Thursday, November 20, 2014

Arts and Crafts

Growing up, it annoyed me to hear "Arts and Crafts" said in the same breath. Like they're the same, if you did one you did the other. It annoyed me because I considered myself an artist, but not a crafter. And I really didn't want to be a crafter. I drew and painted and illustrated and created and experimented. I didn't craft.

Of course, I had a very specific idea of what crafting was. Crafting was what those moms with the clean houses did in order to make their clean houses all decorated and cute. They'd find some cute thing someone else had already made and follow the step-by-step instructions and end up with the same cute thingy to put on their cute, clean doors or tables or whatever.

(DISCLAIMER: there is nothing at all wrong with having a cute, clean house.)

I wasn't interested in cute. Or in cleaning for that matter. Getting paint all over myself, and the canvas--now THAT was something I could handle. And getting ALL the dishes dirty in the creation of a beautifully delicious pie, or leaving bits of paper all over the carpet after a snowflake cutting session. (Those are mandatory every winter. No exceptions.)

Snowflake cutting was the closest I came to crafting. But snowflakes were kind of brainy and creative, if you know what I mean--making them with six points is a challenge for awhile, but then you do them with five, and then with seven, or three (four or eight points was just too easy). I did it enough to kind of intuitively know what the final snowflake would look like. It always baffled me (still does, actually) that people would follow a pattern to cut a snowflake. I mean, seriously? You follow the directions on how to fold it--that makes sense. And then you make something unique and cool! You know, that whole every-snowflake-is-unique thing? You don't follow a pattern.  Seriously?

So if I was never really interested in crafting, why on earth would I apply for a job at a crafting company?

Easy answer: I didn't.

A fellow illustration major did. He was offered the job but didn't feel like it was the right fit for him. He ran into me on campus and mentioned there was an opportunity for a vector-based illustration job, and I was the only one he knew who really liked working in vector, so would I possibly be interested in that? Sure, I said. He told me that if he decided not to accept the job offer, he'd recommend me. They contacted me about a week later and it ended up working out, and there I was, working for Cricut, designing crafts.

So it wasn't that I applied at a crafting company, it was that someone recommended me for creating vector-based artwork.

My first project wasn't an easy one, and I can now actually talk about it because it's released for everyone to buy--the 3D Floral Home Decor cartridge ( So not only was I doing paper art, I was doing fairly complicated 3D paper art for people to decorate their cute clean houses with (I mean, Home Decor is right in the title) for my very first project.

And I discovered something about myself. I'm still not interested in having a clean, cute, decorated, trendy, etc. house. (I fit the disorganized artist stereotype pretty well.) What I am interested in is visual problem solving--figuring out how to make something work. And then how to make it better.

Some of the coolest flowers on that cartridge came from seeing something someone else had done and saying, ok, thats cool, but how can I make something even cooler? And some of it I just completely made up.

And it was so. much. fun.

And now I can't stop. I've designed and assembled about 5 new Christmas ornaments by this point, cut out on my awesome Cricut Explore machine. Its taken multiple tries to get them right, and my garbage can is full of failed attempts and the carpet is covered in paper confetti.

And then, when I've finally got something that works, what do I do? I might take a quick snapshot for instagram, and then I stick it on the shelf, along with the other final versions and a bit of dust (I don't clean, remember?)--and start a new experiment.

It was never really about creating something to display and look cool.

It's about creating something cool, period.

I think back on all the projects and mediums I've gotten really into--ambigrams, stained glass, even oil painting, and a freaking upside-down picture book--they have specific limitations, and then you have to take those limitations and say, ok, what can I do? What will work? To me, thats the most interesting reason to do arts and crafts.

Yeah, I said them together. Arts and Crafts.