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Hosting a craft night can help you unwind, reflect with friends, make some art and have some great conversation. Listen as Cassie talks about the usual suspects on her invite list, the best time to host a craft night, and the best activities that can get everyone involved. Full episode transcript below.
Cassie: When I moved to Nashville from Indiana 20 years ago, I didn’t know a single soul. It was pretty spooky, very scary, and Friday nights, and the weekends I actually dreaded, ’cause I didn’t have anything to do or anybody to do things with, and I remember it didn’t get any better when I became a teacher at my school, because my classroom was a portable, and it was of course detached from the school.
The teachers would literally just kind of wave to me from afar, and the building with all of the teachers in it could have been like five miles down the road. That’s legit how disconnected I felt from all of the faculty, and staff. I don’t even think for those first three years when I was in that portable, half of them knew my name, but you know what? I could place the blame of that on them, but a big part of it was me.
I didn’t make any effort either. I just kind of wrapped my arms around this whole lonely island vibe, and embraced it, and embraced being lonely, and I actually think that that led to some depression, my first couple of years teaching. I was struggling as a teacher as it was, as everybody does, not only their first year, but heck, I struggle on the daily, my 20th year, and it would have been so much better to share those struggles with a friend, or friends, but let’s not get crazy now.
All I wanted at that point in my life, was just one person that I could talk to, that I could be real with. Thankfully, I met my husband not long into teaching, into my teaching career, and into my move to Nashville, but all of this to say that it’s so important to find a group of buddies, or like I said, just one person that you can be yourself with, but how do you do that?
Here’s one thing that I started years ago, that I have found to be such a wonderful, cathartic kind of experience where I can surround myself with like-minded people, where I can take a load off, and be myself, and not feel like I’m going to be judged for the things that I say or the craziness that I do, and that’s hosting a craft night. Even if you think, ‘I don’t even have a friend, or group of friends that I could invite’, yes you do. Yes, you do, and let me just share with you how relaxing, how needed it is for you to have a craft night, to host one, how much you’re going to enjoy that experience.
I’m gonna walk you through it. I’m Cassie Stephens, and this is Everyday Art Room. So, here’s why I think hosting a craft night is like something, even if you’ve never done it, you just got to do it. It helps you unwind, you can commiserate with a group of friends, you can reflect on your triumphs in your art room, or even just your classroom. If you have friends that are there that aren’t art teachers, you can listen to their triumphs as well, and learn of different things that work in other art teachers rooms, or teacher’s rooms that could possibly translate, and work in yours.
You can also just kind of unpack all of those things that might not have gone well, especially these days leading up to winter break. My suitcase to unpack of things that just ain’t working is literally a U-Haul truck at this point. You can celebrate your awesome things that are going on. One of the fabulous, amazing teachers in my district just got teacher of the year.
That’s something so fun, and incredible to celebrate, and most of all you can roll up your sleeves, and create. So, those are my why’s. Why you got to do it. So, that brings me to who should you invite? If I had heard this podcast 20 years ago when I first moved to Nashville, I would think, ‘Yeah, having a craft night sounds like a whole lot of fun, but I don’t have any friends to invite, I don’t know anybody’.
Well y’all, how are you going to get to meet people if you don’t kind of just, you know, throw a line out there, and see who’s willing to bite. So, here’s who I always invite. I have my usual customers, or buddies that I always reach out to, and it’s the people that make me happy. They aren’t necessarily art teachers, they aren’t even necessarily teachers, but they’re the usual suspects that always get an invite from me.
One of them is a friend that I made a long time ago. She’s a parent of one of my former students, he’s now in high school. She, and I see each other at least a couple of times a month. We grab a coffee, she’s super creative, she was a wonderful helper in my room. I always reach out to her and let her know, ’cause she is the bomb.com. I have several teachers that I work with, many of them who claim to not be creative at all. They always get an invite, because I love them. They’re like little rays of light that shine so brightly, that I always want to be around them, and you know in the busy course of a day, I can’t find time to always pop in, and visit them, so I always have them over at my craft night, even though what they think they’ve made is nothing short of a hot mess.
We always make sure that it ends up looking beautiful, but mostly, they are there, because I love their company, and of course there are the art teachers that I work with in my district who I love. You’ve heard me chat before in previous podcasts about bullying, that I worked with a group of art teachers in my district that in the past I didn’t enjoy working with, so I didn’t invite them. As harsh as that may sound, this craft night is for you to feel awesome, and surround your yourself with people who make you feel that way.
So, if some people don’t get invited, well, so be it. There are also friends in my surrounding districts that I always reach out to. So, if you’re thinking, ‘I don’t know who to invite’, think about those people who say, ‘Hey’ to you in the hallway, who take a little bit of extra time, who probably would love to sit down, and hang out with you, but just don’t have the time in the day.
So, those are the folks that I always invite. How do you get the word out? Here’s what I love to do, I love to create a Facebook page leading up to a craft night. I like to make it a good two, to three weeks ahead of time. It’s great if you give people advance warning, especially this time of year when things are about to get really hectic. As fun as having a Christmas, or holiday craft night would be, know that this time of year for everybody is completely bananas, and a lot of people at this time of year would probably be like, ‘Oh I wish I could make it, but I already have so many things on my calendar.’
So, of course, having a post-holiday craft night might be something to think about. But anyway, like I was saying, a couple of weeks before craft night, I’ll create a Facebook page just to let everybody know the details, when it is, what time, what to bring if you want them to bring a little dish. I always ask for maybe an appetizer, or a dessert, but it’s not required, and if you have a shortlist of supplies they’re going to need to bring.
If you have a craft in mind, you should definitely not be digging into your purse to pay for a huge assortment of supplies, especially if you’re inviting art teachers, when you know in their stash, they have tons of things. My most recent craft night, I just let everybody know, ‘Hey, we’re going to need hot glue guns, so if you’ve got one on hand, and some glue sticks, please bring it. If not, no sweat’, and a lot of times people often want to know about attire, I don’t know why.
Maybe because they think I’m going to be dressing crazy, and I’m going to expect everybody to do the same, but I know one year we had a tacky Christmas sweater kind of deal, but most of the time I don’t want anybody to stress at all, so I usually just say, ‘Whatever you wear is perfect, whatever you bring is great. If you can’t even bring something, or you forget your side dish, don’t sweat it, all I want is you to come, and enjoy yourself.’
Also, here’s a little side note, I can not stand group texts when it comes to stuff like this, so I don’t create a group text, mostly because I’m always like, ‘Oh my goodness, my phone is blowing up’, so I always stick with a Facebook page. It’s a little bit easier. Also, having done a couple of these parties where I create Facebook pages, another friend of mine has created a page that she calls, ‘Crafting Together’, and on that page we’ll just grab other friends, we keep adding more people to the page, and anytime somebody has a professional development they want to go do, or extra tickets to an art museum, or a craft night they want to host, they just pop it onto that page, so that a lot more eyes can be on it.
So, that’s another idea. If you’re wanting to get more friends, or even just meet more friends, let folks know, ‘Hey, on this Facebook page, feel free to invite other people as well’. So, when to host a craft night, I’ve had craft nights, it’s almost always on the weekends, it’s usually on a Friday night. I’ve done them on Sunday afternoons before, and Saturday afternoons. My favorite day though is Friday nights.
I love hosting it on a Friday night because most people know that after school, or after work, they just have to maybe pop by the grocery store to pick up a side, and then just come on over, come as you are. Hosting it on a Saturday gives you a little bit more time to get your house ready, or whatever, but what you’re going to find out, is that you’re going to end up spending your whole day preparing when that’s not necessary.
Keep it as low key as possible, don’t go bananas, because that’s how you know you are going to enjoy the experience. Stressing about how clean your house is, or do you have enough food, and doing something like crazy place settings, throw that out the window, keep it simple, ya silly person. Don’t bother going bananas, because if people see that you’ve gone to this really extravagant formal effort, they’re going to feel bad about it. They’re going to think, ‘Oh my goodness, I probably should’ve reached out to them, and helped more.’
You want everybody to be relaxed. I mean, after all, that’s what it’s about. Unless of course, going completely over the top, and bonkers is kind of your thing. If that’s where you are going to relax, then go for it. Me personally, when I was preparing for my craft night this past Friday night, I love decorating for Christmas, and knowing that I have a craft night coming up, inspires me to kind of go all out, and decorate.
In fact, the weekend before, my mother in law was visiting, and she also loves to decorate for Christmas, so she had all sorts of ideas to help me out. That for me was fun, and that was a creative experience for me. So, you do whatever is going to make you happy, and relax, and enjoy the experience. So, what does my craft night look like? I usually ask people to show up basically, whenever they feel like it. It’s like five PM-ish. I know some of my friends have to pick up their kids from daycare, others need to run home, and change, or let a dog out, whatever.
So, I never want anybody to feel any sort of pressure about getting to my house at a certain time. So, 5 PM, and this past craft night on Friday, we had about 11 friends there, and they were trickling in starting at about 10 till five, until about 5:45, and it didn’t matter. As soon as one person got there, it was a moment for me to just share, and chat with them and you know, they were getting their little food ready that they’d brought, and it’s so low key, and if you keep it that way, that’s how you’re going to enjoy it the most.
I always prepare a very simple supper. One time, I went as so simple as just phoning it in for pizza, and that’s totally cool too. I’m telling you, most people are there just to enjoy the experience, but for me, I almost always make the same thing for craft nights, and that’s just a huge pot of vegetable soup. It’s cold outside, I love soup personally, so I make a huge bowl of vegetable soup, and I cut up all the vegetables the night before.
One time, I’ve even made the pot of soup the night before, so I could just have it in the fridge, pull it out, and put it on the stove top about 30 minutes before everybody arrived. I also do very simple appetizers, and desserts, you know, just in case people forget to bring something. My go-to appetizer is, ’cause I like to look a little fancy, getting that sliced mozzarella, cutting up some tomatoes, getting some basil, drizzling it with a little balsamic, and you are looking so bougie.
My other thing, of course, always makes brownies, because you can’t go wrong with brownies. That is about as difficult as I make my meal, and then I always, like I said, ask guests to bring something, but only if they can, and if they have time, and now you’re thinking, ‘Well if it’s a craft night, what kind of crafts do you do?’ I again, keep it simple. I’ve hosted a lot of craft nights, and I have done them.
I love to do them at Halloween. I love to do one during the Summer, a couple over the Summer, Winter, of course, is super fun. I have done things where it’s been a complicated craft, and let me just tell you, that never ends well, mostly because we’ve maybe been drinking a little bit of adult flavored grape juice, so nobody is really there to super focus, and concentrate.
We’re just there to chat and have a good time. So, having something complicated, having something that’s going to need to dry, or have multiple steps, I’m telling you, it’s just going to stress you out. So, here are some ideas of craft nights that I’ve done. I have done, most recently we had those cones that yarn comes on, that Trait-Tex yarn cones or you can even buy Styrofoam cones at the craft store, and I had everybody bring just random skeins of yarn that they happened to have.
I have a ton, and we just wrapped yarn around the cone, just completely yarn bomb the living daylights out of the thing, didn’t wrap it neatly, just went crazy wrapping it, put a little dot of hot glue at the beginning of the yarn to kinda tack it in place before you start wrapping, and use a variety of different colors of yarns, and voilà, you have this really colorful cone wrapped in a variety of colors of yarn. We hot glued pompoms, I showed everybody how to make a pompom onto the little tree.
That’s what we were going for by the way, in case you couldn’t visualize. We’re going for a little colorful winter tree, and they could add different things to it. I had a bunch of little things on the table, tiny little Christmas lights, little bows, different kinds of accents, a variety of yarn, and it’s just something that everybody could sit, and do while chatting and having a good time. Also, at the craft stores right now, you can find those empty ornament bottles or ornaments, I guess they’re like plastic ornaments where you can take the top off. Friends of mine at craft night brought to share ornaments that they did, a little bit of paint pouring, and paint dripping inside, or on the outside.
I, of course, have been taking yarn scraps, and just kind of sticking them in those little ornaments which make for a really pretty yarn speckled ornament on the inside, and I’ve done needle felting, which is really fun. I’ve done a little needle felted ornament, where everybody was able to put their finished product inside of an embroidery hoop. That’s a little dangerous if people have been, ya know, drinking, but still super fun, and we even one year, made little cardboard houses that we decorated, and added a little loop of yarn on.
So, basically, any kind of ornament making craft, if it’s the holiday season, any other time of year, just keep it simple. You don’t want anybody to feel frustrated on a craft night, you want everybody to feel like they just had the best time making something cute, colorful, and fun. Now, where to do it, I like to host my craft nights at my house, I have space for it, I have a large-ish kind of dining room table. But what if you don’t?
You know you can rent, or get cardboard, not cardboard, but those kinds of fold-out tables. Those are great, and you can kind of clear space in your house to prop one those up, or even just kind of sitting around a large coffee table, or around your kitchen table. Your group of friends doesn’t have to be a giant group. In fact, I kind of like a smaller group of friends, about five people, because then you can really have a great conversation between the five.
If the group gets too large, 11 was really large, then it’s hard for everybody to have a singular conversation, there’s a lot of side conversations, which is wonderful too, so you don’t have to think big. Think simple, think fun, think relaxed, and you’re going to make so many memories.
You’re going to have an enjoyable experience where everybody is going to remember it, and want to do it again. Here’s what I would encourage you not to do on a craft night. Don’t be upset if folks can’t make it. If you end up having folks that back out, or fall off, and say they can’t do it, maybe they’re nervous about creating, since maybe you’ve invited friends who consider themselves not quote creatives.
Maybe they just aren’t sure about it, and so they need to see photos pop up on social media of how laid back, chill, and relaxing it was. If you end up with maybe just two friends there, or even just one, as long as you are having a good time, and you are relaxed, and unwinding, that’s where it’s at. So, don’t get worried about it if folks can’t make it, it says nothing about you, so let it go.
Don’t take the craft portion too seriously, and trust me, I say this having been there. We one year tried to make what is called a Putz House, P-U-T-Z. It’s a 1950’s style, Christmas decoration that looks like a little house that you can slide onto your tree, and putting one of your Christmas lights inside it, it makes the house light up. Sounded like a great idea at the time, until everybody had had a little too much happy drink, and it was just too difficult, and friends were getting a little frustrated.
Finally, we just scrapped it, and ended up just making whatever, but make it so the craft portion is not serious, and doesn’t require a lot of skill. Don’t get too formal, and go all out, unless like I said, that’s your thing, and then in which case, go for it. Do make sure that you enjoy yourself, that you have a good time, that you really, I don’t wanna say make connections, because that makes you think that you have to sit there and force yourself to make a connection, but you will unintentionally make these great connections with friends.
All right guys, I encourage you to give it a go. Even if you don’t this holiday season, plan ahead for those Winter months. I feel like the time from January to Spring is some of the longest, so why not make a little warm, and fuzzy, and have a craft night?
Tim: Hello, this is Tim Bogatz from Art Ed Radio. I want to tell you today about the Art Ed Now Conference, which is taking place in just a couple of months. It will be Saturday, February second this year, the first Saturday in February. Now, if you haven’t gone to an Art Ed Now Conference, it is an online Conference with art teachers from all over the world, it is the perfect day of professional development, and we have over 20 presentations on a huge variety of topics, including art therapy, social, and emotional learning, a lot of hands-on art making, and so much more.
As I said, it it is an awesome day of professional development, and you can see all the presentations we’ve released. See what the conference is all about at artednow.com. Make sure you check it out soon. Now, let me turn it back over to Cassie. as she opens up the mailbag.
Cassie: Now it’s time to take a little dip into the mailbag, and this question has a lot of questions, so I’m going to try to answer all of them. This question concerns a legacy project that I did with my students, holy cow, maybe five years ago, and it kind of kicked off me every year doing a legacy project with my fourth-grade students. What’s the legacy project?
It’s a project where all of my students work together, to create a work of art that is something that they leave behind. So, if you go to my blog, and just kind of type in, well not kind of, if you type in ‘Legacy Project’, or ‘Collaborative Piece’, you’ll see that we actually do a lot of these in different grade levels also, but in particular with fourth grade, and the very first one we ever did was I had my fourth grade students, we had canvases, that were enough canvases to spell out the words, Johnson Elementary.
We used very large canvases, and they were pre-painted black. I purchased fluorescent and bright colors of paint, and we did basically, circle painting, and if you’re not familiar with circle painting, it’s a form of painting where students are painting a variety of circles, they are not allowed to paint on top of each other’s circles if they are painting in collaboration, but they are supposed to use circles, and lines, and designs to enhance, and continue a pattern that grows across the surface of that which they’re painting on.
So, here’s the group of questions. Oh, pardon me, once my students were done painting those designs, I then went back over each of the canvases, and spelled out the words, ‘Johnson Elementary’, that was then hung by our school custodian in the front entrance of the school. I used the large pieces of bulletin board paper to quote, wrap the canvas, and put a giant bow on it.
We brought out the administrators, and then they unwrapped the canvas in the presence of all of the fourth-grade kids. So, that’s basically the gist of it, and as I said, if you hop over to my blog, and search, ‘Johnson Elementary art project’, or, ‘Collaborative Piece’, you’ll see it. So, here are her questions: ‘What is the dimension of the canvases that were used?’
That offhand, I don’t know. If you though, have a space where you’re planning on working, you might want to kind of measure the space to gauge the size of the canvases, because I used a canvas size, larger canvases for the word ‘Johnson’, smaller for ‘Elementary’, and I used canvases that worked with the dimension of that space. You might have a larger space that would require bigger canvases to make sense, you might have a smaller space.
So, take that into consideration, when you’re thinking about what size canvases to purchase. ‘How thick are the black lines that you made?’ The next question is, ‘How did I make those letters?’ I did not freehand my letters. What I did was, I found a font, a kind of italicized font for the word, ‘Johnson’, and a bold, all caps font for ‘Elementary’, and what I did was, I decided on the size of those letters, and then I picked out my font, and then enlarged those, and printed those out, and they were printed so large, that I did have to print each letter on four separate pieces of paper, and tape them together.
Once I got the letter taped together, I cut out the letter, and placed it on top of the canvas, traced around the letter, and then painted it in with a kind of a shiny black paint. That sounds really complicated now, I bet those of you that have a cricut, or know somebody in the school that has a cricut cutter, you could simply have them cut out, or however those cricut things work, I don’t have one personally, but I have a PE buddy who does.
Have them cut out those letters, and those could then be attached to the canvas. That would probably be a lot easier, than the way that I went about doing it. If you trust your free hand skills, like now, these days, I probably would have just written it on there, cause I don’t want to waste my time printing all those letters, and cutting it out. I would probably just use chalk to draw my letters on there, making sure to measure the top, bottom, and sides so that the letters are kind of about the same size.
She asks then, ‘What is the best type of paint to use?’ We used a tempera paint that was a bold color, so that would show up on the black canvas, and, ‘Did you put a varnish, or sealer on the artwork when it was completed?’ I only put a varnish, or a sealer on the letters, because I wanted the letters to have a little bit of a shine, and the background to be matte, and those letters have hung in our school right when you walk in, it says, ‘Johnson Elementary’. It’s really bright, cheery, happy, colorful, and we also made a little sign to hang next to it, that says that ‘This was painted by a group of fourth graders in the year 2012, to 2013’, so great question.
I strongly recommend that you try something like a collaborative legacy piece, they’re a lot of fun. I know my students who come back or have younger siblings that come back to school are always thrilled to see that their artwork is still hanging. If you have a question for me, send it my way. You can find me at [email protected]
So, the big, fat, hairy moral of the story is this: So many of us spend so much time feeling like a lonely island, and I get it, cause you know, I’m there every day in my art room, the only crazy person in the school trying to figure out how to get out all of these supplies for all of these classes, in the short amount of time that I have, but regardless, it’s not a fun place to be, but really forcing yourself outside of maybe even your comfort zone.
Like for me, hosting a craft night that very first time, inviting people that I didn’t know well, but I wanted to get to know better, and then making friends, and making connections, and making memories, it’s important. So, I encourage you to give it a shot. Put it on your 2019 bucket list, if it’s not something that you can make happen this holiday season. Have an awesome day you guys.