From the minute we discovered Joel’s superb craft blog, Made by Joel, we fell in love and knew we had to get to see this guy. We love his aesthetic, his tone, the pictures, and of course, the crafts themselves.
We had him gist with us in an interview, and he didn’t hold back in
How did you get your start in Made by Joel? Did crafty parents raise you?!
I’ve always loved making things, and even as a kid, I made many of my toys. When I was young, we lived in my great-grandmother’s old house, and there was a tool shed that still held many of my great-grandfather’s tools. I used them to make all kinds of things, from wooden animals, to zip lines from my treehouse.
As a young adult, I started to focus more on art and design, mostly painting. Then when we had kids, I began making toys again for my children. When my family and friends saw the toys, they said I should start a blog so I could keep them updated. So that’s how Made by Joel began. The response turned out to be quite impressive.
Do you ever get tired of making things or blogging?
I’ll never stop making things. Although I focus on simple crafts requiring very little instruction, creating how-to posts for some projects is pretty time-consuming. For example, stopping to take progress photos, editing them, writing text, etc.
For my book Made to Play, I was much more detailed with instructions and made hand-drawn illustrations for every step. Hence, the blog how-to’s seem easy in comparison. I feel like I’m getting faster at everything, and I love editing photos and writing.
So even though it takes a lot of time, I like the work. Also, it’s gratifying to see all of the kids playing with the toys and crafts and getting friendly responses from parents and teachers.
(The craft above is found on his blog here.)
How long have you been blogging, and how is the book project going? Also, when do you find the time to write?
Made by Joel is my first blog, and I started it less than two years ago, so I’m still learning a lot. And the book is done. It’s in the process of being printed right now and will be in stores this October. Writing it was an epic rush. I had less than six months to do the whole thing. It was super exciting, and I loved making it. Much of the time was spent making the toys with my kids and taking photographs with them. But there were many late nights of writing and illustrating.
What’s a typical weeknight like in your house? Do you have a go-to dinner that appears weekly, and who does most of the cooking?
My wife works, and she gets home at dinner time, so I do most of the cooking. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a chef. So I’ve always loved cooking and baking. We’re also surrounded by great restaurants, some of which deliver, so we get Thai food a lot and Ethiopian. The kids love it.
I can’t think of any go-to dinners that the kids always ask for, but there are definitely go-to breakfasts. The kids love omelets and fruit smoothies. Another favorite is Norwegian pancakes, which are basically crepes folded over with butter and sugar or strawberry jam. My mom’s side of the family is Norwegian.
How do you feel about screen time?
The kids get to watch a limited amount of videos. One of our favorites is a British show called Kipper. We stream it on Netflix. It’s great.
I’ve also spent the last five months creating a kids “TV” show that we will post on Made by Joel and YouTube. I’ve started shooting the first episode and hope to get it done sometime soon. It’s shot entirely with paper sets and puppets that people will be able to print out and play within their own homes as well. We’re going to lure kids into the hands-on arts and crafts with the power of video. It’s going to be awesome.
Tell us about a typical weekend.
We have a lot of family in town, so we often get together to play and catch up on the news. Having a large extended family of cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and great-grandparents is fun. There are also many local opportunities for outings such as the zoo, children’s museum, farmer’s markets, excellent parks, and city parks.
What is your proudest moment in parenting?
We just had a baby girl less than two weeks ago. Our twins are four and a half, and we’ve been having such a memorable time learning and experiencing life together. I can’t pick one moment, but I’m proud to be a father invested in the growth and success of my children.
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