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Chatting with Stephen Brown of Craft Wars

Jessica Watson is a mom to five, four in her arms and one in her heart. She lives in Michigan where her life is as unpredictable as the weather. After the loss of her infant daughter in 2007, Jessica left the corporate world behind, vowe...

The baker, the crafter and the judge

The brand new hit series Craft Wars debuted last week on TLC. We were lucky enough to sit down with one of the judges who is also the founder of Glitterville, a decorator, baker and storyteller extraordinaire, Stephen Brown. Here are his fabulous tales of Hollywood, Glitterville and silky chickens.
Stephen Brown
Craft Wars

The baker,
the crafter &
the judge

The brand new hit series Craft Wars debuted last week on TLC. We were lucky enough to sit down with one of the judges who is also the founder of Glitterville, a decorator, baker and storyteller extraordinaire, Stephen Brown. Here are his fabulous tales of Hollywood, Glitterville and silky chickens.

Television tell all

SheKnows: How did you become involved in Craft Wars, and what made you decide to do the show?

Brown: I have always been a crafter, and my love of crafting has been carried through my entire career. I was a costume designer for television and film and was also making things on my own; it was then I realized I didn't want to just craft and started dabbling in television also.

When I heard they were doing a new craft show I was thrilled to see that TLC was picking up on crafting. They contacted me to be a judge and I was beyond interested — it was a dream project, really. Not only is the show all about crafts, but about how all crafters think differently and what they are able to create. I jumped on the offer and was thrilled with the opportunity.

SheKnows: How would you describe your judging personality?

Brown: I approach judging from three phases: structure, sparkle and style. I want contestants to start thinking about structure… How do I start? What's on the inside of what I'm making? When I judge I start with, Did they plan? Did they start there? I look at it in layers. It helps me preach my case more because if you don't have good center, you are working with you will fail in the end, even though there is a time limit they have to put that much thought into it to be successful.

SheKnows: What do you think about the show and the contestants so far?

Brown: The whole show is an interesting concept to explain — crafts. The way I think of it is a physical materialization of someone's creativity so it could be almost anything. They all come with a certain skill in a certain department, and it may not serve them on that task, but their skill as a crafter helps them think on their feet and get it done. If you don't come in with a significant amount of crafting ability you will fail. So far I think they all have brought it. They have all come to the table with interesting projects.

SheKnows: Have there been moments that have surprised you? Anything jaw-dropping yet?

Brown: In good ways and in bad ways: I am often surprised that someone did something interesting and creative that I would have never thought of then others do something and I wonder, What were they thinking? A good example is Cheryl from episode one. She used spray adhesive to apply stripes on a bag and then attempted to sew them. I think she realized the fatalness of her flaw later.

Craft Wars judgesSheKnows: Can you tell me honestly if Tori Spelling is as fabulous and together in real life as she is on television?

Brown: I would actually say more so. When you first meet a celebrity you never know what the dynamics are going to be. When the judges and Tori all came together it was like we had been together for years. She never separated herself from us, she came in and we all got along. Tori is much warmer and friendlier than I ever perceived her to be on television.

SheKnows: Speaking of television, since you are now entering the reality show scene, do you have a favorite reality show to watch (besides Craft Wars, of course)?

Brown: I have to admit I am a reality show junkie, so I can watch anything for at least one sitting. I like to watch anything on TLC because there are topics you may think you would not be interested in, but they are so well produced and well put together that you can't stop watching.

Where it all began

SheKnows: You have amazing talent in crafting and baking, how did you get involved in both?

Brown: Crafting I've always done. I literally can't remember a time in life that I wasn't crafting something. In first grade they handed out construction paper Christmas trees and popcorn kernels, but the fire alarm rang before I could finish. Instead of filing out for the alarm with my class, I hid in coat closet with my craft until it was finished. When I was done, I came out of my hiding place, thinking everyone would love my piece but there were teachers and police there instead. They thought I was missing and everyone was worried sick.

I think I missed a lot of life along the way because of my focus on making things. I didn't care about extracurricular activities because I always wanted to make the next thing. This segued into theater though, where I could make props and costumes and served me well because I've never had a job not making things, except for once when I was accidentally hired as Mel Torme's bodyguard. I was hired to "dress him for the show" and next thing I know they were calling for his security and I realized they were waiting for me. My first question was, Do I have to use a gun?

As for baking, I've had an obsession with cake decorations and things that could be sculpted with sugar for as long as I can remember. When my mom was invited to a baby shower, I would dream of the cake and what decorations would be on it weeks in advance. I would beg her to let me come and promise to be good and would snag the piece of cake that had the decoration I wanted on it. My love for the smell of sugar and trinkets got furthered by Easter. With everything that I got in my basket, I never ate a thing, I just saved it all to admire. When I was young I started making cupcakes just for the decorating. It was all about what it looked like in the end, not about the flavors. But of course that has changed over the years.

SheKnows: You share on Glitterville your love for the holidays and your equal love for making and baking. Is there a certain holiday that inspires your crafting side most?

Brown: When I was little I was such a crafter, but I only knew to craft for holidays. And then when the holiday was over I would be sad. I would find myself crying on Christmas because the holiday and crafting were over.

Halloween and Christmas were my favorites because they were close together so I could string crafts one after the other and not have to wait. My mother tried to help me get started on Valentine's Day soon after Christmas, but it just wasn't the same. Finally my nana said, "Why don't you just make every day a holiday?" We lived in the Bible Belt where many had a dislike for Halloween. For me it was all about fun, the costumes, the cupcakes and the candy. What can you find wrong with that? I saw it as a challenge to make Halloween about fun for everyone and not about anything scary.

SheKnows: What about your baking side?

Brown: I bake all year, holidays or no holidays. Anything I bake I try to make it fun and pretty. It has to be both. My new 4th of July cake is the perfect example; it is fun. It has filling between every layer and plenty of sparkle.

SheKnows: Your book, Handmade Halloween, comes out Aug. 21 and is full of Halloween crafts and decor. Why start with Halloween?

Brown: Halloween was where I started when I started Glitterville and I think the difference with starting with Halloween was, everyone starts with Christmas. There are so many Halloween fanatics that I wanted to cater to and it worked out that it was a great place to start. It's crafting, making costumes and candy management. Halloween is the culmination of all that is good; it all happens on Halloween.

Silky chickenChickens and inspiration

SheKnows: So you have an interesting pet named Dolly, a silky chicken. Is she easy to maintain? Would you recommend a silky chicken to others as a pet?

Brown: The first silky chicken I had ever seen was Coco, Tori's chicken. There was an episode we filmed when Tori brought Coco to the set and I decided I really wanted one, but had no idea how to go about getting one. Tori helped me pursue finding Dolly. Cats and dogs have gotten all the press; my silky chicken is the sweetest pet I've ever had. Believe it or not, a chicken can express itself and love you like any other animal. Dolly sits in my lap and chicken-snores. I plop her into my craft bag when I go to studio, I've taken her to restaurants and the grocery store and no one knows she's there.

One downfall is crafting diapers for the chicken. Dolly has a collection of failed chicken diapers. Putting one on her is like putting panty hose on a mosquito.

SheKnows: What tips would you give the everyday person on getting started in crafting and actually making things that look good?

Brown: It is important to identify who you are as a crafter. What is your interest? Don't just go buy it because it's in a kit. You have to define what you like and craft toward that. That's what makes you love it for the long haul.

Identify who you are as a crafter and hone those skills. Everything I make starts with a sketch; it has to to make it enjoyable, I don't just dive in. There is always a plan and I go from there. I believe that everyone has crafting in them, just open yourself up to what crafting is for you. There is some level of craftiness in everything we do.

More on crafting

Mom story: My crafting saved us
How to create a family crafting stash
DIY stamps

Photo credits: TLC
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