I’ve always admired the women who can slap together a few layers of colored paper, add some foil trim and sprinkle a dash of glitter to create a set of beautiful handmade Christmas cards.
Or the ones who assemble cute scrapbooks of their children frolicking through pumpkin patches and mountain snow; or those who have entire rooms dedicated to scrapping, sewing, knitting, and whatever else is hot in the arts-and-crafts world that season.
But I just don’t have the talent, or maybe the patience, to craft anything, despite repeated attempts.
Once, inspired by Mexican folk art, I decided to paint a stool. Halfway through the project, I grew bored, and my intricate detail became less and less intricate, eventually devolving into large swaths of solid color, then just unfinished wood. The stool ended up in a closet, never to be seen again.
Another time, I tried making a scrapbook for my friend’s birthday.
Scrapbooking is the mother of all crafts, making up a $2.3 billion industry, according to the Craft and Hobby Association, an industry trade group that, incidentally, has one of the least creative websites I’ve ever seen.
More than one-third of the country’s households “scrap,” as it’s called, so I was in good company.
Nevertheless, somewhere between the card stock and stickers aisles, I broke out in hives. Overwhelmed by options and my lack of creativity, I panicked and fled the store. I ended up printing some photos and just mailing them to my friend.
So it gives me a fair amount of angst that I’ve selected a Halloween costume requiring rubberized orange suspenders, pants with very specific black striping and an orange wig. in other words, it can’t be bought off the shelf. which means I’ll need to get over my fears and walk on the craftsy side.
I’ve started by consulting the Web for instructions on how to put this ensemble together. some who’ve made the costume, clearly those with far more artistic skill than me, have sewed together yoga mats, cut patterns out of layered duct tape, and spray-painted rubberized fabric. The experts created a handmade wooden mold into which they poured dyed silicone.
Any one of those steps – dying, creating a mold, using silicone – would give me trouble. a project that requires all three is way out of my league.
I turned to a crafting expert for advice.
Torrance resident and former art teacher Julie Hayman runs the Craft Caravan, an informal group of crafters that meets in Redondo Beach on a fairly regular basis to try their hands at embroidery, homemade gift wrap paper, stamp carving and anything else you can think of.
Julie’s not surprised by my craftophobia. many of us are so consumed by how a piece looks to others that we miss the internal joy of creating it. That’s why Julie designed the Craft Caravan as a judgment-free environment in which crafters are motivated by their own passion to create regardless of how it turns out.
“The Martha Stewarts of the world have made an industry out of making things perfect. For people who don’t have the same drive to have it be perfect, there’s a whole other world of crafting, too,” Julie says, which I take to mean there’s room for my cruddy, hand-painted stool.
I explain my dilemma – how I get panicky in art stores, how I lose patience and abandon projects after 10 minutes – and Julie assures me that it’s perfectly normal. she says there are all different types of crafters and pegs me as a “speed crafter,” one of those people who just can’t sit still for hours on end, preferring quick, simple projects.
With that reassurance, I pose the problem of my Halloween costume, which first involves sewing black trim on pants. Julie stops me at “sewing.” just get some fabric and glue it on, she says. Don’t even sweat it. “That’s the speed-crafting approach,” she says.
Relieved, I advance to the matter of the orange suspenders. Short of a minor chemistry experiment in my kitchen, what can be done?
Julie extols the virtues of duct tape – simple, easy to work with, and comes in great colors, she says. and so what if it doesn’t come out perfect?
It’s Halloween, Julie reminds me. The costume only has to last through the night, and I’ll have darkness on my side. No one will notice the imperfections.
After talking to Julie, I actually feel a lot better. The “speed crafter” diagnosis reassures me that I can still be crafty in 30 minutes or less, and her suggestions to keep everything simple – at least for a novice like myself – make me feel less overwhelmed.
Which is the whole point of working with your hands.
“If it starts to feel overwhelming,” Julie says, “that’s defeating the purpose.”
I just hope I don’t freak out in the glue aisle.
Former Daily Breeze reporter Renee Moilanen is a freelance writer based in Redondo Beach. Her column runs every other Saturday. she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.