Craft Wars

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By Simon Fryer
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Expert Author Simon Fryer

The world of creative crafting recently entered a new arena, aiming to transform it from a hobby into an art form. A new US show called “Craft Wars’ was launched in June, offering keen crafters (professional and amateur) an opportunity to win $10,000 prize money and receive validation as a professional crafter.

When you think about crafts, what springs to mind? Adding stickers to home-made cards when you were a child? A knitted jumper that you’d rather not have had to wear, lovingly made by an aged aunt or grandmother? Or, professionally upholstered furniture to breathe new life into your old, worn sofa? Well, prepare to be amazed as you learn that crafting possibilities are endless and surprisingly challenging.

Host and Executive Producer, Tori Spelling, is a keen crafter who understands how challenging and satisfying crafting can be. When not acting, she enjoys “taking every opportunity to creatively express herself.” Tori says, “crafting provides an amazing outlet and nothing shows love more than something homemade”. Tori has reported that she can’t wait to share her passion and be inspired by all the amazing contestants on ‘Craft Wars’.

The format of the show is fairly straightforward. Each episode features three enthusiasts competing against one another in two rounds of difficult challenges. Tori acts as both a mentor for the contestants and host for the audience.

All supplies for the show are provided by Michaels, an American creative product supplier. Along with supplying top quality, varied craft supplies and accessories, the company holds craft classes for keen amateurs who wish to master new techniques and skills.

The judging panel is made up of three distinguished and world-famous craft experts.

Erica Domesek is founder, creator and author of “P.S. – I made this”; a distinguished design and style expert living in New York City. Her “Designer DIY” projects range from jewellery to shoes and handbags.

Stephen Brown; an author, entrepreneur and founder of the multimillion dollar gift-ware company, Glitterville Studios. Stephen’s designs are sold is a variety of high-end retail stores worldwide; with his one-off designs described as “wondrously wacky”.

Jo Pearson, an author and craft host, is the third judge. For the past 25 years, Jo has been a creative expert for Michaels. A keen crafter since the age of eight, Jo finds that creating something is relaxing to her. Her craft videos have been viewed by millions of people worldwide, helping to inspire others to try crafting themselves.

So, what type of craft skills are the contestants expected to master? Numerous and challenging.

Despite each contestant receiving the same choice of raw materials and ability to use some additional supplies, the final designs have proved to be spectacularly individual.

For example, in the first round of a recent episode, the three contestants were asked to make a lamp. The materials included a variety of eyeglasses and eye protection goggles. Additional use of wood and arts/crafts supplies sponsored by Michaels was permitted. The results were stunning.

One contestant from Wisconsin used an embroidery hoop to create the lamp shade. Next, heating the eye glass enabled her to flatten the colored lenses taken from sunglasses to create a mosaic look. After melting, the glass was molded into flower shapes that were glued to the lampshade. Buttons were used for additional, complementary decoration. She used wood to create an attractive lamp base, then covered it in twine to produce a rustic design.

Opinion from the judges offers both praise for innovative design and criticism over poor technique or lack of cohesiveness in design. After the first round, one competitor was eliminated. The lady from Wisconsin survived.

For the second (and final) round, the remaining crafters were challenged to create a complete bedroom set in just five hours. They were given a mattress, carpenter, and four assistants to help them. The stipulation was that their design must include zips. This challenge wasn’t one for the faint hearted!

The Wisconsin contestant chose a “smoke and mirrors” theme, creating a mosaic pillow using the zips. She created a wave-shaped headboard, side table and multiple accessories. Her team used the bottoms of shoes as a pattern to make unique tiles for the table. As a final touch, she made a garland out of tiny mirrors and rosettes out of zips for the centers of pillows.

Her challenger from New York designed a canopy bed, side tables and strange-looking chair. He incorporated the zips into a beautifully designed rug, created an upholstered headboard that was “absolutely gorgeous” but, running out of time, his paintwork was judged too sloppy.

After closer inspection, the judges awarded the Wisconsin contestant the $10,000 prize.

Craft lovers will watch in awe and find inspiration at the creativity on view. It may encourage you to try crafting yourself.

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