What are you so afraid of?

1 May

March was National Craft Month, in case you missed it. Just the thought of it still makes thousands salivate over crochet needles and beaded lamp shades. In honor of this month dedicated to my weaknesses, I crafted. After all, I live with a man who handmade sets of wooden spoons and spatulas as Christmas presents for our family and his colleagues.

He cut, designed, and sanded bridal veil wood.

(I made photo albums on Blurb.)

So that the “from both of us” on the card wasn’t a lie, I applied mineral oil to the spoons and vacuumed up the wood shavings from the carpet.

Aaron will point out that he couldn’t have tolerated the tedious nature of organizing, loading, cropping, and designing photo books, but we all know the spoons are more impressive (photo courtesy of my mother-in-law):

Moving on from kitchen utensils, Aaron’s current project is forging steel to make primitive tools for termite excavation. He’ll be splitting logs in the Ecuadorian rainforest at the end of the month to excavate rare and (hopefully) new species of termites.

Wait, now it’s making beehives with dovetailed edges.

I can’t keep up.

But I understand why it’s so easy for my husband to complete these kind of projects and for me to never start them. He loves the process, not the end result. When it comes to challenges, I tolerate the process to get to the end result. At least when it involves things I’m not naturally drawn to, LIKE CRAFTS. But I took on this challenge because I need to fall in love with a process, not just the thing itself.

The Craft: Decoupage Boxes I refused to be intimidated by a good thing. I went full on Martha Stewart.

Mediocre Crafting 101: Eliminate all goals that involve the creation of something people actually want. This is bigger than Etsy. This is humility meets journey. This is acrylic paint meets spray lacquer.

How to decoupage (the noncrafter way):

1. Pick your boxes

I used this box plus two medium cardboard ones. Michael’s was low on wooden inventory and I hadn’t the strength for return trips to the poor man’s craft mecca. It was enough to cope with the fact that I was in a Michael’s on a Friday night.

2. Pick your palette

I used cobalt blue acrylic mixed with white plus the pearlizing agent (it’s supposed to make it shiny, but subtle be thy name). The ratio was about 1:4, white to blue;  and 1:1 paint to pearlizing agent.

3. Paint!

I painted two coats of the not-as-shiny-as-promised paint. While I obsessed over getting the final coat as smooth as possible (and still managed to have bumps), I found the overall act of painting rewarding and soothing.

4. Print & cut out designs

I printed out manatees (and a lone frog) onto silver wrapping paper. It’s easy to smudge, so be careful when removing it from the printer. I cut out each creature and prepped them for gluing.

5. Glue designs down

Gluing my little manatee mascots was satisfying. The frog was easy (and thus looks the best). Living in Florida, manatees are a current theme in our life. It started with a local mailbox, then a birthday present from my sister-in-law, and finally live manatee sightings. The ever faithful frog is a nighttime staple of our evening walks.

6. Spray with lacquer

This step is not in Martha’s instructions, but it does add a bit of shine to the supposedly-pearlized paint. After lacquering, I realized I’d forgotten to fix a glue smudge. This is when it’s helpful to remember nobody wants these boxes.


Professional noncrafter that I am, beginning this project brought on anxiety and resistance (read: procrastination). I wasn’t looking forward to confirming just how bad I was in this field. At the heart of this lived fear. No one’s expecting anything craftastic from me. But what if I do more than accept/make fun of my limitations? What if I kind of try and it’s still embarrassing?

Now I have these boxes you might find in a thrift store, not necessarily because they’re ugly or useless, but because in a couple of years they’re going to become clutter. The kind of clutter Martha would pity me for.

While I have no plans to join the crafting forces of the universe, I realized through this process that I could make something not hideous. I even got excited when I starting gluing the manatees to the boxes; the process gave me satisfaction even though I don’t plan to give the product to anyone. That wasn’t the point.

Comfort is usually a bad indicator of success. If you’re too comfortable, you’re not challenging yourself. If you’re not challenging yourself, you’re ultimately going to become unhappy. I never want to believe this in the middle of challenges but in the end, I come out clearer-headed and wiser every time. Challenge keeps us alive and hungry for more. Complacency deadens our senses and makes us lazy.  This goes for your own field, too.

My real fear is admitting that I want to write something more than this blog. That’s something I hope doesn’t end up at Goodwill one day.

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”
— Anaïs Nin

8 Responses to “What are you so afraid of?”

  1. EE at 3:49 am #

    First, I must say that I love manatees and boxes. 🙂

    Second, few people are natural crafters, even people who enjoy the process. We expect to be naturally good at things, but decoupage takes practice.

    Finally, your writing will never end up in Goodwill. I hope you won’t stop blogging though. I can almost hear your voice when I read your blog. 🙂

  2. Chris at 5:31 am #

    It is my belief that you did something good for yourself, by pushing yourself, by creating a challenge and then stepping up to the challenge. You are testing yourself and “pushing the envelope”.

    Perhaps you are preparing yourself for the big challenge–writing.

    In the end, others’ response to your boxes or your writing doesn’t matter. You do it for yourself–mostly.
    Popularity is a fickle thing. Just do all of this for you.

  3. Emily Hodge at 1:27 pm #

    Hey Kara! I actually enjoy making things but always feel like the result is so mediocre, especially compared to my mother in law who is an amazing seamstress, interior decorator, etc (actually my mom is really good at that stuff too) – BUT I have recently been introduced to how much stuff you can make with iron-on hem tape (pillows, table runner, bed skirt, tablecloth). I have to say that picking out fabrics in JoAnn’s is REALLY FUN – and I bet you would be awesome at that with your eye for design!!! (p.s. I recently started looking at the Young House Love blog – this started my obsession with iron on hem tape and other very easy projects :o) )

  4. Jaime Clemmer at 2:45 pm #

    Way to tackle your fears!! Martha would be so proud of the crafting couple. Love the new look of your blog!

  5. Laura at 3:13 pm #

    This is the first blog post of yours that I’ve read, but I love it! Your voice really comes through in the writing.

    I really feel the last couple paragraphs because I think I have been having the same thoughts. I just haven’t been able to put them in words yet. I want to write something great one day, but it is a scary thought putting yourself out there.

    Thanks, and keep up the great work!

  6. Catherine at 11:43 am #

    Go Kara!

    Pretty soon you’re going to be decoupaging furniture! Or writing books. Ok, probably writing books. (PS Let’s talk again soon.)

    And I second Emily’s recommendation of YHL. Not just because of their crafting advice (though I have learned to love iron on hem tape–I recently made some pretty awesome curtains for my parents’ house), but also because they make their living off of blogging, and got a book deal from it, and they’re just a good example of people making their living in an alternative way with their creativity. Plus, they’re an adorable couple. (And Sherry recently wrote a post about her experience with a sewing machine, and it made me feel so much better about myself and my pile of crafting failures: http://www.younghouselove.com/2011/04/ing-sewing-machine/)

  7. Kara at 3:17 pm #

    Thanks for all the encouragement, everyone. I will craft again–this decreased my anxiety quite a bit.

    As for Young House Love, Em & Catherine, I will investigate it more (in the past it has overwhelmed me). Trying not to be scared away by the words “sewing” and “iron on hem tape.” Although I think we’ve got the “adorable couple” part down, haha.

    @Laura, thanks so much for reading; what great work you’re doing with kids by giving them a hands-on education on the ocean. I’m sure you have many tales to write–can’t wait to read them!

    @Chris, definitely pursuing this for myself (although my humble hope is that my vulnerability will help others along the way).

    @EE, It was easier when I could just say I was bad at crafting, but of course you are quite right: back to practicing my craft it is!

    @Jaime, Glad you like the new blog design; I was going for light and airy, the black was weighing me down. I finally got around to fixing it. Crafting couple, haha!


  1. Mad Pen: a blog year in review « GOING SOFLO -

    […] 2011: Survive my first voluntary crafting project;  forget the rest of the month because I didn’t blog about […]

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