Polka & Bloom on Etsy

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Getting to know you - Sara Delaney

Blimey, I've had a busy week! What with all the Christmas cookie baking and preparing for our annual 'first Saturday in December' thing with Tony's family. But it's aaaall good.

Something else that's also good is that we have a new interview! This week with Sara Delaney of Chicken Betty. She's a very crafty lady and I'm so happy she let me interview her. Yay! Enjoy the interview and don't forget to leave some comment love for Sara when she sees the interview. :-)

Briefly describe yourself and what you make
I am an almost 33 year-old mother of 2 who has been happily married to her high school sweetheart for 11 years. I am slightly crazy, everyone in my family will confirm this but they all are too. I make what I like, what makes me smile. I try to make comfort, I guess. A doll to hold, something to cuddle with, something that makes you feel special when you put it on.

Who or what inspires you?
Oh everything. Brace yourselves for the onslaught of cliches; My kids, sunrise skies, my marriage, color – everywhere!, Kristin Nicholas, Gail Callahan, music, good food, old hollywood costume design, Edith Head, the utterly overwhelming treasure of other crafters in the blogoshpere (I’m a bit of a lurker in MANY places), Andrew Wyeth, trees, you know, stuff.

When / how did you learn?
Wow, I learned so much from so many different people over the years. My Memaire taught me to crochet when I was 7. I bugged her for weeks to teach me how to use ”that hook thing with the yarn.” She finally gave in and showed me how to chain. Great, 5 minutes later I wanted to know the rest. She said she wouldn’t teach me anything else until I could chain with my hands behind my back. She must have thought that I would give up, be too frustrated to go any further, so she wanted to make sure I was committed.

It took me a week.

I had a wonderful art teacher in grade school who really opened my eyes the the posibilities of different mediums. We would paint with ink, sculpt with paint, build trees from tissue paper and how to see color in everything. I also had ambitions of being a fashion designer and she would help me with my sketches. She sponsored an art show for all the students each year and I won first place in 4th grade for a pastel of a snowy owl and in 6th grade for and oil crayon drawing of a squirrel. To this day I think I can only draw animals.

Memaire taught me to knit when I was 9 and I spent all of 4th grade knitting horrible double stranded, two clashing color squares of bad acrylic yarn that I NEVER did anything with. My 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Melville, taught me how to cast/bind off. In 8th grade I took a workshop at the local Boys and Girls Club and learned counted cross stitch, then I taught my Memaire.

In 8th grade I also had the amazing fortune to be in a school that had a declining history of home economics classes. There was a whole classroom full of working Singers and an industrial serger – the kind of machine that gave me Stephen King themed nightmares - and there were only 3 students. I got to have pretty much one-on-one instruction in clothing construction and design from an amazing woman named Ella Getty. She also helped me put my prom dress together – over the phone.

After high school I was pretty much self taught in whatever I decided to try with one last exception. I spent my freshman year at Hofstra University in Hempstead, Long Island NY. I was a music major with a theatre minor and to pay the bills I worked in the costume shop. I thought my sewing skills would come in handy, and they did for about a week before the amazing Deirdre McGuire and her assistant Tim taugt me all the shortcuts and secrets to faster easier sewing. I also learned the basics of pattern making from Tim, and set painting from a class I took with Deirdra. I still have a scar on my thumb from the utility knife I used to cut my final project off its frame.

When we were 19 my then boyfriend – now hubby – and I took our first camping vacation in Vermont. While there we found a great littel book shop and dicsovered Klutz Kits, one of them was for polymer clay and we spent the rest of the week working through all the techniques and by the time we went home we were cranking out Millefiori beads and little figurines by the bowlful. I taught myself how to make jewelry to feature the beads we made. I also worked at a major retail craft store for 3 years coordinating all their workshops and I was lucky enough to learns lots of little bits and pieces that way. Everything else I do is a mish-mash of things I’ve learned in the past and whatever crazy idea I have in my head at the moment.

Why do you 'bother' to make things by hand?
I think I make the kinds of things that the women in my family would have made 4 or 5 generations ago. Besides crafting I do lots of cooking, we don’t eat out very often. We also make our own maple syrup, violet jelly in the spring, apple cider and apple sauce, my husband brews beer and mead, my sister cans and is an amazing gardener. I thinks its a way of reconnecting to ... our past, our family, the earth. Its a way of slowing down, its a way of teaching my children that life is not disposable, that being involved in the ”making” of your life is important

What is your craft ”philosophy”?
For me, craft is a crime of opportunity. My craft – whatever it happens to be in that moment – is whatever I need to make in that moment. Sometimes I need gifts and so I use my skills to create something for the person on the receiving end, something they will enjoy and use or wear. I don’t expect someone to appreciate something just because I made it. Sometimes I need to relax, so I’ll knit something simple. Sometimes I need to feel challenged so I’ll try something new or give a second go on something that I’ve yet to succeed at, right now that challenge is quilting. Sometimes I need some sparkle in my life and I’ll go make some jewelry. Othertimes I *gasp* use craft as an excuse to escape my husband, kids and household responsibilities. I recently found out that a good friend is expecting her first child, my husband’s response was, ”Great! Now you have an excuse not to do the dishes for a week.” But really, I just like making stuff. Glue gun, needles, hook, fabric, yarn, clay, beads. Its all fun.

Fondest craft-related memory?
I seriously enjoy spending time with my sister, she’s my only sibling and we both have a twisted sense of humour. We run parallel in many of our crafting endeavours but we rarely cross paths or collaborate because our senses of style and creative processes are so different. So I was thrilled when she wanted to work together on her wedding dress, my maid of honor and my daughter's flower girl dress. We sat side by side on the floor of her living room, with our sewing machines on her coffee table for a whole weekend. We laughed, drank tea or wine, depending on the time of day and sewed our love for each other and our family into those dresses. (I would have included a picture of her dress but I don’t have one that I can get out of its frame and my scanner doesn’t like to take images from behind glass!)

How do you deal with crafty mistakes?
’Scuse me? I meant to do all that! They aren’t mistakes, they’re character...and a great way to learn how not to do something that will waste your time and your money in the future. There are a select few in my family that are happy to make homes for my mistakes. Usually the mistakes are something that only I would notice but it gives my family yet another reason to make fun of me. Its a favorite family pasttime, if we don’t pick on you, we don’t love you.

Favourite book(s) or craftbook(s)?
Nope. I was a big Martha Stewart fan for a long time but somewhere in my mid twenties I realized that I didn’t want to work up to being like Martha, I just wanted to be myself. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Tolkien fan, since childhood. I have an original paperback set of the trilogy, it was my Dad’s. I have been reading Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time Series, someday I will make an Emond’s Field shawl, someday.

Do you have a designated craft space? What does it mean to you?
I have two, one out in the garage for sewing and jewelry making and one in the house for all my yarn. The deciding factor? Mice. There aren’t any in the house. That and our house is only 800sq feet. If I kept everything in the house the kids would have to sleep in my bureau drawers.

Do you use a sketchbook or journal?
I do on occasion if I have an idea that I know i won’t be able to get to for awhile and I don’t want to forget what I thought were pertinent details at the time. Normally though I’m a shoot from the hip kinda girl, I don’t normally have a cemented plan for what I’m going to make.

Why is crafting good for you?
Oh, it relaxes me, it focuses me. I feel accomplished when I’ve finished something. My self confidence builds and my eyes crinkle with a smile. I made something, something no one else has, little me. It continually amazes me that I manage to make things. I think its cool.

Is your craft a business as well? Any advice on running a crafty business?
I do an occasional craft fair and I’ll put a few things in my Etsy shop but I don’t feel focused enough to consider turning it into a business. I don’t make enough of any one thing and I think I would feel pressured and confined to do so. I really like crafting by my whims. If other people like it and want some, great! If not, I liked it at the time so its ok with me.

What impact (if any) has the internet had on your craft?
I no longer feel alone. Other people out there speak my language and I don’t have to go to a convention to find them.

Do you make art or craft? Is there a difference?
I do tend to think of them as different animals. I guess if you can pay a university 100K to get a degree in a subject then it must be an art. Anybody can craft and perhaps through dedication and a love for your craft it can become art. I craft.

If you could make any project without limits to cost, materials or even skill, what would it be?
A diamond bra, cuz I could sell that thing for a sh*t load of cash to fuel my fabric/yarn/ ribbon/bead obsession. Plus I could totally pay off my house.

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