crafter jenny ryan

I never thought of myself as a crafty person. After all, I almost failed sewing at school. But I keep coming back to craft projects for various styling shoots that I've done this year. To cut and paste paper or cover preloved items with fabric seems such an easy and obvious choice. Now there's a whole market of books available to those who enjoy getting crafty. I've interviewed The Crafty Minx and now I'd like you to meet Jenny Ryan of Sew Darn Cute: 30 Sweet & Simple Projects to Sew & Embellish. She has a shop and workshop called Home Ec in LA, where she lives.

Which five words best describe you? Hmm... thrifty, crafty, insomniac, homebody, smart-aleck.

What was your first career job and what path have you taken since? I've worked a ton of different office jobs over the years but I consider the freelance writing I started doing in my early 20s in New York to be my first real stab at a "career". I moved from writing about and reviewing other people's books, films, and music into writing more about the creative process itself and into creating projects other people could try. I spent some time working for Craft Magazine (working for the print magazine as well as for their online blog) and started up a craft fair in Los Angeles called Felt Club, and eventually wrote my own sewing book. Nowadays I run my own brick and mortar shop, called Home Ec. (after the Home Economics classes that used to be offered in school, which are sadly not as common anymore). Home Ec, offers fabrics, yarns, and handmade gifts and also hosts all kinds of workshops: sewing, knitting, embroidery, bookbinding and more. It's been a lot of fun and I never would have predicted I'd have ended up here.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? When the hobby you love becomes your job, it's really important to try not to get burned out on it. Sewing to relax and teaching sewing to customers several times a week are two very different things. I try hard to set aside time to work on personal projects for my home and my friends, it helps me remember why I got into this in the first place. I'm also a part of the Los Angeles Modern Quilt Guild (which has chapters starting worldwide!) that exposes me to creative new people and techniques, which keeps things fresh and interesting.

What’s your proudest career achievement? It's definitely a tie between having my book published and opening my retail store, Home Ec. I loved writing the book because it was a chance to share the tips and techniques I've picked up over the years with a wide audience, and I love working in the shop because it's a chance to share my love of crafting with people face-to-face. Don't make me choose!

What’s been your best decision? If I can be a bit mushy, I’d say it was marrying my husband Johnny. His support and enthusiasm for what I'm doing helps keep me confident and motivated. It's a wonderful thing to have in a partner!

Who inspires you? There are so many folks I'm surrounded by in the craft community who have taken their vision and run with it and I love seeing folks make a living doing what they love. My friend Jenny Hart from Sublime Stitching is just one great example. Lotta Jansdotter, Natalie Chanin, Kaari Meng and Pip Lincolne are all women I totally look up to.

What are you passionate about? Demystifying the art of making. I want to be a craft enabler - to help people who think they aren't creative break out of that mindset and just give it a try.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Say what you will about the lady, but I'd be thrilled to meet Martha Stewart. I'd like to thank her for showing people that there is beauty to be found in the everyday pursuit of home keeping. I appreciate the way her magazine, books and television shows treat cooking, decorating, and crafting like the arts they truly are (or can be).

What dream do you still want to fulfil? I'd love do some worldwide travelling. Australia is definitely on my list, I'd love to visit when there's a big craft show going on and I'm dying to visit some fabric shops in Japan and London too.

What are you reading? Conquest of the Useless by the director Werner Herzog. It's a diary he kept while filming Fitzcarraldo in the Amazon. It reads more like poetry than a diary, and is a really compelling look into a highly creative (and some might say crazy!) mind.

images courtesy of jenny ryan and penguin