by Molly Fisher
You might recognize accomplished actress, author, and comedian Amy Sedaris from her hysterical show on Comedy Central, Strangers With Candy, from her frequent guest appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman, Martha, and the Today Show, or even as a guest panelist at the BlogHer conference in 2007. You might also remember Amy from her last critically-acclaimed book, “I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence.”
Craft Ideas Weekly had the pleasure of chatting with Amy Sedaris about her and co-author Paul Dinello’s latest book, “Simple Times, Crafts For Poor People” which will debut #8 on the New York Times best seller list in the “How To” category Nov. 21st. It is available now at most bookstores.
CIW: Hey Amy, were you crafty growing up?
Amy Sedaris: Yeah, I was big in Girl Scouts and Junior Achievements and you know, we always made stuff in our family. I was crafty, but I mean, I don’t knit and I can’t sew, I cant do things like that, but I always had a project going on and I still make the same things I make now that I made when I was five so you can tell what I made in the book.
CIW: Like what?
Amy Sedaris: Like anything with googly eyes on it, glitter, you know, decorating clam shells, painting sea shells, making, you know, ashtrays out of clay, the same stuff. I just never outgrew that.
CIW: In your book, you talk about googly eyes increasing the “irresistibility factor” of any project…
Amy Sedaris: Any project. You can put them on anything. My girl scout leader gave me a pin of a mouse when I was 10. I still wear that pin – it’s an enamel pin and the eyeballs move. That was my first introduction to googly eyes.
CIW: So, what inspired you to write a book about crafts?
Amy Sedaris: Well, what I like about doing these books is that it is a completely, 100% creative project. I’m in charge and I get to put people together to make it all happen and that’s what I like about doing it. It’s like show and tell almost. Paul Dinello and I wrote it and just put a team together and we just did everything that I love. I love costumes, so I wanted a lot of costumes in the book and I love Meagan Whitmarsh’s beautiful embroidery. It was a chance to showcase other people as well.
CIW: Awesome – Amy, what is your favorite craft in the book?
Amy Sedaris: Well it’s hard. I liked making those marshmallows with the toothpicks – I love that craft. That’s one of my favorite crafts. I love all the bible crafts ’cause I never got to go to bible school or anything and I am just fascinated by those crafts. I really loved that and I really loved dressing up like, you know, Jesus. And an angel. That was fun.
CIW: These are, as you say, crafts for poor people, and you include a lot of value in this book. In fact, I heard you say that your book can actually be made into a craft.
Amy Sedaris: Yes. Well, everything in the book was made so it’s like the entire book is one craft. [Also,] when it came time to design the flap it was like “oh, lets turn it in to a craft.” You know you should be able to do something with the cover. (**You will see that the book cover has directions on how to make it into a hat**) Although, I like the poster on the inside flap so I hope people hang that up.
CIW: I loved that – it was a surprise when the book fell open and I was like “Ahh!”
Amy Sedaris: Well, that was motivated by…I had that Barbara Streisand album growing up, “Lazy Afternoon”, and I always remember that image of her. That was what I was trying to capture.
CIW: What has the reaction been so far from the “hard core crafters” and the rest of the craft community?
Amy Sedaris: Well, I don’t know! I think real crafters, if they have a sense of humor, they get it. And they know me. You know what I mean? I have always been supportive of crafts [and the crafting community] and I’m always talking about them. They embraced me a few years ago after “I like You…” so I always felt like a part of that community. But then there are the people that don’t have a sense of humor, and I’m sure they don’t like it or they just don’t take it seriously. But you know, who knows – I just started this tour so I haven’t really read much about it or what people are saying about it yet.
CIW: Well, we’ll find out, won’t we…
Amy Sedaris: Well, I guess we will!
CIW: The book discusses boozing while crafting and other potential safety hazards…did you witness any crafting accidents during the making of this book?
Amy Sedaris: Yes, when I was making the craft made of a tuna can (the Baby Windchimes) and I was trying to open the cans of tuna and, of course, I got cheap tuna ’cause I was trying to save money and blood went everywhere. That’s why it turned out to be an illustration in the book. Yeah, forget it…But that was the biggest thing that happened other than, you know, stepping on stuff all the time. But I avoid [craft tools and machines.] I don’t use a hot glue gun, a sewing machine, I don’t so anything like that because I’m afraid I’m gonna hurt myself.
CIW: Did you learn anything surprising about crafting?
Amy Sedaris: Lots of things. I mean, a lot of things. Usually I’m the one asking somebody to do something because I don’t know how to finish it. I’m like “Do this for me” because I’m just resistant to learning. And a lot of times, you know, like when someone else was making potholders [for the book] and they would say “Amy can you finish this?” and I was able to do it. I was so proud of myself. Or [at the beginning] when people were going through a million brushes trying to find the exact one brush and I was like “Oh please. Gimme a break, A brush is a brush.” And I found myself a couple of times looking for a very particular brush and I thought “this is what is feels like!” Learning as I was going.
CIW: But you haven’t started going crazy with different kinds of scissors and tools like Martha Stewart or anything, right? An exact, perfect tool for every job?
Amy Sedaris: Well, when I did the Martha Stewart show, she gave me a set of paper scissors and a set of fabric scissors. I had no idea there was a difference. That’s where it’s like, even though I’ve embraced crafting and I’ve been very supportive of it, I’m just very limited at what I can really do, but I know what I like and I know how to find who can do those things for me. It was fun just being around all that and realizing you know, how time consuming all these crafts are and stuff. But I still like the little crafts I’ve been doing since I was five, those craft still work for me. And that’s fine with me – I don’t really have a desire to do any other crafts.
CIW: A couple named the Woodchucks give helpful hints throughout the book. Are they inspired by anyone in particular?
Amy Sedaris: Paul Dinello [co-author of "Simple Times..."] has a place upstate, so whenever I’d go up there to visit he’d have lots of chores, lots of things to do. So We’d just pretend that we were those people. It was just playacting, you know, and we decided to put them in the book as the “helpful hints folks.”
CIW: This book is so funny! Amy, you have successfully covered entertaining and now crafts…will you write another book?
Amy Sedaris: I don’t know. We’ll see, I’ll play it by ear…When I get that desire to do something creative, then it will just happen when the time is right. But I’m always thinking about it in the back of my head – I’ll just see what I get inspired by and keep notes and see what happens.
CIW: Where can people come see you and buy your book?
Amy Sedaris: Tonight I’m in Durham, NC. Then Asheville, NC. (Amy is touring all over the U.S – See the full list of appearances here: http://www.amysedarisrocks.com/simple-times/amy-sedaris-book-tour/) All the bookstores are carrying it – it would be a good Christmas present.
CIW: Definitely a good Christmas present…For anyone over eighteen.
Amy Sedaris: Yes and Poor. They can just steal it.
Buy “Simple Times: Crafts For Poor People” at a bookstore near you at Amazon.com