Interview with Nancy Ward:

"I'm a lucky gal..."

nancy Ward photo...and crafters are lucky to have Nancy. Nancy Ward has the crafting world covered. Visit almost any of the thousands of great craft blogs on the Internet, and you are likely to find a familiar note left by Nancy: "I posted an entry on my blog with a link to you... OK to do that?" It is more than OK - it is a veritable stamp of approval from one of the most influential bloggers on crafting, stamping, materials, and all things creative. By her own admission, she is an obsessive crafter with decades of professional experience. Take a look at any Nancy Ward publications or her daily blog, and you will appreciate the depth of her expertise and her desire to teach. Perhaps most representative of both is her essential reference book, "The Complete Guide to Glues and Adhesives", written with Tammy Young. In one volume, it is a descriptive guide to all types of adhesive products, an instruction manual for dozens of ingenious craft techniques and materials, and a trove of over 30 creative craft projects. Her other books, "Stamping Made Easy" and "Fabric Painting Made Easy" take the same generous approach to their subjects.

We discovered Nancy through her blog, PaperFriendly and that is exactly what we found - a friend. Describing herself, she wrote, "I spend a good part of every day playing...coloring, cutting, slicing, dicing, gluing this to that, slapping either paint or ink hither and yon, stitching anything a needle will go through, rolling out clay...the fun never stops. I'm a lucky gal." When we talked to Nancy Ward in February of 2009, our questions revolved around her remarkable books:

VIC: You have to be seriously into glue to write 144 pages about it. How did the subject of "sticking things together" first come to you and how did the book get written?

© Nancy Ward
The Complete Guide to Glues and Adhesives by Nancy Ward
"Tammy Young called me in early fall, 1999, to ask if I would be interested in co-authoring a revision of her 1995 book, "The Crafter’s Guide To Glues", due to her publisher in six months. I did some research and felt that a mere revision wouldn't be adequate; there had been tremendous changes in the ‘sticky’ business since Tammy had written her book, and I didn't think the manuscript could be ready until the end of 2000. With Tammy becoming more involved in her other activities, it was apparent that I would be researching and writing the book, and Krause Publications agreed to extend the deadline.

"2000 was a very busy year for me! I was fortunate in finding two chemists who led me through the maze of the chemistry of adhesives. I'm still a couple of graduate degrees in chemistry away from understanding adhesives, but I am somewhat better informed than I was when I started the book. "The Complete Guide to Glues and Adhesives" was released at the HIA conference (Hobby Industry Association, now CHA, Craft and Hobby Association) in January of 2001."

VIC: In "The Complete Guide to Glues and Adhesives", you featured craft projects by 18 professional designers. How did you come to select these designers and their projects, and how did you collaborate with them?

© Nancy Ward
Plate craft example from The Complete Guide to Glues and Adhesives by Nancy Ward
"I personally knew almost every artist who contributed creations for the book, or I'd seen their work if I did not know them. I asked each artist to do a creation in their area of expertise, but I did not specifically tell them what I expected them to create. When they decided what they wanted to do, they told me, and I don’t recall asking anyone to offer another suggestion. They all were selected because I knew each of them would create an original piece that would be of the highest level."

VIC: In the beginning of your book, you write that the project's materials and usage will determine which adhesive to use. We, on the other side, found ourselves intrigued by the crafting potential of each adhesive and started creating projects to exploit it. How would you advise crafters to use your book for inspiration?

© Nancy Ward
Read the Label First illustration
"When I said that the project dictated the type of products selected, I meant that each product has suitable uses. It's not wise to select a product that would not suit the intended use of the project. For example, using a natural adhesive on clothing that would be laundered - the adhesive would wash out. A solvent-based adhesive must be used as directed on the container. Many can only be used on non-porous surfaces. Rubber cement is not intended for photographs. Acrylic-based adhesives can be substituted for a PVA, in almost every case, although a PVA often cannot be substituted for an acrylic-based adhesive.

"On the other hand, I encourage readers to explore new uses for a product. There is one rule that must be followed whenever the rules are bent: the results must be tested, retested, and then tested again to ensure that the results will be consistent. I have a reputation of pushing products beyond their limits, but I always notify a company to explain what I have done and ask if they object to my publishing the technique. My 'testing-fetish' is well-known with many companies, so I usually get their OK.

VIC: "Stamping Made Easy" covers the basics, and then quickly moves from paper stamping to every surface imaginable: fabric, wood, plastic, clay and even frosting, rocks and faces. How do you continue to expand your repertoire?

© Nancy Ward
Stamping Made Easy photo
"When I started the research for "Stamping Made Easy, " I didn't understand why people weren't stamping on all that stuff. I even had stamp companies tell me I could not stamp on some of the substrates used for projects in the book. I think the line I used in the book was, 'As long as it's not moving too fast, or it's not too furry, you can stamp on it.' And because that’s true, stamping is unlimited. The opportunities offered by the types of inks now on the market extend the creative options of stamping.

"I guess I expand my repertoire by just fiddling all the time! I love figuring out how to do stuff, how to use stuff, why something works, or doesn't work, and how to do something differently. I can’t imagine not doing that. I do think that my background in patchwork and quilting contributes greatly to my 'questioning' attitude. I started in fabric; I still think as a fabric person. When you get right down to it, paper and fabric are similar in many ways (least they are to me!). Porous is porous is porous."

VIC: We are DIY crafters - making the supplies is half the fun. Can you talk a little about your own experiences making your own stamps, inks and other supplies?

"The book I should write is, "What Won’t Work!" I can tell you a bazillion ideas that didn't fly. The good news is those goofs led me to something that did work. I've dabbled in just about every craft activity there is, and each one has taught me something I could use. I have fiddled with making my own ink (fabric dye was the basis for one); carved stamps; used anything clear I could grab as a substitute for an acrylic block before those blocks were available; used a tuna fish can on a mug warmer for a substitute Hot Pot; used an old, beat-up electric fry pan for a 'craft' oven…you name it, and I’m sure I've tried out some harebrained idea relating to the topic. But the questions I always ask myself …is this better, quicker, easier or less expensive? One no puts that idea in jeopardy. Two will put it back in the box."

VIC: The forward to you stamping book states "...a stamp exists somewhere for every whim." What kinds of stamp designs should be the basic tool kit for beginning stampers?

"I think each of us has to use images we like…and accept that what we like now may not be the images (or colors, or outlines) we favor tomorrow, or next week, or next year. I wouldn't recommend that a beginner start with Thomas Kinkade images or photo stamps; intricate and detailed images take a bit of practice before the results are satisfactory. But there are all sorts of great images out there that aren't detailed and intricate."

VIC: You confess that you can't draw a thing - but you make great choices when selecting stamps, vintage images, clip art or other designs. Tell us about your design sense and how you think you developed it over the years?

"I haven’t a clue as to why I pick the stuff I do. I know what I like, and I don’t question that feeling. Sounds silly, but I have an idea that if I started to wonder why, I’d get confused! There’s no question that some of the things I liked years ago aren't high on my list anymore. But I don’t know if that's an age thing or a learning process.

"I do think it's important that we allow ourselves to be content with what we like, what we create, and the way we create. As soon as we start trying to please someone else, things start getting muddled. The creative process is too personal to give control of it away."

VIC: "Fabric Painting Made Easy" is about far more than simply painting fabric, and gets into dyeing, appliques, maintaining fabric, and working with many other flexible surfaces. What new techniques and products would you include in a new edition of this book?

© Nancy Ward
Painted shoes from Fabric Painting Made Easy
"You should have seen the hundreds of words that were deleted from the manuscript! We literally deleted an entire book. I do have a problem of wanting to tell everyone everything about a topic…a big problem. As far as new techniques and products for a new edition, I’ll have to give that some thought!"

VIC: You have a reputation for saving and recycling everything, including test strips of paint, old pantyhose, containers, egg cartons, and all things plastic. On top of that, if you have half of the products you've tested, you must live in a warehouse. Tell us about your workspace and how you organize your crafting supplies.

"Not really a warehouse, just looks like one! I have two workrooms: paper and fabric, and both rooms are blessed with Iris carts and bookcases.
I do know where everything is! I have a compartmentalized mind, so it’s easy for me to decide the hows and whys of keeping like stuff with like stuff and remember where those places are. I donate supplies to the area schools and to a home for troubled teen-age girls. I give my creations away, so I don’t have those cluttering up the place. I sell stuff from time to time on my blog. I’m about to do a major clean out, so I’ll be reducing the stash in the next couple months."

VIC: Your blog is on top of so many trends and happenings in the crafting world. How do you do it? What are the rewards? What would you like to tackle in the future - more books?

"I do make a serious attempt to stay abreast of what’s happening, and when certain cycles are up (or down)…maybe that’s why my guesses are sometimes correct…maybe! No question, things have changed greatly in the past few years, and I've had to rearrange my thinking during that time. Some changes I like; some change I’m not too happy about. As far as rewards, I guess I’m like all teachers... we love to babble on and on about what we think we know. I’m a research freak, so finding items and facts on the Internet is great fun for me.

"As to the future, don’t know for sure. There are a couple of books I’d like to write, my blog takes a bit of time, I do have to get my hands icky every day, and sew a stitch or two. Too many good things to do…too little time!"

PaperFriendly blog page photoNancy Ward's books are available from bookstores, craft stores, and at and other online retailers. Learn more about Nancy's experience, wisdom, and "joie de crafting" at PaperFriendly!

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