Our Weekend With Robert Mahar is almost here! We thought it would be fun to share our Q&A with you to get you ready for our weekend of fun. If you were lucky enough to register for one or all of his classes being held at Fancy Tiger Crafts this weekend, then we cannot wait to see you here. The Circular Weaving class still has a few limited spaces left so don't take too much time deciding if you want to join us! Robert is a delight and this is not one you want to miss.
Robert Mahar has been creating and teaching engaging classes online and in-person at workshops tirelessly sharing his passion for the creative do-it-yourself crafts that make our world a beautiful place. He has managed to combine his love for crafting with his love of vintage finds.
How long have you been in crafting business?
I’ve worked in creative fields since the early 90s, but I launched my first craft-centric business in 2005. It was that magical period in which e-commerce and handmade goods where just starting to find one another - Etsy launched that year as did my little online emporium of vintage and artisan crafted good for kids. The focus of my business has changed in the intervening years, but it’s still firmly planted in promoting, creating, teaching and celebrating handwork and handmade goods.
What inspires you and your work as a maker?
I talk about one of my art world heroes, Corita Kent (1918-1986) often, especially when I’m teaching creative workshops. While I am an absolute fan of her work because of her mastery of color and the manner in which she combined messages of social justice, faith and pop culture into her print making - it’s more about her approach to work and a creative practice that influences me. Mantras such as “Consider everything an experiment.” and “Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail, there’s only make.” run on regular rotation in my mind.
Tell us about your studio or workspace.
After 30 years of living and working in Los Angeles, my partner and I made a pandemic move last summer to Northern California. We’ve been renting for this first year while we get to know the area, but just closed on a home in Sonoma - which, I’m delighted to say, will include a new studio space for me. Everything is in the middle of renovations right now (goodbye popcorn ceilings and peeling laminate flooring!), but fingers crossed I will be settling into the new space in June. I do believe that you can do good work at the kitchen table, or the guest bedroom (like I’ve been doing this past year) - but I am very much looking forward to designated storage space for craft supplies!
How would you describe your design aesthetic?
So much of my work is influenced by vintage crafts, ephemera and folk traditions and I love discovering a project buried deep in a dusty library book and figuring out a way to make it uniquely my own. This then becomes the goal - to recreate these old-school handicrafts with a modern sensibility - and then present them to students and customers in a manner that triggers creative exploration and ignites the joy that can be found in making.
You are currently working on the show Making It. What has that been like? What can you share about your experience of thinking about crafting in a new way?
I was really fortunate to be cast as a contestant on the first season of NBC’s creative competition Making It which was filmed in 2017 and aired in the summer of 2018. On the most recent third season, I worked as an associate producer - helping to guide and support the new class of contestants through the process and working to make certain they had everything they needed to craft under pressure (hello time clock!). I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to work both in front of and behind the camera on this feel good show - as each season has introduced us to a new group of brilliant makers that approach their work in a unique way. While many creatives work under normal, everyday time constraints - it’s a unique experience to design and build on a tightly timed challenge. Would I love to hang out, tackling fun projects alongside Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman every day? 100%, yes. Would I love to regularly complete big assignments in three hours? No, thank you. But, it is a wonderful and often surprising creative exercise to work under strict perimeters and see what you can create!
How do you approach teaching skills to others? What do you hope participants get out of your classes?
My goal is always to present thoughtful, well researched instruction in a fun and unexpected way. Whether you craft on a regular basis or are just interested in exploring a new, creative skill - I want you to walk out of my class feeling informed, entertained and accomplished. Listen, not every genre of handcraft is going to be a good fit for you - but to invest a few hours in creative exploration is always worthwhile. Best case scenario - you find a favorite new creative pursuit. Worst case - you spend time in creative community, challenging yourself with a new undertaking, surrounded by beautiful craft supplies!
What is your favorite album to listen to while you work? Do you have a playlist you would like to share?
Truth be told, I listen to more podcasts than music while I work. It might seem a little macabre, but I’m a fan of true crime stories and regularly listen to My Favorite Murder and Tenfold More Wicked.
We still have a few spots left in Robert's May 14 Circular Weaving class. Register here to join on on our Weekend With Robert Mahar.