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The Green Life: Recycled Crafts: Advice from a Career Crafter

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July 12, 2012

Recycled Crafts: Advice from a Career Crafter

PAPER MADE 2DExpert crafter Kayte Terry is living the DIYer's dream — she has turned repurposing into a career. We asked the author of Paper Made! 101 Exceptional Projects to Make Out of Everyday Paper (Workman, 2012) to tell us how she did it. 

SIERRA: Tell us about crafting as a career. 

Kayte Terry: I've gone down lots of different paths. I've written books, contributed to magazines and blogs, sold at craft fairs, taught classes, and worked as a stylist. It takes a lot of time to get to a point where just one of these things pays the bills. Most professional crafters I know do a combination of jobs as well; I think it just comes with the territory. But I actually like it! I get bored doing the same thing over and over again. 

When I started trying to make a living from making things, crafting was just starting to trend again. I would tell people I was crafty and they would stare at me like I had two heads. But now there are so many more opportunities! Everyone knows about Etsy, almost every magazine has a DIY column or two, it's a great time to be a crafter!

What advice do you have for others who want to make a career of crafting? 

Career crafting can be really hard. You are putting yourself out there through your work all the time and it can get discouraging because not everyone is going to love what you do. You can't be all things to all people! Establish a style for yourself and let that be your brand. It's great to look at other artists' work to get inspired, but ultimately your best work needs to come from the heart. It can take a while to really mature as an artist and maker, but it's worth it — and it's fun if you appreciate the journey.

On a more practical note, network! Make friends with other crafters, join collectives and organizations, share your skills with others. Almost every job I have ever gotten over the years has been through a friend, a crafty colleague, or an acquaintance. And I've helped lots of people that way too! Don't be afraid to send an email to a crafter you admire; you never know what can come of it!

How did you get started making paper crafts? 

My mom is a super-crafty lady and she instilled in me, not just the techniques, but the appreciation of working with humble materials and the ability to see something special in the everyday. Later I found out that we made a lot because we didn’t have a lot of money, but I remember thinking that we lived like kings.

Where do you find inspiration? 

All over the place. A big part of my job is finding inspiration for new displays and concepts at Anthropologie, so I pride myself at being very informed with what's happening in the worlds of art, craft, and design. I spend a lot of time on Pinterest, I read a lot of blogs and books and I love to go to galleries and museums. But beyond that, observation is the key to getting inspiration. You can find inspiring colors, prints, people, and ideas everywhere as long as you're looking for it. One thing that helps me keep track of what I see is Instagram. I also keep a notebook and pencil in my bag at all times!

Repurposing seems to be a big focus of your book [Paper Made!]. Are there other recyclable materials you have experimented with in crafting? 

Oh definitely! My last two books (Creative Embellishing and Appliqué Your Way) were more fabric-centric. I love taking old or boring clothing and re-imagining them. Another repurposing project I am very proud of is a mosaic frame I made using old credit cards and Metro cards!  

Be honest — how many paper cuts did you get while making Paper Made! ?

Oh, quite a few! But I got them so you don't have to. 

--interview by Allison Montroy / photo courtesy of Kayte Terry 


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