Mmm. Watercolour Squares.

For #MakeMakingFun, I’ve been trying to explore the vast array of craft books I’ve accumulated over the years. It’s always so exciting to buy craft books or borrow them from the library. And then I let them sit. Alone. Unopened. It’s like the opposite of having fun with them.

It’s ridiculous and I’m determined to stop doing it.

So last week, I cracked the spine of a book I bought ages ago called Water Paper Paint, by Heather Smith Jones.

And I did the first and second projects in it. I thought I loved circles, but didn’t love making them in the first project. But the second project? The second project was making squares. Watercolour squares all connected in a colourful grid all cozy and wonderful. I think I’ll be painting lots more squares in the near future. Mmm. Squares.

watercolor squares, from Water Paper Paint

 

Want to join in on the adventure of having more fun making stuff? Get a #MakeMakingFun prompt every Friday in my newsletter!

 

A Mighty Ugly Recap of Maker Camp @ UBC

Group photo of Mighty Ugly at Maker Camp @ UBC 2015

The 2015 Vancouver Mini Maker Faire was the first one I didn’t attend, as a visitor or a Maker, since the event started in 2011. I considered cutting our road trip a week short so I’d be home for it, but then decided that would be the wrong decision. No regrets.

But imagine my glee when I got an email on the road from my friend Dave, who’s a prof at UBC and was organizing the second annual Maker Camp for tweens (this year’s was only open to girls aged 11-13), asking if I’d like to lead an afternoon session. He’d asked me to participate at camp last year, too, but I couldn’t due to a scheduling conflict.

So there I was on the road, trying to reply to his email while wrangling very spotty cell service. I’m so glad we were able to work it out!

I learned some things doing Mighty Ugly with a couple dozen tweens, much of it related to my usual refusal to do this workshop with anyone younger than the age of majority.

A Mighty Ugly workshop consists of three acts:

  • Act I: Introduction and (usually) awkward discussion.
  • Act II: Making an ugly creature.
  • Act III: Show & tell, and (usually) spirited discussion.

Adults take a while to warm up to the idea of exploring ugliness and failure and doubt, which is why the introductory conversation is usually short. I find that forcing conversation at the beginning of a Mighty Ugly workshop achieves pretty much nothing. So then we move on to the making. This is where things change. It’s kind of like magic. A few people dive in with gusto while a few others sit in quiet terror, and the rest start to slowly gather supplies. Over time, from what started out as a quiet gathering of uncomfortable people emerges a low hum, and sometimes a great cacophony, of chit-chat and mumbling. Eventually, the terrified people get moving. By the time the making is wrapping up and the first people are ready to introduce their creatures and discuss their experience, most people are willing, if not eager, to talk. Not all people. But most.

What I learned at Maker Camp is that my assumptions about children are true. Or, in scientific parlance more appropriate to having led this workshop in a bio-sciences lab, my hypothesis was supported.

The kids wanted to talk and talk and talk at the beginning of the workshop. They wanted to tell me about things they’d already made at camp, and meals at home that had become total gross disasters, and Lego gone awry. Eventually, I had to put my hands up and tell them about the making. At which point, the place became the happiest mess I’ve seen in a long time. No hesitation. No terror. Just a mess of making.

At the end of the making, a few kids wanted to talk about their creatures, but many didn’t. And there was very little cross-room discussion. No one seemed particularly interested in connecting their experience of making ugly things to their experience of the frustration or shame or sadness of failing at their usual projects at home or at school. No one found the activity to be particularly challenging. And that was that. Totally not what I expect, and routinely experience, from a roomful of adults.

It was such a fun afternoon, and I though I will continue to offer these workshops only for adults, I’ll also continue to make an exception for Maker Camp. I learned a lot about this age group that I’ll use to adjust the workshop for next summer, for sure.

Check out the Maker Camp @ UBC blog for more awesome photos of the session!

If you’d like to schedule a Mighty Ugly workshop (for adults) at your event or workplace, get in touch! It makes for a great professional-development session addressing team-building, problem-solving and general creative practice.

 

Happy Birthday, Make It Mighty Ugly!

 

image of signed copy of Make It Mighty Ugly

It was one year ago today that Make It Mighty Ugly was released into the world!

And what a year it’s been. Personally, this book took me all over North America, which allowed me to meet so many people and have so many fascinating conversations and see so many places I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. It got me on the morning radio here in Vancouver, which led directly to me facilitating my first professional-development workshop (something I’ve long wanted to do with Mighty Ugly). And the book led me into the arms of CreativeLive, which allowed me to go deep into the self-help aspects of Mighty Ugly (and to realize I don’t want to focus on the deep self-help aspects of Mighty Ugly anymore, which has allowed me to focus on what i do want to focus on, which is having fun making things).

Writing the book helped me work through a lot of my own lingering issues about making things and writing. Which led me directly into Year of Making. Which led me to no longer consider it completely out of my league to make (mostly totally shitty) art. Which led me directly into my new thing, #MakeMakingFun (which is, obviously, about having fun making stuff – you can watch the evolution of my thinking about this in my weekly newsletter; also, I’m working on a new book idea about it).

And there’s of course the very much not personal stuff that’s happened in the last year. Which includes people all over the world thinking long and hard about their creative experience. And trying new things. And feeling good about stuff that was making them feel bad. I get emails every so often from people who want to show me their ugly creatures. I love these emails so much. People have told me the book has really touched them and helped them. Sweeter words have never been said to an author.

Happy birthday, Make It Mighty Ugly! May you have a second year filled with fun, demon-slaying, and making stuff even if it’s ugly!

In honour of the book’s birthday, get 15% off signed copies in my shop and on Etsy, now till September 8th! Use code HAPPYBIRTHDAY15!

 

Chewbacca Costume for Halloween: The Search

As of last weekend, Owen has seen the whole original Star Wars trilogy. And he’s hooked.

So it was no surprise to me that he gave the following answer the other day when the topic of Halloween came up and I asked him if he knows yet what he wants to be: Chewbacca. Specifically, Chewbacca driving the Millennium Falcon. Good thing I asked him about this in August, because Greg and I will certainly need the time to engineer such a feat. With O’s help, of course.

The first thing I did, obviously, was take to Google to see what’s out there in kids’ Chewbacca costumes. I was not surprised to see loads of diminutive Yodas and Leias and Skywalkers, but I was surprised to see very few Chewies. Ewoks, yes. But very few Chewies.

Which was daunting, until it became exciting.

I did find some things worth noting, though. (Some are affiliate links because I’m toying with that) like:

and

and

and

R2D2 sweater by TheShabbyFactory on Etsy

and of course there’s wicked Star Wars crochet, like

Pattern for crocheted Yoda hat costume

and

crocheted R2D2 baby costume

and Greg found this, and I found this but decided not to buy it because we’re going to wing it instead, and this is just epic.

Greg will take on the cardboard engineering of the Millennium Falcon. Stay tuned!

 

2015 Reader Survey: Time to Get Real!

image for 2015 Reader Survey

With the start of the school year fast approaching (my boy will start kindergarten in two weeks!), my entire work routine is changing. I’ll only have about five contiguous working hours a day instead of eight. Yowza.

Now that I’m done spending several months freaking out about this, I’ve decided to use the dramatic change as an opportunity to get real in a variety of ways. I’ll need to be far more efficient with my time. I’ll need to be very confident the work I’m doing will generate income, because I’m losing the luxury to mess around and see if the mess turns into anything.

There’s only so much I can do within the vacuum of my mind, though, so I’m hoping you’ll help by telling me what you value most in my work, and how you most want to hear from me. I wrote up a survey, which should only take you a couple of minutes to answer. I want to be sure I’m creating work you want, and that I’m telling you about it effectively and in ways you enjoy. It is, after all, all about the fun.

Thank you so much, in advance! I’m very much looking forward to this upping of my game. I hope you are, too!

Take me to the survey!

PS For real, thank you. So pervasive was my months-long obsession with this impending change that it didn’t occur to me till last week to, like, just ask you. <3

 

Newsletters Newsletters

This week, CreativeLive held an online conference for makers that was all about preparing for holiday craft shows and the general holiday rush. One of the sessions was on email marketing, and it was taught by Abby Glassenberg, whom I’ve really enjoyed getting to know over the last few years, and who writes a truly ace email newsletter that supports her sewing-pattern business and her business-related blog.

Abby didn’t tell me ahead of time that she planned to mention my newsletter during her class, so the dozen or so new subscriptions that came in over a fifteen-minute period the other day was a happy mystery (after I determined they weren’t spam!). Eventually, I wondered aloud about it on Twitter, and was told about Abby’s shout-out. Which made it a very warm-fuzzy happy, indeed.

Also, Abby’s shout-out led to a major milestone in subscription numbers (note: I assume that most “successful” newsletters have far more subscribers than this; I may be wrong in assuming that; I love reaching exactly the right people through my newsletter and am not remotely concerned about numbers; at the same time, I’m totally celebrating that 1,000 people are interested in reading my words every week):

1000 TinyLetter subscribers!

I’m not sure what Abby said, but I do know my newsletter is different from many makers’ and authors’, in part simply because I don’t use MailChimp for it. The ironic thing, in fact, is that I stopped using MailChimp a while ago because I didn’t want to feel like I was MARKETING every time I prepared my newsletter. Instead of MailChimp, I use a system made by the same company, called TinyLetter. TinyLetter not only allows me to achieve my goal of connecting with my readers while also letting them know about work I’ve got coming out in the world, it’s actually designed for exactly that. Where MailChimp is designed to sell things (which is not at all a bad thing), TinyLetter is designed to help people connect. And that’s my goal for my newsletter: to connect with people. Yes, and also to let them know about my work so they can buy or otherwise support it. But I didn’t at all enjoy promoting my work through MailChimp, because I didn’t feel like I would also be able to connect with human beings through it.

I send my newsletter every Friday, almost without fail. It’s mostly about what’s been on my mind over the course of the week, and I include a prompt to help you have fun making stuff, and a list of links to cool stuff I’ve found that I think you’ll enjoy or otherwise find fascinating. You’ll probably enjoy the newsletter if: you’re into thinking about your creativity and your experience of making stuff; you’re into hearing what other people think about those things; you’re a fan of work I do like Mighty Ugly, Year of Making, or teaching crochet; you’re into checking out how different kinds of independent/freelance/creative businesspeople do their newsletters.

Sign up here! (Or, if you’re on my site and not reading this in a feed reader, there are links all over the place for it.)

If you’re struggling to figure out newslettery stuff for your own business, and something Abby said about my newsletter or something I said above sparked some questions you want to discuss, leave a comment! I bet your thing is something other people would like to talk more about, too, so we can have an email newsletter chat right here in public. I love talking about this sort of thing.

And seriously, Abby is brilliant. If you want to learn about email marketing from a master, take her class.

 

Heavy Contemplation: Ditch my iPhone for Android?

When Apple first released the iPhone, I was so there. I was so excited. I waited in line for ages. And my iPhone has been my constant companion ever since.

I’m not sure it will be for much longer, though. Last week I switched mobile carriers so Greg and I could link our accounts and I could have far better roaming when I travel to the U.S. The clerk helping us was friendly and chatty, and really knew her stuff. And as we were doing the paperwork and Owen was hiding in the furniture playing cars and Greg was half participating in our conversation and half making sure that “playing with cars” didn’t end up meaning “destroying property,” the clerk remarked that she’s a little surprised, because after talking with me for a while I seem to have the soul of an Android user.

I’d been telling her that I’ve felt increasingly frustrated with iOS, the operating system iPhones run on, and how Apple is doing with it what it’s done with its computer operating system over the years: they’ve made it so user-friendly it’s impossible to manage myself. (Except that I’ve figured out how to manage my computer how I want to; not so much the phone.)

I’m no dummy about these things. I’m not a coder, but I’m a fairly independent user of the tech I choose. I understand the cloud and how it works, I understand how my apps do and do not interact, and I can usually troubleshoot without calling in professional help.

But since Apple went all-in with iCloud, and wrangled its photo and music apps to integrate with it, instead of enjoying the new seamless blah blah blah, I’ve felt like I’ve lost control over my stuff, and I’ve felt frustrated because I can’t figure out how to get that control back. Sadly, I’ve come to a point where I no longer believe I can get it back.

So when the clerk said I have the soul of an Android user, I realized she’s totally right. I want control, dammit. I want control and functionality. I use my phone all the time. It’s an integral part of my business, and obviously also of my personal life. So it’s important that I see my phone as a useful tool rather than a thing I need to work around.

No longer does my enormous pile of iPhone apps, amassed over so many years, seem like a reason to stick with my iPhone. No longer does the convenience of an Apple Music family plan seem worth sticking with my iPhone. No longer do AirPlay and AirDrop seem worth sticking with my iPhone.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s no chance in hell I’ll ditch my MacBook Air. No chance. Nor will I ditch my iPad Mini.

The only kicker is that I got an Apple Watch for my birthday last month, and I think it’s pretty swell. I do not appreciate the terrible timing of my Android realization in relation to my acquisition of this watch.

Regardless, I started to read up about Android and Android cell phones. The woman walking me through initialing my new cellular contract specifically recommended the LG 4G phone, based on my mumbles and gripes. So I started there. And again, she nailed it. The phone is big, but not too big. It’s got a great camera. Consumer Reports rates it amongst the best smartphones (significantly higher than the iPhone 6, actually). And it’s less expensive than an iPhone.

Did you know that there are Android smart watches, too? Of course I didn’t know that, being such an Apple fanatic. But I know it now. And they do what I use my Apple Watch for. And, like Android phones, they’re significantly less expensive.

Because I only just switched carriers, and I brought my own phone with me, there’s a 30-day probationary-like period during which I can’t upgrade my phone. I see it like a cooling off period. If, by mid-September, I’m still hooked on this whole idea, I’m going to figure out the best thing to do with my shiny watch, and I’m going to take a deep breath and probably have a drink, and I’m going to switch to an Android phone.

Have you done such a thing?

 

Exploding Kittens: So Much Fun It Almost Killed My Mother

image of exploding kittens card game

When Matthew Inman, genius behind The Oatmeal, announced that he’d teamed up with a couple of game designers and was crowdfunding their collaboration, a card game called Exploding Kittens, I threw my money at them.

My game arrived while my parents were visiting a couple of weeks ago, and though we were just getting into a habit of playing Trivial Pursuit every night, I suggested they’d certainly enjoy this ridiculous game one night instead.

Obviously, we played the NSFW version. (Looking back, I’m surprised I went right there with my parents.)

And Greg poured us all some scotch while we were reading the rules.

Which is how it came to pass that during the first round of the game, the Bikini Kitten card led to some joke or another, which led my mom to pretty much inhale some scotch, such was the surprise and force of her laughter.

She’s hardy, though, so when she was done almost choking to death, she insisted we keep playing.

Which we did. More than once.

I’m very, very glad I backed the Kickstarter. This game is fun, man.