Once upon a time, I used to do a lot of rubber stamping crafts. I had a small addiction to Stampin’ Up!® and had about 50 different ink pads, multiple clear boxes full of stamp sets, stacks of cardstock, an embarrassing amount of glitter, glue sticks and other funny little embellishments. But as an artist and designer, I felt that I was betraying myself and my own craft by using other people’s designs to create greeting cards (that I selfishly hoarded) and scrapbook pages. Could I really call myself an ‘artist’ or a ‘designer’ if I were relying on other people’s work? I mean, I realize that I was taking their designs and doing my own thing with them, but that really didn’t convince me that it was work that I could call my own. I felt like an imposter.
So, as much as I hated it, I gave it up. I sold all of my stamp sets, all of my ink pads, got rid of all of my crazy embellishments, and a lot of the glitter. I did this at a time when the Cricut® cutting machines started making their debut. I didn’t really understand what they did. I knew that it had something to do with cutting out paper and that you had to buy cartridges to use them. I remember looking at some of the cartridges. They had a set of designs that you could use to cut out patterns on the machine. But the designs seemed so primitive and pre-school-ish in design. I wasn’t impressed. Plus, once again, it was using someone else’s designs to create scrapbooking crafts. So I avoided any sort of buy-in to it. Plus, those things weren’t cheap. To re-invest in all of the stamping, scrapbooking and other cheesy paper crafts that I had once found myself obsessed with, I would have to lay down some serious bucks. That wasn’t including the amount of money that it would cost to buy a machine like a Cricut® or Silhouette® or other die-cutting craft machine that is out on the market. It’s not just the cost of the machine but all of the accessories and attachments to go with it. And let’s not talk about the materials you’d need to MAKE the crafts! If you ever visit a craft store such as Michaels®, JoAnn, or Hobby Lobby® and perused the paper crafting section, you know exactly what I am talking about. It has really expanded from the stamping days that I remember. Wow. It’s overwhelming. I’ve actually thought how much easier and cheaper it might be to just hire someone to make a scrapbook for you. Gather up all of your photos, mementos and such and hand it all over to someone and say, “Make my memories magical!”
Anyhow, after seeing all of these crazy crafts pop up everywhere that featured such refined typography, illustration and die-cuts, I really wanted to know how some of these people were pulling it off. If you do any sort of search on Etsy or have been to a craft fair, you know exactly what I am talking about. Wood signs, tee shirts, customized water bottles, phone cases, party decor and window decals. How were these people making these things? The answer: Cricut®/Silhouette®, etc.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I think that it’s awesome that people other than artists and designers are out there making really cool things. It blows my mind. But if I am going to be honest, it also ticks me off. Laugh if you will, but it’s because I am kicking myself for not giving the whole craft world a little more credit. While I went on to pursue a career as a designer, I disregarded the craft world to a degree. I felt that it lacked authenticity. I felt it was like buying store bought cookies, putting them on a plate and telling you that they’re homemade. I didn’t like it. But I realize now that I really had been blind to the potential that about a million other people had already discovered. Yes, you can take other people’s designs and make some amazing things. The range in complexity that some of the designs offer range from beginner to expert. And it makes me realize that aside from making some crazy cool things, there is a huge opportunity to be authentic to myself and push my design capabilities within these tools.
About a month ago, I bit the bullet and bought a Cricut® Explore™ Air 2. I bought a few accessories and materials to help get started, too. My youngest son’s graduation is coming up and I thought what better practice than to try to make some fun things for his party, right?! So yeah…I am finding myself relying on other people’s designs for right now. I’m trying to familiarize myself with the design program, the machine and learn some of the nuances. I am really anxious to try working off my own designs but I realize that there is a lot to learn before I get too far ahead of myself. Those crazy, complex projects that I’ve been seeing weren’t created overnight. I have found that the way that the machine cuts paper is very similar to the way you might set up a design for letterpress. Separate design by color. I think that it’s fascinating all of the different things that you can do with paper.
I think that one of the best things about all of this is that I am exploring more handcrafted projects which I feel I have really missed in the last few years. There’s something very fulfilling in making something with your hands that you just can’t get with a computer. Granted, the Cricut® is a machine and still runs off of a computer, but it allows you to take what you have cut out and make something out of it with your hands. So stay tuned, folks…I have a feeling that you’ll be hearing me talk more about fun project using this tool in due time!