Cassi is the mama, artist, and crafter behind the ever-popular kids craft blog, The Crafty Crow. Here she shares her wealth of experience with us, including tips and materials for crafting with kids.
***Note: Readers will have a chance to win a wonderful little needle felted bunny, handcrafted by Cassi, at the end of this interview.***
JEAN: So, tell us a bit about yourself. How did you
get to where you are now as the homeschooling mama of three, with a popular
children’s craft blog, and your own crafts featured in several books?
CASSI: Well, my love of handmade, homeschooling and computers are the ties that hold it all together and a divorce and being a single mom of three is what propelled me forward. I started blogging 5 1/2 years ago just wanting to communicate with other people who shared my love of crafting, I had no idea of the opportunities it would lead to. I always think of that saying, "Do what you love, the money will follow," well, I'm doing what I love at least!
JEAN: Everyone loves your blog and looks to it for ideas to do with their kids. What made you start The Crafty Crow?
CASSI: I started it for my own needs, one place to keep all the kids' craft ideas, and thought there were probably others out there who would like the same thing. I also love the crafting community and wanted to be able to bring attention to all the talented people out there.
JEAN: You post several times a day on The Crafty
Crow – with multiple crafts from different blogs – often united by a theme. Are you scouring the internet all day to find these?
How do you choose what to post?
CASSI: It seems like I am always on the computer! I have about 500 blogs in my feed that I read through every day plus I'm always looking at new sources and going through archives. I get lots of submissions too so there's always something new to share. I keep all the ideas in files and many of them are compiled by theme.
My posting framework is loosely based on the calendar with seasons and holidays. I make themed posts when I have gathered enough variety of ideas to make it interesting and then the rest is what I feel like at the time :) I try to post at least 3 projects a day and include something for each of the age categories. My own little whimsy is that I like the posts to look nice together so I make choices that coordinate with each other.
JEAN: How have crafts featured in your family’s life and homeschooling? What are your kids especially into?
Well, my house is decorated in craft modern! You'll find shelves full of
fabric, piles of old and new craft books, coffee filter flowers, jars of
buttons and ribbons, children's art on the walls and a dining hutch filled with
paper, paint, colored pencils, markers, glues, felt and more. We have always
incorporated a lot of hands-on projects in our homeschooling since it's a great
way to learn plus it's fun. The kids do a variety of crafts - we try things
from The Crafty Crow and they help me with tutorials.
An embroidery of one of her son's drawings made into a pillow (the pattern for this is in Pretty Little Pillows by Lark).
We started our biggest
crafting endeavor two years ago when we began making all of our gifts for
Solstice. The kids have to make at least 11 gifts each so there's a lot of
planning involved. The idea wasn't terribly popular at first, and it takes a
lot of work, but it has added so much meaning to our holiday I can't imagine
ever doing it any other way.
JEAN: Any tips for parents who want to make
crafting with their kids more of a priority?
- have supplies on hand
- keep art materials on the table, coffee table, kitchen counter or wherever your family tends to gather
- start making stuff yourself, many kids will want to join in
- weather permitting, take crafting outside - everyone will enjoy a lot more artistic freedom when they don't have to worry about making a mess
- for specific projects, collect everything you will need in a box; when you’re ready to do that project all you have to do is pull out the box and you're set
- don't have any expectations for a certain result, just enjoy the conversation and camaraderie
JEAN: What are your favorite craft materials for
little kids? What should we all keep in stock at home?
- For the youngest kids use non-toxic and easy to clean up art materials. Experimenting with different media and sensory experiences are most important at this age. Homemade play dough, finger paint with pudding, and watercolors from food coloring are good, simple and inexpensive activities.
- Keep a well-stocked recycling bin - newspaper is great for protecting surfaces but it's also fun to paint on; cereal boxes can be used as structures (buildings, blocks) but can also be cut apart to use as tag board; glass bottles can store small items but they can also be made into vases, lanterns, snow globes, etc. Set out a bunch of recyclables and see what the kids can create. There are lots of ideas for crafting with recycled materials on The Crafty Crow.
- I love my roll of white butcher paper from Costco! I mainly use it to cover surfaces for drawing and to make patterns, but it has almost endless possibilities and it lasts forever too.
- Clear contact paper and clear packing tape for making stained glass art and laminating.
- Mod Podge - I love the smell of Mod Podge in the morning ;) but, use in a well-ventilated area!
- Sharpies, because they stay permanent on so many surfaces - I guess that's the bad thing about Sharpies too! These are markers for older kids you will need to use caution.
- Felt - craft felt is fine for cutting and gluing but use wool and wool blend felt for sewing projects.
- Colorful tissue paper for decoupaging and making flowers.
- Oil pastels because they are just so darned smooth and beautiful! They're messy too but it's worth it to me.
- Painter's tape - tape down work surfaces and watercolor paper, use it for masking and to hold glued pieces together while they dry. Removal is clean and easy and it can be reused too.
- Everyone should have child-friendly but good scissors, white glue (I like Tacky Glue because it holds quickly and since it's thick you won't get big pools of it on the artwork), watercolors (I like Prang), and crayons/markers/colored pencils.
- Some sort of clay whether homemade salt dough, polymer, or the real thing from the craft store.
- This will be my last idea, since I could go on and on, but take a walk outside and see all the things you can find to craft with: rocks, pine cones, sticks, leaves, flowers, acorns, seeds, feathers, etc..
JEAN: Your own creations have appeared in several
books. How do you make time for your crafting? Do you have anything you’re working on these days?
CASSI: My own crafting has really taken a backseat to my work for The Crafty Crow, homeschooling, and maintaining a household, but I always have several projects going on anyway, they just take a lot longer :) Right now, I am crocheting two different blankets, needle felting some little animals for gifts, drawing mandalas and still doing my watercolor drawings. It's very difficult for me just to sit and not have my hands busy with something so I always carry some sort of project with me, like crochet, drawing or embroidery, and do a little bit when I can. I usually do some in bed at night too to help me decompress from the day. As far as professional projects, I have several that I'm working on but I don't want to jinx anything by saying something too soon, I'm superstitious that way :)
JEAN: Thank you, Cassi! We are lucky to have you scouring the internet for inspiring children's crafts to share with us! What a resource you are creating! And I hope you continue to carve out time for your own crafting.
Readers who leave a comment by Friday, July 9th at 12 midnight EST, will be entered into a random drawing for this wonderful little needle felted bunny, handmade by Cassi. Here's what she says about him: He's a little needle felted gray bunny (the base of the bunny is 1 1/2", height is 2 1/4" and the orange part of the carrot is 1 1/4"). The bunny, his collar and carrot are all made from 100% wool, and everything except the collar is organic wool. He's pretty solid but not meant for rough play.
The random number generator picked #117 so Sonja wins the bunny!