Crafting The Holidays

winter holidays

Every crafter can cite chapter and verse all of the reasons to make your own decorations and gifts for the holiday season: they come from the heart, these are the kinds of items from which memories are made, they’re unique, sometimes one-of-a-kind pieces, and last, but not least, crafting decorations and gifts saves money. It’s an impressive enough list to start even non-crafters thinking about joining the fold.

Okay, you’re hooked, and chomping at the bit to get started. There’s just one little problem, though — where do you get project ideas?  You could go the usual route, and leaf through craft magazines, or browse crafting web sites, all perfectly acceptable. It’s just that sometimes that almost seems equivalent to buying the gifts and decorations. You’re going for that real “made it myself” feel, so there ’s only place to look for inspiration — your world. Like any artist, you need to draw on the things you come into contact with every day.

Four women, all either professional or hobbyist crafters, agreed to talk about how their world provides them with inspiration for new projects. When you read their comments, you’ll be surprised at just how much there is around you to draw from.

Paula Krapf is the Chief Operating Officer of Author Marketing Experts Inc., a consultancy that designs marketing campaigns for self-published and print-on-demand books, but she is also a dyed-in-the- wool crafter. Here’s what she had to say:

“I’m a hobbyist, in scrapbooking and rubber stamping, and I find inspiration a number of ways. The first is through the magazines I receive, which always show off new techniques and products. Rubber Stamping Madness, Simple Scrapbooks, Memory Makers, Paper Crafts — those are a few of my mainstays and I look forward to receiving them.

“However, since I have a great stash of ’stuff’, sometimes the best inspiration comes after I dig through my stuff and play around. Each year I make a minimum of 50 hand-made Christmas cards and another 20 to 30 hand-made Hanukkah cards. I literally open my drawers full of rubber stamps, pull out my inks and start stamping with different colored inks, and then throwing in other techniques, such as watercolors, pencils, embossing, etc., until I find the designs I want to use for that year. Each year has to be different, and many of my friends and family say they look forward to receiving a unique design each holiday.

“Although I have a lot of product on hand, I usually have to buy more product to make the number of cards I need to send out, and when I’m in the craft stores I always scope out new items I’d like to incorporate into my work.”

Jennifer and Kitty O’Neil are sisters, authors of the book Decorating with Funky Shui: How To Lighten Up, Loosen Up, and Have Fun Decorating Your Home (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2004), and the granddaughters of Chic Young, creator of the comic strip Blondie & Dagwood. Their crafting, do-it-yourself decorating, and flea market shopping articles appear in numerous national magazines and Web sites. Because the O’Neils are professional crafters, they are constantly on the line when it comes to finding inspiration:

“We are craft writers, and we have to come up with fresh ideas on a regular basis. We do a lot of home accents and gift crafts in our magazine columns, so for inspiration we often go to high-end department stores like Bloomingdale’s and look at what they have on display. Then we brainstorm craft projects that use the same color combinations, materials, or overall look. Great for trend watching!

“We also look for non-traditional craft materials at unusual places like hardware stores and auto parts stores. We saw real copper pipe in the plumbing section of Home Depot and ended up using it to make a gorgeous copper screen room divider.

“When we craft, we always start by making an imperfect prototype before finalizing that craft for a how-to. We make all kinds of mistakes on that prototype before we try to make the final one.

“One of our favorite holiday projects is making felt animal Christmas ornaments. Felt is a natural for Christmas, and it is so easy to work with — it’s great for crafting with kids. You can make the ornaments as simple or as complex as you want. We like to add sequins and outline the shapes with embroidery thread in a complementary color.”

Marieka Heinlen is a classic example of how a crafter’s skill can translate into other parts of her world. Marieka illustrates books using a collage of ink, paint and fabric. A recent work project had her relying on her crafting abilities:

“A new series of board books I’m working on (Toddler Tools) inspired me to come up with a way to play with kids and learn interactively at the same time. As a new mom of a toddler, I am just starting to try to reinforce the good social skills and values we read about.

“To bring the characters in the books to life, I cut out small figures of thick paper and glued them to craft sticks. I bought the paper, craft sticks and fabric remnants at a local nonprofit art scraps store that runs on donations. I cut out small, basic clothes from colorful fabric and helped kids ‘dress’ the puppets by gluing the fabric on with white glue. We used crayons and yarn to make faces and hair to look like individual kids.

“From there, we act out scenarios from the books, whether it be sharing, cleaning-up, manners, or taking a nap. For instance, for working on manners, one puppet (kid) can hand another puppet a gift drawn on a post-it and then we practice saying, ‘thank you’ and ‘you’re welcome’. For sharing, you can pass a toy drawn on a post-it back and forth, and use nice language about taking turns.

“Each play theme is based on one of the books, but this can be done with any favorite book that teaches lessons or social skills for small children.”

The next time someone asks you what you’re doing and you answer, “I’m working on a craft project,” be sure you say it with pride. Because, as these women illustrate, it takes the ingenuity of an inventor, and the design and color sense of an artist to create what you’re about to make.

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