DIY To Make Your Existing Items More Beautiful: Spotlight On Mark Montano
DIY projects serve different purposes for each creator. For some, they serve as a break from reality. For others, they serve as a creative outlet. Then there are those that DIY on a larger scale with the goal of simply making the world a more beautiful place- people like Hometalker Mark Montano, of Make Your Mark.
We decided to interview Mark, to learn more about his love for DIY, how he climbed up the ranks to superstardom in the DIY scene, and his philosophy on making existing items more beautiful. Enjoy!
What inspired you to start DIYing? How long have you been doing so?
I started making things as a kid, everything from beading on a loom to quilling. My entire family was extremely creative and I had an endless source of inspiration just being in close proximity to them. My dad was a mechanic who did upholstery on the side (vinyl scraps galore), my mom painted, my grandma sewed (sat me down with an embroidery hoop to keep an eye on me), my grandfather was always in his wood shop (scrap wood blocks were my favorite) and my aunts and uncles made cabinets, did fine painting and even macrame (still love a good macrame owl). There was lots of raw material for me to tinker around with and I’m pretty sure that my parents saw it as a constructive way to keep me occupied and out of trouble.
We noticed that you strive to make the “world a better place through creativity.” Please explain what that means to you.
Great question and I have several reasons why this is my motto. As a society we are quick to discard everything from furniture to clothing….. and it’s depressing. Hometalkers know how to recycle and UP-style everything from furniture to tin cans! It’s one of the major reasons I’m such a fan of the site. More than that, creativity has helped me (and many people I know) tremendously with my mental health. Like many people creativity keeps my bouts of depression and anxiety in check. Hopefully my projects inspire people to be more creative and ultimately happier and healthier.
What led to you decide that DIYing was more than just a hobby?
One of my first memories was staring at my mother’s paintings of Spanish women in Flamenco dresses. I’m positive those paintings inspired me to become a fashion designer. I decided at 13 that I was moving to NYC (getting a job at Macy’s) and pursuing my career in fashion. Not sure how I came up with all of that since I lived in a very small town in SE Colorado, but I did. I immediately started honing my sewing skills and 6 years later I transferred from CSU to FIT in NYC to finish my degree. I interned for Oscar de la Renta and then started my own collection and eventually opened a boutique in the East Village. I showed my collections during fashion week, sold my collections all over the world and dearly loved my fashion career. One day my editor friend, Atoosa Rubinstein, tapped me to write a room decor column for teen girls for her new magazine, Cosmo Girl! and I immediately felt a left turn on my creative path. She had been to my apartment many times and loved all of the things I’d made. I turned that article into my first DIY book, Super Suite, The Ultimate Makeover Guide For Girls. In an an odd turn of events, a producer from the TLC show While You Were Out saw that book in a dentist’s waiting room and called me to audition for the show and I was cast. From that point on my career was writing DIY books and appearing as a designer and host in several TV shows. That’s been the last 12 years of my life. Whew…..that’s the short version!
Please tell us about your show, “Make Your Mark.” What inspired you to create it?
Years ago my friends Rob and Corine from Threadbanger urged me to start a YouTube channel as a way to promote my books. It was such an amazing way to share creativity and let people know about my books all at the same time. After several years I thought it would be a fun idea to turn my YouTube concept into an actual 30 minute show. I pitched it all over Los Angeles and finally got the green light from PBS. It was an amazing experience that almost put me 6 feet under! Producing, hosting and being the creative behind a 13 episode season is some serious work and I was not prepared. Fortunately we got through it and I’m happy to say it’s airing all over the US now.
What was some of the most meaningful feedback you’ve received for your efforts in spreading DIY creativity, knowledge, and inspiration?
Regularly I get emails from people telling me how much my projects have helped them feel better about themselves. At least once a week I tear up at my computer for one reason or another. One lovely woman said she watched my videos during chemo because they made her happy. Another said she was able to decorate her new home with my projects on her very limited budget and was so grateful that I answered her questions during the process. Someone else raised money for her high school making and selling versions of my projects. Things like this are humbling. If people write to me I do my best to respond. It takes time, but I love that connection. I feel that connection on Hometalk, too. People always leave heartfelt messages on my work and I’m so grateful. Hometalkers hold everyone else up! It makes being stuck in front of the computer worth it.
Do you feel that people need to spend a lot to have their dream home?
Heck NO! A dream home is where you’ve surrounded yourself with things you love. We all have a different version of that. Some of my favorite pieces are thrift store makeovers inspired by some of the amazing posts on Hometalk. My home is filled with things I’ve made…..Everything from paper mache sculptures to recovered lampshades. Hometalk is a great source for finding those things that tug at your “dream home heart strings! Right now I’m searching the site for ways to makeover my kitchen cabinets. Why spend a ton on new cabinets when I can DIY them into something amazing?
Do you keep, or give away most of your crafts? If the latter- who do you usually give crafts to?
I give most of my projects away because I just don’t have room for them. I buy lots of things from a thrift store here in Los Angeles that helps the homeless and when I’m done with the makeover, I donate it back to them so that they can sell it again. I also have a few friends who call “dibs” on pieces that they want for their homes. Either way, my projects go to a good cause.
What would be your ultimate dream project?
Besides moving back to NYC and working at Hometalk full time?Hmmmmm…….Probably buying a dumpy cabin and DIY’ing everything from floors to quilts.
How do you split your time between DIYing, and everything else in your life?
That’s difficult. I would create all day, every day if I could, but sometimes I have to eat. I make sure that I end my work day at 6 p.m. and I make lots of plans that get me out of my zone. Balance is key, but not always the easiest thing to achieve when you love what you do.
What are some words of advice you have to offer to new DIYers?
Create without expectation! Jump in and be fearless and don’t ever be afraid of the outcome. Creativity is an experience, not an end result. A good night’s sleep will give you perspective on your work. 9 times out of 10 you can paint over something and start again if you really aren’t happy with it. One more…….Always Make Your Mark!