Papercrafting Insider: An Interview w/ Robert Mahar, Papercrafter
We hope you’re all enjoying a great weekend…we’re about to make one lucky papercrafter’s weekend even better!
Are you ready to meet a fellow paper lover, to learn a bit about where he came from, how he ended up with a career in papercrafting and what makes him (yes, him!) tick?
Well then, grab a drink and a snack, make yourself comfy and listen in…
Why put “conversation” in quotes?
Because speaking with Robert was much more like chatting with a new (or best) papercrafting buddy than it was like interviewing a papercrafting industry celeb.
I think you’ll agree when you hear what Robert shared with me.
(Note: The questions I asked are blue and in italics; when I have quoted Robert verbatim, his response is in “quotes” and italicized.)
Please introduce yourself to me as if I knew nothing about you – imagine I’m sitting next to you on the subway and I ask you to tell me about yourself?
After a chuckle, Robert started with “Do you want to hear my ‘elevator pitch?‘”
“Sure! Tell me whatever you want us to know about you!”
According to Robert, his life path has involved three or four career changes…thus far.
He pursued studio art first, then art history.
Why art history?
Well, he had enough “starving artist” friends and he thought he should pursue something more lucrative…something like art history.
Uh yeah, we both had a good laugh at that!
He then went into fine art appraising (which involved a 7-year apprenticeship).
This was his career for 13 years.
When I asked him what he liked about the field of fine art appraising, he explained that it was a constant research project – he liked reading the books and learning as much as possible about the creators of the pieces he was appraising so he could provide accurate appraisals of the art.
And, he really enjoyed seeing the pieces in residential settings, with people going on about their lives with these great works of art hanging around their living spaces.
Then, in 2005, he founded Mahar Dry Goods, an online business that sold handcrafted goods for kids, items such as furnishings, toys and art that were created by a talented bunch of creative folks.
Of course his business was hit hard by the recession like many (most?) businesses and he closed it in 2010.
His next stop: working with Paper Source, a purveyor of papergoods most of us have probably at least heard of, even if we haven’t shopped there.
Robert shared that he loved the focus on paper and he was soon assisting them in opening their Santa Monica (CA) store and launching their workshop program.
He was involved in this endeavor for two years.
Robert then began freelancing, creating paper creations for store window designers (one of my lifelist jobs!), party planners, etc.
O.k., I have to pause here to say that I think that would be the coolest thing in the world, don’t you?
Eventually Robert aligned with Deca, a digital media production company aimed at women, and became a behind-the-scenes creator and producer of the DIY and parenting segments being created for Kin Community, a top YouTube women’s network.
He eventually landed in front of the camera, getting to create for the viewers the projects he had been creating all along, but that were being created on camera by others.
And this is how he ended up here, producing videos for his “Crafted with Robert Mahar” YouTube channel, a part of the Kin Community.
And, preparing to take the stage, as the talent behind “Papercrafting” Skills & Technique, with Robert Mahar” on CreativeLive, which is where I first learned about Robert.
Now, if you want to learn more about Robert Mahar’s upcoming LIVE event, go right ahead and click on the link just above…we’ll wait…after all, we want you to know more about what you have a chance to WIN!
What, there’s a prize?
YOU could WIN
to Robert’s workshop,
“Papercrafting: Skills & Technique, with Robert Mahar,”
just by reading through this “conversation”
and telling us (in the comments)
at least one thing you learned
from Robert’s story.
O.K., on to the rest of the chat…
Did you grow up in a “creative” household?
Nope, turns out Robert was, as he put it, the “odd-man out.”
He was influenced by his great aunt, a prolific quilter and crocheter who had made quilts and blankets for all the kids in the family.
In fact, that’s a stepping stone on his journey to where he is now, an avid crafter making his living doing what he’s passionate about.
You see his aunt had gotten up there in years and she was no longer able to create the wonderful quilts and blankets she had become known for.
Well, Robert wanted to make sure that subsequent babies born into the family received a quilt or blanket when they were born, so he searched online for someone who could make quilts for the babies if he supplied a design and materials.
He soon found a resource and that led him to search out others, which eventually led him to creating Mahar Dry Goods.
I don’t know about you, but I LOVE the paths in life that lead us to where we are now…where we’re supposed to be.
Were you encouraged to pursue creative endeavors?
Yes. In fact, he was labeled “the artist!“
He thinks his parents may have been gritting their teeth when he announced that he was going to pursue attending art school, but they never let on if they were.
How great, right?
I have often wondered how many great “creatives” we’ve lost to someone in their lives shooshing their creative bent and/or “forcing” them to choose another path because pursuing a career in “art” or as a “creative” was not considered an “acceptable” role.
What did you want to be when you were little?
O.K., I had to laugh at this choice!
Why a postman?
Robert explained: Because in those days mail was a big deal and getting a package was exciting.
Postmen got to walk around all day delivering packages, making people happy.
Apparently this was a goal for Robert – making people happy – even at a young age.
How about when you were a teen – what did you want to be when you were older?
Robert grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan and he attended an “alternative” high school, a college-prep high school that had an arts and culture component, an “integrated learning” approach.
This fueled in him an interest in design, and in history and the world and how it all fit together.
He wanted an arts education and first pursued studio art in college, and then art history.
What was the first craft you ever made?
He thinks it was either the woven potholders or Shrinky Dinks mentioned earlier in our conversation, or suncatchers.
When I told him that I had just seen suncatcher kits at a craft store, he replied, “Really?“
This was then followed by “Everything old is new again.”
You’re so right!
And then we got sidetracked talking about 70s crafts like macrame‘…
How about the first papercrafted item you ever created?
Robert explained that “boys didn’t play with dollhouses” so he used shoe boxes and construction paper to create rooms, and then created the furnishings and accessories to go in them.
(Where were you when I was in need of new digs for my Barbie? I so could have used your skills!)
Robert created “worlds,” first diagramming them on paper and then building them.
At this point we went down yet another rabbit hole…
It turns out that we had both wanted to be architects when we were kids.
Robert didn’t pursue this because of the math involved and I was dissuaded by a high school counselor.
What’s your favorite type of papercrafting?
Crepe paper crafts.
Robert told me that he collects vintage crafting books and one of his favorite books includes crepe paper crafts.
What he likes about crepe paper is that it’s like paper and fabric combined, it has a structural element to it.
And the crafts in these books represent an “egalitarian nature” – everyone can do them, they’re accessible.
Note: On Robert’s program, on Tuesday, July 15th, he’ll be showing viewers how to create giant paper florals, with a variety of papers, including crepe paper.
Ooh, note to self: pick up crepe paper before Tuesday’s papercrafting lesson!
If you could design a “perfect” papercrafting “tool,” what would it be?
Robert didn’t have an answer for this question.
Perhaps, after he gives it some thought, he’ll let me know and I’ll add his answer here!
When you are crafting, do you like anything on in the background?
When he’s working on big projects, Robert loves to watch a Netflix series.
Are you guessing he’s watching “high-quality, brain-stimulating” programming?
Well, you’d be wrong! Well, unless you think that “The Walking Dead” qualifies!
Sorry Robert, that wouldn’t make my list. But thanks so much for the honest answer!
He also likes to watch movies on his iPad while he’s creating.
And when I asked him what his favorite movie is, he said “Probably Amelie.”
It was at that moment that I remembered that I own that movie – I’ve just never watched it!
OK, add another movie to my to-be-watched list.
When I asked Robert whether he likes watching TV shows he’s already seen or new TV shows while he’s crafting, he answered shows he’s already seen.
He also shared that he owns the whole Mary Tyler Moore Show series on DVD and he loves watching that.
Oh man, the mention of that show brought back memories of my 70s-era childhood!
For those of you who might be too young to remember the Mary Tyler Moore Show, it was a peak into the life of a working woman in that era, and it led to the series, “Rhoda,” which centered around the life of Rhoda Morgenstern, a friend of Mary’s.
O.K., o.k., sorry about all the detours, but this is a very accurate representation of how the interview with Robert went – such fun!
Do you eat or drink anything while you’re papercrafting or creating? And if so, what are your food and drink of choice?
Robert wasted no time in responding: lemonade or iced tea, or better yet, an Arnold Palmer (a mixture of the two).
Now, I’m a purist at heart (unsweetened, black iced tea for me thanks), but I had to admit that this sounded refreshing, especially on a hot day.
Robert added, after asking me if we have Trader Joe’s here in Austin (to which I giddily replied that we finally just got one!!!), that he’s addicted to their peanut-butter-filled pretzels!
Oh no, you did NOT just mention those delectable treats, especially now that I can drive just a few miles and get some for my very own?!
My low-carb diet is now doomed.
“Well, what about the ones covered in chocolate?” I asked.
Aha, got ya!
Robert had never seen these, but I bet he’s gonna be thinking about those things all night…just like I’m salivating just writing about the ones he mentioned!
What, YOU have never had peanut-butter-filled pretzels?
Well, we might just have to add them to our 12 Days of Christmas Giveaways line-up this year!
They are de-li-cious!!!
If you were giving advice to someone interested in getting started in papercrafting, what advice would you share with them?
Robert shared that one of his favorite authors is Anne Lamott.
He mentioned that she talks about the process of writing and she says that aspiring writers need to not be afraid to write a crappy first draft.
Robert feels the same applies to papercrafting.
He suggests new crafters allow themselves to make mistakes – as he put it, “Crafting is a learning process.”
Here, here! I could not agree more!
What’s your greatest success in crafting and/or papercrafting?
Being invited to appear on The Martha Stewart Show, to teach her how to create something.
When I asked Robert if his view of her changed after that appearance, he said that it didn’t.
During the eight or so minutes he was on with her, she was gracious and friendly.
I’m always happy to hear that a celebrity lived up to a fan’s expectations (and wasn’t a jerk like some are!).
How about your biggest flop?
I heard from Robert that he has a “Project Graveyard,” where failed projects go to die.
But, he looks at it this way: bad attempts lead to good ones.
So, so true, so keep on trying!
Any funny crafting stories you want to share?
(I’m sure he thought of at least one after we hung up – I’ll add them if Robert shares any!)
What would people (including those who think they know you well) be surprised to find out about you?
Robert explained that although he’s pretty outgoing and gregarious, especially when he’s “on,” he really likes his quiet time (“Good stuff happens when I’m alone with my goodies and TV shows or movies.”).
Robert added that he is more of an introvert, but he can be extroverted when needed.
Do you have a dedicated craft space?
He shared that he does have a desk, but he ends up working on the dining room table and in the kitchen and often has things hanging to dry in the bathroom.
It sounds to me like the whole house is his craft space!
He said that it might be good that he works in all these “living” spaces because it forces him to clean up after himself.
That statement prompted me to ask: “Are you an organized crafter, a slightly messy crafter or an all-out disaster creator?“
A “slightly messy crafter” was Robert’s answer.
He also said he’d like to think that he’s a neat, organized crafter, but his desk says otherwise.
How many can relate to this?!
If you could create the perfect crafting environment, what would it look like?
Robert quickly responded (almost as if he’d been plotting creating it?): it would have lots of natural light, floor-to-ceiling windows on at least one wall, large crafting work surfaces that are bar-height, walls of shelves for storing (hoarding!) supplies and a utility sink.
I need a sink in my craft room too!
Who inspires you – in life and in crafting?
Robert shared that he’s inspired by lots of people: architects, designers, event planners, etc.
And, he especially loves it when these creatives share the stages of their projects so he can be privy to their creative process.
He’s also inspired by what he sees on, and loves using, Instagram.
When I asked him if he likes and uses Pinterest, he said yes and yes, but he finds Instagram more interactive (he said he finds that people comment and converse more on Instagram – do you find that too?).
Anything else you want our readers to know about you?
“I would love for people who want to know more to visit my site and check out my social media channels.”
Good answer, Robert! I’m sharing the links below.
And last, but not least…
What 3-5 words would you use to describe yourself?
“Crafty, Clever and Kind.”
Robert added that he values kindness quite highly.
I do too – I believe we need more kindness in this world of ours.
After spending an hour on the phone with Robert, I would add these words to describe him:
Friendly, Open, Honest, Caring, Creative.
And this word to describe our “interview:” Delightful!
Thanks so much, Robert, for sharing your time with us, especially when you’re in the midst of getting ready for your papercrafting event.
We so appreciate your openness and honesty and can’t wait to create with you on Monday and Tuesday!
Don’t forget your crepe paper everyone!
To learn more about the delightful Robert Mahar,
Robert Mahar‘s website
Robert Mahar‘s Twitter stream
Robert Mahar‘s Pinterest boards
Robert Mahar‘s Instagram feed
Robert’s “Crafted with Robert Mahar” YouTube channel
Robert Mahar‘s Google+ Account
Well then, step right up!
Just leave a comment below –
tell us at least one thing you learned from Robert’s story.
While everyone can watch the live event for free
while it’s being broadcast on July 14th & 15th,
anytime access will be $49 after those dates.
And ONE lucky
PaperCrafter’s Corner papercrafter
(or aspiring papercrafter!)
free anytime access
to Robert’s papercrafting workshop,
courtesy of CreativeLive!
Deadline to Enter:
3 p.m. (central, GMT-6),
Tuesday, July 15th, 2014.
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Thanks so much for tuning in today and happy papercrafting,