We’ve been huge fans of Mer Mag crafts and illustrations for a long time. Her work is always so inspiring! Her craft projects are colorful, creative and easy-to-make. You always find the most playful DIY for kids at her blog and the best printables at her Etsy shop.
We reached out to Merrilee to talk about her crafts, book, and new projects. Enjoy!
How long have you been crafting?
I’ve been crafting and drawing since I was a kid. I went to school for illustration and worked as an illustrator in NYC for years. Then when I had my first son the craft bug came back and we began crafting together and that was when my blog was born.
We really love the crafts you create with your kids, they are some kind of a mix between playful and artistic. Any tips for engaging them in artful activities?
I love teaching art principles within my crafts. For example when we made cardboard faces in Kids Craft Camp I taught about how everything think can be broken down into shapes, even the face. I could see the light go on in the children’s heads and their confidence in beginning portraiture increased.
Helping kids learn art through craft is different for all ages and I love it when a craft works for many ages, such as all of my stamps (the perfect art starter for 2 yr olds up to adults!). Some guidelines for ages are toddler-preschoolers enjoy open-ended, process art activities. I feel like 4-5 is a good age to start teaching basic principles of art such as drawing and painting. 8 and up can really grasp bigger concepts. But alway follow the child’s lead while challenging them a little bit at a time.
You are an illustrator, a blogger, you perform your art camps, you have a shop on Etsy…How do you combine as many activities?
Honestly, it’s pretty crazy. I try to combine and overlap where I can so that one platform informs another. I try to incorporate my craft in my art and vice versa. I’m still trying to figure everything out – and it seems like it’s always influx with new jobs and with kids growing etc. —so there are a lot of late nights and crazy times at our home for sure.
This summer your camps have “become local” (before, they were online workshops), How was the experience? What did you learn from the contact with kids and their families?
Oh great question! I learned so much and mostly it was SO fun having the kids live and in person. I love learning from kids what their interests are, what they enjoy doing, etc. The social aspect for the kids was really fun to. It’s also fun to chat with their parents about what I’ve seen and what I would encourage them to continue cultivating in their children. For example, we found out that one boy is really great at sewing and his first time using a sewing machine was in this camp (each child sewed their camp sashes). It was clear he had a talent for it that might have gone undiscovered for a while otherwise. I’ve also seen some use my online camps for large at-home camps. The kids watch the videos, view the tutorials and then create the crafts together – which I also think is a great idea.
Your book about crafts ‘Playful: Fun Projects to Make With + For Kids’ is fantastic. How did this idea come to your mind?
I grew up devouring craft books and knew I wanted to create something for todays modern parents and the kids they love so that they could be as enchanted as I was as a child. I remember asking my father to make me wood forts and cardboard doll houses. I also remember making my own tin can stilts and paper plate masks. So I tried to do a bit of both in Playful. Some projects the parents and caregivers make for and with children and some children can do on their own. The whole idea to encourage a more creative and playful life for all.
We suppose that the book’s creation project was really exciting, what would you point out?
It was a blast! I love working with other creatives such as photographer Nicole Gerulat and stylists Meta Coleman and Brittany Watson Jepson. Working on sets and with children really made the crafts and projects come alive which was very magical for me. But honestly my favorite part of this whole process is seeing all the things that people are making from Playful. It’s truly truly lovely.
What are your future projects?
I have an another kids craft book idea I’m working on now as well as writing and illustrating more children’s books. I’m also really excited about creating craft-along dolls for children. You can make so many of the crafts I share on Mer Mag for not only yourself but for your dolls also!