Photo: Thinkstock/Emma Innocenti
Just because you live a high-tech life doesn't mean you can't go low-tech with great results. Technology expert Alexandra Samuel shares her ideas and inspirations for going online to get crafty.
In the fall of 1997, I dressed as the Internet for Halloween. I captured screenshots from a representative assortment of websites and found a color printer—then an exotic piece of hardware—to print a few dozen 4x6 images. I glued them onto pieces of cardboard and strung them together using telephone cords onto a dress and wove double-ended phone jacks down the back. Then, I threw the dress over a black catsuit and headed out for a night of party-hopping. My Web-inspired craft project got an overwhelming reaction—in those early days of the Web, a girl dressed like the Internet was catnip for the geeks of the Cambridge party scene.
That may be the geekiest craft project I've ever undertaken, but technology has supported many other art and craft projects over the years. Many of my friends are surprised that a tech junkie like me can happily spend a weekend sewing a dress, decoupaging a table or stenciling tile. The truth is that these kinds of hands-on, visceral projects make a great counterweight to all the time I spend online and in my head. I'm never happier than when my hands are caked with glue or my living room floor is strewn with fabric scraps.
More than 75 percent of American households include at least one person like me: the sometimes crafter. For those many crafters in the United States and around the world, crafting provides an outlet for creativity that offers a different type of creative expression. And social media can support all that crafting in ways that make it even more satisfying. Here's how.
Make Your Own Studio
My husband was out of town for an election campaign, so I went to the movies and caught a collection of animated shorts. Inspired by some wicked Claymation, I went out the next day and picked up a supply of plasticine. I created a little model of our dog and a tiny election sign, which I stuck in the dog's mouth. Then, I spent the afternoon snapping shot after shot with our digital camera, which I stitched together with a simple video editor. I threw the movie up on our website and sent the link to Rob as a mid-election greeting. It was the kind of project that used to require specialized studio equipment; today, you can outfit your computer with all the free software you need to turn a simple mic and camera into a studio that can handle most photo, print, video or audio projects.
I was sewing curtains when a friend walked in to find me working away with my grandmother's sewing machine. "You know they have machines that go backward now," she joked. But until that moment, it had never occurred to me to update my equipment. My grandmother's machine might be 80 years old, but it's a durable classic, and all the better for knowing that she sewed my mum's baby clothes on the same machine I'm using to sew for daughter and son. I've since acquired a second machine that not only has the ability to go backward (which, in truth, is quite handy) but has 25 different stitch patterns and a USB connector for downloading more. Yet even I can see that in crafting, less is often more: Unless your equipment is inhibiting your creativity, don't waste time or money on upgrades.
Where to go online to learn how to personalize your arts and crafts