Creative Family Series | Crafting Connections
Creating is magical. Creating with others is otherworldly. Today, I’m excited to chat with two women who have teamed up together to create something special. They come from different backgrounds—Danielle didn’t grow up in a creative household, Andrea did—and yet, they share a connection that runs deep: both found their creativity blossomed after they had children.
I’m excited to chat with Danielle and Andrea the team behind Crafting Connections about creativity, parenting, side projects and how they found a way to nurture their own passions.
How would define creativity?
Danielle: To me creativity is a way of using your hands to make something, anything. It can be cooking in the kitchen, stitching on the sofa. It can be following a pattern, or making it up yourself. Making stuff. That’s creativity to me.
Andrea: Creativity is a new way of thinking about or doing something – anything, really. People think they need to be crafty or artistic to be creative – not true! I think many people sell themselves short, they are doing creative things or thinking creatively without recognizing it as such.
Have you always considered yourself creative?
Danielle: Strangely, no. From the time art classes ended in elementary school through the middle of my college days I don’t think I really created anything. And if you had asked me, even a handful of a handful of years ago, I would have said that I wasn’t creative, at all. Teaching started to light my creative flame as I worked hard to make sure my lessons were interesting and engaging. But motherhood really lit the spark. Seeing my little ones, and how creative they were, forced me to reexamine my own creativity. I began to see that we all start out as creative beings, and I began to question whether or not it was really possible for me – for any of us really – to lose it. As it turns out, I hadn’t lost it. It was just buried. Deep.
Andrea: Yes. I was one of those kids that would sit for hours and color – art and creativity have always been in me, but more than that, creativity along with a super optimistic outlook have really been central to who I am as a person.
How do you nurture your own creativity?
Danielle: I find it fairly easy to nurture my own creativity during these years of early mothering. Each day, it seems, my kids want to make something. And more often than not, I join in. Spending a little time, each day, doing something creative – making something – keeps my juices flowing. The more I create, the more ideas I have, then the more I create. You know?
Andrea: I try to always keep a creative frame of mind – thinking of new ways to do things, new projects for my kiddos, new directions for my own art. I’m inspired by so many different forces and like to have and create beauty around me. Right now I’m really inspired by my daughter – there’s something so refreshing about a three-year-old’s unabashed sense of creativity – from her awesome clothing choices to her of-the-cuff nature project ideas. Along with kid’s projects, I am always sure to be doing my own artistic thing, though exactly what has changed over the course of my life. Right now I’m really into painting, sewing, and photography.
Did you grow up in a creative household? If so, what were some of the ways your parents nurtured your creativity and curiosity?
Danielle: I didn’t grow up in a terribly creative household, but I don’t think that it is because my parents weren’t/aren’t creative. I just think, like me, those creative pursuits got buried, deep down, as the practical needs of day-to-day life took priority at the surface. Now, as my my parents and step-parents find more time for themselves as their children are grown, I see them reaching towards some intensely creative pursuits – photography and painting. It’s fun to watch, actually.
Andrea: Yes, but I didn’t recognize it as a “creative household” at the time. My dad is so practical and taught us how to use tools and build things from a very young age. My mom is the most amazingly creative (and delicious) cook; she also sews and played the piano. In our house, those creative pursuits were very normal – I didn’t realize that not everyone did those things. My parents were great at supporting my own creativity – I was so very lucky and had the opportunity to take art lessons, go to art camp, and throughout high school (unless I could borrow the car) my mom schlepped me to and from orchestra practice an hour away every Sunday afternoon.
How do you hope to nurture it in your children?
Danielle: I would hope to nurture a very wide definition of creativity in my children. Right now, I just work to keep a variety of options available for my kids, and I keep a constant eye on them – their skills and abilities – to get a sense for what should come next. More than that, I would hope that I can nurture in my children that they can, will and should!!!, use their creativity throughout their lives. That creativity mustn’t necessarily be relegated to the land of hobbies. I would hope that they will come out of growing up knowing that creativity is an essential and useful component of any well-rounded individual.
Andrea: Right now my kids are young – 1 and 3 – so I just try to keep creative options available. You will always find paper, markers, crayons and stickers on our table, as well as play dough. We do at least one additional craft every week based on whatever my daughter is interested in (or, if we have an upcoming issue, whatever projects we’ve come up with for Crafting Connections!) I hope to nurture creativity in the way my kids think – to ask questions, to explore on their own, to engage in creative thinking. If that means that they are also crafty, musical or artistic, wonderful, but if that means they are able to think creatively during a sporting event or while working with numbers, then I think my job was done! I want my children to know that creative does not necessarily mean artistic, that creative can be a way of life, a way of thinking, that it is full of possibilities.
What are some of your favorite ways to spend time together as a family?
Danielle: Whenever we get the chance as a family we go outside! Long walks, trips to the parks, picnics, bike rides. If it’s outside, we’re generally game! We all find that the distractions of home – laundry piles, dirty dishes, fix-it projects – can distract us from focusing on and connecting with one another. We all kind of transform when we step out of that space and our sole purpose is to be together and have fun!
Andrea: My husband works a lot, so when we do get to spend time as a family we just like to be together. Usually there is a bunch of laughing and lots of pretend play right now with my daughter’s amazing imagination and my son’s easy ways. Our favorite place to go as a family is to a large dog beach nearby on the shore of Lake Michigan. We’ve been going weekly for 5+ years now!
How have you been able to integrate work with pursuing your creative passions?
Danielle: Since my second was born, I really felt the need to have something of my own. I started a small little block-printing business, In Stolen Moments, and have been working on that ever since. It is good, and growing, but I felt a little lonely. Creativity can only happen in isolation for so long. So, I teamed up with Andrea and we hatched a plan to start Crafting Connections. Collaborating with her, and working with all our kids to come up with wicked fun content, has brought things to a whole new level. Amazing, really.
Andrea: Right now my creative passions and my work are one and the same and I feel SO incredibly lucky (I also work so, so very hard). Together with Danielle I get to dream up and put into action fun projects for our kids while inspiring other parents and caregivers that yes, they can do the same. I also run my own online shop – Glad To Be Here – where I sell my paintings and prints for the young and young-at-heart. It’s a lot of fun, really!
Tell us about Crafting Connections?
Andrea: We believe that the Connections you Craft now are the foundations for the future. Our products seek to inspire – offering tools to help you feel capable, confident and connected when it comes to creating, crafting (and beyond!) with your little one. We publish a quarterly magazine for little ones and their grown-ups; we also offer craft kits, subscriptions, and single project kits. We also have a very active online presence, with our website providing a variety of craft projects, recipes, science ideas and book reviews throughout the year, with about 3 new posts each week.
Danielle and I felt there was a real void when it came to quality magazines and child-led crafts for our children. Additionally, with the explosion of sites like Pinterest, parents can feel overwhelmed – almost paralyzed – with how life or parenthood “should” look. We wanted to address both these issues, and so Crafting Connections was born, with our inaugural issue released Autumn 2012.
Our magazine is beautiful, something we are both immensely proud of. Each project, both in our magazine and online, include two specialized sections. There is “Explore More” where we give you the tools to build upon and expand the project and “Make Connections” where we offer ways to connect the project to your little one’s life, deepen your relationship with your little one, and/or connect the project to other focuses (such as math, science, literature, or art). Beyond our projects, our magazine includes lots of full-page images, poetry, and engaging questions. It’s a whole package really, a way for grown-ups and little ones to work together, making awesome (and very do-able) stuff, learning new concepts and building their relationships all at the same time.
What are you working on now?
Danielle: It’s the middle of winter, but we’re about six weeks out from our Spring issue deadline. We’ll be at crunch time soon with that. As for my personal business, I’m working on a line of linen towels to release early this spring. I’m excited to do something a little more grown-up.
Andrea: We just finished up our latest issue and are focusing on new projects for our site. We have some really fun things coming up that I can’t wait to work on. I also have a bunch of sewing projects I have been postponing for too long that I want to start attending to – I can just get lost in sewing and like to give myself big chunks of time to focus on those projects.
From time to time everyone’s creative juices wane. How do you handle that?
Danielle: Because I like to make and do so many different things, I rarely lose my creative flow. If the juices aren’t flowing in one of my pursuits, I usually just move on to another. If I can’t sketch, I knit. If I can’t knit, I’ll work on writing. And if all else fails, I’ll pull out my camera. Walking around with a camera in my hand, taking the time to notice all the amazing things around me, is generally enough to restart the flame.
Andrea: When my creative juices wane in regards to Crafting Connections, all I have to do is talk to Danielle or to my kiddos. When it comes to more personal things like painting or sewing, sometimes I give the particular medium a break since I might be feeling burnt out. Other times all it takes is a quick look around my favorite crafty blogs or magazines to get ideas flowing. And then there are the times I just give myself permission to not be creative for awhile – that’s OK too. I think giving yourself a break rather than trying to force creativity sometimes is the happiest and healthiest thing to do, because I know eventually, something will pique my interest, and my creative ideas will be off and running again!