Meet a Blogger – Alexa from The Swell Life
In the beginning I was kind of shy getting in touch with other bloggers. Especially bloggers who’ve been around a while. In fact, I didn’t get in touch with anybody because I was so worried about bothering someone (like an email can’t be deleted easy peasy, but whatever). I was so surprised when one day Alexa from The Swell Life and iLoveToCreate got in touch with me. This awesome, crafty blogger who, quite literally, has my dream job wanted to talk to ME. And that day I realized just how sweet and amazing Alexa truly is.
This crafty lady holds down a full time life of crafty including not one, but TWO creative blogs AND a creative 9 to 5 PLUS is a curator for the wildly popular Buzzfeed. There is only one way to describe this level of commitment… crafter to the core. Even if you’re not a craft blog stalker like me, you’ve seen Alexa’s work in magazines and on not so crafty websites. Let’s hop right on into this excellent interview, shall we?
What made you decide to start a blog and how long have you been blogging?
I started bloggin in 2001, after I got out of college. I had a friend who had a blog and I thought it was cool and at the time not a lot of people were blogging. I posted a lot of random stuff in the beginning…mainly boring day to day stuff or mini rants about my then job. I don’t know what I was thinking doing that. Blogging was a LOT more anonymous back then.
Why did you choose the name ‘The Swell Life’?
When I was in college in 2000, I made my first “graphic design” resume. It was pink and had “She’s Swell” down the side. I just liked the word swell cause it’s a very happy word that’s spirited and cute. I think it goes with my personality.
What do you hope to accomplish with your blog?
I have had my ups and downs with my blog over the past year or two, mainly cause it’s hard to keep a blog when you have a creative full-time job. At this point in it’s run, I want to inspire people with cool, clever crafts that are bright, colorful, and fun! And I’m more focused this time of year (fall/October) on my blog, cause it’s my favorite time of year and I’m the most inspired.
What is your favorite medium to craft with?
Pumpkins of course! Probably follow that by ornaments, vases, and paper lanterns.
Is there a new type of craft that you’re dying to check out? What is it?
I would like to eventually do some more metalsmithing (I took a class in college, but didn’t retain much). I’d also like to learn how to be a better seamstress. I’m very intimidated by my machine.
What projects are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of my pumpkin projects, cause I put a lot of time and effort into them and I really try to think of projects that anyone can make. Next to that, I’d probably say projects that I incorporate my photography or favorite typography elements. I love taking artful pictures and using them in my crafts and creating funny quote art!
What projects have been the most successful for you?
My pumpkins are my most successful, especially my Rainbow Crayon Pumpkin. That one has been pinned like 150,000 times, which blows my mind. I also have had a lot of success with my Candy Corn vases. They’ve been picked up on several sites and magazines.
Looking around your blog, it would appear that you are the queen of pumpkin crafting. What made you take up DIY with gourds?
I have painted pumpkins for a while, but I really started getting more creative with them when Martha came out with her glitter pumpkins. I thought they were so beautiful and it opened my mind to other possibilities. Also, around this time, I worked at DecoArt, a craft paint manufacturer and I had access to lots of cool craft paints and glitters, so I just dove into pumpkin making!
Your pumpkin projects have gone viral, with your Snooki pumpkin appearing on PerezHilton.com! Any suggestions for that kind of viral success?
Stay topical and timely. You want projects that can speak to a mass audience…a project that people share, get a rise out of, or identify with. Pop culture moments, celebrities and memes have that factor for viral appeal.
What is your favorite pumpkin project? Which has been your most successful?
Next to my rainbow crayon pumpkin, my most successful project has been my rainbow glitter pumpkin. There’s something about the array of colors and sparkle that get people excited! Other than that, my other successful pumpkins have been really simple stuff like dotted and striped pumpkins and a sequin pumpkin. I think this is because they are super easy to do and they have the “Hey, I can do that!” factor.
Any suggestions for creating unique pumpkins for fall decor?
Break from traditional colors. I’ve seen some beautiful blue fall and grey pumpkins by my friend Jen of TaterTots and Jello that are so inviting and a twist on traditional colors. I appreciate it when you look to your own décor colors over what is the norm. Also, do something fun with textures…add a crackle finish, use texture paint, or create a raised design like I did with Tacky Glue on my Gilded Pumpkin tutorial.
I’m really curious about this… how many pumpkins do you DIY every fall?
I ultimately create 10-15 projects each year. Over the past 5 years on my blog, I’ve amassed a collection of over 50 pumpkin projects, which I’m pretty proud of. That’s a lot of crafting! Haha. Fun fact, though, I currently have a giant cardboard box filled with about 20 unfinished pumpkins from various stores…some foam/some plastic/some real. I like to mix it up. And yes, I make a trip to the craft store just about every week to stock up on my pumpkins. I mean, the world might end tomorrow if I don’t have a large white pumpkin to decorate on demand!
Besides your own blog, you also are the designer and developer for the iLoveToCreate blog by day. Do you find it challenging running two craft blogs?
It’s not that challenging for me to run two blogs. It’s just usually the difference between me doing my own post versus compiling a great project and step outs someone else as done and posting that. I generally don’t do a lot of personal blog posts for iLTC, but I do on occasion when I want to jump on a trend or do a fun roundup I think viewers will like. We produce a LOT of content in our craft studio that people would be truly amazed at. I try to feature the cool stuff I see going in and out as much as I can!
You also curate some pretty awesome roundups and articles for Buzzfeed. What’s your favorite article you’ve written there?
I absolutely love curating content, and I’ve done a lot of fun topical posts like “Creepy crafts from Etsy” & “Bloody DIYs” that were fun. My favorite out of all of them is actually my most popular, because it was a fun concept…”14 Crafts You Made Before They Were Cool”. I pulled out all the stops on that one and wrote some funny captions. I really connected with that one, cause I was that crafty/nerdy kid who made friendship bracelets and puffy paint sweatshirts using Scribbles paints!
With so much interaction, how do you balance your virtual pursuits and your real life?
I stay up really late and sometimes pay the price later the next day. LOL. I am a night owl and get a lot of blogging and personal interests entertained at night after my fiancé William has gone to bed. I will say, though, that I’ve gotten better about not stressing myself out about not posting. I used to have to post every single day and that was overkill. I don’t get my panties in a wad if I go for a while without posting anything. I think that’s why I gravitate toward making my blog so great at Halloween…because it frees me up the rest of the year to pursue other things.
How to do you stay away from blogger burnout?
I try to focus on my niche during the Halloween season and if I do a post other times of the year, that’s ok. I really am actually very calculated in my posts. I think it’s smart to have really strong projects a couple times a month rather than doing 10 projects a month that are less interesting. I want to work harder, not smarter.
If you do burnout, how do you recover from it?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. I have a great site called FontCrafts that is absolutely beautiful that I love, but I simply don’t have the time or energy to focus on it anymore. I realize I just can’t do everything sometimes with a crafty day job and priorities to focus on at home at night.
Any advice you can give to aspiring bloggers?
It’s a lot of work, but stay true to yourself and your style and you can really stand out. Don’t be so focused on copying projects that you lose your own individual aesthetic. Oh and write about things you are truly passionate about and love. It’s important you do your own thing and not compare yourself to others. Also, always keep learning about good layout design and photography. They can make or break your blog!
Do you have any suggestions to bloggers wanting to write for other blogs like you do?
If you are looking into getting picked up by blogs for possible payment or guest spot opportunities, get to know that company on social media and link to your projects promoting their product/site/etc. You have to put in the legwork to get noticed. Don’t expect them to just find you randomly.
What do you like to listen to while you’re crafting?
Haha. The television. I sit in front of the TV on the carpet. I don’t really need music to get into my groove (for example, the house is totally silent as I write out these interview questions for you).
What other hobbies and pursuits do you have besides blogging and crafting?
I love taking portrait photography. If I wasn’t a designer/social media specialist, I would love to do something with it. I love capturing the essence of a person.
In an ideal world, what would be your dream job?
I actually have my dream job right now. On any given day at my work, you can find me editing Youtube DIY videos, posting Facebook updates, and surfing Buzzfeed and CraftGawker for the latest trends. I love my job! Oh and did I mention I sometimes wear a unicorn mask while doing so (no joke).
What is your favorite quote?
“Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint you can on it.” – Danny Kaye
Thanks so much, Alexa for such a wonderful and interesting interview (perhaps at least partially written as a unicorn!). If you haven’t already clicked over, check out Alexa at The Swell Life and iLoveToCreate for tons of creative ideas. And since it’s October you’ll especially want to check out her many awesome pumpkin DIYs!