Everyday Icon: The Maker

Blogger Elise Blaha Cripe gives us insight into dealing with fear, starting something new, and the motivation that crafts have given her and her readers.
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Image Credit: Courtnee Brown

There is no question in our minds that Elise Blaha Cripe is one of the craftiest gals we know. From quilts and scrapbooks to plant stands and art prints, Elise has been making crafts and blogging about it for 10 years! We love that she’s very open and honest about her journey—what works and what doesn’t—so we reached out to learn a bit more. She kindly shared her thoughts on fear, the importance of taking that first step to get started on a project, and how she makes space to appreciate the little things in life. Get ready to be inspired, Clementines!

You often say that you make stuff like it’s your job—and it is! How did you end up with such a cool profession?

Yes! I am so lucky that making stuff—products to sell and content to share—is my job. Since I was young, I have always loved to craft things: albums, stories, beaded necklaces—anything! When I started my blog in 2005, I finally had a place to collect all these projects. Over the past decade, my blog has grown slowly, which has made me more excited to make and share more (which led to more growth—it’s a rewarding cycle). In 2007, I started to sell some of what I made and eventually that grew into a larger handmade business. Building it up has been a process, but so far, so good.

We really admire that you’re a woman who isn’t afraid to try things. And yet, jumping into a new project and putting yourself out there can be scary. How do you move past the fear of failure or rejection when you’re creating?

The fear of failure is always there. It exists, humming quietly or sometimes yelling loudly from the corner. I usually don’t try to work against this fear but instead I try to use it. What’s the problem? Where is the fear coming from? Am I worried the goal of this project is too weak to succeed? Do I think people will struggle to “get it?” Is this something I even want to be doing? I sort of sit with the fear and let it help me answer these questions. Often, I end up with a better launch or product because the fear helps me think things through.

No matter what though, doing something un-tested feels scary. That’s part of the deal. When I need an extra push, I like to imagine the worst-case scenario. Often that helps me see that no matter what, the big things—the real things—will still be okay. Trying new things doesn’t get less scary, but I have gotten a bit better at dealing with it.

So let’s say something fails or doesn’t turn out the way you originally planned—then what? Can you walk us though your process of learning from what didn’t quite work?

When something doesn’t work, or isn’t going to work I usually know because I stop sleeping. I’m a BIG fan of sleep so this, for me, is the worst. I usually try to figure out what the actual problem is that is causing this to fail. Am I out of time? Is this not interesting? Have I overcommitted? Thinking about the problem doesn’t fix it, but it helps me to isolate what can actually be done.

I have found that the easiest and quickest route when something doesn’t pan out is to let it go and be honest about it. I am pretty open on my blog about why things work when they do and why things don’t work when they don’t. I have found that this honesty is good; it takes the weight off my shoulders and it shows I’m not trying to hide. We all make mistakes and we all fail. Owning it and moving forward is what matters most.

You’ve built up a really wonderful community through your work online. What does that community mean to you?

My online community, which mostly exists from my blog (though Instagram is a close second) means so much to me. I have been writing online and sharing bits of my life and work since I was 20. That’s ten years of working through both highs and lows via blog posts. I have relied on my blog to create a career, but also to help me get through more challenging/emotional times like my husband’s two overseas deployments and the birth of our daughter.

Writing to and engaging with an audience has been really motivating; it helps me think through my routines and in some ways it can even help me process things more efficiently. The relationships we form online are remarkable because they can become so real. I am so grateful for the friends and connections I have made through blogging.

Do you have a mantra that gets you through your days?

My biggest one is JUST START. I really believe that starting is the hard part. Starting can be the most overwhelming part. But taking that first step is what leads to the next step and then that’s what leads to the next. Whenever I’m drowning (in fear or excitement!) over a new project, I try to close off all other thoughts and just focus on finding my step one. What can I do today? Let’s do that.

Our mission is to create a space for women who work every day to live intentionally while celebrating the simpler pleasures in life. What are some of the everyday moments you tend to savor most?

This is a beautiful mission. The everyday moments are my favorite moments. Right now, I love drinking my morning coffee (and that my husband makes it before he goes to work). I love watching my daughter listen to the Disney songs I grew up with (Under the Sea! Tale as Old as Time!) for the first time on YouTube. I love when I get my work done early and have nothing to do in the evenings but read a library book. I love when there are enough leftovers in the fridge to throw together a dinner.

Ah! Those are some of our favorites too! So, as an artist, crafter and maker (and friend and wife and mother and, and, and…), what mark do you hope to leave on this world?

WOW! You guys ask the Big Questions. I suppose I want folks to leave interactions with me, both online and off, feeling more encouraged than discouraged. For the past several years, I’ve had this statement on my blog that I think sums up my mission:

“The one piece of information that I would want a reader of this blog to take away is everything is what you make of it. Have a goal? Write it down. Then set a plan and make it happen.”

We’re in, Elise. All in.

p.s. If you’re interested in hearing more about Elise and her career path, tune in to her recent interview on the Creating Your Own Path podcast.