Please join me in welcoming (and wishing happy birthday to) my friend Erica Hernandez today! Erica might be one of the most creative people on the internet: she enjoys papercrafting, knitting, digital and traditional scrapbooking, photography, décor, and more. We've worked together on The Phone Photography Project, The Phone Photography Project 2, and Design Challenges, and see eye to eye on almost everything except Major League Baseball (she's a Detroit Tigers girl!).
Tell me a little about your background as a “maker of things.”
I’ve been making things for as long as I can remember. My dad has owned a print shop for close to 35 years so from a very young age, I’ve had virtually endless access to paper. I have fond memories of raiding his stash of office supplies—Letraset alphabets were one of my favorite “toys” whenever I would visit the shop. My most treasured gift as a kid were the giant pads of personalized paper I would get from him—I’m talking full reams of paper with my name printed at the top of every page. I’m smiling just thinking about it. Those pads of paper represented unlimited freedom to experiment with writing, drawing, folding, and cutting. I’m a firm believer that a blank slate is one of the best ways to encourage kids to be creative and in my case, those notepads led to a life-long love of experimenting with the infinite possibilities that paper presents.
There were a lot of years between a creative childhood and becoming a parent that were devoid of making. I suspect that’s the case for a lot of us and people that continue to foster that creativity in their teens and twenties have my admiration. That period of inactivity resulted in losing the confidence and fearlessness in trying new things that I had as a child, and I’m still struggling to overcome that need to make things perfect the first time around.
(from this book that I completely adore.)
When I was pregnant with my oldest son, I received a scrapbooking kit at my baby shower. That was all it took. It renewed my need to make things and helped fill the hours upon hours of time I suddenly found myself with. From that point, I explored new crafts. I took a knitting class close to 10 years ago and next to paper crafting, it’s my favorite way to spend my downtime.
I won’t lie, a lot of projects choose me—many are completed simply out of necessity. I typically get a lot of smaller projects knocked out in the days leading up to an event—either as an under-the-wire gift or a project around the house that I want to finish prior to hosting a party or holiday. Like a lot of creative people, I experience some guilt taking time out of the everyday to make stuff. There’s always something else that needs to get done first. It’s such a challenge to work on for-me projects without getting distracted by the daily grind.
I keep a list of people that inspire me...writers, artists, “doers,” and when I’m uninspired, I go back to this list and examine what it is about these people that I admire. A lot of times, that examination will be the impetus for deciding what I work on next. Some of my all-time favorites include Charlie Harper, Frank Lloyd Wright, Eames + Eames, Rex Ray, Mr Rogers, Brian Andreas, Oliver Jeffers, Neil Gaiman, Ansel Adams, Saul Steinberg, and Wes Anderson.
On average, about how many projects do you have going on at once? Are you a one-thing-at-a-time-from-beginning-to-end person or an all-the-tabs-open-at-once kind of person?
Absolutely, 100%, I’m an all-the-tabs-open person. It’s hard to quantify how many projects I might have going at once because how do you determine the point that a project transitions from an idea to a work-in-progress? If I’ve spent the time to make notes or draw a sketch, it doesn’t necessarily constitute a project but once I’ve made a purchase or dug out supplies, it becomes a reality. It may not ever reach its end destination but at the very least, it requires effort to shuffle supplies. I can’t be alone in thinking of “putting stuff way” as a project in itself.
Does it come naturally to you to finish a project before you begin a new one or do you like working on multiple things at once? How do you sustain enough creative momentum to keep working on more than one thing?
I like working on multiple things simply because different projects require different levels of commitment. Some things, I absolutely cannot do with anyone else around. I need a distraction-free environment (which is why, with three kids, these types of projects don’t often come to fruition). I want to practice different skills, experiment with different mediums, and develop new understanding of how and why things work the way they do.
What are your best tips for getting unfinished projects finished?
Tell people about your intentions. Share your progress. Keep yourself accountable by making promises, even if they seem insurmountable—but only if it’s something that’s really important to you to finish. Break your project up into manageable bites if you’re able—achieving mini goals is such a great incentive to keep moving forward! Keep lists...lots of lists. And once in awhile, it’s perfectly acceptable to add something to the list that you’ve already done, just for the satisfaction of immediately checking it off.
What I’ve learned for myself is that there is nothing more motivating than keeping a project out in the open. If it’s important to me, seeing it in a half-finished state gets me moving. If I stare at it for awhile and it becomes a part of the background noise, that’s my cue that it’s time to abandon it. I had a canvas project in mind for months. The idea was fully formed in my head, I had a canvas purchased, but just never took that time to start. Finally, I hung the blank canvas on the wall. Two days later, I had a finished canvas in place.
Do you experience ditched-project guilt? Why or why not?
I used to, but not anymore. Like a book I’ve started but don’t enjoy, I can let go and not look back. A project may linger for awhile but once I’ve made the decision that it’s no longer something I want to spend my time on, I have no problem harvesting whatever supplies are still usable and moving on. No one has time to regret abandoning projects that were intended to be fun.
Care to share any project goals for 2015? Do you have any lingering projects to finish up?
The one project that has been eating me up is a digital album that I started almost two years ago. I had ambitions of completing it, start to finish, in one month. Two years later and I’m still stuck half-way through. The day before I first read about your plan for finishing projects this year, I told myself that I would complete this album SOON. It just solidified that goal. And now that I’m telling you, I should take my own advice, set a deadline, and finish it. This is something that’s important to me to finish and so, I’ll have it done and ordered by the end of March. No excuses.
I recently signed one of my sons up for a sketching class at the local art institute and I’m strongly considering signing up for an adult class myself. I have no problem researching when I want to teach myself something but have a Very Hard Time allowing others to teach me. It’s not a quality I’m proud of.
Other than that, I have a nebulous list of projects around the house that have been left, in various stages of completion, due to lack of time, lack of skill, lack of money, or the realization that it wasn’t turning out exactly as I’d envisioned so I “took a break” to reimagine things. I would love to have one room in the house that I could happily call “done.” That would be a huge accomplishment.
Erica Hernandez lives in the Mitten State, a blessing and a curse, with her husband and three kids. She’s worked in a number of fields but has most enjoyed her years spent working in the craft industry—as a designer, as a Contributing Editor to Scrapbooks, Etc. magazine, and currently, as the Social Media Manager for My Favorite Things. She thinks paper is the greatest and most versatile material ever and spends too much time thinking about it and not enough playing with it. She enjoys reading, knitting, and dreaming up building projects for her husband. She’s working on learning to trust her instincts and appreciate her handwriting.