#CreativeSprint: A Half-Finished Challenge that was Wholly Worthwhile

For the month of April, I signed up to take part in a daily art challenge called #CreativeSprint, organized by Another Limited Rebellion. The idea of a daily assignment delivered to my inbox, intended to spark creativity and get me to try new things, sounded like something I would certainly enjoy, but also benefit from. The challenge promised to “pump up your creative muscles” but it was very open ended, you could take as much or as little time as you wanted for each assignment, and be as literal or abstract as you desired.

The daily assignments ranged from making something that fits in the palm of your hand, to working with your non-dominant hand, to making something inspired by a song. There were days when I knew right away what I would make as soon as I read the email, and other days I felt distracted for hours because I couldn’t come up with anything. All in all, it was a great mix of idea starters that really got my mind (and hands) working. Trying new things is something I enjoy, but don’t often make time for, and #CreativeSprint motivated me to do just that.

I was unable to keep up with the daily challenges once the Mother’s Day rush hit hard - I was simultaneously featured in Etsy’s Editors Picks, the front page of Etsy, and in Woman’s Day magazine, and received over 800 orders in only 3 weeks. Oh my goodness, never experienced anything like that before - it was awesome but it nearly killed me! I was overwhelmed, sick for several days, and had zero spare time for the second half of the month, but I kept the CreativeSprint challenge emails because even though I didn’t get to participate again after the 17th of April, those emails gave me ideas to try out later on.

I almost forgot the best part / worst part: sharing whatever it was you made that day. Eek! Even the stupid stuff? Yep! Sharing my work was a little nerve wracking, because these pieces I made were just experiments and didn’t necessarily “go” with the rest of the work in my Instagram feed. They weren’t previously tested or perfectly photographed, but I enjoyed making every single one of them. I also enjoyed peeking at the #CreativeSprint hashtag at the end of the day to see what other participants did. Lots of talent and creating thinking out there!   

Click through the gallery below for a closer look at some of my favorite creations. 

 

 

GreenCraft: Making an Upcycled Suede Necklace

It's an honor to have my suede fringe necklace featured in this month's GreenCraft Magazine! This is one of my favorite jewelry projects to make, and it's a great way to use up a variety of miscellaneous suede and leather scraps (which I happen to have a lot of around the studio). My whole handmade jewelry business Once Again Sam is centered around using recycled materials, and leather has always been the most dear to me. I enjoy searching for outdated suede clothing at the thrift store, and giving it new life, once again, in a whole new way as bold but wearable jewelry. 

Below is a step by step tutorial on how to make the statement necklace shown in the GreenCraft article, as well as a #MakersEyeView sharing a time-lapse video of the process from start to finish. Enjoy, and happy crafting!

How to make a suede fringe necklace: 

1. Gather material: I use thrift store clothing as my suede and leather source, but just about anything will work as long as it doesn't fray when cut. 

2. Cut strips: use scissors to cut an assortment of 1/4" wide strips (the length is up to you, mine are about 2 1/2 to 3"). The necklace in the photo used over 150 pieces total, in 20 different colors. 

3. Create pointed ends: give one end of each piece a pointed shape, so they'll have that "fringe" look when strung together. They don't have to be perfect!

4. Punch holes: use an 1/8" circle leather punch to punch a small hole through the top of each piece (the flat end, not the end with the point).

5. Make your chain: cut a length of thin chain around 18-20" (depending on where you want the necklace to lay on your chest), then add a clasp to one end so the leather pieces wont fall off once you begin stringing them on. The chain needs to be thin enough to go through the punched holes. I attached a needle to the end of my chain to make threading easier, because my punched hole was just barely big enough to accept the chain.

6. Start stringing: once you have your colors in the order you want them, begin adding your suede strips one by one until you're happy with the overall size.

GreenCraft has featured two of my upcycled jewelry projects in the past, and those tutorials can also be found on my blog:

Click HERE for suede fringe earring project

Click HERE for suede cuff project

Learning Shibori Dying

Getting my hands dirty is something I look forward to. Dying my hands blue….well, that was new for me until recently. I took a Shibori dying class this weekend, and as always, learning something new and unrelated to anything else I’m involved with, tends to inspire me in unexpected ways. Not only did I learn about the historical significance of indigo, but also practical information about working with natural dyes. I can admit this now, after the fact, that I didn’t realize indigo was a plant. I guess I always assumed it was a mineral or chemical compound, but it’s actually a crop, one that’s making a major comeback on American farms. Who knew! Well, you might have known, but I certainly didn’t.

The class was organized by The Maker’s Collective, taught by Catherine Cross of the Summer Blues Indigo Dying Workshop, and hosted at Knack here in Greenville, SC. Our group spent the first hour watching demonstrations of different techniques, learning an overview of Shibori dying, followed by two hours of our own hands-on experiments. We used clothespins, rubber bands, clamped plywood, and lots of other random stuff to resist the dye in certain areas, creating all sorts of interesting and unpredictable patterns on test fabric, and eventually “real” stuff like clothing. I brought some white leather scraps from my studio, just to see if it would work, and was thrilled with the results. It was such a blast!

 A few of my finished pieces

A few of my finished pieces

Some of my pieces turned out beautifully, but most did not. I couldn’t get the dye to do exactly what I wanted, but it’s nice to give up control sometimes. Here’s why my so called failures are actually good for the health of my creativity:

I need freedom to fail sometimes. I need freedom of process, to experiment with new mediums that may or may not complement the work I do for my handmade business Once Again Sam. My average day is filled with production, making finished items to fulfill orders, all of which have to look a certain way. My business is booming, which is exciting, but I don’t often have time to just dabble and screw around in the studio like I used to. I have to be diligent with my time and make make make, otherwise by business might fail.

The thing is, my business won’t fail just because I took a few hours one Saturday afternoon to go learn something cool like Shibori dying rather than working on orders. It’s healthy to get out once in awhile and try something new, just for fun, just to keep my creative juices flowing. Experimenting with different mediums is how my business started, and I have to step back and remember that, and choose to pursue more of it, because it will help me grow. Afterall, I’m a maker (who currently has blue hands), not a factory.

GreenCraft Article Published

Writing and crafting: two of my favorite things. I'm excited to announce my second DIY article was recently published in GreenCraft Magazine! I so enjoy reading this magazine, it appeals to my love of up-cycling and repurposing, and I always find inspiration for new eco-friendly projects with every issue. It's a complete honor to be able to contribute my DIY guide to making suede fringe earrings to the Autumn issue of GreenCraft. 

I would say 99% of my writing is fiction, but once in awhile I get the itch to share facts and real life experiences, and I'm lucky enough that GreenCraft has allowed me the opportunity to share this DIY article with them and their readers. I hope you enjoy the magazine, there are so many great projects in the Autumn issue! http://stampington.com/GreenCraft-Magazine-Autumn-2014

 

Suede Fringe Earring: A DIY Guide by Sarah Mandell
Autumn Issue of GreenCraft Magazine

Suede Fringed Earrings: A How-to Guide

Fringed Earrings-StepbyStep.jpg

Craft supplies are everywhere I look, and I rarely visit the craft store. Just about everything I need for jewelry making can be found on a rack in a thrift shop or piled up at a garage sale. My passion is to upcycle leather, suede, and anything else I can get my busy crafting hands on. It’s an affordable, eco-friendly, and extremely rewarding way to create. When I see an old leather jacket or a beat up suede skirt at Goodwill, items that aren’t likely to be used again due to the style or condition of the garment, I happily claim them, but not to wear as they were originally intended to be worn. My plans for these outdated or damaged garments include deconstructing them, chopping them into unrecognizable pieces, then repurposing the material as casual but bold jewelry.

My indie craft business called Once Again Sam is where my love of thrifting and jewelry making came together. I had always enjoyed digging through old clothes at thrift shops for fun, and creating jewelry had been a favorite hobby of mine for years, but it wasn’t until 2009 when I opened my business, that the two became intertwined. Once I discovered how simple and rewarding upcycled jewelry making could be, I was free to buy any thrift shop clothing item I wanted, and it didn’t matter what condition it was in, the style statement it once made decades ago, or how close it was to my size. Having chosen to source materials for my jewelry line through non-traditional means, I learned to walk through a secondhand clothing store and see it as a fabric warehouse. As an upcycler, I was free to seek out luxurious textures and colorful material, and pay only a few dollars in the end, and I love knowing there’s a backstory behind every piece I make. 

Tools & Materials:

-       Hammer

-       Pliers

-       Leather punch: circle 1/16”

-       Scissors

-       Leather / suede garment

-       Jump rings & ear wire

Technique:

To make a pair of lightweight and lovely suede fringe earrings, you’ll need to first choose your material sources. Head out to your favorite thrift store, check out garage sales, or even look in the depths of your own closet for that article of clothing you haven’t worn in years but haven’t been able to part with just yet. Any kind of leather or suede clothing will work, but pants and skirts have fewer seams and more flat material, which make things easier when taking the garment apart.

1. Choose three articles of suede clothing.

2. Use sharp scissors to deconstruct the garments.

3. Select pieces of suede to work with.

4. Sketch out an earring shape, then draw the final design onto a piece of cardboard to make a template for each layer.

5. Trace around your cardboard template with a thin marker onto the suede, then cutout two copies of each layer.

6. Cut into the bottom of each layer approximately 3/4” to create fringe.

7. With a 1/16” circle leather punch, hammer holes through the tops of all layers of suede.

8. Secure all three layers through the punched holes with a small jump ring (6mm) then attach matching ear wire.

9. Enjoy wearing your suede fringe earrings!