Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood on the Sisterhood of Craft & Setting Goals

jennifer heywood ackermanJennifer Ackerman-Haywood was born in Detroit Rock City and now lives in West Michigan with her husband, Jeff, and two daughters. She makes a living teaching craft workshops, working as a freelance feature writer and adjunct journalism professor, and selling wooden weaving looms and handprinted goods. She hopes to realize her childhood dream to write a book very soon. She likes to quilt, knit, weave, sew, carve blocks, pull prints and do just about every craft under the sun. She’s almost always armed with a portable project. She started the Craftsanity podcast in late 2005 while on her second maternity leave from her newspaper gig. She continues to interview artists and crafters from around the globe, review the latest books and products and share fun project ideas you can try out in your home studios or with a group of artist friends and kids. She’ll be recording interviews at Midwest Craft Con with anyone who’d like to tell their story!

Why do you do what you do?

I make things because it’s how I breathe and process every life experience. In good times and bad, I create my way through it, documenting it with text and stitches along the way. I enjoy interviewing creative people because they inspire me, and I am intrigued by the stories behind the art and craft they create.

What’s your earliest crafty memory?

One of my earliest crafty memories is learning to crochet at the Sunday night craft gathering my great-grandma hosted weekly. Sitting in a low, kid-sized chair at her kitchen table, I fumbled with my size “G” hook in my earliest attempt to crochet a potholder out of brown rug yarn. Even though I was only about 5, I was very proud to be crafting at that table surrounded by four generations of women in my family. That was my first social experience with the sisterhood of craft. I felt like I was part of something very special, and I still remember it fondly.

What crafty personality would you most like to get a drink with?

My full list is too long to type but here are some names off the top of my head: Heather Jones, Clara Parkes, Eric Hoffman, Lea Redmond, Erin Paisley, Abby Glassenberg and Lisa Congdon. But I’m a lightweight when it comes to booze, so I should probably save myself from disaster and stick to conducting sober interviews with creative types from all walks of life. The truth is, I actually find most conversations with creative people very intoxicating. 🙂

What advice would you go back and give your younger self?

Don’t be so hesitate. Hatch a plan, do all your prep work and then run full blast toward your goal. Don’t give all your time away. Don’t put everyone else first all of the time. Commit to yourself and don’t feel bad about your success. Celebrate it. Remember that if you stay focused your goals and do well, you will be better equipped to help others do well. Practice what you preach, sister. And when all else fails, remember that nothing bad happens to writers. The ups and downs make for great stories. Write them.

What’s your favorite craft/business book?

My list of favorite books is ridiculously long as my house is overflowing with them. So I’m going to simplify things and share a title I’m currently enjoying. I just interviewed Clara Parkes, author of “Knitlandia: A Knitter Sees the World,” and it’s so well written. Clara has such a wonderful voice to her writing that makes the stories such a joy to read. Her book will be released in February and I highly recommend it.

How did you get where you are today, in 10 words or less?

I work hard and believe that anything is possible.

What are your goals for 2016?

In 2016 I want to:

  • relaunch CraftSanity Magazine (a new issue is coming out in February)
  • expand my podcast audience
  • record more content for the CraftSanity YouTube channel
  • stick with a fitness plan
  • dedicate time to property launching and marketing CraftSanity Prints
  • commit to sending out a regular newsletter
  • carve out more time to write
  • begin work on my first book
  • spend more time by the water

Tell Your Story to CraftSanity at Midwest Craft Con!

Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood of the amazing CraftSanity podcast will be recording audio and video podcasts at Midwest Craft Con! Some of the topics she’s interested in discussing are listed below but she’s totally open to discussions not on the list as well, traditional CraftSanity artist profiles, too. Feel free to email her if you have a story to share! From her blog:

  • Failing Up & Starting Over. Have you flamed out, lost steam or flat out failed to get your big dream off the ground only to have to head back to the drawing board to regroup and try again? What did you learn from this experience? How did it change you? How are you better off after that initial stumble or misstep? What advice do you have for others who haven’t gotten all the way across the bridge to success yet? Or are you still working through this process? What motivates you to try even harder to stick the landing this time time around? When should you call it quits? How are you working to build momentum again?
  • What is your superpower and how do you use it? What is your kryptonite and how do you work around it? True confession: I’ve been binge watching superhero shows on Netflix and I’m addicted. There’s something about going after bad guys with non-lethal, bad*ss moves that really appeals to me. But, sadly, I’m not a superhero (and I would not be able to reveal this if I was). The point is, we all have different strengths and weakness, and I’m interested in talking to creative folks about how you use both to be successful.
  • Handmade as self-help. This topic is the core of the CraftSanity philosophy. I make stuff when I’m happy, sad and in between. It’s how I breathe and how I process just about everything I experience in life. When babies are born, I knit blankets and make quilts. I print my kids custom T-shirts for special events and friend birthdays. When the weekly art & craft column I wrote for many years was cut, I wrote a column reflecting on what I learned from all the wonderful artists and crafters who invited me into their homes and studios and then I made a modern quilt with a hand-carved and printed “Thank you” message on it to photograph and publish with the column. I’m interested in hearing how you have used art and craft to create your way through difficult times and any advice you might have for others going through a rough patch right now. What would you say to inspire someone to try to pick up a paint brush, crochet hook or embroidery needle as a calming act of self-empowerment?
  • The best/worst handmade gift ever. My mom has graciously accepted some hideous handmade stuff that I’ve made her through the years. (It took me a couple decades to get good at this stuff, what can I say?) And while handmade gifts remain my favorite, sometimes they are terrible. I want to hear about the best and worst handmade gifts you’ve ever given or received. Bonus points to those who bring the item or a photo of it along. 🙂
  • Let’s dream out loud, okay?! I’m a huge fan of bucket lists and really like to ask people I know and strangers, too, what they would do if they could do anything. Aside from my very unlikely but fun dream of owning a lavender farm on Lake Michigan waterfront, I would love to travel the country, towing a shiny Airstream trailer equipped with a modest recording booth and interview artists and crafters along the way. I would load my trailer with my printmaking and other art and craft supplies and I would skill share with the people I meet along the way. I would teach what I know and learn from everyone I meet and write a book and shoot a documentary about the experience. I’d blog about it, too.

If you’ve never been interviewed before, don’t worry, it’s totally painless! Just think of it like talking to a friend. Listen to the CraftSanity episodes with me talking about Midwest Craft Con and Lisa Congdon talking about her career here. And don’t forget to get a ticket to the conference if you haven’t already!