Thursday, February 10, 2011

Getting to know you - Sister Diane

You know, I always find it a bit difficult to write these little introductions to the interviews. Dunno why, it seems like should be easy! And today is no different - in fact it may even be more difficult, because how do you introduce someone who is as prolific (and inspiring) in so many ways as Sister Diane?! Crafter, blogger, podcaster, author, kitsch lover? Maybe it's better to just read what she has to say.. :-) Thank you, Diane!

Sister Diane 1
Your name
Sister Diane : : : :

Where in the world are you?
Portland, Oregon, USA

Briefly describe yourself and what you make
I’m a crafty geek who’ll try any craft at least once. I just love the act of making, and I love exploring how different craft tools and mediums work – and how they can be combined. I also love thinking about craft and making media about it – podcasts, videos, ebooks, etc.

Who or what inspires you?
I get inspiration all the time – at the grocery store, at a museum, while brushing my cat. The craft blog world, obviously, is an inspiration machine. We are unbelievably lucky to have such a massive, ever-changing visual resource at our fingertips. And as I’ve blogged about many times, I have a special place in my heart for the wacky craft books of the 1960s and 1970s. Back then, good design mattered less than novelty, so these books are full of creations that still make me laugh today, but also make me think differently.

When / how did you learn?
My Mom (Gingerbread Snowflakes) was so supportive of my creative dabblings as I was growing up. If I expressed the slightest interest in sculpting, we got some clay. If I wanted to learn needlepoint, she put canvas and needle into my hands and taught me stitches. She’s always been a crafty force – she made most of my clothes growing up, and killer Halloween costumes. She made our living room drapes and bed quilts. I’m a crafter because of her influence.

Why is making things by hand worth the 'effort'?
Heh! Is it ever effort? I think everyone has their own take on this question, but for me, it’s really all about the process. The act of making relaxes and rejuvenates us. It’s healing. And it grows in us new skills and confidence. When we make things, we gain a sense that we can shape our own lives. All of that is very powerful.

What is your craft ”philosophy”?
Make what you want, and respect others in their making. Take care of your body and mind, so you can stay creative.

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Fondest craft-related memory?
Hmmm, that’s a tough question – I have millions of fond craft memories. Choosing a favorite is stressing me out. Can I get away with saying that they’re pretty much ALL fond?

Have you always made 'stuff'?
I have! Ever since I was a tiny kid. I did have an ill-advised period, from college through my late 20’s, where I gave up crafting because it wasn’t “cool” and I bought into the prevailing wisdom that it wasn’t a smart career choice. Those were somewhat dark years. Luckily, I wised up.

Can you reveal a little about your creative process?
Well, my creative process is actually fairly sloppy. I have a notebook I scribble ideas and crude drawings into all the time, and every now and then, one of these will become too insistent to be ignored. I have a stash of less-than-attractive “development materials” that I use for initial prototypes. The first time I make a new design, I’m working out the mechanics (especially when I’m trying to hybridize two crafts, like embroidery and card-making). Then, over the course of the next couple weeks, I make several more refined prototypes, working out colors and proportions. I have to leave these prototypes lying around so I can look at them and think about them at odd moments. And eventually, the whole thing comes together.

How do you deal with crafty mistakes? Are they mistakes?
Nope, they’re just learning opportunities. I make several ugly versions of anything before I get to the good one. I actually really like crafty mishaps, because they often lead somewhere new and interesting.

Favourite book(s) or craftbook(s)?
I mentioned the 60s and 70s craft books earlier. These are perennial favorites. I also have a deep love of Japanese craft books. I love their design sensibility, their beautifully-detailed instructions, and the amazing variety of ideas they represent.

Do you have a designated craft space? What does it mean to you?
I have a very small craft space at the moment - one table that’s usually piled with too much stuff to craft on it. I miss having a whole room for crafting. A messy person like me really needs enough space to be messy in, and a door to close upon it all so other people don’t have to look at the mess.

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Do you use a sketchbook or journal?
Absolutely! My brain is always doing so many things at once, I have to write down ideas the moment they occur to me or they’re gone. I’ve learned this the hard way too many times, so now I always have a sketchbook with me.

Is your art/ craft a business as well? Any advice on running an arty/ crafty business?
My blog has grown into a full-time enterprise. I usually have two big pieces of advice for people interested in starting or running a creative small business:

1. Find ways to diversify your income as soon as possible. If you want to sew handmade stuffed toys, for example, do that, but also create some patterns to sell. Teach some classes in your local community. Do some freelance writing. (Or maybe, set up some income streams that have nothing to do with your art/craft of choice.) We live in chaotic times, and we all need to keep lots of options open for ourselves.

2. Embrace learning. I work with so many creative people who want to go into business, but feel intimidated by the things they don’t know. As an entrepreneur, you will learn new things every single day, forever. What you don’t know can hold you back – so don’t be scared of it! Charge in, find out what you need to learn, and then make time for the learning. You’ll feel amazing and ready to take on the next challenge.

What impact (if any) has the internet had on your craft?
The internet has had every impact imaginable on my crafting. The internet came into my life in my 30’s, so I spent most of my life in a world where it was hard to find another crafter in your neighborhood. From the 1980s forward, crafting wasn’t really embraced in U.S. mainstream culture the way it is now, so there just weren’t resources or community to support creative people on their journey.

Today, of course, we can befriend like-minded souls all over the world. We’re engaged in a giddy daily sharing of ideas and projects. And our individual creative growth moves by leaps and bounds as a result.

...And now, many of us are at an evolutionary moment where we’re learning how to balance that abundance with our own dreams of making our living from creative work. It’s an endlessly interesting moment.

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Do you make art or craft? Is there a difference?
I don’t really get into that whole art vs. craft debate. To me, creative work is creative work, and it’s all healing and important. I do perceive that a larger percentage of people who self-identify as fine artists seem to shy away from (or even campaign against) the internet. And this makes me sad, because to my mind, these folks are missing out on the many benefits of greater interconnection. I don’t buy into the idea that keeping fine art scarce translates to more money. The internet has, for better or worse, upended our notions of value. There are vast, fresh opportunities for fine artists to use the web to reach a larger audience, if they’d just start exploring.

If you could make any project without limits to cost, materials or skill, what would it be?
I really want to get into needle felting – I have this sense that once I do, it’ll take over my life, so I keep putting it off. I’d also love to make a quilt one day, and if I REALLY had some available time, I’d go deep into exploring plastic canvas. Don’t laugh! That stuff is an under-appreciated wonder-medium.

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