Seven years ago this month, a dream of mine came true. After four years of working toward the goal, I finally qualified for membership in the Craft and Hobby Association (CHA). I consider December 2014 to mark my official transition from craft hobbyist to a professional in the craft industry. 

With my CHA membership came a lot of fantastic opportunities. Over the years, I've worked with a bunch of companies I love (these are my current affiliate partners), taken on many freelance writing and designing assignments, served as a brand ambassador, spoken at conferences, seen my projects published in books, and met some of my best friends. I can trace just about everything that has happened in my crafting career back to my CHA membership and the steps I took to qualify. 

Over the seven years I've been a member, a lot has changed with this trade organization. Membership categories came and went (I was a Creative Professional, then a Designer, then a Digital Content Creator, even though who I was and what I did hadn't changed). The organization rebranded in January 2017, when the name changed from the Craft and Hobby Association to the Association for Creative Industries (AFCI). 

For a variety of reasons, AFCI struggled. It was obvious to most of us that it was only a matter of time before AFCI would cease to exist. So it was no surprise in August when AFCI members were notified that we would be voting to merge with NAMTA (the International Art Materials Association). The merger became official last month, with NAMTA absorbing AFCI. My AFCI membership, due to expire at the end of this month, rolled over into a NAMTA membership. 

While AFCI focused more on crafts (including the scrapbooking / paper crafts, kids crafts, and edible crafts that I do), NAMTA has historically been exclusively for fine arts manufacturers and retailers. Until this merger, they didn't have membership categories for anyone outside of those two roles. They have added a Creative Professional membership and are doing a great job welcoming former AFCI members into the organization. Still, fine arts is not what I do. Sure, I've recently jumped into the world of professional-quality colored pencils, but I'm using them for crafts, not fine art. I'm struggling to decide whether or not continuing as a NAMTA member makes sense to me. 

One major consideration is the annual trade show, Art Materials World. For 2022, it has been branded "Art Materials World Featuring Creativation" and will take place in Orlando in April. 

While I know I would have a fun time, I don't know that it makes sense for me to attend. If it were on the west coast, I'd strongly consider going. But the travel time and expense in getting to Orlando, not to mention the hotel costs (during spring break!) and possible COVID issues, make me question whether I should sit out a year and reconsider for 2023. And if I do decide to skip the trade show, does it still make sense for me to maintain a paid membership? Probably, but I'd love to hear your thoughts. 


Magic the Gathering

Like many teens, Trevor enjoys playing video games. He is also a big fan of board games and card games. When he was 12, one of his fellow Scouts introduced him to Magic the Gathering (MTG) and he was instantly hooked. 

Magic the Gathering (affiliate link)

I had a lot of fun making this layout. The background paper is actually a sheet of white cardstock; you can't see it because I pieced the brick paper to cover it completely. (The brick paper had rooftops along the bottom that I didn't want on my finished layout.) For my title, I printed the MTG logo onto the cardstock I've been using for colored pencils. I journaled on metallic silver paper; I was pleasantly surprised how well the Micron pen worked on it. The final touch was adhering two very inexpensive Magic cards to the layout as an embellishment. 

If you have a tween or teen in your life who might be interested in MTG, I asked Trevor to put together this list of ideas for a beginner. Thanks, Trevor!


Poinsettia Gift Tags

Homemade gift tags add an extra-special touch to Christmas gifts. They take only a few minutes to make and are an excellent excuse for pulling out the colored pencils for a little bit of relaxing during a busy time of year. (Or, if your kids are younger than mine, an excellent task to keep them busy while you get something done!) Obviously, you could use any image for any occasion. I wanted to use this poinsettia stamp so that I could experiment with the texture of the basket, shading the greenery, and adding cast shadows. 

You can simplify the tags by not backing them with colored cardstock. You can make things even easier on yourself by starting with pre-made tag blanks. Affiliate link here and below. 

Poinsettia Gift Tags



Cut the white cardstock to the size and shape of tag you want. (I'm not a fan of measuring unnecessarily, so I eyeballed mine. I don't care if the tags aren't all precisely the same). Stamp the poinsettia image on each tag, then use colored pencils to color them in. 

To back your tags, you could measure and cut. That's not what I do (see above). I cut a piece of colored cardstock to the rough size and shape as the tag. Then I adhere the tag to the back, and use the trimmer to cut the backing so that there is an equal amount along each side of the tag. 

Punch a hole through the backed tag with the Crop-a-Dile, then add a coordinating piece of embroidery floss to hang your tag. (Surprise! I don't measure that either!)


My Colored Pencil Wishlist

If you'd told me six months ago that 95% of my Christmas wishlist would be related to colored pencils, I would have been surprised. Since September, I've discovered a whole new world of colored pencils and accessories that I can't wait to try out. Fingers crossed that I find some of these items beneath the Christmas tree! Each of the photos below is an affiliate link; click it to learn more about the product. 


Cindy's Colored Pencil Wishlist

The three things I want more than anything else are a set of Caran d'Ache Pablos (I love my Prismacolors, but these hold a much sharper point for detail work), this pencil organizer, and the precision eraser.


These are the coloring books and technique books I most want: 


There are a lot of accessories I need, like a good eraser set, drawing gum, and Sarah's recommended handheld sharpener


I'm going to need pencil extenders soon. And you can never have too many erasers or white pens - I use both regularly for all sorts of crafting. 


Is there anything on my list that you've tried? Anything that you want? And finally, is there anything else I should add to my list?


Paper Plate Advent Wreath

Tis the season of Advent! Yesterday was the first Sunday in Advent and the first day of the new church year. Advent is always a special time as we prepare for Christmas, but this year our family had something extra-special to celebrate - the baptism of our nephew (Trevor's cousin, Ian) and Ian's son, Allen. 

This year, I made a paper plate Advent wreath to mark the season. As you can see, it already has one purple candle for the First Sunday in Advent. For the next three Sundays, we'll add another candle to the wreath (another purple candle, then the pink, then the last purple). While I like Advent chains that count down to Christmas, I prefer the symbolism of adding candles rather than subtracting rings. It's a great visual reminder that Advent is a time to get increasingly prepared to celebrate the birth of Christ. 

Paper Plate Advent Wreath


  • paper plate (I used the dessert size)
  • green paint
  • tissue paper (green, red, purple, pink, yellow)
  • white cardstock
  • scissors
  • glue


Cut out the center of the paper plate. Paint the remaining part of the paint green. While it is drying, stack green tissue paper and cut out holly leaves. 

Add dots of glue on the wreath, then add a flat layer of holly leaves to cover the paint. Fold the rest of the holly leaves in half. 

Add a dot of glue to one end of a holly leaf, then glue it to the wreath. (If you glue in more than one place, you lose the dimensionality of the wreath.) Continue until the wreath is sufficiently fluffy and full.

Roll balls of red tissue paper and glue then in clusters amongst the holly leaves. 

Cut out four rectangles for the candles. Use your finger to smooth a layer of glue onto each, then press purple tissue paper onto three of them and pink onto the fourth. Trim the excess tissue paper. To make the flames, cut out four teardrops, smooth glue on them, and press yellow tissue paper onto them. Trim the excess. Cut four tiny rectangle wicks. Glue each onto the back of a candle to connect it to the flame. 

Each Sunday, take the appropriate candle (purple, purple, pink. purple), and fold the bottom slightly to make a tab. Spread glue on the tab and attach it to the wreath. 

Happy Advent, everyone!

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