Friday I punted my normal activities (sorry gaming group) in order to attend Ignite Boston. A few hours, about 17 different talks and a feeling of connectedness with my local craft community that I don't normally have in my day to day solitary crafting life. I went because I know Georgy who spoke about DIY Marketing for DIY People, but I knew way more speakers than I was expecting to know.
While waiting for the event to start, I was talking with a woman named Diane who is active in the science education for girls and way too many other charity things for me to think about. One of the things we talked about were programs for lower income families and educational programs for children in all socio-economic backgrounds.
Then we talked about Lego League. The group she does stuff with is 9-14 and is as far as I know school based, but there is also a Jr. Lego League, which is for children from 6-9. This sounds perfect for so many of my friends, and I could have spoken with her about this program alone for the entire time I was there.
Then the programs started.
Ignite is a story-telling format. Presenters have 5 minutes to tell a story about their topic, building enough of a connection with people in the audience in order to have meaningful dialog in the break between the first and second sessions and afterwards in a less formal environment.
I took notes especially for things that I found useful in a cross-crafting context.
Amanda Grondin spoke about her sculptural art, which were these fantastical creatures blended from mythology and animals. She works in polymer clay on armatures, and incorporates organic elements into her designs. She talked about layering, building up her pieces as sections of muscle on bone, which contributes to realism. There are a lot of different crafts that can take this approach, from the hooker (crochet, dudes!) who embellishes a bag with a layer of vine work followed by a layer of flowers and grapes, to a toy designer who builds upon basic shapes to make an object recognizable as a distinct creature while being uniquely theirs.
Georgy spoke about marketing and crafting as an act of making connections. Her focus included truisms that are surprisingly easy to forget: be attentive and responsive, take time, be consistent, add value and be relevant. She showed some of the different tools you can use to put yourself out there and be less like a person speaking in a void and be more of a community presence. One of the things she mentioned that I find hard to do is to show the behind the scenes. You know those crafters: the ones you have progress pictures of their knitting, or they have a picture by picture expose of how to know when you have whipped your cream to stiff peaks. They are some of the most useful bloggers out there in the craft world, because they help the rest of us help ourselves. Me? I'm much more likely to show a fate accompli.
Schneider Mike of Belching Monkey talked about beer. Many a crafter I know loves their beer, so I enjoyed his presentation. He was witty and at times completely hilarious. Afterwards, he gave me, a non-beer drinker, a gateway beer to try given my love of the girly drinks. So, maybe someday I will find a place with Anderson Valley Boont Amber on the menu. Till then, I will keep it in mind and remember that Michelob and Miller Light are not beer. They are water with piss and vinegar. Maybe I'll even be more willing to try my friend's home brews.
Ann Weaver talked about self publishing, which is how she published her most recent collection of patterns. It was definitely a reminder for me, because while I have a lot of dreams I'm not terribly far on most of them. There are some things that only real effort will make happen, and those are the kinds of dreams I have. The problem with things like my sad Etsy store and self published books is that a lot more falls onto the creator. It is one thing to make a cute sweater or create a flavor of cupcakes and another thing to go out to the world and say, Hey, look at this cool thing I made! You want one too, right? Self promotion (despite having a blog) is not my strong suit. Also: lulu.com.
Sarah Kuhn and the Parts and Crafts Collective talked about two sides of the same equation. Sarah focused on how people learn through doing, thinking through using their hands, and interaction with the environment creating power and knowledge. The owners (for lack of a better word) of the Parts and Crafts Collective spoke about empowering children to do things that they don't normally have access to, like using a drill or a soldering iron. They spoke about community supported education. They send out boxes each month that have materials for a project and some small amount of guidance. The goal is to move away from the abstract knowledge learned in schools to the concrete knowledge learned from doing. They both sounded cool, but the takeaway quote for me was from Sarah in asking her students: Did you learn more? Answer: We learned we can do things.
Lis Pardi's talk was also about learning and about fear. Do not fear to try something. With a lack of fear, you can do anything you set your mind to including furniture repair and washing machine installation. Things that we normally leave to experts. Her tips included think cheap (aka, don't try your new trick on that expensive couch. Try it on something found on the curb or freecycle), use simple tools, and get some knowledge (read, ask an expert, etc.). I have a door in the basement that was from freecycle or one of our friends cleaning out a basement that I want to make into a table. My card table is fine, but not stellar for crafting and computer work. So, if this new table project comes out OK-ish, then I won't have lost anything but some time and I might have learned something new!
While there were more talks, the last one I truly connected to was Katie Helke at Knit for Boston. Her simple talk reminded me that I love to knit just for knitting's sake. There is no better way to just get my knit on than by making things like scarves for charity. Given that my feet are freezing inside my house (we keep the temperature lower when we aren't here during the week and boy, can my feet tell the difference) but at least I have a house and extra socks, it is time to consider making things for charity again and to think local. While I love knitting for Dulaan when I was doing it, there are plenty of people who have been poorly affected by the economy of the past couple of years who would be just as appreciative of a simple scarf that doesn't look like it has already been through the ringer or a hat that actually covers the ears.
It was a good event, and they are thinking of doing another one. Maybe next time I will speak. I know I can fill 5 minutes with talking about ice cream, and in June or August people might even want to hear about it!