I am very happy to be participating in the Imagine Childhood blog tour. For my stop on the tour I asked Sarah a few questions about her philosophy and the book:

Imagine Childhood: Exploring the World through Nature, Imagination, and Play – 25 Projects that spark curiosity and adventure by Sarah Olmsted. Roost Books; (October 16, 2012).

1. You discuss in your book the magic of childhood — Can you explain a little about how you ‘build’ your world of wonder? How you create that magical world for children and how the children you know respond to that world?

I don’t think it is so much about “building” a world of wonder as it is about opening yourself up to the one that we are already living in. Experiencing magic can be as simple as a subtle shift in your perspective or actions. Taking the time to notice the birds in your neighborhood, the intricate patterns of a spider web, the clouds in the sky, can instantly create a sense of wonder wherever you are. The same principles are true in regards to creating a magical world for children. The space that children naturally inhabit is an enchanted one. Every object or interaction has as much potential to be magical as mundane. All that is needed to put the focus on the fantastic is a willingness to jump into that world with them, to chase fairies through the park, to look for magic stones at the beach… to see the world through a child’s eyes and join them on their journey.

Perhaps one of the most heartening aspects of writing this book was seeing just how close children (and adults for that matter) keep the world of magic and how quickly and wholeheartedly they will engage with it. I have worked with, or designed for, children for the better part of my life, but still, the power of a few sticks, some string, and a healthy dose of imagination never ceases to amaze me. When given the space to explore the universe of their imagination, children engage the world with openness and see it for all of its limitless potential.

2. The projects in your book are built upon layers of experimentation and innovation, each project is a guide with lots of tangents of possibility, can you tell us about this trial and error approach to your projects for children?

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn”
~ Benjamin Franklin

The trial and error framework for many of the projects in this book is based on a sentiment very similar to the quote above.  That in order to really learn something,  you have to engage with it, and nothing is more engaging than experimentation. The fluid structure of experimentation allows children to experience moments of discovery in whatever they happen to be working with and it encourages them to follow those discoveries wherever they may lead. This sort of open ended approach can be fun because it allows children to come back to projects or activities again and again without ever repeating the same experience. Since the focus is on the process rather than the end result, innovations and tangential explorations can be just as important and fruitful as the original activity.

3. You use a lot of natural materials in your projects — and if you are not directly using them then you are inspired by them. Can you tell us how this connection with nature is important for your inspiration and for children’s play?

When you really look into it, most of the materials that we use on a daily basis have a root in the natural world. Whether it is a pigment made from plants or minerals, or a steel cable inspired by the strength found in spider silk, the origin of nearly everything we touch can be connected with nature in some way. I think I am attracted to natural materials for exactly this reason. They are the building blocks of the world we live in, from mountains to skyscrapers, color wheels to computers.

My emphasis on using simple natural materials with children follows a similar logic. That by starting out with the fundamentals children can learn how to build the world of their dreams, one stick raft, one tree fort at a time. Also, procuring natural material means engaging with nature, which is never a bad thing in my opinion.

Thank you Kathreen for sharing your wonderful space with me today!

{ 1 comment }

For more kids craft, creative ideas and activities go to the Action Pack website

Guest series 2012: I asked fellow bloggers, makers and creators to write on their creativity and focus their essay on one of four topics: creativity and health, creativity and business, creativity and parenting or creativity and process. I am very excited to have a wonderful lot of fellow creative folk guest posting here at over the next couple of months. Please welcome…

Abby Glassenberg creates unique patterns for stuffed animals from her home studio, and since 2005 she has shared these creations and her ideas on design, technique and the online culture of craft through her blog. Abby has a master’s degree in education, she taught middle school before becoming a textile artist and the mother of three girls. Abby’s first book, The Artful Bird: Feathered Friends to Make and Sew, was an ALA Booklist top ten craft book of 2011. Her new book about soft toy design and will be published by Lark in May of 2013. You can find Abby’s stuffed animal patterns in her Craftsy pattern shop and her Etsy shop and keep up with her latest pattern releases on her Facebook page.

In 2003 I had a whole summer off. I was a sixth grade teacher, married, living in an apartment we owned in an interesting, upbeat area of Boston. In early June, just before school was out, I set some summer goals for myself: draw every day, dust off my old watercolors and paint, make a quilt with all that fabric I’d been hoarding.

The last day of school came and went, as did the first week of summer vacation, and I was just about ready to start in on those projects. Monday morning my husband left for work and I went to the bakery and then for a long walk and then I took a nap. And watched some TV. And talked on the phone with my sister. And suddenly the day was gone and I never did draw. In fact, week after long free week of that summer rolled on by and, yes, I did sew a few scraps together, but then laid them aside when I couldn’t figure out what to do next, and, yes, I painted a little still life of some lemons and gave it to my mother for her birthday, but then I put the paints back on the shelf. Even while I was living those weeks I could see that my lofty summer goals for productive creativity were not being realized.

But why? Why wasn’t I using all that free time as creative time? The desire was there, but something crucial was missing. Now I see that the missing element was a feeling of urgency. Urgency reframes time, places constraints on us, maybe forces us even, to use every single moment if we are to meet our goals.

By the end of that summer I was pregnant with our first child, a daughter born the next March. I left the classroom to be home with her and suddenly I was back in the apartment while my husband was at work, with long hours before me, a similar feeling to the one I’d had the previous summer. Visits to the bakery, long walks pushing the stroller, naps, some TV, talks with my sister – it was all the same. Except now it was completely different.

When the baby was up there was always something to do. Nursing and changing, comforting and cleaning, folding and cooking, and then cleaning and nursing again, and on and on. And when finally I could put her down for a nap and I could be me again. The old me. The me that wanted to draw and paint and sew. But now I only had an hour before the cycle of nursing and changing and comforting and cleaning started all over again. An hour and ten minutes if I was lucky. So out came the sketchbook and the pencil because if I was going to actually make anything I had to start right now!

And pretty soon I was making things, teaching myself to sew from old soft toy books I’d check out of the library after storytime on Tuesdays. And in May of 2005 I started a blog, to record all that naptime creative productivity. In the seven years that have passed we’ve had two more daughters (only girls so that “She” still rings true!) and I’m a stay-at-home mom with a creative business that I work on primarily while my kids are asleep or at school or camp.

When people peek into my studio, peruse my website, and see everything that I’m making, and then notice that I have three kids who are 8, 6, and 18 months, the first thing they ask me is, “How do you find the time?”

Having children has given me many gifts (and a fair number of headaches, too), but one of the greatest gifts of motherhood for me is the constraints it has placed on my time. Looking back at that summer of 2003 my first reaction is to feel jealous desire, dreaming of what I would do if only I had that time now. The reality of now, though, is that I never have time like that. And precisely because I don’t, I find the time to produce creative work every day.


Guest series 2012: I asked fellow bloggers, makers and creators to write on their creativity and focus their essay on one of four topics: creativity and health, creativity and business, creativity and parenting or creativity and process. I am very excited to have a wonderful lot of fellow creative folk guest posting here at over the next couple of months. Please welcome…

Tania is a mother, wife, graphic designer, rocking-in-the-corner-(knitting) type. She blogs over at myrtle and eunice while doing her level best NOT to sweat the small stuff…

When I was pregnant with my first kid, I was living in London and the events of September 11, 2001, were new and raw and indigestible. Hysterical newspapers used exclamation marks and told us we were the next target(!) and sales of gas masks went through the roof. I decided to ride my bike to work, rather than risk the perils of underground Tube travel – perils that extended beyond sardine-packed trains and the breathy aftermath of someone’s evening-before-curry. Until a week before my due date, I cycled over the river and through Hyde Park and on the way home, I laboured, huffing and puffing up Battersea Hill. Over three months, I reckon I escaped Certain Death by London Bus, no less than eleventy million times.

Even though I’d felt vulnerable out in the big wide world before, this time was different. There was a baby. And there was all that new, hormonal, emotional, growing-a-baby business. I staked my claim on that small amount of control: I rode that bike and risked Certain Death by London Bus. And I learned to knit.

Nearly eleven years later, I am still wrapping my children in protective woolly warmth and crafted hugs and the soothing repetition of a knitted stitch remains a balm for this soul.

Yet as my kid’s grow and their individual personalities develop, there’s a whole other, concurrent side to the kid-inspired craft. I reckon I learn as much from them as they do me. Together we’ve discovered there is real virtue in ‘silly’. And that finding the ‘un’ in the ‘expected’ and the ‘extra’ in the ‘ordinary’, is inspiring stuff. It takes constant practise but I really do enjoy myself when the answer to the question WHY? is WHY THE HECK NOT?

Following is a good dollop of Why The Heck Not…

Religiously collected, bog-standard, toilet rolls become a mother/son project and an object of loo-beauty:

An entire living room floor is covered in photographic backdrop paper and a family spends Friday night as human spirographs. (Excellent for tummy toning).

A mother goes entirely overboard, crafting a school Crazy Hair Day get-up:

One pompom becomes a hundred. A tree is ‘pompombed’ and the Holy-Moly-What-The-Heck-Next? looks from the locals are enjoyed.

Kids and craft bring out this Mum’s fun. (They also bring out her ‘bossy’. Please leave the room):

Finally, there’s John McEnroe’s most infamous tantie. I am old enough to remember the 1981 Wimbledon tennis final. Around here, we decided he was on to a good wicket. McEnroe’s sage words, (without his tantrummed, entirely undignified and unsportsmanlike intent), are exhibited next to our front door.

Because where’s the fun in ‘serious’?



Guest series 2012: I asked fellow bloggers, makers and creators to write on their creativity and focus their essay on one of four topics: creativity and health, creativity and business, creativity and parenting or creativity and process. I am very excited to have a wonderful lot of fellow creative folk guest posting here at over the next couple of months. Please welcome…

Lisa Siebert, is the designer and owner of Looploft, a small, fiber arts business. Looploft is conveniently located as a backyard studio in East Grand Rapids Michigan, a short walk to Gas Light Village and Reed’s lake…a cozy little neighborhood, one hour from Lake Michigan and three hours from Chicago.  

When I started Looploft a few years ago, it was mostly a hobby, exploring designs and specializing in natural and repurposed fabrics. I was determined to evolve it over time, into my own business. My creative interests and background is varied and I hold a graphic and advertising design degree. When I became a full-time mom, helping to raise our three children, I was always seeking ways to exercise my creative outlet with them. I would sew halloween costumes and Easter dresses, decorate and re-decorate their rooms, and no matter how small our home was, we always had an art room for creative ventures.

In my initial years of Looploft, I was making mostly one-of-a-kind softies out of repurposed wool sweaters. However the thrift store inventory for wool sweaters was dropping as others also found those useful, and I was finding that I had less time do the hunting. My product collection has evolved toward simple designs that include my own printed fabric and printed graphics. I’ve found success with these and now have a full ‘linen line’. About a year ago I added a custom ‘wedding ring pillow’ and a ‘tooth fairy pillow’ and they are among my top sellers these days.

I was excited to find spoonflower as a resource that allowed me to design and print small batches of fabric I use on some of my products. Another time saver (I read about somewhere) has helped me with all of the fabric appliques I do: use a glue stick to affix the applique to the linen instead of pinning, it is so fast and easy and works like a charm!  

A good day for me at Looploft: I wake up, make coffee, check Etsy and respond to customer orders. I retreat to my studio where I work until late afternoon when school gets out. I have a postal scale in my studio and a laptop so my orders can be boxed and labeled conveniently. I head to the post office and the coffee house next door for a raspberry and white chocolate scone. During really busy weeks I may have to go back out to the studio in the evening to fulfill orders.

When I have free time, I can be found getting creative inspiration from my favorite current or back issues of Anthology Magazine, Selvedge, UPPERCASE and Domino. I love pinning things on pinterest to get my creative juices going and also sharing my latest creations from my shop. Pinterest, as much as a source for inspiratio, has also been a very effective marketing tool for me, driving nearly a third of the traffic I get at LoopLoft. Over time I would like to launch my own blog and focus a bit more on social media as a marketing tool as well.

This fall both of our girls will be in college and I feel fortunate to have a business now to bring me fulfilment and to help us afford that. For me, I feel it’s a gift to live a life with a creative spark and to enjoy sharing in the process along the way.

{ 1 comment }

Guest series 2012: I asked fellow bloggers, makers and creators to write on their creativity and focus their essay on one of four topics: creativity and health, creativity and business, creativity and parenting or creativity and process. I am very excited to have a wonderful lot of fellow creative folk guest posting here at over the next couple of months. Please welcome…

Jen, and her blog partner, Autie, are stay-at-home moms living in Southern California, who love to create all things handmade. They joined forces little over a year ago to document and share their creations on their blog: iCandy handmade

Hi, WhipUp readers! I am so excited to be here today. Kathreen has created such an interesting series! My name is Jen, and I am one of the creators behind the blog iCandy handmade. At the beginning of last year, I asked my friend Autie if she wanted to start a “craft” blog with me. I had wanted to start a sewing blog for a long time, and couldn’t seem to get going on it. (I’m such a procrastinator!) Autie already had a little craft blog of her own that she would occasionally post a project on, but I thought that if we joined forces, it would be a huge motivator for me to actually WORK on all the projects floating around in my head. Having a partner would keep us accountable, and help make the workload manageable. She loved the idea and our baby blog was born!

Not to be dramatic, but in that moment, my life changed very much for the better.

About a year before all this happened, I started reading sewing and craft blogs. At that time, I didn’t really sew all that much, just VERY occasionally. (I had a spurt when my daughter was born, making bedding and a diaper bag, but that was about it). The blogs My Momma Made It, which turned into Made By Lex (She isn’t blogging anymore, sad!) and Grosgrain Fabulous were daily must-reads! (among others…). I would read these and feel so inspired. I would think to myself, I could make things like that! And so I started thinking about sewing. All the time. But I still didn’t do anything about it. Finally, when we started iCandy, my thoughts and ideas began to transform into something tangible. Since then, Autie and I have gotten into a blogging groove, and make sure to each have one new project completed each week.  

Now how has this changed my life? Well, quite a bit.

In the prior ten years, I had struggled at times to feel fulfilled with my life. I usually felt “fine” or “ok,” but I really didn’t have anything I felt passionate about. I worked at several different jobs, but never really found a career that I loved. I graduated from college with a BA in English, but didn’t find a fabulous career using that degree. I liked to do a lot of things in my spare time but none that brought me the feeling that I was seeking. Looking back, it seems so simple: it was creativity in my life that I was lacking. All you fellow creative people/artists can probably relate to the feeling of incompleteness when you aren’t able to create.

With each creation made, photo taken and posted on our new blog, this feeling of incompleteness began to dissipate. I don’t know when exactly I noticed the change within myself. Sometimes the deadlines are hard to meet, and being the procrastinator that I am, sometimes the nights are long, but every moment spent creating is worth it. The feeling when I finish something that began as just an idea is the greatest – it brings such a sense of accomplishment. And when my daughter loves what I make her (which isn’t always…) or when I receive sweet comments of encouragement from readers… WOW.

I can now say that I have found that something that I am passionate about. It isn’t just sewing, it is the design process from start to finish. It is my art. It makes me happy. It is doing what I love. It adds sparkle to my life. And, incidentally, it adds quite a lot to our wardrobes, too!

{ 1 comment }