Were you hooked on NBC’s Making It like we were? Week after week we tuned in to see the challenges and how each maker took on those challenges.
As you may have seen during our Summer Maker Series each maker has their own unique story. They each have people that inspire them and a drive behind what they do creatively. Our Summer Maker Series has been so successful that we’ve decided to keep it going. To kick off this permanent series on the blog we reached out to Robert Mahar to learn what drives and inspires this maker.
If you lined up all of the craft materials in my studio to run a race, paper and fabric would cross the finish line first – but the track would be massively crowded with other participants!
Your video (here) talks about creating balance in your life by working within a crafting community. What are some ways crafters can discover those communities?
One of the brilliant benefits of living in an increasingly digital age is that it’s easier to make contact with people who have similar interests and passions. For some, those connections are made on Facebook or Pinterest – I’ve taken to Instagram. The ability to search hashtags like #embroidery opens me up to hundreds of stitchers around the globe who share my love of needle and floss. It’s allowed me to build community and connect with creatives from far afield and in my own neighborhood.
Who are the people in your crafting community? What do they make?
I’ve lived in Los Angeles for 25 years and am really grateful to have a wide circle of creative friends and colleagues. It’s a wonderful thing to surround yourself with people whose area of specialization isn’t necessarily the same as your own, but perhaps overlaps in unexpected ways. From landscape designer Naomi Sanders to textile designer Kaari Meng, chef Natasha Feldman to felt artist Billy Kheel, fiber artist Cathy Callahan to my studio mate and paper artist Molly Meng – these are just a few of the people who make my community richer and keep the creative life of Los Angeles spinning.
What is your ‘gospel of craft’ and how can others get involved?
Kindness and collegiality. Pretty simple. I believe in a world where when we respect and encourage one another, lift each other up – we make better work and live happier lives.
Turning back the clock … what would you have done differently with some of the episode projects? Would you want a do-over? Was one your favorite?
Being one of the eight contestants on the first season of NBC’s Making It has been one of the best adventures of my grown-up life. Truly! Are there projects I might have done differently? Absolutely. But am I proud of the body of work I created during my time in the competition? 100%.
I’ve understandably spent some time reflecting on the Master Craft that sent me home – an Easter holiday porch display. If I were to tackle this again, I’d approach it like artist Sandy Skoglund – painting the house and most of the props in a monochromatic hue (adding interest with different finishes – glass vs. mat) and combine it with a contrasting color (like gold for my ‘goose who laid the golden egg’ theme) for dramatic contrast!
My favorite Faster Craft project was the shadow puppet theater I created in episode one and my favorite Master Craft project was the child’s play fort I created in episode two!
What do you enjoy most about teaching? (video)
Truth me told, teaching make me a better designer. I love interacting with students – especially those approaching a craft skill set for the first time. It allows me to see my work through fresh eyes and consider technical questions and techniques from the vantage point of a beginner. It’s also a joy to be surrounded by people anxious to stretch their creative muscles and learn something new!
Are you self-taught? Where do you turn to learn new techniques?
I studied studio art and art history in school – but so much of my creative life has been influenced by taking a deep dive into the library. I love nothing more than exploring vintage craft, hobby and DIY books – finding a project that I connect with and then exploring ways to make it uniquely my own. I also have conquered so many projects with the aid of YouTube – there’s something so incredibly helpful about seeing someone demonstrate a technique and then being able to watch it over and over again. It’s encouraged me to make my own catalog of more than 100+ short format video tutorials!
What do you do for fun that doesn’t involve making something?
If you had asked me 25 years ago whether or not I saw myself living in Los Angeles long term, my answer would have been very different than it is today. But, hand to heart, I love this city and one of my favorite things to do is explore it’s many neighborhoods. Even after so many years, I’m still finding new parks and festivals, restaurants and farmers markets, murals and tucked away shops that make my heart happy.
If you had access to a craft warehouse … anything you wanted … what would you make?
Such a fun question! Last year I had the opportunity to see the amazing floats from the Rose Bowl Parade up close and personal. The craftsmanship was impressive and the scale…the scale blew my mind! Given access to a magical craft warehouse, I’d love to tackle a surprisingly large scale interactive installation that surrounds the viewer and transport them to someplace else – you know, in the way only art can do!
Is cooking a craft? What’s your specialty in the kitchen?
Absolutely, cooking is a craft. I’d venture to say it’s one of the most accessible of crafts – as we all need to eat and the opportunity to play with ingredients happens daily. Personally, I love to bake and I make a mean coffee cake (thanks to Ina Garten!)
You can follow Robert online
So much fun and creativity in what he creates!