5 Holiday Craft Projects You Need To Do Now!

I’m totally kidding.

I am not going to do that to you. I am not going to list supplies you need to buy, instructions you need to follow in this exact order, and I am definitely not going to show you what a craft project should look like when it’s done (and if doesn’t look like that then, well, you must not be very good at art.)

Sorry. Not doing it. (Feel free to go to your next email if that’s what you wanted — I hear they’re giving out 10 tips to revitalize your laundry room!)

Here’s what I suggest instead:

Picture your mind like a hallway lined with doors. One of the doors is labeled “CREATIVITY”. In front of that door is a pile of boxes stacked so high you can’t see the doorknob. The boxes are labeled: “I have no time”, “I’m not good at art”, “Mean things my art teacher said to me 30 years ago”, “I don’t have the right paintbrush”, “But what if it’s not perfect?”

You get the idea.

I hope you’re wearing good shoes, because now I’m going to ask you to kick those boxes to the side. Hard. Until they’re not in front of the door anymore. Until you can see the doorknob.

Now open the door.

Walk inside.

Welcome to paradise.

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You can put all the “HOW TO” articles down because I have good news:

You are already more creative,

right now,

as you are,

than you give yourself credit for.

There is no picture I can show you of a snowman made of cotton balls that you could ever recreate. Because you do not create like me. You create like you. You bring something to the art table that no one else has.

Maybe it’s your wit. (Write a funny poem on your family’s holiday card)

Your innate sense of color. (Go nuts wrapping presents in coordinating patterns)

Maybe you’re really good at _________. (Really? You are? Teach me please.)

Whatever it is, I don’t need to tell you. You already know. And you don’t need any more instructions.

If you want to be more creative and inspired this holiday season, do what you love, and take it one step further. Enjoy the process. Do it with intention. Tell yourself out loud, “I am really good at this,” and let your kids hear you.

In the creativity room, where you’re standing now, we have fun. We are successful, no matter what we make and what it looks like. We laugh at our mistakes and turn them into surprises. We collapse on the floor laughing and say, “Wow, when can we do that again?

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If you pinned the article that says, “This is how to be the perfect creative mother who makes all the perfect crafts that your children will also do perfectly and no one will make a mess,” I’ve already read it. Spoiler: It doesn’t work.

A creative home for the holidays means things get messy. It means there are 10 markers with mismatched tops. It means we hang our pictures on the wall with washi tape. It means your kids let glue dry on their fingers just so they can peel it off. I swear there was a scissor on the table five minutes ago, but no one can find it anymore.

Spend some time in this place. See how it feels. Then send me a picture of what you made over the holidays that you’re REALLY proud of. I’d love to see it. Whatever it is.

Love, Naava

PS. If you know someone who could use a creativity pep talk right now, please forward this to them and encourage them to sign up for more :-) (thank you!)

The Keep It Forever Box

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My dad's mother, my Savta, lived in Israel. I didn't see her nearly as often as she wished, but we were in regular contact. We didn't have skype then, or email. We wrote letters to each other. I still remember what her shaky handwriting looked like and the feel of the thin blue airmail paper she always wrote on.

My Savta was a seamstress so she made us lots of clothing. When we were younger, she made us sweaters, skirts and dresses. As we got older, she made us costumes with long trails of fabric hanging from the waistline. We kept all of her clothing in a box. My mother held on to the box and passed it to me when I had children. For Thanksgiving this year, my 5-year old wore an orange sweater that my Savta knit for me when I was five. There's still a little tag on it with my name in her shaky hand writing.

But every time Savta sent us one of her packages, we had to thank her. I joke that there were 3 rules in our house growing up: Empty the dishwasher, clean your room, and write your thank you cards. That's what happens when your mom is an English teacher.

Writing to Savta was hard because she could barely understand English, or at least not teenage American slang. So we had to write to her with extra thoughtfulness. We had to use words that she could look up in a dictionary ("cool" was not one of those words). When I was a kid, that was annoying. The thank-you card writing process to Savta was stressful, if we're being honest. My Dad was so worried she wouldn't understand us that he over-edited what we wrote. We had too much homework to do and TV we'd rather watch. Stamped and sealed we'd drop our letters in the mailbox and feel relieved we were done. They'd sail off across an ocean and we'd never think of them again.

Years later I visited Savta in her small apartment in Tel-Aviv. One day she pulled out a box. In the box was every thank you card I had ever written her. She saved them all. She re-read them when she missed us. They were her treasures.

When you make or write something for someone, it comes from your heart. Yours to theirs. Theirs to yours.

Below are some watercolor cards I illustrated to help you share your heart with someone special. Start by saying thank you. Who's most likely to save it in a box forever?

These are the cards I would have loved as a kid…

Girl Converse Thank You Cards (6-card set)
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Making Thank You Fun Again

 Thank You cards designed for kids, by Naava

Thank You cards designed for kids, by Naava

I was in a cafe and I overheard a mom ask her toddler-aged son what Thanksgiving was all about.

Without missing a beat he said, "Winning."

"No," she sighed, like they'd been through this before.

"Losing," he said.

"NO," she said.

"Being-thankful-for-friends-and-family," he recited quickly.

"Yes," she said, relieved. (I was trying not to laugh.)

We've all been there. Standing next to our child as they open a gift and then whispering to them, "What do we say?" and hoping they'll offer a polite, "Thank you".  Pleading with them after a birthday party, "Say thank you for inviting us, say thank you, SAY THANK YOU."

But do we want them to just say they're thankful, or do we want them to mean it?

Ultimately what we really want our kids to know, is that saying thank you is more than good manners. It's a way of making someone else feel really good.

I designed a collection of THANK YOU cards for kids that reflect a child's style of communication. Each design features a shoe as a way of representing a kid's portrait. Each has a version of THANK YOU written on the front as though the child is saying it. The inside of the card is up to your kid.

As the artist, I give your kid full permission to use the inside of these cards to make someone feel special. They can write a kind note, draw a picture, sign their name, or cover it in their favorite stickers. What's important is that they use their own creativity to share how thankful they are.

And that my friends, is winning.

Below are the cards that I have left in stock and they're about to sell out. Each design comes in a set of 6 with envelopes. In honor of Small Business Saturday use code SmallSaturday at checkout for free shipping when you order 3 or more packs. 

So before all the presents are opened this season, get your kid a box of their very own stationery to show thanks for all they receive:

Why Your Child Thinks They Aren't Good At Art (And how to change their mind)

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At the beginning of every school year, when I faced my elementary-aged students, one child would always raise their hand and say, "Just so you know, Ms. Katz, I'm not good at art."

Of course my goal was to convince them otherwise. But then I started wondering WHY they believed that.

Kids are often expected to make art that looks exactly like everyone else’s. This happens when lesson plans are product-focused, which means the emphasis is on the final image. It can begin with a teacher holding up a thing they saw on Pinterest and announcing, “This is what we’re going to make today.” The child’s success is then determined by whether they could make that thing. This is where the frustration begins.

Not every child creates in the same way. Some kids love to paint, others love to construct. Some kids have rich imaginations, others are keenly observant. If we don't support our children's creative differences, they will believe that when their art looks different, then they aren't good at art.

"Process art" however, is when art education is based on experimentation and exploration. It’s a way to celebrate all creative results. Instead of saying, “Today we are making this snowman” a teacher can say, “Today we are going to make art about winter” and then discuss with the kids what that brings up for them. Instead of saying, "This is what we are going to make," it helps to say, "Let's see what happens when we try this." It’s a tone that is both inviting and suspenseful.

A child being led through product-focused art will likely say, "I'm done" when they’ve made the expected result. But a child engaged in process-driven art will often ask, "Can I make another one?" because there’s always something new to discover on the page.

 There are so many different ways to make art.

There are so many different ways to make art.

Assessment during process-driven art education is based on the child's engagement with the theme, creative use of materials, collaborations with peers, and participation in class discussions.

Setting parameters that help a child reach certain learning goals is ideal (such as how to mix color or vary lines) but ultimately the child is the artist. Unexpected outcomes are a sign that real exploration occurred.

As a professional artist, I'm happy to admit that for every drawing I share with the world, there are pages of sketches that I don't. Everyday I challenge myself as an artist. I experiment and make decisions and erase and redraw and observe and push through. The end product that the world sees is a result of my process. My commitment to the process is what makes me an artist. 

How I turn a sketch into a finished watercolor

When I'm working on a new illustration, the first thing I do is draw a rough sketch of the figures and the layout. For this drawing I used a photograph of mine as a reference. It helps me get the right perspective. My favorite pencil is a 6B because it flows so smoothly on the paper. My favorite paper is Strathmore Hot Press watercolor paper. I like that it has a smooth finish, which makes it easier to scan into Photoshop without added texture.

The next step is adding details. I figure out character expressions, clothing patterns, and environmental details. I use my super skinny Tombow eraser to remove some sketchy lines and start establishing a cleaner look.

Then I add watercolor. For professional use I like Schmincke and Winsor & Newton. I obsessed for months about what brand I liked, and then finally realized it didn't matter. It's all about how you use color to tell your story. If you pay attention on Instagram, you'll see a lot of top artists use very inexpensive watercolor sets. But that doesn't diminish the quality of their work.

 Expensive and not-so expensive watercolor palettes.

Expensive and not-so expensive watercolor palettes.

Finally I scan my drawings into Photoshop and clean up unnecessary smudges with Levels. I scan my favorite drawings at 300dpi in case I want to create prints of them down the line.

Let me know if you have any other questions about my process and favorite materials.