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We recently met a force of nature. This woman creates on so many fronts, I secretly suspect she has an extra set of arms, one of which has a glue gun surgically implanted. Color, life and laughter sparkle from her pores. I’m talking about Kathy Cano-Murillo, better known as The Crafty Chica.

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We recently met a force of nature. This woman creates on so many fronts, I secretly suspect she has an extra set of arms, one of which has a glue gun surgically implanted. Color, life and laughter sparkle from her pores. I’m talking about Kathy Cano-Murillo, better known as The Crafty Chica.

I met Kathy at The Creative Connection this past fall in Minneapolis MN and was so taken by her inspiring address during one of the luncheons, I pounced on her the following night at the cocktail gathering, gushing and otherwise embarrassing myself. She was kind enough to give me a pre-publication copy of her new novel (perhaps in an attempt to get rid of me although she swears not), and we chatted a bit about the world of inspiration.

Kathy and her awesome art and craft have been profiled in The New York Times, USA Today and on NPR. And now… she has been kind enough to follow-up on our original conversation and answer some Sew4Home questions about her path from starving artist to Crafty Chica, how she ‘does it all’ (without that glue gun appendage mentioned above), and her deep-seated fear of all things beige.

But wait… there’s more! Kathy also sent us a gift package with a copy of her brand new book, Miss Scarlett’s School of Patternless Sewing, which comes out TODAY, as well as her first book, Waking Up In The Land Of Glitter! This Great Giveaway will be coming up later this month.

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S4H: I once had a dream in which Martha Stewart was dipped in glitter and varnished to a high-sheen. Or… maybe that was your dream?! What makes the Crafty Chica different… what makes you snap, crackle and pop?

CC: You are on the right track, for sure! I am all about the triple shine method: bright foundation, sparkles for accent and everything sealed under three coats of shiny gloss varnish. And not just in my arts and crafts, but in daily life. I strive to bring shine into the world wherever I go – whether it be through projects to make, my novels or sharing personal experiences. I’ve come to accept that shiny doesn’t always mean “polished” and I embrace that. It’s okay to make mistakes; they keep life interesting. I share the good and bad, and make sure to always end on a positive note. I encourage others to do the same.

S4H: Many of the interviews you’ve done in past outline your path from journalist to blogger to author and how crafting glued it all together. However, you shared some different stories at The Creative Connection of the “early years.” I’m talking about the risks you took and the belief you had in success when you were a young mother living in a bad part of town carrying a board full of jewelry door to door trying to earn enough money to pay the light bill. Can you talk about this time in your life?

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CC: Those years were so formative in my career as a businesswoman and designer. My husband and I were trying to raise money for our electric bill so we made a batch of earrings and went shop to shop to sell them. One of the buyers was a national sales rep and she picked up our line. Within months, we had hundreds of orders to fill. It was just the two of us and we had our tiny house as our manufacturing plant! It got so crazy, we had to stop taking orders after a couple of years. That was twenty years ago. Earlier this year, everything came full circle when we went back into the gift industry. We are accepting orders for our art again, only this time, we know what we are doing!

S4H: One quote about you I absolutely love is how you’ve described your entrepreneurial style: “enthusiastic desperation.” But I know there’s wit, wisdom and a tough-as-nails determination behind your success as well. Can you describe what went into developing your crafting books and your line of crafting kits and supplies? How do you know which idea is the winner… which one will sell?

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CC: I actually have seven craft books and two novels! I also have the Crafty Chica product line. There is no way to know what will hit and what won’t. You just have to go with your gut and heart and utilize all your resources. For any project, first you have to start with a message – you have to know what the purpose is of what you are doing. Write it down so you can always refer to it. If you think of an idea, research to see if it has been done before, if it has, redo it to make it your own.

S4H: At Sew4Home, we hope to inspire new people to give sewing a try, especially people who’ve never considered themselves creative or never turned on a sewing machine. You often describe yourself as a writer first and a crafter second. How do you convince people to give wings to their inner creative?

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CC: It’s about reinvention. We have one glorious life to live, why would we want to stay stuck doing the same things over and over again? I tell people they owe it to themselves to try something new. Think about a crazy dream and even if it is on a small level – go for it! It feels so good to accomplish a project. Once you tackle the small one, move on to a bigger one. I also convince them by teaching workshops or demoing at events. I hope they will read my blog, see how busy I am with family and kids, but still have time to be creative. If they see I can do it, maybe they’ll give it a try too!

S4H: The other excuse we hear over and over is, “I don’t have time for DIY; I have a family, a job, go to school, coach kids sports, juggle torches and chainsaws… you name it. Can we peek into your typical day? It will either be super motivating or make us very sleepy.

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CC: Sure! We all know daytime is busy with work, so I set times down that I can count on alone time – usually late at night after everyone is asleep. That’s when I do my most personal work, and I love it because it is uninterrupted. It’s when I work on things not associated with a paycheck, like painting and writing.

S4H: You credit your Latina heritage for your artistic style, full of vibrant colors, sparkle and flash. It has such happy energy. What advice can you give our sewing readers for how to create this look with needle and thread. Do you have favorite ways to choose and combine fabrics, textures, palettes and embellishments?

CC: My Latina heritage is just a fraction of my inspiration. I’m also a middle child which screams “notice me!”, I think that comes out in the triple shine method I mentioned earlier. I would tell people to make an inspiration board of their favorite images, colors, words, clippings, etc. and think of a theme that pulls it all together. I call mine: “Ugly Betty meets Martha Stewart.” It creates a visual and makes it easier to pull concepts together. You can also play with sites like Pinterest and Polyvore to create collections.

S4H: Do you own any pastel clothing? Does beige make you nervous?

CC: No and yes!

S4H: Today, March 8, 2011 is a very special day. It’s the release date for your second Crafty Chica novel, Miss Scarlet’s School of Patternless Sewing ($13.99, Grand Central Publishing). You were kind enough to give me an advance copy to read when we met at The Creative Connection. I enjoyed it immensely and highly recommend it as a fun read full of memorable characters you’ll wish were your own best friends. The story centers on Scarlet Santana, a young girl who breaks away from a successful career as an engineer to pursue her dream to design fabulous, flashy fashion. As she searches for her life’s true path, she realize an important truth: “There is no single pattern for a good life. Happiness is always a custom fit.” Can you tell us a little bit about where this story and these characters came from? As well as a little bit about Papa Cano, to whom the book is dedicated?

CC: It’s a message about letting go of our picture of what is perfect. You can plan all you want, but the universe will test you and throw curve balls. It’s about accepting those changes with an open mind and open heart and going with it, making room for alterations instead of freaking out and giving up. It’s also about being the outcast in the family and standing on your own, especially when everyone expects you to fail. I think we’ve all been through phases like that. My dad was awesome, always level-headed and practical with a lot of heart. But come to find out, he had a lot of wild adventures when he was young. I wrote Miss Scarlet after he died, and after stepping away and reading the book, I realized that the character of Rosa is actually my dad!

S4H: How was writing Miss Scarlet different from writing your first novel, Waking Up in the Land of Glitter ?

CC: I wrote it much faster. Glitter took two years, Miss Scarlet, six months. I wrote it right after my dad passed away. It was a very emotional experience for me, but I knew I could do it because I felt his guidance there with me. Every time I see the cover of the book, I think of my dad. He used to sew too – upholstery for cars he would rebuild. We had a lot in common.

S4H: You have evolved into quite the “writing mentor” over the last several years, and now have your own Chica Writer blog. What are your two favorite pieces of advice for people who want to start their own blog… or write their own novel?

CC: Jot down ideas and then WRITE! I have articles on my site that give some great tips. The main thing is to stop talking about it and just do it.

S4H: You have the enthusiasm, energy and flair of a teenager, but I hope you won’t hit me for telling people you are really 46. I think it’s important for folks to understand that joy and creativity aren’t bound by age or race or gender or shoe size. What do you have to say about that?

CC: I never pay attention to age, I take each day as it comes and make it worthy. I like to plan ahead. I never think I’m too old or too young for anything. If I feel it, I go with it! Life is too short not to.

S4H: What new and exciting things are in the works?

CC: We are getting ready for the 5th Annual Crafty Chica Cruise next month! I’m starting to plan two travel events for 2012. I’m also working on my third novel!

All photos courtesy of craftychica.com

Want to find out more about Kathy? There are LOTS of ways to do that:

The Crafty Chica website

The Crafty Chica blog

The Chica Writer blog

Her books on Amazon

Her art on Etsy

Follow Kathy on Facebook

Tweet with her on Twitter

Watch her on YouTube

Read her musings on Tumblr

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