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Leah Kramer

You created and run Craftster.org, a craft forum for rebel Do-It-Yourselfers, in 2003. What inspired you to do it?

After college I started indulging some latent crafty urges and was having fun making things like accessories and taking some sewing classes. Then in 2001 I stumbled on this craft fair in Boston called the Bazaar Bizarre which was a group of people selling really amazing, off-beat, hip crafts. It was a huge shot in the arm to see all these people doing crafts that were actually cool. So often "crafting" is synonymous with cross-stitched "home sweet home" plaques and other things that just don't resonate with me. I became involved in organizing and being a vendor at the Bazaar Bizarre and it really fueled my fire. So in 2003 I thought of the term "Craftster" which is sort of a clever word for someone who's a hipster who loves to make things. And then I started to think about how "Craftster" sounds kind of like "Friendster" or "Napster" and I thought it would be so cool to create a community like those websites but where instead of sharing friends or music, people share really cool craft ideas. It was really just an impulse to start it and I had no idea it would become so popular.

I read that you've been crafting since you were a little girl - what have been some of your favorite projects?

When I was a kid I always relished any craft projects we were given to do in school and summer camp and so on. I hated when it was time for sports but I loved when it was time "arts and crafts." At home I loved sewing little pillows. My mother showed me how one day and I thought there was something so magical about the way you sew it inside out and no matter how sloppy your stitches look when you turn it right side out to stuff it, it looks perfect. I also loved to sew small sets of clothing for my dolls and stuffed animals.

Where do you draw inspiration for your craft projects? Are there any artists or craftsters or other creative Daring Females who inspire you?

I personally love to make crafts out of things I find at yard sales, flea markets, thrift stores or things that might otherwise just get thrown away. I like this because it keeps crafting really cheap and I love the challenge of trying to figure out what the heck to make out of something like this that catches my eye. For example in the 1970s Betty Crocker sold these plastic boxes of recipe cards with all these amazingly beautiful photographs of food from the 50s to the 70s like jello molds and hotdog-creamed corn-bacon casseroles. After spinning my wheels on what to make out of them forever I came up with the idea to make cool little notebooks and greeting cards with them.

One crafty artist I admire is Liza Lou. She creates these huge installments like a traditional full-size kitchen where every single square inch is encrusted in carefully places tiny colorful beads. It's so gorgeous and so extreme. I also love Heidi Kenney of mypapercrane.com. She makes and sells the most original little stuffed toys of of felt for example a plush toaster-shaped purse with plush pieces of toast that come out of it. She also paints and spins her own gorgeous yarns. And she's a mom! Another crafter/artist I love is Susie Gharemani of boygirlparty.com. She is an illustrator and painter who incorporates her beautiful drawings into crafts in very appealing ways. There are so many women who inspire me that it's hard to name just a few!

What would you say has been your life's biggest dare?

I think my biggest dare has been leaving my comfy full-time job as a computer programmer to commit myself to a variety of craft-related endeavors for a living. As Craftster started to get more and more popular (it has over 40,000 members at this moment!) it really started consuming more and more of my time so this was partly out of necessity. But for a long time I had huge desires to stop working for other people and to be my own boss in some craft-related profession. It was very scary and even though I'm starting to actually be able to call it a "living" it's still very scary to think about how I'm responsible for so much. I also work ten times longer and harder than I ever did at any job but I feel so lucky to be spending all of this precious time in life on what I really love.

You also own "the coolest store ever" called MagPie and work as a computer programmer part-time - how do you find time for everything? Which is your favorite gig?

That bio is a bit out of date as I'm happy to say that I've been able to drop the computer programmer part. So now my days consist of running Craftster, writing my first (hopefully of many!) craft book, and I'm one of five partners at a store in the Boston area called Magpie (magpie-store.com) which sells all hip handmade goods by over 100 different crafters and artists. It's a lot of work. I don't know how I fit it all in to be honest. I'm working morning until night every day but it's so nice to be working on projects that I really care about and I think that helps a lot. Craftster is definitely my favorite gig because it allows me to combine my love of programming with my love of crafting. I'm always working on new ways to add to change Craftster's software to make it a better and better place and it's very gratifying.

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