democratizing creativity, Part III: Creativity Kits, really?

{Editorial note: I have so much more to say on this subject, and please bear with me for it has drawn out longer than expected. I will wrap it up by the end of the week, I promise. }

Still-lifeWhat really gets under my skin about democratizing creativity  is the abundance of ‘creativity kits’ out there.  Everything has been pre-imagined, pre-designed, pre-cut and pre-packaged for you. Where is your individuality in that? How much creativity does it take to make the exact same t-shirt as your friend…or worse yet, the exact same shirt as the one you can get from Hell-Mart?  There is now a kit for practically every kind of craft you can think of. 

When I first developed an interest in screenprinting, I imagined everything I could make with it.  I envisioned printing bed-linens (amongst other household goods) with my designs.  I actually did print a set of sheets as a friend’s wedding present.  Before long though, the Yudu machine was introduced to the market. I actually do like the Yudu for what it is, a small exposure unit for your screens. The downside is that the consumables are ridiculously expensive, and the unit is only big enough to print t-shirts.

Can’t afford the initial outlay for the Yudu? Craft stores are now selling pre-exposed screens so you can print ‘your very own t-shirt.’ Oh really? My very own t-shirt with YOUR pre-designed and exposed design? Now anyone with a thought in their head could easily print a shirt expressing this thought. You’re a spoiled rotten princess with entitlement issues? Why not let the world know by wearing a billboard to proclaim it?

Red ripe pear in the glass box. Bright reflections.I don’t so much have issues with what people put on their shirts. It is a free country after all, and we have freedom of speech. What bugs me is that this product line is a rip-off. The issue I have is that Big Craft (is that a thing?) is not only robbing people of serendipitous crafting experiences, they are also telling us what to put on our shirts! Grrrr!

I suppose it is possible to argue that these kits would provide an otherwise ‘non-crafty’ person with an opportunity to show their creative side. But that’s just it, assembling a pre-packaged craft does not allow for exploring and developing talents, just like paint by numbers kits do not teach you to become a master painter.  I suppose it all really depends on a person’s ultimate goal.  If your goal is to assemble, then assemble, but don’t call it ‘creating.’

Don’t get me wrong, I believe there is room for ‘kit crafting.” Sometimes it really is just about the experience of doing something. I just believe there’s entirely too many kits. A small part of me wonders if the abundance and availability of kits will devalue the actual craft, the process of crafting. It probably will not for those who really enjoy doing their own thing…but still.

What do you think?

Democratizing creativity part II: cute useless things

Ok, I get that Hell-Mart should not be the first choice in looking for creativity. But what about stores that specialize in creative pursuits? Those stores also seem to be suffering from the same virus. All you need to do is walk into any Joann, Michael’s or Hobby Lobby, and you will be assailed by what I call ‘cuteness-overload.’ I usually end up running out of the store in utter frustration because everything is so cutesy and the same, as if crafting is just about making cute useless things. 

This all started with the rise in the scrapbooking phenomenon a few years ago.  I tried unsuccessfully to get into scrapbooking, but I just could not justify spending that kind of money of what to me was such a frivolous pursuit. Don’t get me wrong,  I think Scrapbooking is useful, but the myriad buttons, brads, ribbons are other doo-dads are not. 

At first I was really into all the supplies, then I started to get overwhelmed by them.  I couldn’t even make a page because it was all just TOO MUCH. I didn’t know where to start with all the stuff.  No offense to avid scrapbookers, it just doesn’t appeal to me.

I totally understand taking an everyday item and making it pretty, I do. But, the cuteness overload has at times made me feel like I was wasting my time with the extra foofiness.  Case in point: a few months ago I made cupcakes for my kids’ teachers. I went all out, taking the extra time to make cupcake wrappers with each teacher’s name on it. Guess what? Not one teacher commented on the cute packaging. I doubt they even noticed. They did however comment on the deliciousness of my cupcake.

My point? Yes, cute packaging can be wonderful, but it’s not necessary. The craft industry however tirelessly works hard to tell us that if it’s not cute, we haven’t put in the effort, and how else do you show your love if not by putting in the effort?

up next Part III:  Creativity Kits (really?)…

democratizing creativity, good or bad? Part 1

Call me a curmudgeon, but I am personally sick and tired of the crass commercialization and ubiquity of craft and creative supplies.  I am not happy  that big corporations have co-opted what used to be fun past-time and beaten it to within an inch of its life. In their attempt to democratize creativity, they’ve only succeeded in removing what was so fun about it in the first place: the serendipity of creation.

blast from the past: JesPlayin Pencil cups

My feeling this way started a few years back but really came to a head yesterday.  I took a trip to the last Hell-Mart I knew of that carried bolts of fabric (I know, I know, it is Hell-Mart after all).  I hadn’t been to this particular store in a while because it is out of my way, so I didn’t know what was in store. As soon as I drove up, I knew they had recently remodeled, and my heart sank.  (What is this need to make everything shiny-new and THE SAME as the others?)

I could tell that the assortment of very cost-effective bolts of fabric of old had been replaced by their new and hideous pre-cut and packaged fabrics.  Each store now had the exact same packages of pre-cut fabrics and supplies. Gone was the excitement of wondering what great deals their buyers had scored to pass on to me.  What was so great about the old arrangement was that each store held different fabrics. But I guess this would go against Hell-Mart’s business model of everything being the exact same in Topeka as in Tallahassee…

Like I said, this is Hell-Mart, and I shouldn’t expect too much. They are not in the creativity business, they are in the money-making business.

Next…Part 2:  Cute useless things.  Stay tuned

I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth…

I have just been taking care of some other things. Here are some things I’ve been working on:

*New items for my shop. I have a local store that’s very interested in my scarves, so I have been working on that.

*I am also reorganizing my craft/work space. Why does it seem like a never-ending task? Since I moved into the family room, it feels a lot more (and hopefully will be) permanent.

*Planning our ‘Urban Garden’.  I have always wanted a vegetable garden, but I know next to nothing about starting or tending one, (despite living on a farm for 3 years of my youth). Coupled with that is the fact that I don’t think we have the best soil, or the space (our family room is built on what would have been prime garden space).  Genius hit me like Newton’s apple while flipping through my latest issue of <a href=””>Do It Yourself</a> magazine.  If we can’t have the garden UNDER/BEHIND the family room, why not OVER it? The plan is to have our container garden on the roof of our family room, which is completely flat and very spacious.  I am researching as much as I can about Urban Gardens, and can’t wait to get to work!

Check out these rooftop/container gardens. Cool, huh?

courtesy of

courtesy of greenville organic foods

they’re baaack…and a little contest

The earrings, that is. So guess who’s shop is no longer empty?

That’s where I’ve been, in case you wondered.  I’ve been tending to my (previously) very empty etsy shop. It is now on its way to being chock full of fun and unique accessories for both you, and your home.


And now a few announcements:

*I have decided to limit the “Thrifty Tuesday” segment to just once a month or so.  I’m finding it a little tough to keep up the pace.

*I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of gal.  I just cannot conform.  Tried it, hated it. This also means my posts will be more free-form. Still on topic, but free-form. Why be who I’m not?

*In the interest of simplicity, my Jesplayin shop will remain open and will contain everything I make for sale, whether it’s housewares, personal accessories or what have you.  I’ve had that shop the longest, and it just makes sense to keep it open. This means no more separate AfroMartha shop.

*Contest Time*

I am however going to change the business name to “YayToonDay”.  Leave a comment below as to what that name means or how you think I came up with it.  I will use a randomizer to select a winner from the CORRECT answers (hint: go research). The prize: A free pair of earrings of your choice from my shop.

Good Luck!

eye candy


Just got in from the Eye Candy show sponsored by the Dayton Etsy Team, held at Eye Candy Studio and Gallery.  What a great time! It was great to see and network with other artists/crafters and show our work.  I spent the last couple of weeks days getting ready.

check out the buffet of colors!

For this show I went with my ever popular crochet earrings. I tightened up my collection considerably and focused on making a great display. The work paid off! The earrings were a hit, and so were the displays.

The displays I built (last night , ahem) really allowed each pair of earrings to stand out rather than being jumbled in with other pieces.  My intention was to showcase the earrings as much more than ‘just another piece of jewelry’, but more as a statement accessory.


Well the people have spoken. It looks like I will continue with producing my earrings.  The focus will be on producing them using beautiful and unique yarns not seen elsewhere.  I will be listing them back in my shop in the next two weeks.

In other news, I’m about to be even busier.  I have volunteered to help with Yej’s school production of Alice Jr., in which she plays one of the flowers. I am in charge of producing about 15 costumes, yikes!  Thrift store, here I come.  It will be fun though. Stay tuned for the hilarity that will surely ensue.

photo courtesy of

Great News!

I was recently asked to write for, a portal of ‘fresh inspiration for your inner Goddess!’ This website covers a range of topics lifestyle topics from fashion to crafting, to décor, and nurturing your spirit.  I am honored.

My first article titled Get Creative!: Turn 5 Items Into Home Art Décor is now live. Hop on over and check it out will ya?! Tell ‘em AfroMartha sent ya!