Over the course of the third week of my second year of making, my days ranged from one extreme on the make-o-metre to the other. On one day I spent a couple of hours making soap; on the next I spent a few minutes cutting that soap. One day I made cookies with my kid. The next day I spent an hour making bath fizzies with him (not pictured, but a post on that is coming) and I also spent an hour and a half making dinner (and I didn’t hate making it, and it was freaking delicious – both of which are rare for me). The deodorant was a quick thing to make, but I’m thinking about it daily as I assess how effective it is. The knitting is for a soap experiment (more on that when it comes to fruition). And yesterday’s making has no picture, for I spent the day in a pain-free haze of weird migraine aftermath, so my making yesterday consisted of acquiring some ink pads for stamping.
One of the unexpected results of my first year of making was that my kid saw me making stuff all the time. When he was a baby and young toddler, I did the vast majority of my making when he was asleep, but I started making stuff daily right after he turned three, and it’s just become a normal thing in our home. And that means that he’s making more stuff, and he’s more engaged in why and how I make the things I make.
So imagine my surprise and delight when, as I worked away on my newly started Age Before Beauty Blanket last weekend, he asked if he could learn how to crochet.
And then yesterday he was in my studio and, though they’d been on a shelf for ages, he discovered the mascot I made back in 2007 for the book tour Shannon Okey and I went on to promote our books for teens. And he also discovered the very first amigurumi I made, which for some reason I can’t recall has no eyes. His excitement has me itching to make a new creature sometime soon.
The fourth annual Vancouver Mini Maker Faire was last weekend, and this was the first year I wasn’t at all involved with putting on the event. It was so wonderful to take that break! I was able to fully enjoy the wonder of it all, which is very nicely captured in this short clip from Shaw TV. If you’ve never been to a Maker Faire, perhaps this will convince you to find one. (The “No rules without paper hats” bit comes from one of the makers featured. I love it!)
Owen’s come to the event every year since he was a baby, and this time he was really able to get something from it. He and Greg did a workshop where Owen made a tiny planter out of Lego, then planted microgreens in it. He’s been taking care of it daily, and was so proud of himself when he made it. Aside from that, he was, unsurprisingly, most taken with anything to do with vehicles – models, Lego, pedal-powered.
I may not have aided in the planning of the event, but of course I participated. I taught a Mighty Ugly workshop on Saturday, which I wrote about a little on the MU site. Some pics from that workshop are in the photo gallery, below.
I also moderated a panel on making money as a maker, and the four panelists were amazing. They shared so much about the highs and lows of their experiences, and gave some very wise advice.
And I gave my own talk, which I approached as a testing ground for a much bigger talk I’ll be giving later in the summer (more on that when the cat’s out of the bag). The talk was about the stories we tell ourselves about failure, and I had a really great time putting it together. I’m glad it didn’t crash and burn, because I’m looking forward to fleshing it out and really polishing it over the next few weeks; if it had sucked and I had to start over, well, that just wouldn’t be super fun.
Grand plans for outrageousness are already underway for next year’s event. I can’t wait!
He refers to these now as “old machines”.
I phoned the payphone. Greg and I asked him to put on Owen. O said hello, then handed the handset back to Greg and asked him to put it on speaker.
Here’s Owen and the Lego planter he made!
Best popsicle I’ve ever had in my life.
There were kid-oriented activities all over the place.
I learned how to cut paper. Rather, I allowed myself the time to sit by my friend Rachael Ashe, a paper artist, and take my knife to paper.
That’s a picture of Rachael with the kirigami snowflakes(ish) she made during the event, alongside the index card I cut triangles from.
Have I mentioned that I started a little blog about my adventures reading with Owen? I think I forgot to tell you. It’s called A Short Read, and you should take a look if you have kids in your life or occasionally find yourself having to choose books for them.
Like with most things I’m passionate about, I have opinions about kids’ books, which have been a part of my daily life for the last three years. I wanted a place to write about the ones we love, since I’ve found it hard to find solid reviews of kids’ books that aren’t drivel. By which I mean I want both reviews and books that aren’t drivel.
One of the books I wrote about over there is called Dinosaur Rescue! by Penny Dale. It’s a gem, and one of Owen’s favourites. When I published the post, the book’s publisher got in touch and asked me to write a guest post for them about my experience with Owen’s very stereotypically boyish interests.
And so I did. You can read the post here. If you like it (or find it flawed or infuriating or whatever), leave a comment over there, eh? Maybe they’ll ask me to write for them again. I really enjoyed it.
As New Year’s Eve approaches each year, I usually do several round-ups here on the blog – of books I’ve read that year, of apps I can’t live without, of crafts I made.
I managed to get the book post in this year, but at 2pm on December 31st, the rest just ain’t gonna happen. So I’m going to try to sum up all the year-end thoughts into one post that will hopefully end up making some sort of sense.
Certainly, the most salient part of my 2013 was writing a book. It was at the very end of 2012 that my publisher started showing an interest in picking it up, and I finally started writing the thing in late March. From then through October, it was pretty much my whole world. I think the book might be a little unusual – we’ve tossed around calling it a handbook for vanquishing creative demons – in that it’s made up of lots of personal essays, some brief features on other people, and a couple dozen exercises I would have liked to have encountered before I started thinking concretely about the role I want creativity to play in my life. Anyway, I like this book very much. It’s flawed, naturally, and I kind of have it in my head that I’d like to write another book sometime, and do it better.
As I look ahead into 2014, the coming year will still have this book at its centre. Leading up to its release early in the fall, I’ll be ramping up this here blog, getting my email newsletter in order, trying to line up speaking engagements and workshops, and generally getting into shape to spend the last quarter of the year trying to get the thing into as many hands as possible. Which should be fun, because I think the book is fun, and I think people will find it fun (if not also challenging and maybe scary, but in a good way).
This was a heckuva year in making. During the book-writing months, just like I hardly read books, I didn’t make much, either. But I did achieve a lot that I’m proud of. First and foremost, I sewed my first two garments – a pair of tiny newborn pants for my dear friend’s daughter, and a beach robe for Owen for our trip to Mexico a couple of weeks ago. Which means that this year, I sewed from paper patterns for the first time, and I sewed things I needed to be happy enough with to send them out into the world. The pants weren’t perfect, but that baby wore them all through a hot summer.
And the robe? Man, I’m pleased with the robe. Do you see how much bias binding is on that thing? Something I’m glad I didn’t know when I sewed it: apparently, set-in sleeves are not considered to be simple. I’m glad I didn’t know that, because I had no trouble with them at all. Then again, they’re one of the few knitting/crochet-related things that translate perfectly into sewing: line up the seams, dude, and smoosh the rest in evenly. And Owen wore the robe every day on holiday after he went swimming. It’s big enough that it should keep him warm through the next couple of summers, too. All from one Ikea bath sheet!
So I’m entering 2014 with an eye on sewing a lot more. Will I finally make some clothes for myself? We’ll see. Perhaps I’ll refuse to learn that planning darts is difficult, so I’ll just do it and not look back.
By the beginning of December, I was more fried than I recall being in years and years. From the time that Greg finished his dissertation toward the end of 2012, we just hadn’t really taken a break. And it got to the point that even the most minor aspects of navigating life seemed impossible to tackle. After just a couple days on holiday, all of life seemed easier. And toward the end of our weeklong trip, I dreamed up a series of crochet designs – literally. I woke up one morning with them all planned out in my mind. That was pretty fucking awesome, and really drove home how much I hadn’t been feeling at all creative for a long time. In the next few weeks, I’ll start toying around with those designs. Maybe they’ll go somewhere.
And business. What a year 2013 was. The book, right right. But also The Holocene. Remember that? I started off 2013 with a tremendous amount of excitement about starting up a digital crafts magazine. Then in June, that project fell apart. It was disappointing, to say the least. It was also somewhat alarming, because it happened suddenly, and I’d made plans around it. Like, I’d planned to spend the second half of 2013 working on it quite a lot, and aiming for it to pay off in, you know, cash money in 2014. When it was suddenly no longer a thing to work on, I was in the throes of writing the book. When I finally surfaced from the book in the fall, I realized I just didn’t have much paying work lined up. This was a bad scene.
I aim for 2014 to involve a lot less speculation and a whole lot more paid contracts. I’ve been enjoying editing self-published books tremendously, and plan to try very hard to attract more contracts of that sort. And I want to pitch more writing to magazines. And I’d like to get back into collaborating more with people on projects that aren’t massive and all-consuming, but that involve the magic of a whole equalling more than the sum of its parts.
So let’s sum this up. In 2013 I learned a lot of things: I learned that I can write a 50,000-word book, and that I enjoy doing such a thing. I learned that daycare really is the best freaking thing in the world for my very social child and for our entire family. I learned that I can sew clothes. I learned how to play a song on the ukulele. I learned that sometimes it takes nearly three years to feel like having a kid is the new normal. I learned that I can and should pursue new and old friendships relentlessly. And I’ve realized I need to get my shit together and aim higher.
I don’t make resolutions, but I do set one or two very high-level goals. In 2014, one goal is money. I need and want to make enough of it that it’s a source of relief rather than stress. Another goal is professional definition. Not like dictionary definition, more like muscle definition. By the end of 2014, I want more work to be coming to me than I get from chasing it down – which means that I want people to know me well enough for my skills that they seek me out, be it for editing, writing, speaking, workshopping, consulting, whatever.
And that, as they say, is that.
I hope you’ve had time to reflect on the last year and look ahead to the coming one, and that all your goals are real and achievable and that you maintain the audacity to make them happen.
It was nearly a year ago when I met illustrator Lisa Cinar at Got Craft? and fell in love with her Draw Me a Lion line of drawings for kids to colour. I bought Owen a poster of cats that we all coloured on and off for a week. We had so much fun, and fell in love with those cats, so we put the poster into an Ikea frame and it hangs in Owen’s room.
For Hanukkah this year, I’d had it in mind to pick up Lisa’s other poster, of dogs. But then I learned that she’s just published a new colouring book of flags and pennants, and was having a launch party yesterday at the ever fabulous Collage Collage. I love that Owen’s getting old enough to participate in events like these, so we drove across town to celebrate.
Obviously, I bought the colouring book. I have it in mind to put flags up all over our house.
Greg made the space-alien flag. I love it so much.
Seriously, Collage Collage is one of the best kids shops in all of Vancouver. Their expertly curated selection of books spans little-kid stories that are stunningly illustrated to gorgeous books for adults. Naturally, Owen wanted Greg to read him the book about diggers.