Jennifer Perkins is everywhere in the craft world these days. She’s the host of DIY’s Craft Lab and is also co-host, along with her fellow Austin Craft Mafia members, of Stylelicious while also balancing her own crafty business, Naughty Secretary Club. But it doesn’t stop there. For the last 5 years, Jennifer is also one of the producers of Stitch, one of the largest Indie fashion show and craft bazaar in Austin complete with vendors and designers from all over the country. How does this cool gal do it all? I got a chance to talk to Jennifer more about her love of crafting and her take on what’s getting popular in the crafts world.
Nat: Please tell me more about your crafty background. How did you get into crafts and what kind of crafts do you like to do?
Jennifer: I actually come from a long line of crafters. My maternal grandmother was into ceramics and my paternal grandmother crocheted. On visits to both I would learn different crafts. My mother is also a crafty lady and made the craft show circuit in the 70’s with her macramé and paintings. She and I both like to channel our crafty skills into home decorating quite a bit. I have always made jewelry all through grade school and that just happens to be the crafty skill I have honed the most. I go through crafty phases sometimes it is sewing purses and sometimes it is collaging ping pong balls with paper to make giagantical one of kind beads.
Nat: You are the host of the DIY Network’s Craft Laband also co-host of Stylelicious along with fellow members of the Austin Craft Mafia. How do you enjoy doing crafts on TV? What has been one of your most fun topics?
Jennifer: I LOVE getting to do crafts as my job, I mean who wouldn’t really. Both shows are so rad for different reasons. Stylelicious is all about wearables and we design and make all the projects. So the producers might give us a theme like purses and then I might say okay I’m going to get a pair of children’s training panties, sew up the leg holes and add a strap and some ball fringe. We got to get really creative and show some awesome handmade wearable projects. Not to mention I get to hang out with my best friends in LA!
Craft Lab is a totally different format. The guest is the one showing how to make something and I play along. There is the occasional mini project I might do, but it is all about the guests. For Craft Lab it works great for me because it is like crafty cliff notes on every craft in the world. I film 65 episodes at a time, 3 episodes a day. A typical day might be making jewelry in the morning, popsicle soap at lunchtime and then altered books in the afternoon. I love that I get to learn so much about so many different crafts.
Nat: Which kinds of crafts do you see gaining popularity lately and why?
Jennifer: Well interesting you should ask since I am typing this in an airport on my way home from the Winter CHA show (Craft and Hobby Association). Scrap booking seems to be huge again this year. Although I am not a scrapper there is something about all the pretty paper that I love. I also saw a lot of felted goods at the convention like beads and bracelets. I’m glad felted beads are in again this year because they can be huge, but still light weight. In the DIY crafty scene I notice there always seems to be an animal each season that is seen over and over again. Remember when you could not buy something handmade on it without a unicorn/horse, squirrel or deer? This season oddly enough it seems to be all about the octopus. Seriously, I keep seeing it pop up in crafty circles Naughty Secretary Club included.
Nat: I love the name of your craft business, Naughty Secretary Club where you sell some of the cutest accessories around. Can you tell me more about it?
Jennifer: Naughty Secretary Club started out as a zine. Originally I wanted to be a writer not a crafter. I have always done both. Naughty Secretary Club had craft projects, band interviews and step by step guides on how to put a weave in your hair. I started playing around with casting resin and making jewelry and things just took off. I was getting more and more requests for jewelry which left less and less time for writing. Needless to say when all of this got started I was employed as a secretary at a telecommunications firm so that is where the name came from. I was indeed a naughty secretary. About 5 years ago after a feature in Bust and the Wall Street Journal I was able to do Naughty Secretary Club full time. Through the years I have phased out the cast resin jewelry I was originally known for and brought in more and more of my revamped vintage pieces which is what I enjoy making the most. Naughty Secretary Club sells more than just jewelry. There are home décor items, belt buckles and vintage barkcloth goodies made by my mother Fredda Perkins. My younger sister Hope Perkins of Hot Pink Pistol sells her hand painted purses there. Then my husband Chris Boehk and I run a record label called Has Anyone Ever told You? and we sell CDs by the bands.
Nat: Where do you find your inspiration?
Jennifer: Everywhere. If I am walking down the street in Austin I pay attention to what the cute young girls are wearing. If I see a piece of vintage fabric at an antique store I make a note of the unusual color combination. Once at an Andy Warhol exhibit I started taking notes in my journal. Since my taste is constantly changing what I take inspiration from in turn changes with it.
Nat: What are some of your favorite pieces in your store?
Jennifer: I am always most proud of my one of a kind pieces. There have been a few things that I regret selling and then there are some pieces that I made with every intention of adding to the website but could not bear to part with. My three favorite necklaces that I kept for me that are in heavy rotation are big, bright and really colorful one even has polka dots and small garden gnomes on it! In the store right this very moment I really love the Abe Lincoln jewelry. It just makes me giggle, who does not want an Abe Lincoln bracelet or necklace. I try and add new goodies several times a month and things are constantly selling out because I typically use vintage materials so they are of limited supply so it is hard to say what my one favorite item in the store is at any given time.
Nat: Can you share a jewelry-making tip with our readers?
Jennifer: Look at everything as a piece of jewelry, not just the obvious. Oodles of the supplies I use for my one of a kind pieces were never intended to be used as jewelry parts. From ping pong balls and keys to game pieces and musical accessories. So there are the obvious choices in jewelry design like beads and charms, but always keep an eye peeled for the less obvious that can be converted. I have used telephone cording, vinyl records, catalog pages, cake toppers and more in my jewelry.
Nat: What else can we expect from you in the coming year?
Jennifer: More of the same hopefully. I am toying with the idea of some new crafty business ventures and thinking of carrying other people’s lines at Naughty Secretary Club. I am hoping to finally get my book proposal to a publisher this year. More Craft Lab and Stylelicious would be awesome. I also co-produce Stitch which is the largest Indie fashion show and craft bazaar in Austin complete with vendors and designers from all over the country. Last year we were at the Austin Music Hall and had over 3,000 people attend, 75 vendors (Erica Weiner, Super Maggie, Tramp Lamps) and 20+ designers on the runway. We also gave away two grants to start up craft businesses. 2007 is our 5 year anniversary so expect something amazing. The Austin Craft Mafia has some things cooking like a website revamp and a book. Since there are so many craft mafias popping up around the country we are working on a way to really step things up.