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Locally Crafted: Audra Kurtz DIY-er

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Audra Kurtz has always been creative, ever since she worked on DIY projects as a little girl with her mother. That’s why it’s not surprising that when she was in high school, something clicked. After complimenting a friend on a bracelet and finding out it was out of her budget, she made the bracelet herself at home – and just like that, her career as a professional craftsperson was born. Today, Audra is a bit of an online celebrity in the DIY world: the native Texan runs a popular blog as well as an accompanying YouTube channel that boasts 30,000 subscribers and millions of views. We got a chance to chat with Audra about where her inspiration comes from as well as tips for incorporating creativity into your daily life. After reading our interview with her, you might be inspired to check out her blog or Youtube channel and try some of her projects for yourself, including her Infinity Scarf, Watercolor Coffee Mug, or DIY Puff Quilt.

Windstream: Hi, Audra! Let’s start with a brief introduction. Can you tell us a little about you and your blog?

Audra Kurtz:  I started blogging back in 2010 and it was just kind of a way to have a creative outlet. I’ve always been a creative person ever since I was a kid. I was always into art and things like that. I really enjoyed making things. I like sharing that with others because I enjoy inspiring people to be creative, because a lot of people don’t feel like that they have the ability to create the things they see on Pinterest. It’s not as hard as people expect it to be. So I like sharing tutorials with them so that they can see that. I try to stick to the DIY world of recipes and crafts.

I saw how everybody was so inspired by my blog, so I just kept going with it and kept learning about the blogging community because it’s so vast. I never knew how big it was until I dove into it. I remember doing a happy dance when I hit a hundred followers and how awesome that felt. And now I’m in the thousands.

About a year ago, I started my YouTube channel, which has really taken off, and that’s connected to my blog. So everything I do on my YouTube channel, I share on my blog. I’m really enjoying that, so it’s kind of taking blogging into the vlogging world.

WS:  How do you come up with ideas for DIY projects and recipes?

AK:  A lot of it just comes from things that I make for myself. Sometimes I have a need for something in my house or for a gift or something like that. And then I draw inspiration from daily life, like seeing things while I’m shopping. Pinterest is always a great inspiration. Just seeing what other people are making and then changing it and coming up with different ways to do what someone has already done to make it better.

WS: How do you filter the stuff that goes on the blog? Do you share everything that you make? Or do you only select a few special items?

AK:  I’ve definitely had some DIY fails, as most bloggers have. I don’t typically show those things. I don’t want to show things that aren’t easy to make, or if they don’t turn out the right way. I think any blogger out there is lying to you if they say that they show you everything that they make because I guarantee you, we all have some pretty awful DIY fails.

WS:  Do you have any specific funny ones?

AK:  Do you remember doing papier-mâché in grade school? I was going to do a DIY baby mobile for one of my sponsors on YouTube, a yarn company. I was going to take balloons and thread the yarn across them to create spheres and use a papier-mâché mixture to paint it. It did not work.  It was horrible. The papier-mâché turned the yarn an ugly white color. It was tacky. So I improved it and turned it into something else. And it ended up being better in the end. But yeah, I’ve had some pretty epic fails, especially in cooking. Things that you think are going to taste wonderful, taste horrible.

WS: So based on experiences like that, are there any items that you would never even dare to make yourself?

AK: I have tried my hand at making clothes. And I have been successful twice. But there’s an art to that and it’s really hard. It takes many years of practice and I give total props to professional seamstresses out there. I’ve made some basic maxi dresses. That was actually a really, really popular post on my blog. It was super easy but I think doing intricate work is intimidating to me. I would love to learn.

WS: How did you develop your DIY skills originally?

AK:  I always loved creating things growing up. My dad was really creative. He’s a really great cook and I always saw him making things and I guess it instilled a natural desire to make things. My mom makes wonderful floral centerpieces and things like that. So I guess I’ve just always been surrounded by creative people, so just naturally I just kind of drift towards that.

WS: A lot of people tend to be very creative as children but then, as they grow older, it’s natural to lose some of that creativity in favor of classes or careers. But you’ve managed to keep your creativity alive until adulthood. Do you have any tips for people who would like to preserve their creativity?

AK:  I think the best advice that I can give is to never stop creating. I keep a journal on my phone. Any time I have inspiration, I write it down. I would say, draw inspiration from things that you see in everyday life and just always be thinking, always be imagining what you could make out of something that’s ordinary and write it down. 

WS: We saw that you mentioned on your blog that you started your first jewelry business while you were still in high school. Can you tell us about that?

AK: I started it during my sophomore year in high school. And it did really well. I remember seeing a bracelet that one of my classmates was wearing. I had asked her how much it was and where she got it, because I really wanted to get one. And she told me, and it was outrageously expensive. And I said, I can make that! So I went to Hobby Lobby, made it, and people saw me wearing it. And then they all wanted me to make bracelets for them.

It took off from there. I made things for girls for homecoming and prom. I made a few thousand dollars in high school just doing that. I wasn’t super serious about it, but I did really well. And I wasn’t selling them for much, maybe five dollars here or ten dollars there. And then that ultimately led me to entering the TCU Youth Entrepreneur of the Year contest.

I didn’t win, but it was a cool eye-opener for me to see all the other kids out there that were entrepreneurs.

WS: So you’re a native Texan. Lots of people think of Texas barbeque, rodeo, and cowboy boots. What’s your take on Texas?

AK: I love Texas. I’ve thought about living in other places. I’m a wanderer. I love new places, things that are foreign. But Texas will always be my home. The people are so welcoming and it’s a great place to live and grow up. I didn’t grow up in a tiny town, even though my husband likes to say that I did. I grew up in Bryan, Texas, about a hundred thousand people. And the sister city is called College Station, which is the home of Texas A&M University. My parents and grandparents grew up there. It’s a really wonderful town that is rich in tradition and has lots of great people. I love the camaraderie of the people at the university and the traditions that A&M is known for.

I grew up going to the rodeos. My sister did 4H and I lived out in the country for a small amount of time, probably until I was in the fifth grade, and loved it, and I would do it all over again. I wish I could move to the country now and live on some land.  

WS: So I think on your blog I saw that you’re now based in McKinney, Texas. What would you say that you love the most about McKinney specifically?

AK:  McKinney is awesome. It’s just north of Dallas. I don’t know if you’ve read Money Magazine, but last year, McKinney was voted the second-best place to live in America. And this year, they were voted number one. And it’s so true. It’s not a huge town. It’s about 130,000-140,000 people. But again, it’s another town that’s just so rich in tradition and the people are amazing.

WS: What should be on every visitor’s to-do list with 24 hours in McKinney?

AK:  Definitely visit the downtown historic district in the square. If you love burgers, I would go to Square Burger. They have awesome hamburgers  and sweet potato fries. And I would visit the Antique Mall. It’s huge, and they have all these different booths for people to sell either handmade stuff or treasures that they’ve found. There’s also the Pie Emporium. They make the most amazing pies that you will ever have, and they’re seasonal so they change it up every year. 

WS: So if a first-time visitor comes to your blog and they’re trying to decide which DIY project they’d like to try out, what would be your number-one recommendation?

AK:  By far, my most popular project is my arm knit infinity scarf. It went viral on YouTube and I think I have about 3.2 million views on that project alone. It’s fun, fast, and easy, and it makes a wonderful DIY gift.

WS: Thanks so much for speaking with us, Audra. One last question – what’s next for you?

AK:  Well, I think what I’m most focused on right now is building my YouTube channel and community. YouTube is probably one of the fastest growing social media channels out there. And you would not believe how many people like go to that as their way to learn. Kids nowadays are extremely visual learners. They want it fast and they want it now. My goal for the blog is to hit a million subscribers and make my mark and be well known for my DIY channel.