Interview with Shimelle Laine – Crafter, Scrapbooker & Designer
Simply Cards & Papercraft catches up with the talented Shimelle Laine to discuss all things papercraft
Shimelle grew up in the middle of nowhere – outside a small town in Kansas. She knew she wanted to go somewhere very different and had a feeling she was meant to be a city mouse instead of a country mouse. It was university that brought her to Britain – she did her Masters at the University of Sussex in Brighton before becoming a secondary school teacher and settling in London long term, she’s now lived in the UK as long as she’s lived stateside!
Shimelle remembers a strict school teacher who deemed her handwriting too atrocious and made her stay inside for playtime, erasing what she’d written and copying it all out aain.
At the very same time, her very creative and crafty grandmother kept encouraging her to keep making and keep trying. By the time she finished school, she was doing calligraphy and lettered the announcements for graduation. She was already in love with photography by that age, but it was a few more years before she discovered scrapbooking even existed as an actual hobby – she made my first album as a gift, and never looked back…
What is it that you love about crafting?
I say in jest that scrapbooking is my therapy, but it does do so much for my balance. It keeps me in check with gratitude and helps me notice the days so they don’t fly by in a blur. I tried digital scrapbooking at one point, but it didn’t give me the same clarity as working with my hands and writing with a pen. Sometimes my scrapbooking students have moments when something similar clicks, and then I know it is always worth it.
What’s your favourite crafty hobby?
Scrapbooking! I dabble in sewing, knitting, and cardmaking, but scrapbooking is my perfect combination of photography, writing, and creating things from pretty paper.
How would you describe your crafty style?
Bright, colourful, and layered. I don’t believe in too many layers, just too little time.
If you had to pick between all forms of crafting, and it was only this craft you could do for the rest of your life – what would it be?
I have scrapbooked for more than twenty years now – it is what’s in my heart forever.
Is there a form of crafting you’ve not tried yet, that you still would like to try?
I’ve tried to learn to crochet about twelve times and never got it! Maybe thirteenth time lucky?
Do you have a designated craft space?
Yes, I’ve long had a separate work space within our home, but we recently moved house so I’m in the design phase at the moment. For the last ten years or so I’ve worked in what most families would probably make into a formal dining room, with a central standing desk and shelving to the sides to hold my supplies and finished albums. Our new house is quite open plan, and I’m working temporarily in the front window while we design just the right space for creating and filming!
What’s the most used item in your craft supplies?
My scissors! In the Glitter Girl collection, I got to include my own pair of scissors with glittery handles, and it was lovely to share how practical bigger scissors can be for all sorts of techniques. I don’t really use tiny scissors, and instead love a pair of scissors that I can use for everything and use them so much they just feel like an extension of my arm. Scissor zen is a great thing!
What one crafting supply couldn’t you live without?
Patterned paper gives me so much joy. In downsizing my craft space, I slimmed down my collections of pretty much everything, but not paper. Pretty patterned paper is what always catches my eye whether I’m shopping or crafting.
What brand/s are your favourite craft supplies from?
Well, I work for American Crafts, so of course the vast majority of my stash comes from their brands! I am spoilt for choice with all their styles really. But I also love supporting smaller companies, and have so much respect for those creating their own stamp brands.
What is your favourite-ever project?
Journal your Christmas is something I have done every holiday season for sixteen years now, starting the first year as a book just for myself, trying to get my feet on the ground during a challenging time of life. Somehow amongst everything else seeming like chaos, I reclaimed the magic of Christmas and it was such a turning point in my life. The following year I developed it into an online class and every year I add new content and there’s a whole community of Christmas journal keepers who join in. It’s an amazing feeling to see crafters old and new taking on the project and finding their joy in the holidays again.
When did you start working with American Crafts to product your own collections, and what brought it about?
Way back in about 2011, I worked with American Crafts as a member of their design team, making projects for them to share on their blog and in their advertising, but that was just for a year. In 2013, they asked what I thought about designing a collection, and that resulted in my first collection – just calling it Shimelle, and debuting with them right at the same time that I had a baby. Every six months or so since then, we’ve put out a new Shimelle x American Crafts collection, but no more babies! My eleventh collection is due out this summer.
Who and what inspires you?
Each collection comes from a specific memory or story in my life really. Starshine is an ode to how I spent my teenager years studying to become an astronaut. Go Now Go came from a time when my husband and I spent four months backpacking in a round-the-world trip. Little by Little is inspired by my love of British children’s literature; Head in the Clouds expanded upon that with fairytales. Glitter Girl and Sparkle City came from all the double-life superhero fun of a video series I did for many years, where a scrapbooking superhero answered questions from crafters all over the world.
Can you pick a favourite product from your own brand of supplies?
I love the 6x8 journaling pads. Quite a few of the AC brands have 6x8 paper pads now, but mine are not just patterns - they are specifically designed for writing. I love them because they are a gateway product - they are amazing for writing on your actual pages, but they are equally fun for lists, planners, homework, and letters. Grab two when you see them - one to keep for yourself and one to give to a friend who you might just tempt into the paper crafting world!
Other than your work with American Crafts, are there any other collaborations that you’ve been part of?
Before I worked with AC, I designed stamps for British company Banana Frog, and later designed stamps and flair badges for the American shop Two Peas in a Bucket. I occasionally produce my own brand of stamps for classes and special projects that are more specific to my followers than would be practical for a big company like AC.
Is there a brand or company you’d love to team up with?
I’d love to bring my products to one of the shopping channels in the UK. I’ve done a couple little demos for them over the years but never got to share my own products – only other brands, which is still fun but not quite the same as sharing what you helped to take from an idea to a finished product.
Any information you’d like to share about new collaborations or product releases that are coming up?
I’m quite excited to be travelling to teach again – it’s something I did a lot before my son but it hasn’t been very practical since. I’m heading to Canada to teach at Crop and Create, and all my classes sold out straight away, so the pressure is on! I taught here in the UK in the summer of 2018 and would love to make that a more regular thing.
We absolutely love your blog – and we find it so inspiring!
I’ve been blogging in some form or another since my late teens, and I go through phases where I post every day for months and then other phases where I only post once in a while. But I’m okay with that, because I’m the boss and I can share when I’m inspired and have time and it’s okay to let it go quiet when other things have my attention. Writing has always been important to how I process my thoughts, so blogging was a natural outlet. I wrote a lot on a private blog when I first started teaching secondary school, because I needed to way to organise all my thoughts after a disorganised day!
What would you say is the best thing about keeping a blog?
Creating something that is a long-term resource. I think my blog really found its crafting feet when I was able to share a mix of own projects alongside those of other crafters. It feels amazing to give a platform to creative people who might just want to share a little something rather than share every day, or those who do want to share all the time but would like help getting the word out. And the best part is seeing readers come back to those older projects after years and still find them inspiring.
And what about social media?
Social Media is very much part of work for me, but it is nice that it can have such a personal element. Lately while I’ve been overwhelmed with the house renovations, it’s been on social media that crafters have given me so much support and all the virtual high fives and reassurance that it will be okay and that they understand when I go quiet for a bit. I also scrapbook live on Facebook quite often (usually on a Monday afternoon and Friday morning) and it’s such a happy group now that it feels like we are just meeting up for coffee and crafting, but we’re all over the globe.
What advice would you give to a crafter who wants to start a blog, YouTube channel or selling their makes on ETSY or similar, who doesn’t quite have the confidence to do so?
Nothing happens if you don’t start. My very first online class, back when literally no one else was teaching online scrapbooking classes, had eighteen students. Most of whom I knew quite well already! But my second had thirty-seven, because all of them came back and they brought a friend - plus someone brought two! And that’s how things grew for me. I started with those eighteen and just a few years later it was my full-time, bill-paying job, but only because I kept putting things out there. I’ve put a lot of mistakes out there too and it’s all been okay in the end. Stay honest and genuine and talk to people about what you love.
What’s your favourite thing about what you do?
Seeing confidence grow in others. I never grew up thinking I would be a teacher, but as an adult I realised it is very much who I am. Sharing something and seeing it click with someone else, be that my five year old, the teenagers I used to see in the classroom every day, or someone scrapbooking with me on Facebook – it’s the same feeling and it lights me up from head to toe.
If you were not working in the craft world, what job would you be doing?
Well, I’m too short to be an astronaut (true story) so I guess it’s a good thing I discovered the teaching and the crafting really.
Aside from crafting, do you have any other hobbies and interests?
When I realised I wouldn’t ever go into space, I swapped my intended engineering and science studies to… musical theatre. Because that was the prerogative of a seventeen year old who thought she had life figured out! All these years later, I still go to dance class several hours a week and I sing all the time. I love to travel but have really indulged in a few years of maximum Disney travel while my son is young, and we both sing and dance all day while we are there!