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An Interview with Carmen Flores Tanis on Crafting

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Carmen talks about her passion for crafting and creating, shares some of the projects she is most proud of, and provides tutorials for some great summer craft activities for kids!

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Carmen talks about her passion for crafting and creating, shares some of the projects she is most proud of, and provides tutorials for some great summer craft activities for kids!

Tell us more about yourself and why you decided to start your blog, Flores Tanis Studio.  What inspired you to blog specifically about crafting?

My name is Carmen Flores Tanis and I love to make things! I come from a long line of seamstresses, tailors, mechanics and tinkerers and so was encouraged from a very young age to make things (or to at least take them apart). When I was growing up, my mom would meet with her church ladies group where the ladies would construct elaborate swans out of tulle and soap bars for the church bazaar. I can still smell those bars of soap covered with sequins and pins. My dad was always fixing engines and I'd hand him the tools like a scrub nurse assisting a doctor. Summers were spent visiting relatives in Mexico and every year, my aunts (my “tias”) would be obsessed with a new craft which of course I couldn't wait to learn. One summer we spent everyday making crazy colored monsters out of “peluche”(fake fur) and googly eyes.  Another summer was spent making macrame' tote bags out of a jute so rough that it made our hands bleed. I didn't care - I just put on more band-aids and kept tying knots. Yet another summer was spent constructing elaborate fruit bowls and jewelry boxes out of popsicle sticks. Crafting with my family was always the most magical time filled with laughter, encouragement and a final round of applause for a job well done.

I attended Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and majored in business with the intent of attending law school. But I was a huge movie fan so I decided just for kicks to do a double major with film. I especially loved film editing because it was crafting but with big pieces of film and tape. (This was way before the days of editing on a computer.) Somehow the dream of law school morphed into a career in film where I spent twenty-five wonderful and challenging years in post-production sound editorial for features. That's where I met my beloved husband, Bruce, who is an award winning sound effects editor. That was almost twenty years ago. I like to say that we met on “Bennie and Joon”, got engaged while on “Renaissance Man” and were married during “Wild Bill”. Now, I've gone full circle back to my crafty roots as I pursue a new career as a craft project designer, artist and teacher. (And my degree in business and my love for tools have served me well in running my Etsy craft supply shop!)

I started blogging about seven years ago but didn't get serious about it until about two years ago. I wanted a place to collect all of my projects in a sort of portfolio while at the same time sharing fun craft ideas and things to do. As the oldest of five, I always took my role of older sister very seriously and so was constantly on the lookout for fun places to take my parents and younger siblings. We're all grown now but I still love finding new places to have adventures and I occasionally include those discoveries on my blog too.

Your site has a lot of great tutorials.  Which tutorials do you think our mom readers should review?  Which ones do you think kids will enjoy the most?

One really inexpensive and fun project is making colorful magnets out cardboard and old advertising magnets:

http://1000waystolovetheearth.wordpress.com/2011/04/26/111-she-upcycles-cardboard-and-paper-into-amazingly-artistic-magnets/

If you've got a die cutting machine (the kind that use dies, like a Sizzix or Accucut - not the electronic kind) you can easily cut thick cardboard into all sorts of fun shapes. If you don't have one, you can use scissors to cut simple shapes like circles and squares and still make some super cute magnets.

I also love air dry Crayola Clay.  It comes in a big bucket and you can flatten it out and cut it with cookie cutters. This project makes wedding favors but you can easily adapt it to make animal shapes, holiday creepies and whatever else you can think of!

http://florestanisstudio.typepad.com/bzzy_little_bee/2012/06/cha-designer-craft-connection-heart-favor-box-keepsake.html

Even though you’re not a mom,  you said you’re an aunt and an older sister.  Do you ever craft with your family?  What are your favorite projects you’ve done with them?

My whole family knows that hanging out with me usually involves making something or a trip to the craft supply store! One time my family pitched in to help me prep for a kids' craft class I was going to teach called “Upcycled Soda Can Flower Corsages”. We had quite an assembly line going: I was cutting open soda cans, my dad was flattening the metal into sheets, my sister was die cutting the sheets into flowers and my mom was punching holes in each flower for the kids to wire together later. It was a blast!

One of my nephews also reminded me recently that I had made him a photo book about “Flat Stanley”, a character in a book which his 1st grade class was reading at the time. The teacher had had each child make his or her own “Flat Stanley” paper doll and then send it to a relative for further embellishment. Well, I photographed “Flat Stanley” in all sorts of funny situations - shopping with me while he sat in a grocery basket, duplicating himself on a copy machine and then having a party where all the Valentines and greeting cards showed up too. Then I mailed the whole thing back to my nephew. He loved it! He's in the 8th grade now but he still has that book and treasures it! I almost started crying! :)

What projects are you the most proud of?  What inspired you to make them?

Sometimes there is that magical intersection between what you were imagining and what you actually made where the finished project is so much more than you ever expected. You are left with your mouth hanging open not so much proud of yourself but rather amazed that you actually tapped into the creative spirit and grace that I believe surrounds us all. One of my happiest recent projects is the stamped leather bracelet that I made last month - http://florestanisstudio.typepad.com/bzzy_little_bee/2012/05/impressart-metal-stamps-challenge-family-tree-stamped-wristband.html  I made it as part of a blog hop challenge where the manufacturer supplied the participants with stamps and metal blanks. I had one single copper maple leaf shape and I mulled over that leaf for a couple of weeks before I finally had my “Aha!” moment and knew exactly what to do. So in this case it was the materials that inspired me!

Your site says that you’ve spent a lot of time working with pipe cleaners, Popsicle sticks, glitter, and glue.  Which do you think are the best materials to use when making crafts?

In my world, anything is fair game for crafting! Aluminum cans, cardboard from discarded boxes from Costco, tin cans, felt, craft foam, popsicle sticks, glass bottles - you can make anything out of anything because it's not the materials that are important, it's the tools. If I was on a desert island I would want a big sharp pair of scissors and an X-acto knife, a black sharpie, a bottle of glue and a heavy duty die cutting machine. You can cut anything with a die cut machine!  (And a Starbucks - can I add a Starbucks to my desert island? :) I needs the Trenta Black Iced Tea!)

Do you recommend any summer craft projects or activities for moms to do with their children?

To me, kids' crafts are to be treasured forever. I actually have pieces that my brothers and sister made when they were little and I refuse to hand them over! But not all crafted items can survive for very long - especially those made of paper and glitter. One hardy craft that will last a long time are little plaster or bisque ceramic (unglazed) shapes painted with acrylic paints. It's super easy, cheap and kids love it. You can find all sorts of shapes at the craft store - animals, cartoon figurines, initials, little houses. Just spray the final creations with a coat of clear acrylic sealant and you and your children will have wonderful treasures to remind you of happy summers spent crafting.

Other than making crafts, what are your favorite things to do in your free time?

Ooh, we live very close to downtown Los Angeles so my husband and I love to explore the old buildings, looking for hidden architectural gems and long forgotten historical sites. We also love hiking around the neighborhood and the nearby Hollywood Hills, always on the lookout for urban wildlife - coyotes, skunks, deer and the odd bob cat. Although we haven't been in a while, we love scuba diving and snowboarding! And we adore mystery movies and TV shows - especially modern British ones and all the old classic series like “Charlie Chan” and “The Thin Mans” where you get a peek into life in the 30's and 40's. Thanks to the wonder which is the internet, if there is an actor that we find interesting in one of those shows, we can instantly look him up and do a “background check” to find out what other shows he's been in. What a way to make film history come alive!

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Site: http://florestanisstudio.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/florestanisstudio

Twitter: http://twitter.com/florestanis

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/cflorestanis

Email: carmen@florestanisstudio.com

My Etsy shop - hard to find craft supplies:  http://floresflorestanis.etsy.com

My Etsy shop - all handmade:  http://florestanisstudio.etsy.com

 

 

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