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Maker Moment: Pallet projects, pups, and Pretty in Pink with Melissa Massello

Posted by Melissa Massello  March 31, 2014 12:00 PM

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Photo: Melissa Massello

It's our last day here at DIY Boston, and I can think of no better send off than catching up with our Head Crafter and Glitter Wrangler, Melissa Massello. Like everything she does, this blog has been a whirlwind of fun and a labor of love, and I'm glad to have been along for the ride.

So what's our very own Mod Podge Maven have on the horizon? For the scoop on nesting, where she gets her best ideas, and cool new projects, read on.

What's the first project you remember making/crafting?
The first projects I ever made were all with my mom, who started introducing us to crafts and DIY activities from a very young age — probably homemade Play-doh or dough ornaments. Though my absolute favorite was my first "upcycling" project back in 1995, when I took a bridesmaid's dress from my parents' wedding and (very much inspired by Molly Ringwald in Pretty in Pink) modified it to wear to my junior prom at Lexington High.

Most successful project? Biggest fail?
My biggest sucesses lately have all been in the kitchen, and I'm proud to say that I think I've finally mastered the techniques for making risotto and cast iron skillet fritattas from scratch (or at least so say my recent dinner/brunch guests!). Most of my recent failures have involved sewing, though I'm determined to shake the rust off and become friends with my sewing machine again. Soon.

What do you DIY the most?
Home decor, definitely. I've been in a major nesting phase recently, inspired by a massive move when we sold most of our belongings in a garage sale and pretty much started over from scratch. I'm really digging the nautical theme I created for our bathroom (especially since we now live much farther from the ocean), utilizing DIYs projects I made for this blog like a mercury glass vase from a wine bottle shaped like a lighthouse and jute-wrapped countertop organizers from Goodwill glassware. I'm currently hunting down old shipping pallets and iron piping to turn into a daybed for our backyard this summer, and picked up IKEA throw rugs to turn into rustic bolster pillows for it.

Favorite/least favorite tools/materials?
My new favorite tool this year is definitely E6000, a super-strong crafting epoxy that I've used on everything from DIY fashion projects to the penny marquee letters that I made for my brother for Christmas. It's so versatile, strong, and easy to use — not to mention cheap! My favorite material is anything recycled, whether from the refuse bin or from existing objects/garments found at garage sales, thrift stores, etc. My least favorite tools are sandpaper, the electric sander, and furniture strippers of all kinds. I have tried & failed at renovating or stripping/painting/staining dressers & tables more times than I'd like to count.

Has a project outcome ever surprised you?
I'm always surprised when I tackle a project and the end result actually looks somewhat professional — and by the number of times I'll have to try that same skill or technique and have it look like a kindergarten project before I get there. But, as they say, practice really does makes perfect! That's why I love using base materials from thrift stores & recycling bins so you don't have to spend a ton of money to teach yourself something new. One of the recent sewing projects that was actually easier and turned out way better than I expected was making coin purses out of discarded shoulder pads from vintage thrift store tops, following instructions from Marisa, author of New Dress a Day.

What's the best advice you've ever received?
Measure twice, cut once. Always and forever. Thank you Mr. Wood, my middle school wood & metal shop teacher!

What's your top tip for first-timers?
Start small. If you've always wanted to know how to fix and restore cars, start by learning how to change your own flat tires and change your own oil before attempting to rebuild an engine or restore an interior. Same with cooking. Learn to poach an egg before attempting a souffle. If you don't have the basics down & memorized, then you have no solid foundation to build on for your bigger projects, and everything will be iffy. Think of it as a self-taught apprenticeship, and try to break down every Pinterest project into the basic skills you'll need to make it work before jumping in or buying a bunch of expensive materials & tools.

Anything you DIY now that you never thought you would?
I absolutely never thought that I'd be making my own beauty products from scratch, but once I saw how easy they are to make after testing the six DIY coconut oil beauty treatments for Spa Week last year, it has sort of become an obsession. I even use straight olive oil now as a makeup remover, and had so much fun mixing up Halloween costume makeup from pantry staples last fall that I'll probably do that every year from here on out.

What won't you ever DIY/when do you call in the experts?
Oh man, everything home improvement related that affects "the bones" of the house. I had some bad experiences growing up watching my parents tinker with plumbing -- we had a faucet that had the hot & cold water mixed up for 20 years. I love me some This Old House and maybe I'll graduate to it someday, but if it's a project that involves plumbing, electrical, wiring, or a weight-bearing structure, I'm leaving it to the trained & capable.

"When I'm not making stuff, I'm..."
Going for adventures outdoors with my husband and our whippet pup, Pixie, or taking photos of adoptable animals as a volunteer for our local greyhound rescue. It's amazing what a difference quality photography makes in saving lives & helping adoptable dogs and cats find loving families and forever homes! I also volunteer with Goodwill, helping match their job training graduates with career- and body-appropriate clothing as they venture out for interviews, through Goodwill's Clothing Collaborative program. Both volunteer opportunities allow me to give back using my creative talents and inspire me beyond words in fulfilling ways.

What did you love most about contributing to DIY Boston for Boston.com?
Beyond proving that Boston really is a hugely innovative hub for the handmade, small batch, and Made in USA manufacturing movements, I really loved that focusing on this niche brought me back to my own roots as a maker. After working at 11 startups in 10 years, my life had become all too unhealthy and digital, and testing recipes and DIY projects for this blog got me away from being chained to the computer/my smartphone and back to making things with my hands again. I forgot how much I love getting dirty and making messes! I loved building websites from the ground up, but at the end of the day (especially when they fail!) you don't have anything to show for it -- even a small craft project or replacing a loose doorknob gives you something tangible to be proud of and show off. It's immensely gratifying!

How do you think the Maker Movement has changed since April 2012?
It's grown so fast it's actually been hard to keep up! The number of products made in Boston seems to have quadrupled, and it's great to have successful marketplaces like The Grommet and Custom Made based here and showing the world that not only can we have a handcrafted, artisan-made, locally-sourced economy, we should -- and there's real money in it.

How has your DIY mindset / have your DIY projects changed in those two years?
Because I spent so many years thinking about and collecting project supplies but never making (or having the time to make) anything, I'd amassed a ton of clutter -- but I've almost ticked off every project! Now I make time to make things every week, and find it imperative for my mental health, productivity, and creativity just in life in general to completely unplug from technology at least once a day and make stuff, even if it's just dinner. Though I love Pinterest, I get more inspiration now and find more unique ideas while out kayaking, swimming, hiking, or just walking my dog than when comparing myself to others online, and I'm no longer anxious about trying to do something completely of my own design, even if it turns out absolutely awful.

What were your 2-3 favorite projects/posts ever?
Is saying all of them a cop out? I get the most raves from our sriracha salt recipe, the DIY Skittles vodka was the most fun to make (maybe a little too fun, if you know what I mean), and the wall decal headboard I installed with my friend (and local interior designer) Kara Butterfield was the most rewarding — even if we almost lost our security deposit because of it.

Any projects you're working on that you would have liked to feature, but didn't get a chance to?
I'm currently "brewing" a batch of DIY, organic all-purpose home sprays for spring cleaning, a version of which I just posted on Eat Boutique, and sharing the end result of the DIY pallet daybed that I'm designing and collecting materials for right now would have been so fun!

Where can people find you & what can they expect from you in the future?
I'm always writing about "the Champagne life on a DIY budget" over at Shoestring, which I've been publishing as a blog/online magazine & free weekly email newsletter since 2007. I'll also be contributing a DIY column (including how-to videos!) to several national outlets starting next month, so follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & Pinterest to keep tabs.

Thank you, Melissa, for being the best partner-in-crafts a lady could ask for!

~Tara

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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