Blogger Spotlight: Meet Karen
We caught up with Karen from To Work With My Hands to ask her a little about her DIY experience!
Where are you from?
I’m from Alabama, complete with the southern accent – which I tried to grow out of, but have finally decided to just embrace.
Is DIYing your full time job?
No. I’m a full-time homeschooling mom. DIY-ing is my “shot of energy” and creative outlet. I love being with my family every day and know that in just a few short years I’ll have much more time for full-time work. I want to enjoy these short years while they’re here.
What’s your earliest DIY memory?
I can’t remember never DIY-ing. Of course it wasn’t called DIY then, but I loved working with my hands and making things even as a young child. My grandmother taught me to crochet when I was 7 and I dabbled in all kinds of crafts and little projects throughout childhood. My most memorable project was a collection of sculptures I made from natural clay I dug up in our driveway when I was around 10 years old. I shaped it into little characters, flowers, and mushrooms, painted them, and had aspirations of selling them at a roadside stand. The stand never happened, but I could still make one of those little mushrooms today!
What is your DIY motto?
“A little paint is totally transformational!” It still amazes me how much paint can do. I’ve always loved color and playing with it is so satisfying.
How do you find inspiration for what to DIY?
I find inspiration in a variety of places. Sometimes I’ll see a great piece at a thrift store or yard sale that sparks an idea, or at other times I’ll find things at craft stores that I want to use in a new project. My best inspiration though usually happens when I’m doing something other than DIY-ing, like cleaning the house, working in the yard, or taking a walk. Some of my best projects have come from these “off” times, when I give my brain a chance to take a break from planning.
What project stands out in your head and why?
I actually have 2 very memorable projects. Last year I gave the blog a makeover and drastically reduced the scope of content. I had previously written about lots of different topics: gardening, cooking, goal-setting, diy, musings on life…it was just too much and I was overwhelmed. So I spent some time really thinking about what I most identified with and wanted to write about. I began to focus hard on DIY and creativity and had an idea to make a candle stand from 7 wooden bowls I found at a thrift store.
Honestly, I was nervous and wondered if I could pull it off. My husband and kids watched and wondered what I was doing stacking dinged-up salad bowls on our back deck. Once it was finished, my husband was my greatest cheerleader and admitted that he had not been so sure about how it was going to turn out, but was amazed and impressed. It was a pivotal time for me as well as the blog because it was then that I realized I had made the right decision to narrow to just DIY. It still sits on our hearth and reminds me to keep stretching.
The second project was a furniture upcycle I did earlier this year: a thrift store stool that I gave a faux marble top finish. It was memorable because it was my first attempt working with furniture. I love furniture upcycles, but have always been intimidated by them because they seem to take a long time and I have to work in little pockets of time. The stool was small and I fell in love with its shape, so I decided to give it a try. I was really excited with how it turned out. It will always be my “maiden voyage” furniture project and I hope to do more in the future.
What is your biggest DIY fail? What did you learn from it?
Oh wow, I’ve had lots of them! The absolute worst was a project I was working on for a series of repurposed project posts I wrote on the blog over the summer. I was trying to put a crackle paint job on a ceramic tea pot, shoot photos, clean the house, and pack to get out of town for a trip. I work exactly the way I write about on the blog – in little pockets of time. I gave it the base coat, then focused on getting laundry washed and packed for a while. I went back and applied crackle medium and let it begin drying while I worked on more packing and cleaning. Finally, I applied the top coat and waited for it to dry. During it all I was struggling with good lighting to shoot photos, running close to time to leave, and still trying to get all the last-minute details done. When I went back to check, it was a globby, sticky mess! It looked horrible. Needless to say, that one didn’t make it to the blog.
What do you like to do when you aren’t DIYing?
I love to do so many things; I really need another lifetime. 🙂 Even though I dropped them from the blog, I still enjoy gardening and cooking – especially baking. Homemade whole wheat cinnamon rolls, made from fresh flour I mill myself are my specialty. I love reading with my kids (my favorite part of homeschooling) and when the rest of the family is watching a movie, I’m hanging out with them with a crochet project in hand. I’m not much of a movie-watcher, but I could crochet all day long if I had the time. I also teach beginning, intermediate, and advanced crochet classes each fall and spring semester at our homeschool co-op. I love this so much! It’s incredibly rewarding to watch young learners enter class with no skills, and leave at the end of the semester with growing ability and a love for this beautiful craft. And, I’m a K-2nd grade Awana co-teacher at our church. I love being with these kids each week and helping them learn Scripture.
Tell us something that might surprise us about you?
I’m a serious introvert. That’s easy to miss when you’re online because there’s plenty of time to get thoughts together, edit, re-edit, edit some more…I’m also a perfectionist, who’s trying to mend my ways. Jumping into blogging was a huge leap for me because of the exposure it created. It was terrifying at first, but I forced myself to stretch out of my comfort zone because I fell in love with the process and it helped me more clearly understand how I tick. When I was invited to do my very first Hometalk Live on Facebook…Wow, I sweated it for weeks! I was so scared. I really thought I might just pass out when we filmed. I was determined to push myself a little further out of my comfort zone though and I’m so glad I did.
I’m still an introvert – I recharge better by spending time alone or in calm settings instead of in groups of people or constant activity – but I think blogging has moved me a little more toward a middle ground. I’m really grateful for how it has grown and changed me. I would have never imagined myself doing some of the things I do now just 5 years ago.
What advice would you give to a DIYer who is just getting started?
Just jump in and start! Your first attempts may not be stellar, but that’s totally okay. You will grow in skill as you keep trying. I think creativity is like a muscle. It operates best when it’s used. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, because they often lead to new ideas and projects you probably wouldn’t have considered before. Most importantly, enjoy the process, embrace what you learn about yourself, and strive to bless others with your talents and abilities.
Huge thanks to Karen from To Work With My Hands for sharing with us! She is such an inspiration to the Hometalk community!