Austin’s only walk-in DIY studio, CRAFT, is a special public space that sets the perfect stage for creativity while also fostering a community of fellow crafters. Located in a former residence at 1632 South First Street for the past six months, it will soon relocate to the east side.
I was fortunate enough to meet Elisabeth, the enthusiastic owner and master crafter behind this unique concept and got to ask her a few questions about her business:
How did the idea of CRAFT first come about?
I’ve always liked making stuff, but I’ve never done it professionally. So I would get excited about a craft and want to buy everything for it, but then I wouldn’t really know how to do it, or I’d have to invest $30 before I could get going, or my interest in that particular craft would fade after I spent $30, or I just wouldn’t have enough time to use everything I purchased. Basically, I had about 16 colors of glitter at home and I’d think of a new project that needed a shade of green glitter that I didn’t already have. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t used the other 16 in 3 months, wasn’t going to use them this time, and wouldn’t use the new shade of green for another 3 months. I NEEDED it!
It was like an argument with myself, “I need that new green.” “I already have 16 other glitter colors that I only use occasionally.” “Yeah, but in my vision, this piece has that other green shade.” “But I only need a teaspoon of that green, and I’ll have to buy a lot more than that.” “But I NEED it!”
How did you decide on making it a community space rather than a private studio?
I fantasized that there was a place where I could use anything I might want, in only the amount that I needed; where I wouldn’t have to clear my desk to make work space or worry about the cat jumping on my desk and spilling glitter everywhere; where I wouldn’t have to clean up again from the project before I could get back to work or eat a meal; where I wouldn’t have to worry about accidentally accenting/embellishing/painting the table.
When my significant other passed away last March, I quit most things in my life, and when I started to be able to get out of bed again, this was the only thing I could imagine doing. In general, there’s something very healing about creating, especially with your hands. (That’s a very similar theme with my previous job as Founder and CEO of the nonprofit Challah for Hunger.) In my case, I was finding my feet again and creating a business that would allow me and others to heal and grow through creativity.
How would you describe your concept for CRAFT?
The idea here is to be everyone’s craft room. Just like in your own craft room, you can come whenever you want (no reservations needed, although we do take them) and use whatever you want. You don’t have to commit to specific colors of paint or a specific project. It’s a free for all. This makes it especially fun to come with other people, because each person can do a totally different project: stationary, collaging, coasters, abstract art, decoupaging a wooden box, gluing random things together, etc. It can be overwhelming to walk into a craft room with all the materials we have, but we can definitely help anyone get started. We even have a Pinterest board of things “Made at CRAFT.”
What’s your clientele like?
A wide range of people come into CRAFT. They tell us we’ve created a very homey and inviting environment. Sometimes people say things like, “I’m not very crafty,” but I think that deep down that’s about fear, fear of doing something wrong. Kids never say “I’m not very crafty” when you put paint or crayons in front of them. In fact, they take things that aren’t crafty–like the joke about kids playing more with the box than the present that came in the box–and turn them into something else. So our two rules here are:
- Paint brushes in water, and
- No judgment, of others and especially of yourself.
What do you do to encourage those who are new to crafting?
We have a few basic crafts that we sometimes kind of coerce the “I’m not crafty” people into, just to get them started: mostly stamping and embossing or monoprinting using plastic bags or folding cards using our scoring board. Once people get their hands on a craft and start creating, there’s a ton of momentum. You can really lose track of time, because it’s so fun and relaxing.
What do you love most about your job?
What I love most is our mission: to be everyone’s craft room. I believe that creativity is so important, and there are these little barriers that keep people from being artsy and crafty. But they walk in here and say, “Oh my god, this is a dream come true” (which we have heard countless times). So many people have had the experience of wanting to make something but running into those barriers. We remove them and make it easy. And we love to see people transcend their fears, their self-imposed limitations, and just make/create. Plus, you don’t have to clean up!
What else do you provide besides awesome supplies and a great space for producing masterpieces?
We can do a lot more than just painting and birthday parties. We hosted a fantastic bachelor party in October. We’ve also had people come in to stuff hundreds of gift bags for events, because we have space with big tables. For just space, it’s $5 an hour. If someone is putting together a baby shower or even a wedding, they can come here and make everything from decorations to invitations and more, and we’ll help think creatively about what else can be crafted and personalized. We are also happy for people to bring in items from home, to redecorate or fix up or turn into something new.
Thanks to Elisabeth for sharing her inspirational story! I had a fantastic time working on my latest drawing (the time-traveling DeLorean from Back to the Future no less) when I visited, and even found the perfect silver pen to borrow from CRAFT’s impressive stash of supplies. Next time you are feeling inspired, go try your hand at something new at CRAFT!