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An interview with Heather Kraafter, a “crafty” entrepreneur who decided to pursue her dream and build a “shaak” to share her skills and knowledge.
Let me ask you an unexpected question: How do you feel about Mondays? Do you wake up before the alarm goes off, excited to start a new week? Or do you share the memes about how terrible Mondays are on Facebook as soon as you manage to drag your resisting body out of bed? Well, it might come as a shocker to you, but it’s not Mondays that suck, but your job, or whatever you do on Mondays.
Don’t worry, you are not alone. According to the latest global survey, only 13% of people like their jobs. Thirteen. Percent. Ok, it’s a bit better in USA and Canada, the whole 29%, but still, isn’t it sad? As an average employee, you’ll spend roughly one third of your life at work. And if you are not within the lucky 13% it will be a pretty miserable time.
Have you ever thought about changing it? Not like starting a week on a different day or moving to USA or Canada just for the sake of better statistics, but like doing something you really care about. Writing. Singing. Coaching. Knitting (So what you are a guy? Your grandma says you have a talent!) Well, maybe you did think about it, maybe you still think about it, but it never went further than that.
Of course there are situations where there are people depending on you, when your five children and a hamster who need food on a daily basis. But otherwise, what’s your excuse?
We are the creatures of habit and comfort. We love our morning coffee, our car, our freedom of shopping on Saturdays. Security. Stability. Sound sleep. We love it so much that we are ready to give one third of our lives for it.
We don’t like change. Change is scary. Am I as good as I think? Maybe my singing sucks. Maybe my knitting is not as good as my grandma is saying. Change makes us leave our comfort zone and maybe even our morning coffee behind. Not many people are brave enough to do it, to try and give that one third of their lives proper meaning, to go after their dream.
Full Name: Heather Kraafter
Occupation: Lead Kraafter at Kraaft Shaak
Hobbies: Watching movies, drawing, creating inky messes
Favorite Quote: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17
Heather Kraafter is one of these people. She decided to become a full-time “kraafter”, creating hand-made souvenirs, postcards, etc. as well as teaching how to do it to everybody who is eager to learn. Was it a bumpy road? Of course it was. But now, after three and a half years she has a fancy web page with a blog an online-shop, a YouTube channel and a devoted following on major social networks. But more importantly, she doesn’t hate Mondays, as Mondays are as good for crafting as any other days.
I met Heather in one of the “women power” communities on Google Plus. Although I have two left hands when it comes to crafting, I can spend hours admiring the work of people who are good at it. But this fact alone won’t be enough for this interview to take place. I watched one of the videos of Heather crafting live with her audience. It’s a one hour show, but I just couldn’t stop watching because of the amazing energy Heather was spreading around. I think one can prescribe her shows even in 5 minute doses as a remedy for bad mood or lack of motivation.
I’m very glad Heather agreed to share her story with us today.
Gill: I wanted to ask you this since the very first time we met: Is Kraafter your real last name? Because if it is, it would be an interesting coincidence, given all the crafting you do.
Heather: Well, it is not the name on my birth certificate. However, I go by this name in all public forums, as it is my stage name. I like to perform for folks on camera, and this way I feel like a character in my own play. That does not change who I am though. If you met me on the street you would think, “Wow, she really is Heather Kraafter!”
Gill: How did you get the idea for the name “Kraaft Shaak”?
Heather: My desire to have a building for my project far exceeded my funds, so we gave it a whirl in my dining room. I wanted it to be a place where all crafting was done under one roof, where you would want to hang out there and create with other folks. I envisioned this run down shabby shack, which, once you stepped inside, was full of color and creativity. I changed the C to K and added the A’s well to make it different. Not the best SEO move, but things are growing as I chat more about it.
|Most people think of how to buy. I think of how to make. I feel accomplished when I create.|
Gill: Oh yes, I can imagine SEO didn’t like it at all. But you have a unique opportunity here: to spread the word of “kraafting” far enough to make it the official way to spell it. Were you always fond of crafts?
Heather: Probably, yes. I would always find an alternate way to do things, and that in and of itself is “kraafty”. Most people think of how to buy. I think of how to make. I feel accomplished when I create, it truly relaxes me.
Gill: How did you get an idea to start Kraaft Shaak?
Heather: I used to be a home party planning gal. I would take my products into other people’s homes, entertain them, and then take orders. It was my life for nearly 10 years. We had a tragedy in our home that made me terrified to ever go and do another party again, so I quit.
I wanted to earn some kind of income, but how? I had young ones at home (we home educate) and needed to bring in a small income without leaving the house. When I told my husband that I wanted to offer classes on how to make cards, but had no idea where, he said, “How about our dining room table?” I said ok, and voila! From there, it all metamorphasised into where it is now.
Gill: Apart from earning money, what would you say was the main driving force when you started this project?
Heather: It depends on which part you look at. To teach was probably the main goal. I made cards, people liked them and were telling me, “Wow, I wish I could do that”. And I wanted them to say, “Hey, look what I made!”
Gill: One can see that Kraaft Shaak went a long way since that day. Now the “shaak” is on its way to becoming a mansion: you have a big fancy blog, an online-shop, solid presence on the social networks, a Youtube channel. I can imagine it didn’t happen overnight and required a lot of effort. What was the hardest part of launching the Kraaft Shaak project?
Heather: In January of 2011, the initial project got bigger than my dining room. A friend approached me and said that she had an unused space we could turn into an actual “shaak”. So we turned the space into a really cool area for “kraafting”.
After moving into that space, I was faced with zoning issues. The ideas, the goals and the business plan I had were not easy to achieve due to the constraints put on the location itself. I was unable to advertise, so it was all word of mouth. I also realized that I was not getting enough adult customers. Most of the adults would bring their kids and drop them off. I love teaching, but I wanted to hang out with other moms, too.
Eventually, it became very difficult to maintain the building away from my home, and the need to be home with my kids far outweighed the benefits this space had brought me. So in the spring of 2012, we had to move it all back to my house.
|That is the funny thing about life, you learn to be fluid or get left behind.|
Gill: I see you are very active on YouTube. You actually do live shows where you create things in the real time. How did you get this idea?
Heather: In 2011 and into 2012 so many things happened. I was bed ridden at times due to a major illness, our first grandchild was born, so the Kraaft Shaak sort of fell to wayside. That is the funny thing about life, you learn to be fluid or get left behind.
Towards the end of 2012, I thought that this project had done all it could for me. I should just pack it up and give my family their living room back. As we were reorganizing our home, my husband saw my anguish as I packed up my passion into boxes, and he very kindly told me one night, “Let’s turn the basement into your crafting studio. You don’t have to have people over, just create for you!”
And so we did. But as I sat there, in this big well lit space surrounded by goodies I could play with anytime, I longed for company! I learned it was sharing my experience with people I loved, not the things I made. For me, it meant “no people, no fun”!
So one day while playing on YouTube I noticed this big blue button that said “live”, and I thought, “Why not? I don’t see anyone else doing it ‘live’!” So I hit the blue button and ran with it.
Gill: Was it hard for you to do it on camera? I can imagine this is not what most of us do every day to be comfortable with people watching your every move.
Heather: Was it hard? Heck yes! I had no real life breathing person to laugh with, I posted pictures of friends on the wall and pretended they were there so it would be a little easier, but mostly it was me just hoping someone would someday be watching and “kraafting” right along with me.
Gill: So you host the live crafting show in front of an anticipating audience. Did it ever happen to you that you had to go live and create things, but you were not at all in the mood? How did you handle it?
Heather: I don’t think I have ever not been in the mood. I can remember a few times where I was not sure I was doing any of this very well, and I figured no one really watched anyway so I decided to just skip it, but I received many messages from viewers/friends asking where the show was and why they could not watch. That made me realize I must be doing something right, and I have never lost the desire since.
Gill: What is the most fun part of being “the main kraafter in the shaak” for you?
Heather: The interaction with the people. When I have viewers commenting, posting pictures of what they did while they watched my live show I get energised and want to do more. I love that we can connect all over this great big planet, and it is as if we are in the same room having fun and laughing together, eventually chatting about life, problems we have, needs we pray about. It is all so uplifting!
Gill: I can imagine you’ve made a gazillion of things already. Isn’t it difficult to constantly stay creative? Where do you get your inspiration from?
Heather: Mostly from people around me or other people who record their work. I love watching YouTube and looking through Pinterest. I enjoy seeing what someone has done and then elaborate on it. That is a big reason for the creation of my Gill: What is your favorite piece you’ve made so far?
Heather: Well, I am not sure I have one single favorite because I delve into so many media. I could say my favorite pastel piece is one that hangs in my church. It was a major challenge for me as I had never done anything in front of a live audience to music in my life (and I created it in a church while the organ was being played). I practiced for a month and got mixed reviews. The end result was not what I intended it to be, I had to complete it off camera. In a way, it was a total failure. However, I would say it is my favorite, because I did what I was terrified to do. I made art in front of people. I completed it, although I just wanted to throw it away, and now it hangs there as if it is a great piece of art! I am honored that they felt it was worth to be framed and displayed.
Gill: That’s a great story! I’m sure a lot of people would have given up on that piece and never talked about the experience again. On the other side, people won’t hang just some random ugly stuff in a church. So I’m sure it turned out much better than you think. What was the most popular piece you created so far, by the way?
Heather: I created these 9″ tall blocks of wood art that feature a very popular icon in my city, a headframe from the days of mining. I added the name of this fine place I call home and a few details to make it look really good, and it became a great souvenir or gift for someone who loves this place. I have made and sold more of those than I had ever intended to. I am grateful to everyone who has ever purchased one as it makes me realize how privileged I am to be a part of their home. And right now, I am completely sold out.
Gill: What are your future plans for Kraaft Shaak?
Heather: Currently, I am plugging away at my live shows twice a week. The show title and subtitle says it all: Kraaft It LIVE! Where fun is to had and mistakes are bound to happen. I work with a fine core group that has helped me realize my ultimate vision – a place where people can come under one roof to experience all things “kraafty”. And that is now a virtual place online: Kraafters Kommunity on G+. There you gain exclusive access to comment on the live shows, enter to win prize packages each month as you participate in the Kommunity, and meet others who want to be creative. I am also working with affiliates to achieve an income for my family and eventually gain discounts for Kommunity members.
I am always looking to collaborate with others who want to get in front of the camera or need help using the Hangouts On Air feature, which Google Plus offers us for free. I help out in communities that have that same goal and belong to as many groups as I can be helpful in, like “Those 4 Girls” community where I met you, Gill.
My biggest desire is to co-host a “Regis and Kelly type” live crafting show where I would get to interview and spotlight other really talented people.
|Enjoy what you do, at every step, and people will help you realize your dreams. They will want you to succeed even more than you might desire to succeed yourself!|
Gill: (laughs) I guess I’m living a part of your dream right now: I’m interviewing a really talented person! And I can tell you, it’s indeed a fun thing to do. So as a talented person with an inspiring story, what would you tell all the folks out there who read your story today?
Heather: I would like to tell you guys to just follow your dreams. I know we hear it a lot, and it sounds so cliche, but honestly, it is the absolute truth. Did I think this is where I would be when I started at my dining room table? Absolutely not! If I would have stayed in that box and never followed each twist and turn of the road I might never had realized my dreams. Enjoy what you do, at every step, and people will help you realize your dreams. They will want you to succeed even more than you might desire to succeed yourself!
Gill: If you want to thank some people who helped you along the way this would be a good time to do so.
Heather: Where should you begin? I guess first and foremost I thank my Lord, for He has created the me you see. He loved me enough to pull me out of my doubts and fears. After that, I would say “thank you” to my husband for having the wisdom to see how important creativity is in my life, my kids for supporting me even if it means no internet for them during mom’s show so she has all the bandwidth to herself. My incredible core group of geniuses on Google Plus: Michael Daniels, Andrew Hatchett, Debi Davis, Scott Scowcroft, John Brown, Jessica Dewell. As well as Ronnie Bincer, without whom I would have never met the folks mentioned above, nor would I have more than 30 videos on my Youtube channel, because I was just about to quit when I met him.
Finally, I would like to thank my wonderful Kraafters! They earn that title by watching, commenting, posting and supporting. I love them all and would be afraid to list their names, because it is a continually growing list of fabulous people that I am honored and blessed enough to hang out with.
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