Misha Ashton: I am a photographer, graphic designer and craft maker located in Portland, Oregon USA. [working on relocating to Wellington New Zealand by the end of 2009]
I have been taking pictures for as long as I can remember and even with the whole digital craze, I am still addicted to film. Most of all slide film cross processed. None of my work is photoshopped, everything is done either in the camera or in the developing process.
Leigh Anne Hilbert lived in the Bay Area, CA, US until last year when she moved to Asheville, NC, which is closer to Virginia where she is originally from. Leigh Anne is married to “a total geek who I am madly in love with” and they have a son, Elias Grayson, who is 18 months old.
Leigh Anne describes herself as joyful, energetic, compassionate, creative, nightowlish, resourceful, and a work horse. In her spare time she cooks and eats outside, watches Sesame Street on Youtube, reads, lives and thinks of what she is going to make next. Also? She is scared of stuffed animals. Be sure to check out all her stuff at Overlap Sewing. Leigh Anne uses organic and bamboo fabrics and her appliques are made from recycled vintage lace. Her bags are made from old coats. You can Fan her on Facebook.
How long have you been creating?
I have been making stuff since I was little. My mom taught me to sew, and my grandmothers were amazing quilters, so I grew up loving the old timey fabrics and patchwork. When I started drawing and painting in high school, a whole new world opened up for me and I continued to study art from then on.
Do you have a favorite type of craft you do?
Not really. I love working with different media, and letting the material speak for itself.
Why did you start?
My hands seem to want to have something in them.
Where do you get your materials?
Thrift stores, my favorite being the Goodwill clearance center!, art supply stores, junk shops, eBay, old ladies who have lace to give away.
Can you tell us a little of your process?
I usually like to try to work with found materials, then I let them give me some inspiration. Each thing I do is unique. For a while, I tried mass producing runs of certain shirts, etc…but I got bored. I really enjoy standing with a pile of fabric or lace and just playing with them.
How long does it take?
Anywhere from an hour to a month, depending on how much time I have!
Do you have a dedicated work area/room?
Yes, which is awesome. But when people sleep over I have to relinquish it.
Is this your full-time job? Hobby? Fun?
I do this part-time right now. I also teach art to adults with developmental disabilities.
Where do you get your ideas?
Everywhere. They are nonstop.
Do you have a best seller?
The Baby Bomber hat from recycled wool, and my women’s appliqued t-shirts do well.
What is your favorite?
I love those bomber hats, too. It was the first hat I made for my son. I love the design and the reuse of material. They look damn cute on! And I am not one of those to use the word cute all over the place.
What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?
1. Running a gallery/craft cooperative/studio
2. Making stuff
Have any advice for people trying to start their own handcrafted business?
Stick with what you like and do it well. Someone else will probably like it too.
When I came upon Maria’s booth at the Fenton Street Market, I nearly had chest pains. Her lovely little space was brimming with so much prettiness, I didn’t know where to look first! As a sewer, I am always drawn to lovely things made with fabric, and Maria’s creations were the prettiest fabric things I’d seen in a long time.
Maria makes a variety of jewelry and fashion accessories for her shop, called Little Blue Studio. She uses fabric, crystals, semi precious stones, wire, and even sea shells. Every item is a little bit different from the last, because she’s always looking for something new to make, and new ways to interpret old favorites.
In addition to her gorgeous flowers that become hair accessories, brooches, and necklaces, I was particularly impressed by her mermaid lures, jewelry pieces that are created from found sea shell fragments and pearls.
Not only did I find the concept of a mermaid lure undeniably seductive (like living in a fantasy novel!), I completely fell in love with her modern and unusual presentation of pearls. It’s so easy to dismiss pearls as old fashioned, but that would be impossible with Maria’s creations.
The imperfections in the found shell fragments are what inspire Maria to turn them into something gorgeous…to force viewers to see the beauty in something that was discarded and overlooked.
Maria comes from a family of makers. Sewing, cooking, gardening, carpentry, and many other creative pursuits made up her home life. Although she started her creative career as a painter, making jewelry became more practical as her family grew, and she needed to be more flexible with time. She was drawn to using fabric, because of her mother’s skill as a sewer, but is looking forward to incorporating more metalsmithing into her creations.
Maria’s favorite thing to make is always the item she’s working on at the moment! “When you make something, it carries an intangible to your customer,” she says. “The only way to do that, is to love what you are doing.” Maria believes that when you are no longer in love with the thing you are making, it’s time to move on.
Allison Taylor’s story as a crafter begins in a familiar way: she first learned to crochet at her grandmother’s knee at the tender age of six.
Despite her grandmother’s considerable skill as a fiber artist, not to mention her infinite patience, crocheting didn’t quite stick with Allison that first time around. Six year olds aren’t famous for their attention spans, so it’s not really that surprising!
It wasn’t until much later when Allison was a college student that she picked up crochet hooks and some yarn again. Although she had never gotten into the knitting, crocheting, sewing, and other fiber arts that her grandmother had mastered, Allison had always admired her grandmother’s talent and skill with needles, yarn, and fabric.
When her grandmother became ill and was no longer physically able to craft, due to side effects of a stroke, Allison was inspired once again to take up the craft she had not been able to master as a little girl.
She made her grandmother a blanket, to show her how much she appreciated her, and how impressed she had always been with her fiber skills. Blankets are still Allison’s favorite thing to make, and friends and family can count on one for a gift whenever there’s a wedding or baby on the way.
Allison was “hooked” on crochet from then on, and turned her hobby into a side business with her Etsy shop that opened in 2008. Although she has a day job unrelated to crafting, it in no way diminishes her fierce love for making.
The best part for Allison is having strangers own something she made with her own hands: “It’s a way of sharing something tangible with people across long spaces, which is so rare,” she says. “It’s really exciting and touching, and I never get over it.”
She also feels a connection to her grandmother every time she picks up her crochet hook, another feeling many crafters can relate to. The emotional connection associated with creating and sharing handmade goods is probably one of the big reasons handmade is so popular these days.
The most popular item in Allison’s shop is the best friends beanie, which also happens to be her favorite thing to make for the shop! Customers also respond well to her continuum scarves and continuum collars, with their unusual shape.
Like most of her creations, Allison let the continuum scarf emerge on its own, without too much planning ahead from her. Her general technique is to pick up her crochet hook and yarn, and experiment with different stitches until something she loves emerges.
You can find Allison’s crocheted gems in her online shop. If you see something you like but are fixated on a certain color, don’t worry because Allison loves to do custom work!
Some good advice from Claire & Me Designs.
We’re constantly being reminded that we’re living in a stress-filled 21st Century, then on the other hand we’re being slated for being stressed out. The truth is simple: stress happens. We just need to get better at coping with it.
We’re either ‘Too blessed to be stressed’ (the very idea of that is just utter garbage to me) or we’ve to ‘Keep calm and carry on’ (which works in the short term but is never a long term solution.)
I don’t have the answer to a stress-free lifestyle but it has become very apparent to me that stress is a Big Problem. After all, the newspapers are obsessed with it and it’s causes. Pharmaceutical companies seem to be making billions off the back of it. And we’re seemingly becoming more and more stressed out.
And I have reached the conclusion that filling your walls full of inspirational, quirky and fun stress-boosting posters might help. Such as this cute illustration by Laura George.
In all seriousness, though, it feels like we’re either doing too much or not enough with ourselves, our lives, our goals, our commitments.
We’re trying to juggle our happiness and meanwhile keep everyone else happy.
We’re smiling and nodding at the boss, telling them that yes we can do that bit of over time, all in the hopes of them furthering us up the career ladder.
We’re wives, mothers, fathers, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, daughters, sons and so on trying to deal with those relationships that life throws at us unprepared for and to ‘learn on the job.’
We’re crafters trying to push our latest project into making amazing sales. We’re photographers, dreamers, writers, intellects, artists and academics all looking for our break, our way into the World and for that penny-dropping moment of complete bliss and happiness.
Happiness seems like the anti-thesis to stress; wherever stress is, happiness is not. It’s like stress walked into the party and happiness walked out with it’s chin up in the air and a snooty snort as it passed stress as if to say; “Pft, I’m out of here! I’m not sticking around for any more of your drama!”
I definitely believe that happiness can be achieved in this life. I have experienced material happiness (as in the short-term burst of pleasure you experience when you buy something new for the first time) and I have experienced natural happiness (that long lingering and memory making happiness you get from wonderful life experiences) so I know this can be achieved. I also know that the majority of people in the World will have experienced the feelings I have described above – so happiness is real. It’s not some mythical creature that lives in a cave. It can happen to you.
There are no rule books on combatting stress (okay, well, not counting Chicken Soup for the Stressed Out Soul and all those like-wise books, of course) but there are techniques you can learn to avoid the impending doom of stress.
Again, here I go with the advice;
Befriend someone older than you. Most of my older friends have a much more laissez faire attitude towards life than I sometimes do. Like when I worry about wrinkles, my Gran will tell me; “You don’t have any wrinkles! Don’t worry about those things in your 20s, enjoy yourself!”.
Those who have more life experience just don’t care about life. In a good way. And spending time in the company of those who don’t sweat the small stuff will definitely have an effect on you. You will soon learn to loosen your grip on what does and what doesn’t matter – and wrinkles at 25? Perhaps, but what can I do? And does it really matter? Life your life without vain anxieties.
One time, while watching a programme about water-skiing my Gran (who can’t swim, let me remind you, but went down various water slides on a holiday in Spain when I was 8) advised me to “try things” in life. “I wish I had done that,” she told me, pointing to the screen where a terrified looking woman was being prepared for her first water skiing adventure. “You should do that.” Umm, while I don’t think I will take up water skiing just yet I think I will take her words to heart. Don’t sweat the small stuff, listen to your elders and heed their advice.
Do something you love every weekend. It doesn’t have to cost loads of money. What do you love? How can you do this for as little cost as is possible? Fill your weekend with things you love; eating chocolates and staying in your pyjamas all day? Doing housework while blaring music full volume? Taking pictures of old couples sitting on benches in the park? And if something does cost you some money, don’t STRESS about it – just let it be. You can make more money but you cannot buy a new heart (which will be in the firing line if you stress any more.)
Remind yourself that being a person is hard and you’re doing a good job. You’re not a terrible person. You’re not doing everything wrong (I go through these paranoid trains of thoughts about 1000000 times a day.) You’re not letting everyone down. You’re not disappointing your parents – and if they’re not happy with you, don’t sweat it, they’ll get over it and if they don’t? Well it’s still not worth stressing out over.
Get professional help if it’s needed. There are some things that need a professional. There is a lot of negative association with therapists, but if they work for people – how can someone say that is a bad idea? I have no stigma or issue with therapists. They provide a service and the process of therapy can really heal people. A lot of creative people suffer with mental health issues and it’s no laughing matter. Get help if it’s what’s required.
Knit happens. Knitting and other crafty projects can be very relaxing. Take on something relatively simple, something that won’t annoy and frustrate you and call it your Stress-Free Challenge. Whenever you feel the stress building up, take out the crafty project and work on that.
Take a chill pill. For years many have told me to “take a chill pill” and although I hate the sentence and every other emotion it drums up, it’s still true. Take a chill pill. Cool off and forget about things that don’t matter. If someone is being an opinion pusher and it’s stressing you – so what? They won’t change their minds about their opinions just because you’re right – in their minds they’re eternally right. Let it be.
Take time for a break. You make time in your day to eat, to visit the toilet, to do the basics so you can make time for a proper break in the day. It’s also very, very, very important that once you complete a huge project or task that you take some time out after it’s completion, stand back and take a deep breath. Appreciate that the hard part is done and now you can relax…until the next big thing.