"making things," but it was Carol Duvall's love of performing that
sparked her television career. What began as a literature
assignment at Michigan State University grew into local performances of
her dramatic readings from “Winnie the Pooh.” Soon, she and a friend
were entertaining children during intermissions at a local theater.
Their break came in 1951, when the Grand Rapids radio station
purchased a fledgling TV station. The friends auditioned to produce a
live children's show, and landed a regular slot on the first local TV
program - 15 minutes, five days a week. Now with a husband and two
small children, Carol progressed to hosting 17 live shows a week,
including an occasional segment called "Doing Day," where she
demonstrated crafts for children to make at home.
Carol had found her niche, and over the next 18 years she hosted and
co-produced "Living", an hour-long morning show in Detroit, and managed
to teach a little crafting during her five-minute program,
Carol Duvall," that aired daily for 14 years. That
segment launched her very successful subscription newsletter, Carol Duvall's Craft Letter,
and Carol started fielding requests for national appearances at stores,
conventions and on radio and TV. Hollywood called, and from 1988 to
1994, she commuted from Michigan as a mainstay on ABC's "The Home
When the cable network HGTV (Home and Garden Television)
launched in December of 1994, they tapped Carol to produce an original
program, "The Carol Duvall Show". As one of HGTV's most popular shows,
it was produced into 2006, topping 1,300 shows -- and the recorded
shows are still aired on the DIY (Do It Yourself) Network.
Do the math, and Carol Duvall has been "making things" on television
for 58 years so far. Reason enough to be crowned the "Queen of
Crafting." But, that is only part of her story.
Carol's performing talent and lighthearted teaching approach delivered
a major boost to the early crafting industry in several ways. First,
she exposed millions of people to a wide variety of craft forms and
techniques, while keeping the required skills and materials reasonable.
At the same time, she reinforced crafting as a fun,
interactive activity, so well
illustrated by her sharing of crafts and photos that viewers sent to
her for her "shoe box" segment. Finally, she helped launch the
careers of many renowned crafters, authors and designers. Known as a
very generous host, Carol invited artists to demonstrate their work on
all of her shows. As a result, several of her guests and colleagues
became close friends, and she began arranging week-long gatherings at
Michigan home, dubbed The Summit, where they often exchange crafting
ideas and techniques. Why her home? "I have so many supplies here, we
could do anything," said Carol.
Her first craft book, published in 1972, was titled "Wanna Make
Something Out of It?" This collection of "recycled" crafts used
household castoffs like tin cans, pill bottles, egg cartons, jars,
yarn, paper clips, L'eggs containers and flash cubes (remember those?),
and paper of all kinds. Before there was such a thing as crafting
stores and products, Carol was simply using her creativity to fashion
original objects out of what was on hand. “That’s where my mind still
goes when I have a project to create,” she says. “I think
‘What do I have in the house?’”
Her next book, 35 years later, reflected her international reputation.
“Paper Crafting with Carol Duvall,” published by DRG, has more than 45
projects in a variety of paper crafting categories, including card and
envelope making, gift boxes, crafting with photos, embellishments,
paper craft ideas from Carol's viewers, and more. It is instructive for
crafters at all skill levels, with color photos of each finished
project and step-by-step instructions. "I began making things with
paper before paper crafting was called an art," she said, "and many of
the designs in my book are projects I've developed over many years.
There are also new ideas that I've created just for the book." In her
usual style, Carol employs ordinary, easy to find materials, and a good
dose of humor.
Did we mention the sock monkey? Later. We were honored to talk with
Carol in April of 2009 about her amazing television career, her
her viewers and her crafting peers, and about her remarkable book on
credited your success on TV to being more of a performer who could
craft, and not a crafter who could also perform. How did your
performing talent and early theater experience contribute to your TV
"When I first
auditioned for the
camera I was auditioning as a performer, not a crafter, so that was my
mind set. Having been involved in school plays and public speaking from
grade school through college, as well as acting in our local
community theater and a stint in summer stock, the camera did not
intimidate me. Whenever I was on the stage I was in my comfort zone and
I would see individuals in the audience one at a time. That is what I
also saw when I looked into the camera, one person at a time, and
that's who I spoke to. Truth is, I never really thought about
until you asked me, so I'm trying to explain what I just took for
granted. And keep in mind that was all "live" television back then, To
me, that was much easier than tape because it's like being on a
stage... it's real and happening in real time. "
Early live television must have been a panic, especially working at a
station that had never produced a TV show before. What were some of the
"live" experiences that taught you how to be quick on your feet and
unflappable in front of the camera?
my... there were so many! One of the early experiences I recall was
doing a commercial for a local grocery store chain and promoting the
sale price of their big 10 lb. bag of flour. The flour was in a brown
paper bag and I was to pull it out to show it to the audience
great big bag of flour for just $..." Try to pull a heavy bag out of
a lightweight paper bag... especially one that fit a bit snugly. It
can't be done. I probably should have stopped struggling and
just torn the bag, but instead I just pointed to it and said, 'Believe
me... it's in there.'
fun of early television was that it WAS live. Nobody ever knew for sure
what might happen. Fortunately, my days in live television did not
completely end even after tape came along. The six years on "The Home
Show" on ABC were all live, as were the annual Holiday Shows
HGTV. The unexpected happened more than once. In fact, on one of the
last Christmas shows I ever did, I blundered. I was demonstrating a
particular fold in a paper napkin ring and for some reason I couldn't
seem to get it right. I tried and tried and finally I was getting the
signal to wrap it up. In my frustration I just pulled a bunch of napkin
rings into the picture and said, 'Look! I made all these! I really CAN
do it.' Then I buried my face in my hands and we went to black. The
audience loved it. I didn't."
Meyer of the Hobby Industry Association
considered you a major
force, saying, "What she's done is bring crafting into the realm of the
mainstream." As you produced your show and made personal appearances
around the country, did you see evidence of your own
influence? How did you see the crafting field changing and what were
some of the major turning points?
saw the influence of my show... not just in traveling around the
country but in the mail I received from the viewers. As for the craft
field changing, it was incredibly evident over the years. It was the
materials and the tools that were available to the crafter that made
all the difference. From cutting with scissors to punching with paper
punches to having your own die-cut machine, crafters were now able to
make items that really looked professionally done and not by 'loving
hands at home.' It's like moving from a manual
typewriter to an IBM
Selectomatic to a computer. A world of difference."
proudly own an autographed copy of your book, "Wanna Make Something Out
of It?", which was the original "recycled crafts" book. We have
bias - using what we have around the house – and that has led to a
storage nightmare in the
garage. What exactly does your supply room look like now?
boy, do I relate! In the
days when my supplies were egg cartons and milk cartons and bleach
bottles and eye glasses and clothes pins etc., I used a
free-standing metal shelves and cardboard boxes for the big
and stored smaller items in many flat-backed baskets hung on
walls or behind closet doors. In fact, I hung a lot of things on the
"These days, drawers and labels are the answer.
When I finally, after many many years, got a real craft room, I
realized that it had only one solid wall where the TV was placed and
three walls that were practically all windows. No wall space! No space
for shelves! I bought three steel-topped kitchen tables from Pottery
Barn, two of which were counter-top height (36") and one dining table
height (29"). I work at one table and every inch of space underneath
the tall tables is filled with those plastic drawer units from Staples.
Every drawer is labeled...Scissors, Cutting Tools, Glue, Knitting
Needles, Tapes, Punches, etc. I do have some Ikea storage cubes on the
TV wall and several book shelves. It's perfect....and I can still look
out and see the lake."
10th anniversary special for "The Carol Duvall Show" was a virtual
famous artists expressing their gratitude to you. It seems
that each step you took
throughout your career was the result of strong, supportive friendships
your life - now rare in the television industry. How have your
relationships contributed to your professional growth, and how have you
maintained them through your five-decade, cross-continental career?
"It was my
relationships with those I worked with that made it all fun and really
worthwhile, and they just happened. When you start out with one thing
common... the show... you have a head start to begin with. Some of the
friendships that formed back at the very first station in Grand Rapids
have continued to this day. In several instances, several of us moved
to another city but went to the same station. As for others who have
gone off in different directions through the years, we keep in touch by
phone and/or e-mail, and some of us try to get together either here or
there at least once a year. Next month, for
example, one of my absolutely closest friends and co-workers from my
show who lives in California and I are taking a week to travel to New
York to see shows and visit museums. It's our second such trip. Plans
are also currently in the works for this year's Summit. And so it goes."
You've talked about how personal pride in crafting depends on being
able to produce something that has a professional, finished appearance.
Crafters can now find an infinite variety of
short-cut embellishments, pre-designed materials, and craft kits. How
do you think this may be impacting the fundamental human urge to create
something of quality, but still be unique?
"I think all
the pre-cut, pre-designed, pre-everything items have their place in
that they allow the timid or those who think they have no talent to go
ahead and give it a try. When things turn out looking pretty good it
gives them the nerve and encouragement to try again, and many times
they will find themselves ad libbing as it were... adding their own
touch here or there or substituting something. Before too many projects
they will find they are doing their own creating. With some folks, just
following the directions is satisfaction enough and that's ok too. Does
it stifle the creativity in some? Yes, I suppose it does in some cases
and that is their loss perhaps. But today so many find that "time
saved" is more important. Then too, others would prefer to do their
creating in the kitchen or garden."
Crafting with Carol Duvall” is a joy, not just for the detailed
information, but also for your practical 'have fun and don't sweat your
mistakes' storyline. What was your process for writing it, and how did
you work collaboratively with your editors to reflect your personal
"The editor I
worked with at the publisher, Tanya Fox, was absolutely the best. We
were both new
at what we were doing. It was my first time working with an editor and
her first time working with a "name" performer so we both learned from
each other. Fortunately I was given very free rein at how the projects
were presented. I was given my space limitations and made it work. When
it didn't. we would discuss and work things out together. I valued her
input and respected her knowledge and experience and she valued and
respected my abilities. I couldn't have asked for a better
relationship. The only thing I remember having a few hang-up about were
the colors. We didn't quite speak the same language but even so the
fellow in charge of such things did his best to meet my requests and I
gave in on a few things, so that too worked out ok."
Your childhood experiences continue to feed your rich creative life. In
“Paper Crafting with Carol Duvall,” you introduce the Jacob's Ladder
craft by saying that
your father taught you to make one when you were 10 years
old. What advice would
you offer to parents who want to encourage and nurture the creative
ventures of their children?
"That's a bit of a guess because all children aren't the
same, nor are their parents. If a mother or dad is
involved in crafts it's much easier because the children are around it
and will frequently want to try, too. I think it's great to let them
know that you would love to share this nifty idea, but don't push it
and don't force your own enthusiasm. Kids are smart enough to
know when you're faking. When I would visit my two
grandsons... or they visit me... I would always have something
I was working on that I hoped might be of interest to them. In most
cases, one was always interested - "What did you bring for us to make
Grandma?" - and the other one could care less. Unless, of course, it
something like Easter baskets and dying and decorating eggs. Then their
mom would get involved too, so it became a family affair."
Okay, time for the sock monkey. When did the infamous sock monkey first
enter your life, and how did it ultimately become the unofficial mascot
of "The Carol Duvall Show?"
"Oh my... I should have known I wouldn't get away without a question
about the monkey. It actually all started on "The Home Show" when a
viewer wrote in asking about the sock monkey that she remembered from
her childhood and wondered if I could help her find the
socks that were required and the directions. It took awhile but I was
able to track down the company. I don't remember all the details now
but there was some potential problem with the company that made the
socks... anyway, I finally got some socks along with directions and
a monkey on the show. OH MY GOSH the response!!! I had no idea how
important that little animal had been to so many children back in the
early 30's and 40's. Anyway, I planned to use many of the stories and
photos and do a follow-up segment... Son of Sock Monkey or something,
but then the show went off the air! I never got to it.
"So several months later when "The Carol Duvall Show" started
production I brought out the socks and letters and made another monkey.
I received lots of response to that one too, but it was really our prop
master, Dave Lowe, who picked up on the idea and began putting the
monkey in different introductions to different segments. Many of his
costumes and actions were incredibly clever and when there would be a
plug for mail during a break he would have the monkey open a mail box
and insert a letter, etc. People began to look for the sock monkey's
appearance each day. Then we had a guest who made different sock
animals and wrote stories to go with them and so it continued
and before long the sock monkey and I were a couple!"
You helped move crafting from “making things” to a multi-million
dollar, global industry. What do you see ahead for the next generation
of crafters, and for you personally?
"What I see ahead for the next generation of crafters is continued
growth in learning, sharing, experimenting, bonding and selling on the
Internet. I would like to think that craft magazines, books and even
television will also play a part in communicating and sharing of ideas,
but I may just be doing some wishful thinking. In any case, I don't see
a lessening of interest in crafting or creativity. I just hope that
crafting doesn't turn into another competitive sport where faster means
better and pride of workmanship gets lost in the shuffle. The enjoyment
should be in the process and the satisfaction of a project
well done. As for myself... I would never say never, but for now I have
no plans to continue crafting anyplace other than in my own home while
gazing at the lake. Maybe I'll eventually get around to some of those
unfinished sweaters... if the moths haven't beaten me to it."
episodes of "The Carol Duvall Show" can be seen on the DIY cable
or on the HGTV
website. Carol's book, Paper
Crafting with Carol Duvall, and the DVD of an art
retreat she hosted, Art
Unscripted, are available from bookstores,
stores, and at Amazon.com
and other online retailers.