An Interview with Tsia Carson, author of Craftivity — 40 Projects for the DIY Lifestyle

With projects that range from yarn to wood, from found objects to fabric, with contributors from all over the craft spectrum, Tsia Carson has put together a creative lightening bolt — a force of craft. I’m not at all surprised, really. I’ve been a fan of her dynamically charged SuperNaturale.com site for quite some time (and have been fortunate enough to contribute to its Glimmer blog, along with many others, for the last year or so). But the book, Craftivity, takes the whole crafty mission up a notch — it’s inventive, wondrously colorful and full of creative surprises, and I am not alone in singing its praises. I’m really happy and honored to present an interview with Tsia about her new book here at 52projects.com.

Craftivity — what a wonderful name for the book. What does that word mean to you?

I wanted to get across the idea that crafting is active, that it is an activity and that the practitioners are activist. They take agency over their lives by making beautiful stuff. Most of the happiest crafters I know craft in groups or have a community of people they engage with about their work. I think that this is at the heart of what makes it relevant interesting culture and not just more stuff to consume and own. But I have to give props to Holly Gressley and Aviva Michaelov for introducing me to this term.

How have you met all these crafters? How much did your website have to do with pulling together all the artists for your book?

Most of the makers I have met but not all of them. There are a few I can’t wait to meet! The website was instrumental in meeting and discovering contributors. It’s the best calling card in the world.

Tell the truth — what was the hardest project in the book to make happen?

Twist my arm! I think that knit hammock, while not the hardest project to do in terms of skill level, was the hardest to make happen. It took a really long time and knitting with the hemp twine was really hard because it has a mind of its own. Poor Annika (Annika Ginsberg made it)! She is a master knitter and it was driving her nuts. Every step of the way something went awry with that project. Even building the harness at the end was nuts. But I think I would know how to do that much better now.

If you had to pick a theme song for your book what would it be?

"One Nation Under a Groove" Funkadelic?
"Who’s Got the Crack?" the Moldy Peaches?
"One Divine Hammer" the Breeders?

Gosh, I don’t know.

How does your background in design flow into your personal crafting?

I don’t really separate these creative activities up. I am heavy on the concept, I think through things and have to be excited by the idea before I make anything. If anything, becoming a designer has made me more sensitive to detail and more particular.

How do you think the web has impacted the world of crafting?

The way it has opened up communities to like-minded individuals rather than geographic location has been phenomenal. It has really facilitated discourse and making in a way that would have been impossible. I think that it has fueled the scene so that people are not working in isolation.

Do you recall your very first craft project? What was it? Why did you make it?

I was such a craftive kid. My parents totally encouraged it. I think what comes to mind is that I made a whole zoo of cut-out paper animals and then photographed them against a dark window so you could see the backs as well in the photograph. I wanted you to be able to see the back and front at the same time. It was all about the image. I was a total OCD kid. My father is an artist and when I just learned how to write I signed my name on all his work. That was a good idea too. Also there was my "multimedia" JFK presentation in 2nd grade…

In terms of crafting, knowing you’re a partner in a design firm and have a baby — when do you get it done? How do you find the time?

I still haven’t put together almost any of my personal projects.

There’s a baby quilt, a lampshade and house painting. Honestly, I have started to outsource and have people help me. It’s funny — I do find time to do those activities I enjoy. For instance I hate to sew, so that is going to be outsourced to a friend. But I like to knit, so I made my daughter a red scarf just like her favorite book character — Jenny Linksy the cat.

How is your crafting different as a mother from how it was when you did not have a child?

What project will take an evening max is the major deciding factor.

What’s the one craft project you’ve always thought about creating but have yet to get started on?

I thought I would be really DIY’d out after this book but it has actually fueled my desire to make stuff. I am going to study permaculture over the winter and my husband and I are going to make our property into an edible forest garden. I would also like to implement a grey water system for the house to feed the water from the washing machine through a drip irrigation system for the garden. Even saying this stuff makes it clear why I haven’t had the time to do it yet.

More on the book.

Buy the book.

Read an interview with Tsia at Craftzine.com.

How-To Write Your Novel While You’re On the Clock

This is an age-old, time-honored tradition: Writing a novel on the man’s dollar. Yes, you can burn the midnight oil, or work on weekends, or take a few months off to pound out your tome, but there is nothing better than writing the words to that novel that may or may not become a bestseller and make you rich and famous while you’re supposed to be on the job. The lower level the job, the worse your boss is, the more deprave the conditions, the better your words, or at least the story of how your words came to the page, will be.

Plus, it should be noted that if you’re writing while on the job, you are technically being paid, albeit in a round-about, subversive way, for writing! That is no small feat. You are probably making more money off of your writing than most published authors.

Still, it’s not so easy to get writing done while you’re on the clock: there are all those urgent emails that pour into your inbox, urgent calls that light up your phone, and urgent requests from your boss to handle the various urgent issues that pop up throughout the day.

Why is it that in life, "urgent" means someone is in the hospital, but in the workplace, "urgent" ranges from "Meeting time changed" to "Need that report by EOD."?

Whatever… As long as YOU get what’s urgent in the workplace: getting work done on things that are near and dear to your heart: for you writers out there (and aren’t we all working on a novel these days, at least as far as the idea phase?), that would be your novel!

Here then, are some ways to write your novel while you’re on the clock:

1. Show up early and pound out some writing before the start of your day. Technically you’re not on the clock, but it’s a great habit to get into, especially if you have a truly demanding job where it’s hard to sneak in personal creative endeavors. Wait! Keep reading! Sacrilege, I know, to suggest that you show up early to work. But this really is an excellent way to get some writing done without interruption.

2. Or, when you do show up for work, right on time (or the usual few minutes after the official start of your working day), instead of checking your voice mail and email, and then surfing the news and gossip sites, commit to focusing completely on your writing for a solid half-hour. You’re fresh, and have yet to get sucked into or distracted by all the work-related crapola — red-flagged "urgent" emails, obnoxious voice mail messages from co-workers asking stupid questions (for like the third time), and just the usual tidal wave of stress that washes over you at the start of each working day.

Note: There is no better way to start the day than with a personal creative effort — it will juice you up, get your mind rolling, and instill energy that will help carry you through the day. If something crappy does happen during the work day, (and doesn’t something crappy always happen?), the stage you set in the morning will help you work through the negativity.

3. Just like you block off time for meetings and various work-related projects, like the overwhelming monthly report, for example, set aside specific times in your calendar to work on your novel. A half-hour every day, or an hour every other day. List it as "Top Priority Project: NVL" in your calendar. And just like you have to show up at that meeting or work on that report so as to finish it by the deadline, make sure you adhere to your schedule and work on your true "Top Priority Project" at the designated times.

4. Commit to writing a certain amount of words each day while at the office, be it 500 or 1,000 or more. Hold firm that you cannot leave the office until you have fulfilled your commitment. You’ll find a way to make the time — especially if you’re like most worker-bots and like to get the hell out of the office right at quitting time.

5. Just like smokers trying to quit throw a piece of gum in their mouth every time they feel the impulse to light up, every time you open up your browser to check out a gossip site or the blog you are currently addicted to, fire up your word processing program and pound out a paragraph or two of writing.

6. Dread meetings at work? Of course you do. Instead of re-running the Star Wars trilogy in your mind just to stay awake, jot down notes or bits of dialogue for your novel. If you can pull-off writing actual paragraphs in that kind of environment, with someone blathering on and on and on, the most annoying people in the room naturally doing most of the talking, the more power to you. Tip: Look up every once in a while and make eye contact with whoever it is that is talking. All your writing will look like you are simply taking copious meeting notes.

7. If you really, really hate your job, and you find yourself complaining to anyone who will listen, as well as making several calls a day to your significant other bitching and moaning about your sorry lot in life (not attractive!), you need to make a conscious decision to focus not on broadcasting your complaints but to writing your novel. Every time you feel the impulse to complain about most likely the same old shit, that should be the tripwire that sends you back to your desk to write. If you can pull this off, you will feel much better about yourself and your job (and people in the office, as well as your significant other, might actually want to talk to you again.)

8. If you are really focused on doing well at your job, and do indeed do a bang-up, kick-ass job, simply take that same standard for excellence and efficiency and find a way (while you are on the clock) to make it happen for your personal project as well: prioritize time to work on your novel, and when you are working on it, give the words you write the high-level attention to detail, originality and top-notch quality you would an important work-related project.

9. Take advantage of the lunch hour. Either find a quiet cafe and write in your journal, or write while you eat at your desk. Finding a cafe is preferable — gets you away from your ringing phone, incoming emails, people popping by to talk with you, not to mention that big old stack of papers that needs to be dealt with.

10. Incorporate events and characters from the workplace into your story. Annoying co-workers and your boss will certainly provide loads of ideas. Writing them into your story has the added benefit of helping you mentally deal with their shit in the real working world: you’ll find that taking the time to reveal the absurdities of your workplace in the form of the written word has a soothing effect — it provides a way to take a step back and laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. Plus, there’s that whole revenge thing: in the pages of your novel you can expose — in a no-holds-bar fashion — the idiotic and petty behavior of your terrible boss and lame co-workers to the reading public-at-large (or at least to the people in your office that you like).

11. When working on your novel, spread out paperwork all over your desk. It will look like you are really busy, and if people stop by to talk with you about something, you can just point to all the papers and say, "I can’t talk right now — I’m in deep." They’ll totally get it, and leave you alone to write.

12. Form a writing group with like-minded co-workers. Reserve a conference room each week and hold your workshop sessions right there during the middle of the work-day.

13. End your day with an allotted amount of time to write — say the last 15 minutes or so before quitting time. It will clear your headspace of the day-job baggage and put you in a writing frame-of-mind as you head out the door. It’s also a great way to reignite your energy level and find your second wind after a long day at work. You can then use that second wind to carry you home and continue with your writing efforts until it’s time to hit the sack and begin the work day, I mean novel-writing, anew.

Be sure to check out the Simple Things You Can Do Right Now to Jumpstart Your Writing Efforts, as well as the Not-To-Do List.

And be sure to also check out the Working For the Man Book:

Order now: Amazon

More details at workingfortheman.com.