Author Archives: Dana McCranie

Dana McCranie

About Dana McCranie

Dana McCranie writes, prays, laughs, loves glitter and will hug you even if you try to shake her hand. You can often find her behind her camera, striving to build a photography business. You'll never find her as happy as she is dancing around her kitchen with her daughter, son and amazing husband.

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Stella’s New Groove: Brandie Butcher-Isley’s Art Gives New Life to a Found Character

somerset_studio_magazine_brandie_butcher-isley_may-june2011.jpgCollage work and mixed media art in general intimidate me. Mixed media appeals to me for a litany of reasons, but I’ve never done much to explore it myself. The few times I’ve set out to emulate some of the methods in the work I admire so much, I’ve often found myself lost as to where to begin.

For this reason, I was so excited to see “The Fearless Artist” article by Brandie Butcher-Isley in the May/June 2011 issue of Somerset Studio magazine. Her colorful triptych leaped off the page and my little creative senses began to tingle. A woman from a black-and-white photo stands on each panel exhibiting such beauty, mystery and grace. She is surrounded by an incredible background of teal blues, lime greens and even a few magenta houses.

When I flipped through the article and saw that the artist shared the technique behind this exquisite piece, I was giddy. After scanning the recipe and starting to absorb what it takes to create a piece like this, I decided to go back and read the article from the beginning. To my delight, the artist provided wonderful insights into the inspiration behind her work.

To me, this added perspective is so much more valuable than any listing of steps. It turns out the woman in the painting is named Stella. The artist discovered a scrapbook full of images of Stella at an estate sale and she sometimes uses the images in her work and often for inspiration. There is something so beautiful and comforting about Stella having a new story told through Butcher-Isley’s work.

A woman whose scrapbook was sold off for $15 now lives on as the star of these incredible pieces of art. I’m proud for Stella and thankful to artist Brandie Butcher-Isley for rescuing the images and giving them this wonderful new life.

Not Quite My Grandmother’s Crochet: The Priceless Legacy of Shared Crafting Skills

I have two skeins of light green yarn given to me after my grandmother’s death in 2005. She purchased the yarn with the intention of making a blanket for the child she hoped I would someday have. She passed in March 2005 and never had the chance to start the blanket.

A month later, I found out I was pregnant with my first child, a daughter who now has my grandmother’s name, Louise, in hers. Grandma tried to teach me to crochet a few times, but it never took. She could probably make a million things, but she always chose to make beautiful zigzag-patterned afghans with fringed edges.

Now my daughter is 5 and I also have a little boy. This year, I finally learned to crochet. Although I didn’t think Grandma’s lessons would really aid in my success as a crocheter, as soon as I began trying to work with that hook it all felt so natural. Now, I’m completely in love with the art of crochet and I continually yearn to be able to tell my grandmother this.

It is funny how many traits and interests I possess now that I relate to her. This journey with yarn made me think deeply about what it truly means to share your craft with another person. When you teach someone a craft, you are expanding her (or his) ability to communicate with the world. You are opening another avenue for her to reflect outwardly what lies her heart. What a priceless gift this is.

Not only that–you also then reserve a place in that person’s memory for a lifetime. I never forget who taught me the crafts I love. Do you? I bet you too remember the person behind every craft you love, and they will always have a special place in your heart for that reason.

My grandmother was special for more reasons than I could list in a lifetime, but teaching me about the things she loved was definitely one of those reasons.

I’ve yet to attempt a zigzag afghan. When I do it won’t quite be my grandmother’s crochet. Once I do decide to take it on, though, I will think of Louise and make a blanket for my babies with some special light green yarn.

Confessions of a Craft Junkie: Top 5 Curses of Crafting

Recently I’ve discovered that being “crafty” has its problems. Sure, there are the obvious pleasures of being creative and having the ability to express oneself in a unique and tangible way. Yet, in this lifetime journey I have noticed a few things that can be possible drawbacks. When I say a drawback, I really mean qualities we crafties share that are fun to identify, potentially a little embarrassing, and easy to laugh at. With that in mind, here we go:

1. Being crafty gives you a license to hoard. Let’s be honest, how many things are you holding onto at this moment because you are planning to make something with it? Have you every “rescued” something from the trash because you think you will craft it back to life? I’m all for repurposing but if it has been sitting in a box in your garage for more than a year waiting for that new purpose–you are hoarding it. And by “you” I mean “me,” because when it comes to hoarding for the sake of a craft, I’m guilty as charged.

2. Everything you see is a potential project. Having the burning desire to create something you dream up can get very overwhelming if you don’t choose a medium and stick with it. This leads perfectly to my next point.

3. You can’t stop trying new crafts. This is where the wallet really takes a hit. Every new craft medium that comes into my sight must be conquered. I float around from interest to interest like a butterfly in the garden. I do have my favorites, but the new craft opportunity is something I cannot resist.

4. You suffer from the “I can make that” disorder.
Sometimes it is better to purchase the gift than to make it. Gasp! I know this is making my fellow crafties experience heart palpitations, but stay with me. If it is the day before the gift-giving event and you see something at the store your crafty brain tells you is makeable, save yourself some heartache and just buy it. Every crafty person I know has this problem, but sometimes we just don’t have time to do all that our hearts desire.

5. Sometimes crafting is just a wee bit dangerous. Show me your glue-gun scar and I’ll show you my craft-blade cut. We endure it for the sake of our creativity, but in every craft there is the potential for some harm. Perhaps that little bit of danger keeps things exciting.

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Best Craft Magazine of 2010: Somerset Life

somersetstudio_november-december2010.jpgHave you ever had a friend that just always knows what you need, right when you need it? My friend Renee is that kind of friend. Renee brings me a little something special every time I see her, and whenever she comes to my door with a bag in her hand, I get pretty giddy.

Renee’s goodie bags run the gamut, but many usually include something handmade, something thoughtful beyond measure and something crafty. From wall art she created for my son when he was born to vintage glitter that makes me smile every time I look at it, a gift from Renee is something I know I will always treasure. She and I share a love of stamping, crafting and antiques. She personalizes everything she presents down to the tag with my name stamped on it. When I had my son, she always made sure I had a craft magazine to read.

Nestled sweetly in a gift bag she brought on one of her visits was Somerset Life magazine. When I flipped open the first page, I was struck by my connection to the content. Every page, much like Renee’s gifts, seemed personalized for me.

The subtitle for Somerset Life is “Authentic and Creative Living” and I couldn’t describe it better if I tried. What I love most about Somerset Life is the feeling that immediately washes over me the minute I dive into its pages.

The magazine showcases crafts and tutorials, but it goes a step further into the heart of the creative life with poetry, photography and more. The features are a lot like a glimpse into the creative life I want to lead. Each issue is bursting with examples of people immersed in imagination and creativity.

What sets this magazine apart is its commitment to creative living as a whole. The approach is well-rounded and elegant. The structure is engaging and the articles beautifully written. My favorite article was entitled “My Neighborhood” and it took the reader on a picturesque tour of the author’s street, introducing wonderful characters and painting beautiful pictures of this peaceful neighborhood.

There are so many craft magazines available these days, but there are a few that really rise above the rest. Somerset Life jumped to the top of my list this year because of its thorough dedication to the aesthetic of its readers and a passionate desire to present something of worth. The magazine, like my friend Renee, is a gift in and of itself.

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Embracing Individuality and Happy Accidents: How Craft Magazines Have Made Me a Better Artist

somersetstudio_november-december2010.jpgWhen I look back at what I’ve learned from craft magazines this year, I don’t think about one particular project. No one card or scrapbook page jumps out at me. What comes to my mind are techniques and principles that I will apply as I move forward in my creative pursuits. The greatest lesson I’ve learned is that crafting is not about the finished product, but the journey of creating.

Craft magazines have taught me that
mistakes are often the greatest gift you can receive as an artist. I
call them happy accidents because they either teach me something or make
the project better in the long run. When I pore over the pages of
the magazines I love, I’ve learned to stop allowing the beauty in someone else’s
artwork to make me instantly feel inferior. I am trying to no longer look at a great project and instantly think, “I could never
do that.”

For example, when I see a card in Paper Crafts magazine that I like, I’ll read the instructions and I may even sit down and attempt to duplicate it. Yet, even if I had every supply listed I would seldom end up with an exact copy. When you set out to create something seen in a magazine, it can be disappointing if it doesn’t come out just like you think it will. This is where the lesson comes in: It is so important to allow for happy accidents because this is the only way we can grow as artists.

papercrafts_november-december2010.jpgSomerset Studio magazine does a wonderful job of emphasizing artist individuality, displaying so beautifully the well developed visions of the artists it showcases. It reminds me to honor who I am in everything I create. Back in the May/June 2010 issue, Somerset Studio challenged different artists to see what they could create with one stamp–an image of the Eiffel Tower. My favorite interpretation came from Lisa Guerin, who made paper dolls with the Eiffel Tower serving as hats.

In that same issue, an article titled “The Obligation of Art” introduced us to author/artist Quinn McDonald, who had developed a dependence on one type of paper for all of her art. Her familiarity with this paper led to many successful projects, but one day she realized how limiting this was. McDonald is so effective at addressing the issue of growth, writing, “Practice involves discovery, change, improvement. There is a tiny but serious difference between a groove and a rut, and the difference lies in repetition.”

This year I’ve grown as an artist and creative being more than ever
before, and the key ingredient to this growth was a willingness to travel
into uncharted creative territory with a complete willingness to fail.

McDonald’s article is one I’ve read over and over. The conclusion of it is where I find words resonating the most with my own path. It sums up not only the way I feel about creativity, but what I’ve learned from peering into the lives of other creative types through the craft magazines I’ve read this year: “Once you are used to a creative life, an ordinary life is blank and plain. A creative life is worth the exploration and effort. Every day.”

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5 Reasons to (Still) Love Food Network Magazine

FoodNetwork_November_edit.jpgLast year Food Network magazine made quite the impression when it launched. Magazine industry critics and readers–including Magazines.com customers–raved about the new food magazine with the ‘Cook Like a Star’ attitude.

Thankfully, a year later, the ’2009 most likely to succeed’ magazine is still going strong. Although it was a difficult task to pick just 5 reasons to highlight why I love Food Network magazine, here they are:

1. The “Food News” section of the magazine. I can’t get enough of the “10 Things You Need to Know This Month” feature. Among the helpful tips I’ve learned is that cherry juice contains concentrated melatonin and promotes better sleep. What a useful bit of information for a mom of two small children. A round of cherry juice before bed it is!

2. The “Ask Ellie” question-and-answer column. I’m always looking for ways to improve my family’s nutrition and in “Ask Ellie” Ellie Krieger, the “Healthy Appetite” host, draws upon her knowledge and experience as a dietitian to answer readers’ nutrition questions like what the difference between natural and regular peanut butter is (hydrogenated oil.)

3. Article organization. The categories the magazine is divided shows a
dedication to cooks at all levels. The cooking sections are separated
into: Fun Cooking, Weeknight Cooking, Weekend Cooking, Party Time and On
The Road. Separating the recipes this way makes the magazine
user-friendly. It’s especially nice for a busy mom (like yours truly)
who doesn’t have time to look through the entire magazine in one
sitting.

4. The bonus inserts in each issue. I’ve found some
truly do-able and lovable recipes in these handy tear-out sections
including 50 ways to make game day dip, things from a jar of pasta
sauce, summer drinks and stuffing.

5.  Lastly, anything and
everything that features Chef Michael Chiarello, star of “Easy
Entertaining” (my favorite Food Network show).