It all began, like so many things, with a spring 2000 issue of Martha Stewart Living. From that moment on, I was hooked. The woman was a wizard, and being about 11 years old at the time, I was waiting on my Hogwarts acceptance letter. Well, Martha was about as close as I was going to get to actual magic. With only a few household materials, a hot glue gun and some cloth flowers, I could whip up my own festive centerpiece, napkin rings and personalized name cards. Not that I had any need for any of these things, but the important thing (or so I thought) was that I’d never have to go to Party Depot to buy some cheap, horrible plastic napkin rings.
Now, I’m not really artistic. I will never be Martha, no matter what color quilted jacket I wear or how many paper flowers I fold. One time, I tried to make my own candles and ended up with burns and a pot filled with molten brown wax. I have no desire to spend my days making rustic coat racks out of branches. However, there is something to be said for actually making your own stuff — if you want something done right, do it yourself.
So much is mass-produced about what we wear and the spaces we spend our life in. Pretty much everybody owns the same Michigan sweatshirt and that doesn’t really have a whole lot of personality. Now, I’m not suggesting you go out and embroider your own bedspread or produce a calico dress with seed beading, but it’s always nice when there’s some kind of a personal touch to an outfit or an apartment — some accessory or an object that actually means something to someone, something that was made with care and has a story behind it.
Additionally, making your own crap-you-don’t-really-need is fun. And cheap. And much easier than you’d expect. The first step is probably the hardest: deciding what you want to make and how you’re going to pull it off. There is a certain art to figuring it out and your brain needs to blend creativity with a certain amount of mechanical savvy.
It’s kind of like trying to change a tire without an instruction manual. Start looking at the way things are put together. I make a lot of my own jewelry, and sometimes I will go into jewelry stores and just stare at necklaces. Trust me. It’s weird, but it works. It also helps to think about what you could do to make it better — would you use a different color, a different style of material, perhaps? This is your project after all, so basically you have the freedom to do anything.
Then, just start collecting stuff like old ticket stubs and newspaper clippings. I can’t guarantee you won’t end up on an episode of “Hoarders” later in life, but you will get some great craft projects out of it.
Craft stores are a dying breed, so the Internet is another great resource. Sure, there are generic chain stores around like Michael’s and Home Depot, but I don’t particularly find those stores inspiring. Sometimes a craft project needs a really good jumpstart, like that fantastic collection of black-and-white photographs you could find at a flea market in Brussels and turn into your own stationery. But since obviously not everyone can go to Brussels, the Internet is perfect. Everyone can have access to weird materials. I have a pile of typewriter keys I got off eBay that I’m making into a bracelet. Also, the Internet provides plenty of crafts ideas. My personal favorite is the blog P.S. I Made This. It has millions of ideas ranging from a DIY Birkin-style tote bag to circle scarves made out of the bottom half of an old sweater and some carefully placed double-sided tape.
Basically, there are plenty of ideas out there and you just have to be ready to tackle them. Occasionally, you will have breakthrough moments when all your hard work will finally be worth it. Not all your projects will turn out the way you want them to, though. When I was 13, I walked around in a bedazzled jean jacket. You are going to make mistakes — but still, there’s nothing quite like wearing your own creations.