Many of us have a long history of creating with a variety of crafts, and Sandy Huntress is no exception. She has blogged on Keepsake Crafts for 15 years. But like many of us, she finds polymer clay to be the most compelling and now creates polymer clay and mixed media tutorials. Her calm voice and practical approach make her videos a treat to watch. You can watch her on YouTube, buy tutorials on Etsy, or support Sandy on Patreon. Keep reading to learn more about this popular and creative contributor to the polymer community.
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Q If I met you at a party, what would you tell me about your business and what you do for a living?
I make mixed media clay and jewelry tutorials for people who want to be inspired and grow in their creativity.
I never really enjoyed trying to sell my creations, mostly because I like to make one of a kind things that are complex. Those types of things are difficult to price in any reasonable way.
Realizing that I could make a living by focusing on teaching and not selling products was a happy day!
Q What is your creative process?
Each project begins with a story or the bare bones of an idea. After creating the larger framework, the true story telling begins in adding textural details, touches of whimsy and humor all to make the viewers question what went on before and what might happen next.
I want to create work that conveys a feeling of mystery and fantasy, enchantment and magic, that tells a story and brings a smile or a sense of joy and wonder to the viewers.
Q In this day and age of specialty niches, why do you choose to be more of a generalist and not narrow down to a single style or type of thing?
A I feel like I have narrowed down significantly! If you consider that I used to try every single craft that came across my path, (and have all the gadgetry to prove it) sticking with polymer clay sculpture and mixed media jewelry is about as narrow as I want to go.
Q You’re Keepsake Crafts. What is the story behind that name? Why didn’t you choose to use your own name?
I’ve been blogging on Keepsake Crafts for 15 years. Back at the time when I was researching what to use for a website name, keywords were stressed as being very important. (Honestly, I don’t think it ever occurred to me to use my own name.)
So I knew the name had to include “crafts.” I also knew that I would probably not stick with any one particular craft so I didn’t want a name that would become outdated and no longer fit.
I was doing a lot of quilting at the time as well as scrapbooking. There is a destination quilt shop called Keepsake Quilting, and there’s also a scrapbooking magazine called Creating Keepsakes. So, Keepsake Crafts it was.
Every so often I come across my old list of ideas for blog names which includes Perfect In Purple, Craft Everything, The Crafty Violet, and Knee Deep In Crafts. I’m always happy that I settled on Keepsake Crafts.
Q What’s your work background? How have your previous experiences affected the work that you do?
I went to college to get a fine arts degree, but then got married and started a family. We ended up homeschooling our two sons and that took all of my time.
Over the years the jobs that I enjoyed were ones where I could work independently, being my own boss and controlling my own schedule. After I was done homeschooling I decided to use the great resource that is the Internet to continue independent work.
My husband was always happy to provide for us so that I could focus on taking care of our home and our children. Any little bit of money I managed to make on the side went right into craft supplies.
Nowadays his health is poor, and I’m doing my best to return the favor and support us with my work.
I spent quite a few years quilting, and the color lessons I learned there still serve me very well in sculpting, jewelry and polymer clay.
It’s funny, but the class I hated the most in college, art history, has turned out to be the most valuable in my work as an artist now. I’m always inspired by the work of other artists, and how often they chose to go against what was popular and accepted and follow their own inspiration.
So I would say that any experience, no matter how small or short-lived, affects the work that we do and helps us to grow and improve.
Q Tell me about your family. Did you do crafts with your children?
I have two sons, the youngest of whom just turned 30. (Wow, how did that happen?)
Oh yes, we did ALL the crafts together: painting, paper crafts, polymer clay, wood crafts, anything and everything. I remember sitting them on my lap in front of the serger sewing machine so they could sew quilts from scraps that they had chosen from my fabric stash. (I chose to have them use the serger because it’s actually much harder to get your fingers in the way of the needle than on a regular sewing machine.)
My youngest is still creative. He likes to wood carve and even bought himself a forge for metal working.
My oldest is creative, too, but in his own way.
My husband, as well as being a skilled woodworker, is also an amazing artist. (You can see his work on Instagram here.)
Q There are a million ideas out there, and you don’t seem to have a shortage of them. What determines which ideas you develop into tutorials?
The biggest aid to never running out of ideas is that I learned how to use Evernote to keep track of all of the inspirations I come across. (I have a video on that on my YouTube channel.)
I’ve noticed there is often a disconnect between what I am interested in doing and what viewers actually want. So I poll them, giving a choice between several things that interest me at the moment. I am frequently surprised to see what they choose, and what generates zero interest. (Sometimes my favorite ideas!)
Q What’s your favorite part of what you do?
A My favorite part of what I do is hearing from viewers and students about how they were inspired and are now excited to create something they were hesitant or fearful of before.
Q What’s your least favorite part of what you do?
Analytics and marketing!
It’s my goal at some point soon to hire someone to help with that aspect of the business.
Q Do you teach in person?
Being an introvert, and somewhat of a loner, I absolutely adore being able to work from my home and yet be able to reach thousands of people with a single video or article.
That being said, I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed teaching an in person-class at a wonderful place in Western Massachusetts called Snow Farm. (It’s art camp for adults! I want to take every single class they offer.)
There’s nothing quite like being in a community of other creative people all focused on creating. It was exciting and exhilarating to be with other teachers of art and realize that we all think the same way, and I am not a total weirdo, lol.
Q If you could just make things full-time, what would you make?
If I didn’t have to worry about making a living I would probably go back to dabbling in every craft I could possibly manage.
I would love to finish scrapbooking all of my family photos. I would love to buy more metal smithing tools. I definitely want to get back to lampwork glass bead making. Oh, I could go on and on…
Q What other crafts do you do in your own time? Do you have favorites?
A Well, you may have noticed that my handle on most social media is “sandysewin”. Sewing will always be my first love and I do enjoy making myself the occasional garment.
Q If you could make all polymer clay enthusiasts understand one thing, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid of wasting clay!
I think it’s the biggest waste if it sits on the shelf unused. Pull it out, play with it, experiment with it. If you hate it you can always wad it back into a ball and try again.
Consider it practice, but get it out and USE it.
Q Everyone has something unique about the way they were raised. What was the strangest thing about your childhood and how does that affect who you are today?
My father was always independent in the work he did. He bought and sold and did deals and I probably don’t know the half of it, lol. But he had itchy feet. The grass was always greener in the other state. Hence, we moved every three or four months for my entire childhood.
I have photos to prove it: the summer in Michigan, the fall in Massachusetts, and then Christmas in Arizona. Then maybe on to California for a while, back to Massachusetts (where his family was from), and onward like that until we landed in Massachusetts when I was in the seventh grade.
At that point my mom put her foot down and told him that he was not going to be yanking me out of school every few months for junior high and high school.
And so, off he went on his own…
I was a geeky only child, without much practice at social skills and situations, but comfortable being in my own company.
I think it’s made me be less afraid of what other people think of me. Of course it still matters, but I don’t let it stop me from doing what I want.
Q How do you explain what polymer clay is to strangers?
I explain that it is an amazing material with infinite possibilities. I love to focus on the fact that it can be used to imitate many things in nature, especially natural materials such as glass or wood or stone or gemstones.
I also like to point out that there are polymer clay pieces in art museums around the world, including right down the street in our own Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
Q Is there anything else you’d like to add?
A I think one of the most important things I’ve learned over years of making many, many things is you always do your best work when you are creating for the love of creating. That love and joy shows through.