Interview: John Murphy

October 27, 2010, 10:00 am  Posted by Craft Your Life Team

John Murphy is the author of Stupid Sock Creatures, the Stupid Sock Creatures Book and Kit, and Closet Monsters. In this interview, John talks about being a counselor at a camp for at-risk youth, his love for Zazmyrna Hoag and Julian Van Voon, storytelling, and agoraphobia.

John, you’re a very creative person who has the skill to both draw and sew. How do the two different mediums interact for you, and which one do you miss the most if you don’t do it for a month?

Aw, blush. Thanks. If I had to choose one medium to miss the most if art-abstinent for a month, I’d have to pick drawing. I draw and doodle all the time. It’s how I think and process my day. Trouble is, I really don’t spend the necessary time to really do an amazing, finished drawing. Most of my stuff is quick. But sewing is such an investment of time and situation. I have to plan for it, whereas with drawing, I can just whip out my sketchbook wherever I am and have a go. I’d probably wind up scratching doodles into the ground or finger painting in my own blood if it came to it.

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Recently, the craft Your Life team gathered for a lunchtime craft session and made Paste Paper. We had so much fun and made so much paper, we decided to give some away. You may recall last month’s post in which we gave away a few journals covered in paste paper, now a lucky reader will be able to use the paper for whatever project they wish.

We also had the pleasure of chatting with the very talented Diane Maurer who uses paste papers in her work and conducts workshops/classes on the subject. She has authored a lovely hand bound book on making paste papers. For more info, check out her website.

Paste Paper, A (very) brief History:

Paste papers have been used in bookbinding for over 400 years. Typically, they were used as decorative end papers as an embellishment after the pages were sewn together. Early Paste papers were monochromatic, using a burnt sienna or indigo blue pigment. The popularity of paste papers were at their peak in the 18th an early 19th centuries. They were first used in North America in the 1750s. Paste paper is still used today as embellishment or in illustrations. The popular children’s author, Eric Carle decorates tissue paper with a paste paper process, then cuts the paper to create collage illustrations. Check out how Carle makes his paste paper here.

On with the Freebie:

We are giving away a pack of the paste paper the Craft Your Life team made at our craft session.  To be entered for a chance to win the paper pack we’re giving away, leave a comment on this post by 9 p.m EST on Monday, October 25. One winner will be selected at random on Thursday, October 28. Click here for the official rules.

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UPDATE: Congratulations to Juliecache for leaving the winning comment as determined by random.org for our paste paper giveaway!!!

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Live from The Creative Connection Event!

September 17, 2010, 09:53 am  Posted by Craft Your Life Team

Hey there! I’m posting today instead of my usual Thursday spot because yesterday, I was in transit and then participating in the first day of The Creative Connection Event. So far, the conference, a women-driven networking and inspiration-generating event, has been truly delightful. It began with an Autograph Cocktail Party, where I was honored to sign copies of Craft Corps amongst other authors such as Kathy Cano-Murillo (who’s also my hotel roomie), Ree Drummond, Cathie Filian, Heather Bailey, Betz White, Kristin Nicholas, and so many more!

Post cocktail party, we were ushered into a grand ballroom set to accommodate 400 people, all of whom were treated to a hand stamped, silver necklace by Lisa Leonard Designs, and a gift bag filled to the brim with crafty goodies. The tables were beautifully decorated with vintage-inspired fabric (courtesy of keynote speaker, Amy Butler) and handmade, vellum lanterns. We spent a couple of hours eating, listening to keynote addresses (also with Mary Jane Butters) and a Q&A session.  The evening was capped-off by drinks with Cathie F., Brett Bara, Amy Butler (who’s become a dear friend, since interviewing her a couple of years ago for Craft Corps), and her publicist, Mallory.

Here are a few snapshots from yesterday’s events, to give you just a glimpse into The Creative Connection.

Candi Jensen, Michele Musaka (Simplicty/Boye) & Kristin Nichols

with Lark Craft's Nicole McConville

The Autograph Party Crowd

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Craft Corps: Jay McCarroll

August 05, 2010, 14:42 pm  Posted by Craft Your Life Team

vickiehowell Hey there!  Since it’s Project Runway day (the 2nd episode of the eighth season airs tonight, on Lifetime), it seems appropriate to post an excerpt from my 2008 interview Jay McCarroll included as a chapter in, Craft Corps: Celebrating the Creative Community One Story at a Time. Enjoy!

“I have a confession.  I didn’t start watching Project Runway until its fifth season. I know, I know, what was I thinking? Fortunately though, my oversight didn’t leave me completely clueless. It’s true that I may not be able to tell you much else about the early episodes, but I do know all about the first season’s winner, Jay McCarroll.  You see, word travels fast in the crafty world so when I heard that he included a bunch of knitwear in one of his collections, I immediatly tried to book an interview for my celebrity column in Knit.1 magazine.  Although that didn’t work out, we did get to chat a few years later when Jay so graciously agreed to be part of Craft Corps.  I talked to him from his New York apartment about fame, fabric and his love/hate relationship with fashion.

Designer, Jay McCarroll

VH: Crafting and fashion have always arguably been influenced by each other . Do you see that as being true in the current trends at all?

JM:  I just hate fashion.

VH: Well, that makes sense.

JM: I hate it! I hate the people. I don’t like the emphasis on luxury, sexuality and women wanting to feel sexy all the time. I hate the outrageousness of pricing and the importance that we place on a length or a width of a jean. It’s like, oh my God, get a life! I also hate when something really amazing comes through in a trend, and it’s like something that we’ve all known about for years. You know, like “Oh, that’s crochet,” and then it’s like, “Crochet’s so amazing,” and then like five seconds later, “Crochet’s disgusting”.

VH: So, it influences each other, but fashion would never claim it?

JM: It’s so funny, I went to quilt market this past season to launch my fabric line. It was so fun, and I left after three days not able to believe how welcoming, amazing, awesome, positive, down-to-earth everybody was–because for the past years, I’ve been involved with the nastiest, meanest, negative, bitchy, shallow, people. Going through that and now coming back to really what my roots is what I really love.

VH: Which is? What you really love is what?

JM: Just really playing with baubles and beads, and textures and fabrics, and colors.  Right now I’m doing these little necklaces, and I don’t even know what they’re going to be. I’ll probably put them on my website, but they’re decorated with coconut shells, washers, and little seed beads. They’re on a batik fabric, and I hand stitched the outside and then put them on a knit lanyard. I can think of nothing better.

VH: To switch gears, the underlying theme of this book is community. What role, if any, has crafting played in your own sense of community? Are you on the Web boards? Do you have some kind of group that you hang out with to be creative?

Inside the Crafter's Studio, with Jay.

JM: No, I stay away from the boards.  I think if I was anonymous, I would go on them, but I don’t want to give an opinion on anything. I don’t want anyone to give me their opinion, so, no, I don’t do that.  I wish I had a craft club. I had a friend that wanted to start one called Craftlete, like athlete. I’m a control freak, though, and a micromanager so, it probably wouldn’t work. Just last night, my friend was over and we were watching American Idol, and she was like, “Show me how to bead,” and I said “No, ‘cause you’ll steal my ideas, then you’ll get better at it than me.” I’m a freak. She got mad at me ‘cause I made fun of what she made. Terrible, isn’t it?

VH: That sounds like all the qualities that you said you hated about the fashion industry.

JM: I know!”

Read more about Jay in Craft Corps, in stores and online now!

For more information on Jay’s projects, check out his website.


“Like” Craft Corps on FaceBook


Steve Aimone is a nationally recognized arts educator, accomplished artist, and author of a beautiful new book, Expressive Drawing. If you’ve ever dreamed of being an artist, or simply want to try a new form of creative expression, you’ll want to get your hands on a copy. Based on one of Steve’s most popular workshops, Expressive Drawing will guide you–through skill-building exercises and playful exploration–to tap into your creativity and make works of art. The results are always surprising, and the journey, and discovery process, is a true delight. Watch the video and see for yourself!

Deborah Morgenthal is the editor of this photo-rich title, and she worked closely with Steve in the development of the book. In addition to Steve’s workshop approach, signature exercises, and uplifting profiles, Expressive Drawing also includes insights into art theory, and features works by legendary artists such as Paul Klee, Elaine DeKooning, and Brice Marden. I recently had the pleasure of talking to Steve about Expressive Drawing and here’s what he had to say.

Who is Expressive Drawing for? Can anyone do it?

The wonderful thing is that everyone can do this kind of drawing. In fact, we all do some forms of it in our everyday lives, whether we know it or not. When we sign our name, we give birth to a linear rhythm uniquely our own. When we draw a map for instance, we creatively employ line to indicate movement and direction. When we doodle, we give form to our internal stream of consciousness.

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One of the best things about my job is the treats I receive in the mail, often unexpectedly.  Recently that delight came in the form of tiny care packages filled with the loveliest colors of thread from fiber force, Rowan.  The company has teamed up with sewing world super stars, Kaffe Fasset and Amy Butler to create vibrant and luxurious thread collections, dyed to match their respective fabric lines.  For about $36 bucks, you can have Amy’s “Love” or “Soul Blossom”, or Kaffe’s “Circus” or “Stones” packs consisting of 9 colors (each) of the finest Egyptian Giza cotton thread!  Classic, gorgeous and brought to you by the creme de la creme of fiber designers; what could be better?

Kaffe Fasset’s & Amy Butler’s Custom Dyed Threads


Amy Butler’s “Love” Thread-Pack


I have to admit, I’m kind of partial to anything that Amy Butler designs and not just because I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing her for my book, Craft Corps.  I love her vintage-made-now sensibility reflected largely in her color choices which are always, just a step left of modern.


Love Colors L-R: Cool Water, Spearmint, Fresh Lime, Tea Leaf, Periwinkle, Melon, Rosebud & Wine.

“Circus” Thread-Pack


Kaffe Fasset holds a place on the throne in both the knitting and quilting worlds.  He’s a trusted veteran whose usage of color and placement have made him and icon in the industry.


Circus Colors L-R: Brick, Cinnamon, Red Rose, Lavender Blue, Amber, Spark Gold, Chartreuse & Tangerine

To get your Fassett and Butler thread, buy it online or find a retailer near you by entering your zip code here.



Travis Nichols interview

July 14, 2010, 14:49 pm  Posted by Craft Your Life Team

The following is an excerpt of Vickie Howell’s interview with Travis Nichols. The full interview can been seen in her book: Craft Corps

VH: What’s your first craft-related memory?

TN: In second grade, I used to make pop-up books in school with a couple of other kids, just for fun. I learned how to make springs out of paper by folding pieces over on themselves. Then, I would pop out stuff like monsters, swords, or things like that.

VH: Is there a moment from your childhood connected to craft that really stands out for you?

TN: Indirectly, my mom and dad always encouraged us to be creative and make things.

VH: Were they artists themselves?

TN: Yes. My mom’s now a full-time photographer, after teaching for 30 years. My dad was primarily a musician. My uncle was an artist. So art is always something I’ve been around, and people have encouraged me to do it.

VH: Do you have a memory as a professional artist that will always stick with you?

TN: When I had my first solo art show, I realized that aside from just making crafts and art, I really like putting shows together and packaging the things I do into presentation form.

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An Interview With Subject Matter Studio

April 13, 2010, 11:17 am  Posted by Craft Your Life Team

Andrew surrounded by his prints

Friend and fellow designer/screenprinter Andrew Findley has been super busy cranking out some amazing work under the banner of Subject Matter Studio. I had a chance to shoot the breeze via email and this is what he had to say…

How long have you been screenprinting?

I’ve been screenprinting since mid 2007. Before that I was designing posters and paying to have people print them for me. With the help of a few friends and websites like www.gigposters.com I was able to learn the art of screenprinting.

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