Moms Know Moms Interview: Susan Yates

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ICEBREAKER: You’re a craft super hero on the planet CraftALot. What’s your Crafty Weapon of choice?

I like to make something from nothing and I most often use an X-acto knife to do it. But I feel mean saying that I’m flinging X-actos around. Maybe that’s because I’ve had two trips to Urgent Care places (as a teenager) related to their use, and I’m still such a fan. Hmmm… that might indicate some sort of illness.

Q: Crafty mom extraordinaire!  How long have you been crafting and how did you get started?

A: I don’t remember ever not crafting. My parents are both tinker-ers with serious can-do attitudes. Somewhere in the family genes I picked up an interest in Art and Design. My first non-crayon projects were put together in our garage with bits of scrap wood and whatever Testor’s paint I could sneak away when my Dad wasn’t looking. Did you know that that stuff isn’t washable? I’m pretty sure I had a bath in paint thinner at least twice. I learn (and re-learn) the hard way. I love that my parents encouraged me from early on. One of my proudest memories is of my parents framing something I’d made at an art camp– a monoprint of a duck made by “carving” the styrofoam from a meat tray. They put it into a real frame with a real mat! It was a vote of confidence that still makes me happy.

Q:  It looks like there’s no limit to your creativity from designing and sewing clothing to making bracelets out of Washi tape. To date, what’s been your favorite creation?
A:  Definitely my first I Spy quilt. The things I love most are beautiful and practical, and we still snuggle up under that one year-round and have conversations about what we see. For an item to qualify as “favorite”, in my book, requires that it be lasting or over-the-top memorable. This one is both of those for me.

Q: Your blog Crafterhours is a great source for tutorials, recommendations and reviews, etc. How have you seen the blog change over the years? 
A:  On one hand, I like to think that it hasn’t changed. We’ve always shared the things we’re working on. But the things we’re working on have changed– because our tastes evolve and our kids are growing up! We’ve learned a lot about photography which sure makes the posts easier on the eyes. As far as writing style, Adrianna had a personal blog long before our joint blog, so I think she had her voice together early on. I think mine took more time– I had only been reading blogs for a few months before I became a blogger, and some bloggers find their voices faster than others. Which is to say that I felt slow. And I continue to be amazed that anyone reads anything I write.

Q:  You have a blog following with over 3000 subscribers to Google Friends alone. How does this affect your daily posting? Do you write for yourself? Your audience? Or a combination of the two?

A:  I definitely write for both. If I were just writing for myself no one else would care to read it. If I were just writing for others *I* wouldn’t care to read it, let alone write it. So it has to be a combination of the two. The number of subscribers is just a number. While I appreciate that the number tends to go up, rather than down, it doesn’t affect the blogging. It’s the comments, e-mails and interactions with readers and with other bloggers that influences what I write about– and how.

Q:  I know from experience that running a website, crafting, and posting regularly can be a challenge. Outside of collaborating with a partner, how do you find balance when it comes to keeping up with your blog, outside responsibilities, and spending quality time with your family? 
A:  Well, I still craft and sew when kids are in bed, but now that they’re older I can do more during the day. When I added the shop to my plate I realized that I needed some uninterrupted quiet time and found a flexible day care provider so that I can have two days a week to concentrate on the shop and also run errands. I’m so grateful for that time. As much as I love my girls, I love that I know (barring sick kids or school volunteer stuff) I’ll have about 12 hours a week to focus. I also do my best to avoid taking kids to the grocery store with me.

As far as “balance”– I’ve stopped looking for it. I heard Gretchen Rubin (author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home) speak at a conference earlier this year and she suggested that we think about our days in terms of filling them up with the things that make us happy. Balance feels elusive and out of reach because of all of the things that are dropped into our laps that throw us off-balance, but looking to do the things that make you happy is more reachable. If we’re choosing to do the things that make us happy first, the things that don’t can’t fit into the day. That’s not to say that I love doing dishes and laundry. I don’t. But I do know that seeing an empty sink or a drawer full of clean clothes makes me happy, and approaching tasks from that perspective makes me… happier. And when I’m faced with a decision I now think about it in terms of whether it will make me happy. If it won’t, it’s a “no”.

Q:  Your girls are now 3 and  6. Do they have the crafty gene like mom? If so, how do you encourage your them to express themselves creatively?
A:  They do. Which means we’re a whole family of mess-makers. They have their own crafting supplies in a cabinet next to my desk, and their own work table. Their work often spreads out all over the kitchen table. They have a whole wall to display their masterpieces. I don’t have to do a whole lot to encourage, at least not consciously. They see me working on my own projects and they ask questions about them, and then they take off with their own.

Q:  I saw your recent nod in Parenting magazine, congratulations!  Is product development something you considered from the beginning or was this something that just occurred naturally as the blog developed?
A:  Thanks! I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit (I even took an Entrepreneurship class in college) but I had no idea how blogging would relate to it. It happened organically. I had written a tutorial post and then got a bunch of requests from non-crafty people that wanted me to sell the item, and it took a while for me to convince myself that it was worth doing. In order to sell anything online I have to really, really love making it. So I’ve toyed with all sorts of ideas, but I’m not willing to put in all of the effort of marketing an idea unless I really believe in it and love it. I’ve finally come to that place, and it’s been both frightening and exhilarating.

Q:  As it relates to the business of crafting, where do you see yourself in 3 to 5 years?
A:  I wish I knew! So much of my life relates to my husband’s work– we tend to move every 3 years or so. But blogging and online shopkeeping are a good fit for a mobile life, so I imagine I’ll still be doing those since it makes me happy and it helps me through transitions. This work keeps me in touch with the crafty blogging community that’s conveniently available 24/7 from anywhere and helps fill the gaps while I find my new local community. I can’t imagine my girls are going to be much less demanding in terms of asking for costumes and dresses and toys that mom makes in 3 to 5 years. I’m expecting the requests will only get more complex!

Q:  Finish this sentence, “If I had known years ago that blogging would be _______ then I would have done _______ differently.”
A:  I had no idea how much blogging would challenge me. As a reader, it looks so simple to make something and then talk about it. But sharing something you’ve made– explaining how it started, your decision-making in the process and especially turning that into a tutorial– is a big challenge. What would I do differently, knowing that? Nothing significant. Really, it’s a process and an evolution, one that has bent and shaped me. I’ve learned from every step. I’ve made mistakes, but they were mistakes I had to make. As a small example: blog swaps. You’ve really got to looooove the blog you’re swapping with. And if that’s the case, I think it’s simpler and smoother to readers just to post about the blog I like. “Hey, I love this, take a look!” is what feels best for me. Or I’ll ask that blogger to guest post, without asking them to post about me. That’s not to say that swaps aren’t beautiful and amazing for other bloggers. It’s just a matter of deciding what’s best for you. If you’re not sure, keep moving forward and be willing to take risks. There are countless ways to run your blog, and you’re the only one who can decide what feels authentic and beautiful for you.

Q:  What has been your greatest challenge as a mom? How have you handled that challenge?
A:  Patience. For sure, always my issue. I really have a hard time with repeating myself, and that seems to be requirement number one at my current stage in parenting. Am I deluding myself in thinking that that will change at some point? I have to remind myself (constantly, and I don’t even like repeating things to myself!) that whatever is happening in this moment will pass.

Q:  What’s the best mom advice you ever received?
A:  That not every day has to be amazing. Some days it’s okay to have “survival” as my primary accomplishment. If we’re breathing at the end of the day, we won. The biggest battles I fight are with myself, so if I can remind myself to breathe, we succeed.

Thank you Susan!

[yellow_box] If you’d like to learn more about Susan or just say “Hello”, follow this link to her site CrafterHours.

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