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Maker Moment: Instacrafts with Alison Caporimo, perfect for holiday gifts

Posted by Melissa Massello  November 7, 2013 09:23 AM

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instacraft_meera_lee_patel_holiday.jpgPhoto: Instacraft/Ulysses Press

If you're new to crafting, one of the most intimidating factors and obstacles to getting started can be collecting the right tools for the job — not to mention learning the techniques.

Using simple items from around your house, craft store supplies, skills possessed by anyone who's passed 3rd grade, and — surprise! — no fancy tools, author Alison Caporimo has put together a project guide full of 5-minute DIYs with her new book InstaCraft: Fun and Simple Projects for Adorable Gifts, Decor, and More (Ulysses Press, 2013).

Who says craft newbies can't make personalized, Pinterest-worthy gifts in time for the holidays? Definitely not this author. We sat down with Caporimo this week to find out more about how she got into crafting, where she found her inspiration for InstaCraft, and her favorite DIY projects, in this week's Maker Moment:

What first inspired you to write your book, Instacraft?
I love the idea of making objects that feel personal and unique, but struggled with books and tutorials that required expensive materials and specialty tools to get started. That’s when I put my creativity to the test and came up with fun décor and accessory projects that anyone (seriously, anyone) can make in an afternoon or in their downtime.

How did you and (photographer) Meera Lee Patel meet?
Meera and I met as interns at Good Housekeeping magazine when we were in college. She drew these whimsical watercolor prints that I fawned over, and I knew that we were destined to work together someday. When I started to brainstorm ideas for InstaCraft, I saw it as our long-awaited chance for collaboration—and what an amazing experience it was.

Why only 5-minute projects?
Because everyone has 5 minutes and, with a few simple steps, you can use that time to recycle something you already have into a new cool craft you’ll be proud to show off.

Why only projects that require minimal tools?
I wanted to create a craft book that was inclusive, where anyone could get their hands on the materials (if they didn’t already have them lying around the house). For this reason, I kept tools simple: glue, tape and scissors are your best friends for these projects.

Where did you come up with the ideas for your projects?
To start, decorating a tiny New York City apartment on a tight budget was a big motivating factor. When I first moved into the East Village, I would go into local shops to memorize patterns and shapes that I loved and look at materials printed on labels. I would go on late night runs around the Lower East Side and stop to take pictures of store windows and displays. I started to realize that I could make this stuff, that anyone could really. I would wander around local hardware stores and chain shops to see how a generic item, with a few minor tweaks, could turn into something unique. It's sort of like cloud-gazing, I guess. You need to look past the function of an object and just see its shape. And that opens up a world of possibilities.

instacraft_DIY_inspiration_board_clothesline.jpgPhoto: Instacraft/Ulysses Press

What's the first project you remember making/crafting?
My first craft was, what I call, an inspiration clothesline—and it's featured in the book! As a magazine editor, I'm always pulling pages out of my favorite publications. I needed a place to display my findings, but didn't want a large, bulky corkboard hanging on my wall. That's when I came up with a project that would use only twine, clothespins, and a few screw eye hooks to create a thread of inspiration that can travel around a room. I like to think that my own inspiration clothesline fueled me when I was up late at night, gluing and spray-painting my creations for InstaCraft.

Most successful project? Biggest fail?
I was very excited when I came up with my Faux French Lockets. Magazines like Martha Stewart Living and popular style blogs were writing all about these bold and colorful pendants, which cost about $100 per necklace. After a week or two of experimenting, I found a way to recreate them for under $5. You can't even tell the difference between the real ones and their DIY variations!

What do you DIY the most?
My recent DIY obsession has been jewelry. I love the idea of wearable crafts that get some face time with the rest of the world. I got so into accessories that I set up an Etsy shop called Figment and Fragment, where you can check out my handmade geometric necklaces.

Favorite/least favorite tools/materials?
I carry E-6000 glue with me everywhere I go. It's the strongest adhesive around and is a great basic to have in your DIY arsenal.

instacraft_meera_lee_patel_brick_bookends.jpgPhoto: Instacraft/Ulysses Press

Has a project outcome ever surprised you?
Absolutely. Recycling was a key factor in my projects, so when I was looking for materials to make the Brick Bookends (shown above), I picked two off of the street in my hometown of Brooklyn, New York. Upon sitting down with them, I worried that the nicks and bumps on the brick sides would make the finished product look messy and unfinished, but the result was quite the opposite. The weathered bricks absorbed the paint beautifully and transformed into vintage book spines that can camouflage into any bookcase.

What's the best advice you've ever received?
The best advice I've ever received comes from Zen in The Art Of Writing by Ray Bradbury: "Let the world burn through you. Throw the prism light, white hot, on paper." This quote inspired me to be fearless in my creativity and to pour all of my love into each project. In the book, every craft is paired with a personal anecdote, a song suggestion or a family recipe. I wanted the book to feel like a love letter to crafters everywhere, an all-encompassing experience to make you create even while you're creating.

What's your top tip for first-timers?
Don't underestimate the importance of a sharp pair of scissors. They can make all the difference in the world when it comes to cutting perfect angles and having control over trickier materials like a thick tape or cardboard.

Anything you DIY now that you never thought you would?
I crafted a lock for the book, which is something I would never have thought of until I realized that it would help me find my locker at the gym. It's such a simple life hack—and it looks cute, too!

What won't you ever DIY/when do you call in the experts?
If anything involves soldering (especially for jewelry), I reach out to the pros. When people are working with heat and melted metal, you definitely want to consult someone with trained experience. Though I do hope to learn more about metalwork in the future!

"When I'm not making stuff, I'm..."
Reading, drinking tea, and thinking about what fun project to make next.

For complete step-by-step instructions on how to make these three super-cute, surprisingly easy projects from InstaCraft, head over to ShoestringMag.com.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the Authors

Melissa Massello is a newspaper journalist turned startup junkie and lifelong Bostonian who prides herself on her do-it-yourself attitude. From making her prom dress out More »
Tara Bellucci is a Boston-based writer that lives for fonts, food, and flea market finds. Whether decorating jars of her homemade jam for The Boston More »

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