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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Fall Colors Tissue Paper Sun Catcher

I know we're two months into fall and thus it's a bit late for a fall craft, but we're just getting our fall color now here in northern California. Besides, fall technically lasts for another month. 

Anyway, I had a lot of fun making this tissue paper sun catcher. All of the tissue paper is reused. I'm that person at birthday parties stopping people from throwing away barely-crumpled tissue paper. If you're not that person, I've included affiliate links for tissue paper and other supplies below.

Fall Colors Tissue Paper Sun Catcher



First, find a location. You'll be making your artwork directly on a window or glass door. It worked perfectly for me to sit on the floor by our back door to make my project, but it would work just as well standing at a window. 

Cut a piece of contact paper that is slightly larger than you want your finished art to be. I used the width of the contact paper (18") by about 22" for mine. With the NON-sticky side against the glass, start peeling away the liner of the contact paper. Use two pieces of tape to hang the contact paper onto the glass. 

Continue peeling away the rest of the liner, then tape the bottom of the contact paper to the window. The sticky part of the contact paper is facing you. 

Cut a brown tree trunk and place it on the contact paper. Add a few limbs.   

Continue adding smaller branches and twigs until you're happy with the shape of the tree. You'll notice my pieces are not cut evenly, which totally doesn't matter. You may also notice I got some fingerprints on the contact paper. That doesn't matter either. 

Layer red, orange, and yellow tissue paper and cut out stacks of teardrop-shaped leaves. Attach the leaves to the tree. Don't forget to add a few that have already fallen!

Next, layer a sheet of sky blue tissue paper over the entire design. I strongly recommend getting a helper for this. I had Trevor hold the top of the tissue paper taut while I smoothed the bottom section into place. I worked my way up, pausing halfway to snap this photo...

... then smoothed the rest of the tissue paper in place. This is how it looked, cropped to get rid of the door and surrounding glass. The fingerprints aren't visible. 

You can leave your artwork on the window as is, or you can take it down and trim the edges, which is what I did. When I hung it back up, I put the tissue paper side against the glass where it is protected. Did you notice it was mirrored from before?

I'm taking tomorrow and Friday off from blogging. I'll be back on Monday with another tissue paper craft tutorial. Happy Thanksgiving!


Printable Thanksgiving Place Cards for Coloring

We spent Thanksgiving 2020 at home with just the three of us; this year, there will be 12 at our house. I'm thankful for vaccines and for the food we'll share, but mostly I'm thankful for family. 

We don't really need place cards, but I'll take any excuse to pull out my colored pencils. I started by designing the printable using PicMonkey. There are four place cards on an 8.5" x 11" sheet. You can download the printable (for free) here. I recommend printing on cardstock rather than printer paper. I used Neenah Vellum Bristol (affiliate link here and throughout the post). 

Once they're printed, cut out the place cards. I recommend using a paper trimmer. Don't cut the backs of the place cards from the fronts; you'll be folding them in order to make them stand up. 

Color in the place cards however you'd like, using whatever art materials you'd like. I used my Prismacolors and did the words first because I'm left-handed and didn't want to smear the finished leaves. I made a different gradient on each card by angling a piece of scrap paper and coloring each section of the sentiment at a time. By overlapping the colors slightly, I got great blending. 

Here are the first three place cards. Which gradient do you like best? My favorite is the bottom right...

... which is why I used it for the hero shot at the top of the post. I wrote the names with a gold Sharpie

Do you do place cards for Thanksgiving? How many people will be around your Thanksgiving table? 


Torn Paper Bear

One of my most popular crafts of all time is this torn paper panda. I don't know if it's popular because it's a panda or because of the unusual technique used to make it, but either way, it generates a lot of traffic to my blog. Part of what makes this project unique is that the cheaper the paper you use, the better it turns out.  

I found some scraps of very inexpensive brown construction paper and thought they'd be perfect for turning into a fuzzy bear. I love how my bear turned out!

Torn Paper Bear


  • construction paper (brown, black, white)
  • q-tips
  • a bowl of water 
  • glue


Dip a q-tip in water and "draw" the outline of the bear onto the construction paper. You can draw freehand, or you can create a template first. 

Trace the outline at least twice (more times if you're using higher quality paper). You should be able to see the outline on the back of the paper. If you can't, wet the q-tip again and retrace.   

While the paper is still wet, gently tear out the shape. The paper falls apart easily along the wet line and leaves a fuzzy texture.  

Continue using for the rest of the body parts: brown ovals for the snout and the belly, white circles for the eyes, black circles for the pupils, a black oval for the nose, and black gumdrop shapes for the inner ears.  

Let the paper dry completely, then glue everything together. 



An Owl Sculpture, a Burrowing Owl Coloring Page, and Two Wildlife Rescues

Last weekend, Trevor and I went to an open house at the Suisun Wildlife Center, a local animal rescue. It's been about five years since we'd visited, so it was interesting to see the changes. This giant owl sculpture wasn't there last time we were. I love it!

Unfortunately, not all of the changes at the Suisun Wildlife Center are positive. They suffered a devastating fire in June 2020, which took the lives of some of the non-releasable resident animals. Last weekend's open house was the first public event since the fire.  

Besides wanting to look around and support the center, we went so that Trevor could talk with the director about the possibility of doing his Eagle project there. We learned that the center will be closed to the public again in order to do a major rebuild (sponsored by the awesome local Rotary clubs) and that some of the ideas Trevor had as potential projects won't work during construction. He may still work with the Suisun Wildlife Center, but he's exploring other beneficiaries as well. 

One possibility is the California Raptor Center. Trevor has always loved birds (second only to rabbits) and has a particular fondness for raptors (though not necessarily the ones that eat rabbits). He is very interested in learning what needs the California Raptor Center might have. He is particularly delighted by the possibility that his Eagle project may involve actual eagles!

We were looking at the website to check visiting hours when I discovered downloadable coloring pages. I printed the burrowing owl, which was quite a challenge to color due to the texture and color variations of the feathers. I did the best I could (without spending hours) and learned a lot in the process. Among other things, I learned that I need colored pencils that will hold a very fine point. I've put a set on my Christmas wishlist. Fingers crossed! :)  

Speaking of wishlists, this is a good time to remind you that the purchases you make through affiliate links are my only source of income for this blog. Anything you buy through my links generates a small commission for me, at no extra cost for you. Click here to find the brands in my affiliate network and/or check out my gift guides to find suggestions for everyone on your list. Thanks for supporting My Creative Life!