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Craftlandia

27 Mar

Back in early February, I attended a Buckler Craft Fair in Fort Lauderdale. These fairs are held all over Florida; this particular one was held in the same space as the orchid show Aaron and I went to in January. A few weeks later there was a gun and knife show there. Very different vibe.

I admit, I ventured into Craftlandia ironically. I even convinced my friend to join me because I needed back-up in case they could sniff me out as an imposter. I thought I might need craft cred. Would I have to show a glue gun upon entry? Was there a crochet test? Entry with children in hand-stitched garments required? Mandatory glitter donations?

I walked into the War Memorial Auditorium a professional noncrafter and it felt like that was cross-stitched on my forehead.

Then I started to walk through the exhibits and realized Buckler held a loose definition of the word “craft.”

Bedazzled

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So much to take in.

And the award for Best Bedazzled Tee goes to…

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And so began the “crafts” devoted to whimsical alcoholism.

This one just made me mad.IMGP0040

$5.00 for a poorly painted sign about drunkenness and denial? Is this your idea of custom home decor, Buckler? This is your woodworking?

I tried to move on, but there was this.

IMGP0042 I get that the manatee is supposed to be sad because the boats are making wake and he’s grumpy about it, but after walking a day in his flip flops, I think he needs a margarita. I hear it’s happy hour somewhere.

I feel like this is what outsiders think of Florida: cheap and drunk. On a podcast once, Michael Ian Black described Florida as full of people who’ve “given up.”

I get it. There are those people here, roasting themselves on the boardwalk…becoming beach “lifers” in the way of the older, cynical members of a chain restaurant wait staff. Vacations are meant to be temporary, and when your lifestyle is permanent relaxation, it gives you the illusion of bliss without any of the heart to back it up.

When I worked at the Olive Garden at age 21, I met lifers who never meant for a temporary job to turn into their career. I found myself trying to win over the 45-year old, grizzled veteran who reminded me constantly that I was in her way. She snapped at everyone, and I never saw her smile. It wasn’t until I crashed an entire tray of dishes onto the floor in the middle of the dining room and then amidst seconds of silence, stood up and took a bow, that she ever acknowledged me as a human. Her face lit up and she ran over to tell me that I handled that disaster in the best way possible. She smiled at me plenty after that.

I had a similar experience at the beach yesterday. I was unlocking my bike next to an orange man who wore the small black swim trunks and weathered skin of a lifer, and in my quick judgment, the pointed gaze of a creepy old man. As I mounted my cruiser to ride away, he smiled at me and said “and you’re off again!” His lighthearted tone encouraged me to smile. “Have a great ride,” he called as I pedaled away. Instantly he morphed in my eyes from creeper to sweet retiree who’s earned his beach bliss.

We pass out judgment like candy on Halloween. It’s an obligation to make ourselves feel better. I walked into the craft fair a noncrafter, so naturally I spent the majority of my time feeling better than everyone else.

“I’m a little bit country”

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Look, I’m from a small town in Virginia. My family is from southwest Virginia, which is even more “country” than where I grew up. Biscuits were part of life, but no one real has ever said this. And if they did, they read it on this sign.

Also according to this vignette country people “Cherish the Simple Things.” Like Santa Claus riding a rooster while hoisting the American flag.

And for further exploitation I bring you the following, sponsored by Comic Sans:IMGP0024

Look carefully, bet you can’t see me. IMGP0046

At this point, I told my native South Floridian friend we needed to seek refuge from stereotypes. I found the one place I am relatively snark-free: children’s hairbows. IMGP0032

I dare you to deny the cuteness of handmade hedgehogs and turtles. I bought these for our littlest nieces. They don’t know yet, so shhhh. Actually they can’t read yet, so it’s probably fine to reveal their gifts on the internet.IMGP0061

Fear the frame man

And now comes the portion of the post where I break a craft man’s rules.

Despite the darkness of the War Memorial Auditorium (as demonstrated by poor picture quality), no one objected to me (or other patrons) photographing the items for sale. I snapped photo after photo without so much as a “please don’t do that.”

My friend and I were looking at a series of framed prints. They were of animals, people, patriotic images, famous quotes, etc., but nothing out of the ordinary. No original art to protect here. We came upon this print and I snapped a photo:IMGP0052

My friend then took a picture with her phone thinking she might ask her formerly cat-hating friend who now has four cats if she’d like this. At this moment the craft man emerged from behind the frame wall and demanded that she delete the photo. He pointed frantically to a tiny sign we had missed with a camera and the “no” sign. I apologized and told him we’d missed the sign. Instead of being gracious, he hovered over my friend’s camera until she deleted the photo. He was aggressive and rude to a potential customer. She was considering buying the print and he’d now missed a sale.

Vengeance is ours, frame man. I shall post this crappy photo on the internet for ALL TO SEE!

So feel free to spread this as an example of how not to keep customers.

The Golden Girls

Finally my heart was softened again after meeting two retirees who sold banana bread. They’ve been doing it since 2010.  These Palm Beach ladies had labeled samples, aprons, signs, and enthusiasm. IMGP0049

Banana Nut Heads, LLC’s secret is the nut crust on the top. They have varieties of bread involving cranberry, apple, orange, and the like. I can attest it was delicious and bought a loaf.

The best part of their story is these two friends thought of this idea while having lunch together every day. If you choose the right people to hang out with and talk to them about your crazy ideas, you might just inspire each other to action.

It was a reminder of the other stereotype of Florida: 55+ communities. Seeing these ladies proves that these seniors haven’t given up; they just got tired of being cold. It’s never too late to make a dream happen.

And to close, I’d like to present you this final treasure of the craft fair: IMGP0037

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.

PROCESS VS. PRODUCT

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

I’m a professional noncrafter

12 Aug

Before I begin, a little shout out to my regular readers (you know, all 15 of you): thank you for tuning in! It’s easy to blog away being pretty certain only my fiance and my mom are reading this (except I don’t even think my mom reads this; blog-a-what?)

And I started this as a regular writing exercise with little or no expectations for it to be more than that. Then maybe two weeks ago, unsolicited, a former high school classmate wrote me a message on Facebook to tell me how much she enjoys reading my blog, noting that I still have the same sense of humor as I always did. And I think she’s smart and funny, so this gave me hope. And then last night one of my (almost former) colleagues told me she loves my blog, citing enough specifics that I believed her. When she mentioned my bit about shredding memories she had an “I felt that” expression on her face and this made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

After all, it’s a writing exercise I HOPE resonates with people. Or makes them chuckle, snicker, sigh, eyebrow raise, lean back in shock, or any reaction other than yawning. Unless it’s 6:00 am and you haven’t had coffee (but OMG, you’re reading my blog at 6:00 am? I love you while I’m still sleeping).

So, comment, yo! Maybe my ego could use it because I have another friend who’s especially good at blogging and being hilarious and I envy her. Lots. And I will copy her as much as possible. Just kidding (not really).

Now back to the title I’ve been teasing you with. I’m getting married in (gasp) 10 days, so I’m no stranger to wedding blogs and weddings sites. Most of them are ridiculous and are targeted at (as my friend aptly observed) high maintenance people. So I tried to go for the more organic ones for normal people. I found myself at DIY Bride, thinking I’d get some cool ideas; instead a got another dose of crafting insecurity. Khris Cochran (the self-proclaimed DIY Bride herself) started today’s entry (which was a review of the Glue Glider Pro) with “As a professional crafter, I…”

(Record screeches).

Did you just say professional crafter?  Let me explain.

I’m a mover (and a shaker).

I do things.

Sometimes I avoid doing things.

I am things.

Sometimes I even create things.

But I do not make things.

I repeat, Kara doesn’t make things! (When I say this I’m using the intonation of Joey from Friends when he says “Joey doesn’t share food!” You’ve seen that episode, unless you never watch TV because you are reading instead. Or amateur crafting.

Arts and crafts time at summer camp was the longest hour and a half 8-10-yr old me could imagine. Each minute felt like 10, each hour 100.  The days we weren’t making macrame anklets or candles (okay, I kind of enjoyed that), we got to go swimming. So while I was trapped in that screen porch-style room for 90 minutes making God’s eyes or keepsake lanterns, I daydreamed about the lake: frolicking on the beach, cannonball contests, and sinking the dock (where everyone stands on one corner of the floating dock and um, tries to sink it).

I loved swimming.

I hated crafts.

Attention crafters: I do not hate you. In fact, I’m in awe of you (and always feeling inferior to you). Like most people, I hate stuff I’m really bad at. Math, gardening, painting, crafting.

Some of you might know about the gardening craft party I was once invited to: talk about insecurity! I was sitting next to my artistic, craftastic, gardenista friend (also a bridesmaid) who is hand-painting an intricately-limbed tree onto a tiny pot while I’m using stamps.  And I couldn’t even do that! I told everyone my niece and nephew made the pot for me, but then I realized even they would not claim my smudged octopus and smeared seaweed.  I faired better in the gardening portion because I am good at following directions (when I’m paying attention and not cracking jokes to fight off my anxiety over failing at both themes of the party). Luckily my friends laugh at my jokes, so I had fun at the party.

I think the swimming/crafting debate perfectly summarizes me as a person. Crafting requires a great deal of patience and fine motor skills. A patience I have only for words and people, and the kind of fine motor skills I have only for…opening a bottle of wine? I’m drawing a blank, here. See?

This is a good time to point out that I failed the fine motor skill portion of  the ‘are-you-ready-for-kindergarten-at-age-4′ test. I blew it with block building. I could read but I couldn’t craft to save my life. Even at age 4, the experts knew I was doomed.

So I went to private kindergarten at age 4, made some terrible art projects throughout my childhood, and then arrived at the sewing portion of middle school home economics. Humiliation ensued. While I wasn’t looking my parents threw away my “basketball,” because really, no one needs to see that.

But I’ve made peace with my craft deficiency.

To this day, I still dive into the pool, lake, ocean (well maybe not ocean). I almost never do the “ease in, not going to get my hair wet” method. It’s just not me.

If I was a t-shirt I would say:

“Life is short: Jump in!”

This explains why I’m moving to SoFlo to meet new people and have a new life. Oh and marry someone who is very into arts and crafts. Comes from a family of crafters, in fact. He made his own beehive equipment. In high school, he made his dates’ corsages for dances. No, really, he was that cuter-than-cute guy. And I get to marry him!

I told him my sister became extremely crafty upon having her children and he said “maybe you’ll do the same!”

I wish I could be as crafty as my sister. Or his sister. Or his mom. Or anyone who is not me.

Alas, I am the antithesis of the DIY Bride: Professional noncrafter, that’s me.