughout our culture as of late... it's this overwelming feeling that humans, as a whole, have moved away from our own humanity in a way. There simply is not enough time or space to really dig deep into the volumes of things I've heard in my classes across the country about how in this overly-connected world, how many people feel so unconnected yet, the solution can be summed up in four words... Making Together Connects Humans.

It is interesting to watch how the act of making together in a group manages to tether folks to not only the timeline but, to eachother as they share materials, ask questions, help eachother with an extra finger when a tight knot is needed on a close binding. As John Donne so lovingly wrote, "No Man is an Island..." Humans need eachother and making things by hand and transferring our skills are what keep our humanity in tact perhaps.

In thinking about this year's Maker Faire project, the idea of tying in our rural organic farm life into a skill to share project led us in the direction of leather work. We have wanted to teach this art form for many years and it seemed to be a natural progression from the metal work we did last year. As always, our project of the year connects back to our beloved Henry Ford Museum in some way... 

Throughout the history of the world, the idea of mobility fueled the hopes and dreams of generations. People would pack up their everythings and set out away from what was known and familiar towards an unknown, hope-filled better. Those pioneering people used what was on hand to help them in every way imaginable on their journey and let their North Star guide them. In walking through the Henry Ford Museum, human mobility, by foot, by stagecoach, by boat, by car, by plane, by rocket... these artifacts and proofs of amazing journeys, all wear the handprints of makers. The leather work exhibited throughout the Henry Ford speaks of adventer but also of skilled craftsman who built things that were intended on lasting well beyond their own lifetimes... something that would connect to others even after they were gone.

My daughter once told her Great-Grandfather that he had a leather face... He said, "We wear our experiences on our skin child." This year, it is our hope that you will wear your experiences and use them to guide you in making and connecting with others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday
Apr222015

Three Little Birds at SNAP!

SNAP! Blogger conference is a very special event for me but, not in the obvious way perhaps... SNAP! is a DIY/Lifestyle Blogger event held in Salt Lake City. On the surface, as a person who contributes to many blogs in a variety of capacities, one may think an event such as this would speak to that facet of my persona... it does, BUT... only on the surface.

As Designer for the Arts and Crafting Industry, my studio produces not only art, tools, and machines utilized by those who consume art and crafting materials, we also create content- volumes and volumes of useable, "pin-able", shareable, reteachable, retweetable, and filtery instagrammable goodness that, incidentally, finds its way into the hands of bloggers, and other amplified media channels. Truth be told, almost everything we create in our teaching makerspace is "ghostwritten" and/or what our industry calls "courtesy of" content... its a fancy way of saying, heard but not seen. Technically, if I do my job correctly, the only things you see are my clients and the crazy amazing products they have manufactured. This leads me to why SNAP! is SO very dear to me and why I love attending every year... I get to see first hand all the vibrant and bold folks who use the "stuff" I spend the wee hours creating in person. The crazy thing is, most of the bloggers I meet have NO idea that the content they amplify via their blog channels or the machines or art they have used in one project or another of theirs, were conceived in my studio. AND, because of the confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements I am bound to, I can never say a single word about it... 

Watching something you've made in the hands of strangers and being used in purposeful and meaningful ways is a profound experience. It is a cosmic Pay It Forward and one of the greatest gifts any maker can have. The chance to use one's talents to make something another fellow human will in turn take up and make their own is like watching the tapestry of humanity being woven right in front of one's very eyes. I get misty Every*Single*Time too, I am completely gobsmacked by the absolutely unexpected and incredible things folks make when they set their mind to it... It is that magic moment when they choose to create for no other reason than because they can... like a bird that sings, there is no apology for the bold and vibrant use of a natural talent shared with the world... beautiful.

*Cues Bob Marley's Legend Album... Three Little Birds* 

As an instructor, I watch those during the creative process from the cheap seats... one, because I am insanely curious and two, because it helps me learn how to be a better instructor and student myself. The hardest part of my job is watching beautiful spirits be crushed by the weight of their own insecurity, self doubt and proclamation that they are ill equipped or not talented "enough" to build something meanigful. It breaks my heart. I only wish that those folks could see what I see, that incredible brave that it took to walk in the door in the first place, the desire to be something more, the aspirational thought of a better self somehow extracting itself via the process... It is a death by a thousand self-inflicted cuts every time folks allow themselves to sit silent and believe the "why-nots and can't dos naysayers living in their heads" rather than sing... sharing that perspective, that voice, that crazy amazing talent that is SO incredibly uniquely theirs alone with the rest of the world. 

 

Tuesday
Jan272015

Making Superheroes

Living in an ephemeral, instantly shared and disseminated, technologically enhanced type world, it is sometimes difficult to convey how taking the time to make something designed to last beyond a single lifetime or something that may take more than a number of lifetimes to complete (like the cathedrals of old) is still relevant and important... especially to Young Makers. This type of understanding is something that can't be read in a textbook, can't be learned by proxy; it requires a tactile experience, a specific interaction, a curiosity, and a true grit to learn the skills necessary to get to that next step in the process.

Many people believe that "The Maker Movement" revolves solely around something instant, that geeky chicanery that makes a light blink or a circuit connect or a model 3D print right before one's very eyes... when in reality, it is a mindset- the desire to make something because one is able to do so not because they have to. That Maker Mindset, the one that says, "Whatever life throws at me, I am fully capable of making something out of it." is powerful... it is contagious... it makes superheroes out of ordinary folks... it is something we need more of.

As a "Maker Mom", I cannot explain how deeply I treasure those who have invested in me and our family over the years in the various Makerspaces, TechShops, FabLabs, and Studios- freely sharing their talents, wisdom, passion and know-how with us. Maker Faire is something that has been apart of me for the past decade. My eldest son was 4 years old when he attended his first Maker Faire... it was at that moment, robots infiltrated our everything and my husband and I knew that our home would be more science fair than pottery barn forevermore.

When Maker Faire, with the help of The Henry Ford Museum, came to Detroit, a new family tradition was born. Our then, 6, 8, and 10 year old children started giving back to the community that had invested in them by teaching what they had learned to others. To teach is to learn twice. Having a skill to share is a bartering tool, a human currency, that loans value to the exchange of ideas and innovation in a very impactful and meaningful way to all those involved. It says, "I may not know Arduino but, I know how to do "X"... will you teach me if I teach you?" These "skills to share" are the bedrock of innovation, they are the threads that run through civilizations and throughout the timeline of history connecting one generation to another. For us, as a "Maker Family", teaching a skill to share, has gifted us in profound ways... our extended Maker Family now spans the globe and we could not imagine our world without them in it.

As a Designer and Inventor for the Craft and Hobby Industry, many of the "skills to share" my children have learned since birth revolve around traditional, generational, "Craftsman" type skills... Textiles & Needle Arts, Woodworking, Metal Work, Paper, Glass, Ceramics, Printmaking, and the like. Living on a working farm has added other skills to the mix, things like gardening and food preservation, animal husbandry, conservation of resources, and "please don't wreck the tractor" coupled with conversations about "programmed chicken coop doors" and "What else on Instructables shall we build next?" It was these skills that our children bartered to learn computer programming, engineering, robotics, and wearable tech within the Maker Community... it is these types of "gateway" skills that we, as a family, try to teach other children and their families in order for them to take their tinkering to the next level as our kids have done... A Pay It Forward.

So, for the past 5 years, our family has had this annual "event" around the kitchen table... it resembles a Festivus feats of strength bout involving a ball of thread whilst running through Daedelus' Labyrinth being chased by the minotaur (played by a Great Dane named Leviathan, Levi for short). During this said "event", we decide what our family will propose to teach at whatever Maker Faires our family can MacGyver to attend. 

The list of criteria we have are as follows:

1) Is it fun?

2) Is the skill we want to share useful and able to be applied to multiple disciplines?  (ie., learning to solder can be for circuits or jewelry)

3) Is the skill shareable, something valuable to be traded for another cool skill?

3) Can the project be schlepped in and out by the 5 of us in one trip, be done rain or shine, and able to be set up in ANY location? 

4) Will the person doing our project feel like a superhero, like they accomplished something that matters after they are done building it? 

This year, we will be teaching the ancient art of metal embossing. Metal is elemental; it is at the core of so many things we use in technology and it embodies the very nature of innovation, industry, and the human capacity to create fantastic things from simple tools... and, bending metal... is totally a super power ;)

 

Monday
Feb102014

Carving Time Out to Learn to Make

I am a proud Maker Mom. No, my children are not prodigies, the next Ender, or being tapped by a major science or math type programs... they are simply insanely curious, wanting to learn, needing to build, and having to share what they made, kids... as are yours (if you are a parent, grandparent, custodian, or mentor). I think the misconception many people have about Maker Faire in general is, you have to be science-y or math-y to have the geek cred in order to get in... holy smokes batman, if that were the case, I would have never been made the cut afterall, I'm "just a crafter/artist/inventor/author/play in the dirt type" with a background in forensics and finance... My family did not even have a computer until my sophomore year of college (I know, I heard the audible gasp there)

My qualifications for being a Maker Mom started early in life. I was the product of craftspeople, folks who had a tool shed, a designated workspace, and a mindset that said, "if we don't have it, we can build it... or at least something that could work in a pinch." My childhood was a giant shopclass. I also happened to be one of those kids that found themselves on the short side of a parent's patience (codespeak for, "go to your room and think about what you did!") on a regular basis. We did not have distractions like gaming systems or television in our rooms. My parents, being a particular brand of evil, would give my brothers and I old dictionaries, atlases, and encyclopedias (which after we got done reading and flipping through were discovered to be heavy enough to hold a tented bedsheet on a dresser for "Fort Solitude") I was Calvin and my brother was Hobbes. We lived for cardboard refrigerator boxes and a hammer with a handful of nails. Being sent to our room was like a Maker Faire... we were given the time to think and the freedom to build, to carve out our own little world from what was on hand.

I've been a Designer/Inventor in the Craft and Hobby Association for almost 14 years now, a part of Maker Faire since its inception, and am rabid advocate for the Young Maker movement and MakerEd. Our kids are Hackschoolers (they go to a virtual academy) and they spend their afternoons in local makerspaces, fab labs, on set, in studio, or in the classroom (teaching along side me)- they are surrounded by Makers. My deepest wish is that all kids have the chance to be surrounded by Makers as well. Our mission as a family has always been to share what we know to equip, enable, and inspire, others to make the world they want to live in... this starts by teaching others how to carve time out of their every day in order to make their mark on the timeline of history.

This year at Maker Faire San Francisco I am hoping to teach Moms, Parents, Grandparents, and Mentors how to not only carve time out of their days to make, but impress upon them the need for us as a culture to embrace making in our everyday lives and sharing what we have learned with others in a meaningful way. As always, Maker Moms Bootcamp is an interactive class... you will roll up your sleeves, learn a skill to share (so you can feel confident when visiting local Makerspaces or building your own at the Kitchen Table), and go home with something purposefully made and designed to make your mark on the world. I believe that when we decide to make things, we invest in what it is to be human. Every kid is a maker- the worlds they come up with are possible if we take the time to give them the tools to do so. 

Carving Time To Make

Thursday
Jan092014

Major Changes... After CHA

As many of you may or may not know, most of my time is spent blogging for others. My own blog started first as a source of pain because there was so much I wanted to write about but, for one reason or another, was either not "allowed" (because of contractual agreements with others), or, there simply was no more time in the day left. There have many days where I have felt like Cinderella... mending other's finery and doing the daily chores only to go back to my studio and see my own ballgown on the table in sketches.

Much has changed. I am opening a new chapter in my own personal world and tying off loose ends whilst at CHA with manufacturers I will no longer be working for. I have partnered with some absolutely exciting people and am finally able to do the thing I set out to do 13 years ago when I opened up this studio. My incredible relationship with BIC corporation has springboarded into some awe-inspiring projects... including the one I am constructing and unveiling on the CHA show floor in a few hours. My hope is that people will see our industry, The Craft AND Hobby Industry, in a new relevant light. My sincerest wish is for visitors to see themselves and their own inner "Can-Do" thru the handiwork that has taken me an entire month of 16 hours days to accomplish.

The Makerspace idea that Tony Ford and I MacGyvered over coffee in a Las Vegas coffee shop has come to fruition. You'd be amazed what happens when you ask "What if?" So many amazing companies have gone out of their way to be a part of this space, so many incredibly gifted instructors have donated their time and expertise to teach anyone who seeks to learn, and so many crazy fun is going to be had over the next few days. I have truthfully, not slept more than a few hours a night for longer than I care to admit and right now, when I could be asleep, I am simply too excited.

Yes, major changes are happening... As a newly minted Board of Director for the Craft and Hobby Industry, I can honestly say that I am completely humbled and in awe to be in the company of such fine humans. 

Cinderella is 3D printing her new shoes and programming her wearble technology in order for her ballgown to truly shine... Thank you Lynne Bruning, Beckah Krahula, Carin Atkins, and Carol Duvall... you are treasured beyond words.

Saturday
Aug042012

Designer Press Kit Award

Sarahndipitous Designs was awarded the Designer Press Kit Award at the Summer Craft and Hobby Association Convention in Chicago. It is a tremendous honor to be recognized by a leader in the Creative Industry and chosen by one's professional peers to be singled out for their handiwork... My deepest thanks.

I have been asked numerous times about Press Kits, specifically, how to create something that solidifies branding, engages the end consumer, and connects in such a way that those who come in contact with the pieces do not see a slick marketing campaign but are genuinely attached to the message... How is it that we build evangelists rather than 'dutiful click the like button' fans. This is a tough question made tougher when that "something" we're selling isn't tangible, isn't a physical product but rather, an idea wrapped in the cloak of a potential needed outcome. Designers sell art but, most times, we're hired to generate ideas, concepts, processes, and techniques... intellectual 'noseeums' hidden behind the veil of Non-Disclosure Agreements and Non-Compete Clauses in some Batcave.

So, I decided to pick apart this year's Press Kit a bit to illustrate the process and point out some of the thinking behind the entire campaign.

The theme of this year's Press Kit was "How to Be a Creative Super Hero In One Week." I had been marinating on the concept of a year's worth of weeks, 52 somethings that were bursting at the seams with purpose, deliberate actions that affect a positive change in those giving and receiving those actions. I encounter people daily that insist that they were overlooked when the art talent magic wand was sprinkling glitter over the Universe, people who genuinely believe that they are missing the "Create" gene. I personally believe that our humanity itself is discovered when we use our own two hands to craft the world we envision, that making things and producing something of value *is* what sticks us to the timeline of history- I believe this right down to my core.

I decided that I needed to illustrate how an ordinary person could be transformed in small increments over the course of a week to be decidedly extraordinary through their own initiative. I also decided that I would create this message sans fancy tools unaccessible to the average person (no editing software, no computer wizardry, no expensive tools that make us all look good and streamline the process... I went old school folks- recycled copy paper, a pencil, a permanent black marker, a straight edge, a gluestick and scissors (this was both liberating and incredibly frustrating incidentally))

I hand drew the comics and photocopied them at the local FedEx/Kinkos onto overhead projector transparencies. Each comic cell (7 x the 200 kits I made for the event) were each individually hand colored, painted in with acrylic paints in a series of layers on the backside. I wanted each and every person who received one of these kits to know that they were holding a signed and numbered piece of art, that they were worth an original and that the message was so important, the conviction so deep, that it was worth the time investment gifted in each kit. 

Each comic book was housed in an elaborate mechanical card shell. I actually love making things that are not static and creating objects that are intended to be played with and pondered (yes, for those initiated and desperately curious to know how the mechanics worked, there was a secret message to them alone all sealed up behind the scenes). The card was black and in the lower right hand corner, an abstract of some urban city. When the necessary pulls were engaged, the wheeled mechanism became a spotlight (a proverbial "batsignal") that called for a hero over the city.

Lastly, in following through with the promise to "Equip. Enable. and Inspire" (our trademarked tagline), I packaged each how-to comic book with a proper superhero mask in a clear bag that protects artwork and belted the outside with a custom crafted "utility belt"... a deck of 52 cards that my children had transformed sticker by sticker (200 x 52... we kept all the jokers) into meaningful ways to be someone's super hero... ordinary things that mean everything to someone in need, ordinary ways to use our hands to create the kind of world we'd like to live in, ordinary reminders that it was us, normal folks, who built Makermetropolis.

There were other facets and nifty new technologies we employed for the whole campaign that were dotted here and there throughout the show floor and sprinkled in the various presentations that made the message cohesive and fun. Press kits are really created to announce things, the point of this kit was to turn the spotlight a bit and shine it on the reason why I and my team love getting up every morning and going to work... for our clients and the end consumer who gets to interact with what we made.

If we do our job as Designers, they don't see us, they see our clients shine. When we edify others, when we encourage the very best out of people by using the talents we have been blessed with to their absolute fullest, those we affect turn around and do amazing things for themselves. In being someone else's hero, we in essence save ourselves I think.

Wednesday
Aug012012

Maker Faire Detroit

Ever since I was a child, The Henry Ford Museum inspired me to think bigger. One can hardly escape the pull of innovation whilst walking through the various exhibits and displays highlighting human ingenuity, invention, and initiative housed throughout the museum and grounds. As a kid, the machines spoke of people who were larger than life, people who chose to use their talents to build a nation and usher in an industrial age. As an adult, I walk through the museum with a sacred appreciation for the monumental sacrifices and determination the generations before me embodied to create such wonderful things. The Henry Ford is a living and breathing testament to what is possible.

A few years back I had the distinct privelege to have dinner with Dale Dougherty, chief imagineer of Maker Faire, while he was visiting Michigan. I loved listening to him talk about the Makers and Tinkerers he had encountered along in his travels, his eyes lit up as he conveyed stories about the random things people were inspired to pursue and build. I thought to myself that he, and those he so animately spoke about, were the kind of people I wanted my children to have the chance to meet. Dale's passion for making is contagious and from the moment he set foot here in Michigan, I prayed that his spark would catch. I had been a part of many Maker Faires prior but, I could think of no better place to host a Maker Faire than The Henry Ford... it was almost as if Henry Ford knew that there would be a time when people would need to be reminded of the fantastic things that could be made and accomplished when ordinary folks decide to go ahead and build themselves the extraordinary with their own two hands. He created a place full of things people believed to be impossibles at one time or another... automotives, flight, robots, and all the amazing technology being explored and invented daily. When Maker Faire partnered with The Henry Ford three years ago, it was a dream come true for me personally and yes, my children did get to meet Dale and all his amazing Maker friends.

My eldest Son's birthday falls in line with the arrival of Maker Faire here in Detroit. Rather than having a party, for the last three years he has spent his birthday money on wristbands for his friends to attend the Faire and experience the exhibits firsthand. This year, all three of our children, along with my husband and I, taught hundreds and hundreds of people how to build paper bracelets in the Young Makers area... the booth was called Paper Connections and it lived up to its name in every sense of those words. We made incredible friends, heard amazing stories, and learned so much about people from literally across the planet. Over 50 thousand slips of paper were folded and woven into the countless urban corsages worn by ordinary people commemorating their time at the "Biggest Show and Tell" event in the world.

Thank you to Maker Faire and The Henry Ford for the two Editor Choice ribbons awarded our booth <3 And a special thanks also to Grant Studios (Australia) for the paper, Fiskars for the scissors, and BIC Mark-it Markers for enabling us to draw out Makermetropolis.

The Henry Ford

Monday
Jul302012

By Scratch

Donuts are wonderful, especially fresh ones almost too hot to handle and still adjusting to the baptism of sparkling cinnamon and sugar. As most folks who have done this sort of thing know, making donuts from scratch can be an ordeal... there are just so many ways things can go terribly wrong yet, it's the pay-off, that plateful of awesome and the promise of pure amazing that seduces us out of our comfort zones and makes us willing to battle the hot oil in order to achieve bliss.

As it should happen, as these things tend to do, I managed to make about a dozen donuts before sparking a lovely kitchen fire (a product of wanting to "speed things along") that, of course, set off all the smoke detectors in the house. My perfect breakfast plan was promptly thwarted as the rest of the family quickly filed down the stairs to see what was the matter. Somewhere in the clean-up process, talk of going out to buy donuts was discussed in hushed voices (as if I could not hear the mutinous suggestions arising from the peanut gallery- moms have EXCELLENT hearing) and I pulled out my soap-box and mustered the best "lay it on thick" guilt voice I could manage. I explained the merits of scratch cooking, the beautiful nuances that store bought could never achieve, the love and care that mixed that dough and inspired an earlier than usual sunrise... to which they responded, "We are hungry now."

There is a lesson here that applies to crafting believe it or not and it is a hard one to swallow for some die-hard do it yourself (by scratch) maker types... some folks love the kits, they want the store bought and the instant satisfaction of having their "hunger" met immediately rather than waiting around for it and no amount of soap-box preaching is going to change that for them. Crafters are like brownies (or donuts) in a way... some will be pure store-bought, that is, they will buy the very best handmade lovelies and appreciate the taste but, they have no desire to make it for themselves and, thank goodness for them because, afterall, we need them to buy our handiwork to keep us in business. Then, there are those who buy the boxed mix, the ones who like the convenience of having the pieces and enjoy the satisfaction of making it themselves. Speaking as a Mom, I like the way boxed mixes (kits) introduce my kidlets to cooking without having to make the major investment of all the individual ingredients (which they may or may not like). And finally, there are those who love to build on their own (some with a recipe and some without). These trailblazers are test pilots, they pave the way for all future brownie (or donut) makers... they inspire us and teach us how to craft something amazing. Yup, sitting there eating a well-crafted store bought donut I had an epiphany that tasted like chocolate and smiled like a lesson learned. 

donuts

Monday
Jul232012

The Cost Of Business

The other day I was trying to explain the cost of doing business to a 6th grader during class. It was easy to point out the cost of the supplies and materials however, it was the intangibles, things like time, labor, and the process of creating a prototype that actually worked, that eluded this young grasshopper still green in the ways of economies. He, like so many of my adult students wanting to make a living creating, forgot about all the oxygen they sucked up whilst developing their masterpieces, the things we can't hold in our hands but are required to continue living... 

For those who manufacture something, it is a difficult uphill struggle to continue to monetize their intellectual property, ideas, techniques, and processes in a "freemium" society. We've trained a generation of people to see an object and immediately apply a "race to the lowest cost" mentality to it never once thinking about the fact that the person who created that wonder cannot eat praise or pay their rent in product or accolades from the global online mob-ocracy. 

I explained to the child in my class, "Sure, you can most certainly hang your clothes out on the line and wait for them to dry (longer during a rain storm and even longer during the winter) for free however, the other options have a cost (unless you are mooching off your friends or parents who will pay for the electricity for you). One can own the equipment (in this case a dryer) or, pay to use another person's property to achieve the final goal and, in both cases, one is paying for air- something unseen yet inherently necessary." The point is, to exact change, we must be vigilent in reminding people that the unseen costs in business count too.

Exact Change

Tuesday
Jul172012

{Pro} Fusion

As a Designer Member of the Craft and Hobby Association, I try to participate in the various events that highlight the creativity and innovation of our designer members when my schedule provides for it. Cloth, Paper, Scissors Magazine sponsored the Crafty Couture exhibit, a showcase of dresses created by Designer members that embody mixed media technique whilst using products found in the arts and crafting industry.

The dress is a fabric base, hand-sewn with connective thread that interfaces with Arduino technology (AdaFruit), and is embellished with copper and wood pieces (Lee Valley). The idea of mixed media is a "fusion" between crafting techniques and the emerging mediums and media outside of the crafting industry. To be relevent in today's creative spaces, those who create must be willing to step outside of their traditional comfort zones and test the boundaries arbitrarily set in place by one industry or another. Our dress was never meant to stay on a mannequin, it was designed to be worn, to be functional, and to be an ambassador of sorts... a mouth-piece of what mixed media could become.

Thank you to Lee Valley Hardware, AdaFruit, BIC Mark-it Markers, 3M, Fiskars and all the incredible folks who voted for it. 

Copper Conductive Dress 

 

Tuesday
Jul102012

Craft Wars

I needed to marinate a bit before deciding to post about Craft Wars, the new show on TLC. First, in the spirit of disclosure, I am a Professional Designer in the Crafting Industry, I not only create content for numerous publications and various media outlets, I also create the very products seen on the show. I personally know many of the folks involved with the show and call them friends as well as a large percentage of the contestants themselves... to choose a winner would be akin to asking me which one of my three children is my favorite- it can't be done.

Rather than pick apart and rehash many of the criticisms and various critiques, I wanted to focus on something one of my students pointed out. Let me set the stage a bit first. This student is in her late 60's, is retired and spends much of her free time and resources on crafting. This student and her many friends had a "Craft Wars" party and insisted on texting me throughout the innagural show- funny as they are (and they are), these texts and running commentaries will never be published. Her words to me at the end of that first show were, "Sweetie why do they make it all disposable? They obviously don't get why we craft."

We live in an age of "reality tv" except, in crafting, the reality part of it isn't to hurry through and throw glitter on something, it is spending time to create something of lasting value. The reality of the world today is that people crave connection, real meaningful connection, not only with others but, in a way, themselves and finding the time to do so is tough. So many things are competing for our time, so many pressing "have-to-do's" and those immediate status updates manage to steal away our fingers and seduce them into doing something temporal rather than building something lasting. We forget that the moment we pick up a few items and decide to take the time to build something from those things, that we are empowered. The whole world could be going down the tubes yet, that one ability to make something from nothing, that deep core belief that we can indeed create a new outcome is like wearing a superhero cape in the face of impossible odds. Crafting links one set of hands to another, it in essence glues together our own humanity and adheres it to the timeline of history.

My take on Craft Wars is that it serves it's purpose as passive entertainment. My hope as a professional crafter and maker is that we collectively insist on functional art, on deliberate, purpose-filled projects that are thoughtful and well-made. The term "craft" or "crafting" should not be synonymous with crap held together with hot glue, with cheaply made or rushed through sparkling quick fixes, or with disposable handiwork... when one hears the term "crafting", my hope is that they hear, "this took time" and think, "Wow, they won the battle, the 'real' Craft Wars... they fought for the time to create something of value and won." 

 

Friday
Jul062012

Paradise

The other day I was catching up with an artist friend of mine on the phone. The topic moved beyond the normal "how'ya beens and whatcha workin' ons" to a deeper conversation about goals, the direction the art itself was taking in each of our lives, and our own individual struggles as moms, women, balancing life, and of course being creatives who can never manage to shut their heads off at night. My friend said, "My version of paradise right now is a convertible sportscar." I laughed thinking about all the bugs she'd swallow and how long hair tends to fly forward as opposed to flowing back all sexy like as she was imagining. My version of paradise was a cup of coffee in some side street outdoor cafe outside of Budapest at that moment I think, coffee she'd never drink no matter where it was served. It got me thinking about what it is that makes folks happy and how, although we are all human, our versions of happiness are as unique as we are. It made me thankful in that very second that we are not all the same, that our voices, our art, our experiences and stories are incredibly varied because, quite frankly, only we ourselves are qualified to define our own personal paradise.

paradise

Wednesday
Jul042012

Happy Birthday America

Friday
Jun292012

Being Watched

I can't help but be fascinated by various critters, especially those who seem equally curious about me. I happened to have just read an email from an editor who was informing me of a change in a deadline (moving it up of course) and out of pure frustration looked up to find a squirrel staring at me. I had been muttering under my breath, seeing the usual plaid that comes with frustration tinged with anger never once thinking that anyone or anything could be watching. I suppose this may seem odd considering that so much of our lives are constantly watched, catalogged, and otherwise data mined by various technological means and such. Nonetheless, here I was wondering what on earth this furry creature was thinking from its safe perch directly above me. I began to wonder if it had been a person sitting up in that tree if I would have changed my behavior in any way? Would I have filtered my thoughts or changed my words, would my sketchbook have been less raw or honest? Just a random pondering for today. 

a squirrel's perspective