Month of Mamas Interview: Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood of CraftSanity

I fell in love with our last mama in the Month of Mamas series through her podcast and blog about all things handmade, CraftSanity. Jennifer Ackerman-Haywood is a wife and mother of two little girls, who lives in West Michigan. She makes her living teaching craft workshops, writing as a freelance journalist and columnist, and selling handmade weaving looms. Jennifer began her podcast in 2005 while on her second maternity leave. She has interviewed dozens of inspiring crafters including Not Martha blogger Megan Reardon,  designer Anna Maria Horner, and Wendy Mullin of Built by Wendy.

And not only does Jennifer have an amazing archive of over 100 podcast episodes, but she also recently launched the CraftSanity Magazine which you can find in her Etsy shop. Jennifer is an amazing inspiration of how you can integrate crafting into your everyday life. I love listening to her interviews while washing dishes or doing my own crafting, and was thrilled to have her stop by Maker Mama. Here's Jennifer:

1. What came first for you, craftiness or mamahood? How have they impacted each other?

The craftiness definitely came first. I’ve been crafting since childhood. I learned to crochet when I was five and spent many hours of my childhood crocheting granny squares, weaving fork flowers and doing plastic canvas needlepoint projects. Becoming a mother inspired me to revisit many of the crafts of my childhood as well as develop new skills so I can make clothes, toys and other fun accessories for my daughters.

When I was little I used to go to a weekly craft night at my Great Grandmother’s house with my mom and sisters. Now I have designated craft time with my daughters Abby, 7, and Amelia, 5, and it’s really wonderful to pass on a handmade family tradition to them. I’m so grateful that they share my love of making things and so very happy to be their mom. It’s difficult to express how much they have enriched my life.

2. What does a typical weekday look like for you?
A typical weekday involves tag teaming with my husband to get our daughters ready for school. Then I usually get to work interviewing someone, writing my weekly column or an article for my magazine. Depending on the day, I may be filling loom orders, prepping to teach a craft class or do a craft demo on a local TV morning show. I try to get as much done as I can while my daughters are in school, so I can hang out with them when they get home.

3. What are your biggest challenges as a crafty mama?

My biggest challenge is always feeling like I don’t have enough time to complete all the tasks I want to complete in a single day. I frequently try to do too much and can’t seem to accept that there are only so many hours in a day. As a mom who works from home, I never get away from my work so striking a balance is challenging. I love that I don’t have to go to the office, but I still struggle to keep my work from overflowing into my family life. Thankfully, I really enjoy my work and have very a supportive family.


4. With all your crafty undertakings (including loom-making, the CraftSanity podcast, article-writing, and your new magazine!) how do you “find the balance” and make sure to spend time with your family?

It helps that I work from home and have the freedom stop what I’m doing to take a walk or lunch out on the front porch. I work a lot, but I try to involve my kids as much as possible. I try to get as much work done as I can when they’re at school. And when they’re home, I try to include them in my work whenever possible. They sometimes come to the TV station and appear on my craft segments with me and I ask them for input all the time when I’m working on kids crafts for my website and magazine. I quit working in an office to be more available to them and I’m so glad I did because my girls are very fun young ladies to hang out with.

5. What advice would you give to other crafty mamas reading this, especially beginning crafters or those who’d like to make a living from their crafting?

First off I’d say don’t expect to get rich. If you decide to go after your goal to craft for a living, make sure you go into it with your eyes open. Sit down and figure out how much it costs to make the product you want to sell and how much time it takes. Be kind to yourself and pay yourself a fair wage.

It helps to ease into a crafty career. Test your product at a local artists market and set up shop online before you quit your day job. If your product doesn’t sell well, consider moving on to something else that will sell better. And listen to your customers because they often have great ideas. And at the end of the day, trust your gut. If you have a passion for your craft and work hard at it, you will be successful. If you're willing to work harder than you've ever worked before, the sky's the limit.

For most, crafting for a living is not a lucrative gig, but it’s an amazingly fun gig. And if it’s your dream, by all means go for it!

6. What are you working on now?

Right now I’m working on Issue 3 of CraftSanity Magazine due out in June and filing ideas away for future issues. I’m testing patterns and recipes, editing and writing stories and taking a whole lot of photos. I’m also planning a handmade tour of Michigan during which I will be visiting and writing about artists and crafters and their creations. I think it’s going to be a super fun summer!

Thanks, Jennifer, for letting me interview you, and for the awesome inspiration you not only bring through your podcast interviews, but also in all of your own crafty undertakings! I can't wait to see all of the wonderful things you still have up your sleeve!

This wraps up the Month of Mamas series! I hope you enjoyed hearing from some of my favorite crafty mamas, and I would love to hear how you were inspired this month. How do you feel more confident in balancing your own crafty life as a mama now?
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