When we crush, we crush hard. We've been big big fans of Mer Mag blogger Merrilee Liddiard's crafts and illustrations for a long time (lady has been blogging for 8 years now!) and ever since we heard she was - finally! - releasing a book last year, we've been waiting with breath bated for its release.
That day finally came last month and it did not disappoint. Liddiard's new kid-happy tome PLAYFUL is a joy to look at and filled to the brim (bind?) with uniquely gorgeous crafts and inspiration for things to do and make with and for your kids. Let's just say it has a permanent place on our coffee table at home.
We reached out to Merrilee to talk about her new book, how she stays inspired and her secrets to throwing the perfect party.
If you can, describe yourself in an 6 word memoir:
"Obsessed with all things kid related"
Tell us a little about the path you took to get to where you are today! Any odd jobs? How does one become a successful crafter/illustrator/maker?
"I studied illustration at BYU and then moved to NYC where I interned and then began working at an illustration agency in NYC. I later became an agent myself and gained a lot of wonderful industry know how and loved working with publishers. However I always had the intention of going out on my own at some point. I gradually began illustrating books, games, commercials and more.
When my kids came along I started crafting and making toys with and for them. This was the environment I grew up in so it just seemed like that's just what you did as a parent. I soon realized however that I was a bit obsessed with it. I began blogging about our experiences and projects on mermagblog.com and things have just evolved from there. I'm so happy to have been able to make a book, Playful: Fun Projects to Make With and For Kids based on my love for children's toys, crafts and design."
How long have you been blogging? Do you enjoy the process and community of it all?
"Oh my, I've been blogging since my eldest son was born, so about 8 years? Of course the beginning was really primitive with posts about family zoo trips, wardrobe, style, you know all over the place. I've since streamlined it quite a bit over the years. I do enjoy blogging. About every other year I say, "ok I'm done" but I just keep coming back to it. I love that it's a platform for me to share what I love and do from my own home/studio. I can share what I'm working on withougt having to live in the city (although I'd love to move back!) and work in an office. It works for me as a mom much better."
You’re kind of an instagram trailblazer with your interactive storytelling! Tell us how you came up with the idea to for #tellthetalewithmer? Do you have more adventures planned?
"Oh thank you! I loved those 'choose your own adventure' stories as a kid and thought it would be fun to do something like that on instagram. I also wanted to get my feet wet in writing, something I've always wanted to delve into alongside my illustrations. I started with my dear little #tinytravelertilda tale and I'm working on publishing it (which is why I haven't revealed the end which I'm really excited about!). It's been such a great feeling to have others excited and involved in my stories! I definitely plan on doing more #tellthetalewithmer stories in the near future so stay tuned!"
What work are you most proud of?
"That's a hard one. Aside from my kids and my marriage, it would be my book PLAYFUL. (With Tilda being a close second)."
Tell us about PLAYFUL! How long has it been in the works? What was the most challenging/rewarding part of the process?
"PLAYFUL has been in the works for over two years. Craft books take a long time and are a lot of hard work! The hardest part might have been the actual week of the shoot. We hardly got ANY sleep. I felt like I was on one of those home decor competition shows where if I didn't pull it off right here and right now, that was it. No more wiggle room which meant stay up and get it done. And I don't do well with sleep deprivation. It was also hard doing it alongside having a new baby girl."
The Midsummer Mingle you hosted looked like by the far the most gorgeous party of the year! So many talented people were involved! How did that all come together? Is that going to be a yearly tradition (and can we come)?
I'm not going to lie, it was tough to juggle everything. Luckily I had a lot of help from my husband, family and talented friends, editor Melanie Falick, photographer Nicole Gerulat, designer Brooke Reynolds, and stylists Meta Coleman and Brittany Watson Jepsen on board who helped make the process and end result better than I could have ever dreamed of."
"Oh that was the most magical event ever. One of my favorite memories! A bunch of us came together deciding that the more talented people involved, the more we can pull off. The concept and idea for the party came from Brittany from House that Lars Built. She presented it to us and we all jumped aboard! I think we'd LOVE to make it an annual event and YES please do come!!!"
What are your tips for throwing a fantastic gathering?
"For me I try to focus on just a few WOW moments or experiences. Simplify the rest. And then don't forget to be present and enjoy the party! Also, real life organic elements are often the special touch of the party. Not everything has to be perfectly matchy matchy (in fact I think it's better if it's not). Let your kids wear a ninja turtle shirt but have him sipping soda from a cute glass bottle. Know when to elevate and know when to let reality slip in. You want your kids to look back at photos and say 'hey, I remember when I was obsessed with Mario!'"
And while we’re talking tips, in your experience, what are the best types of crafts for kids? What really gets them wanting to participate?
"I like crafts that make kids think outside of the box (or about how to USE the box!). Use a few restrictions such as recycled materials and a limited palette. It helps to elevate the craft and teaches kids restraint, problem solving, creativity and good design principles. Of course setting up a creative area for them to just go at it is helpful too."
How do you divide your work and play times when your job is to make beautiful/fun things? Is it all good times or do deadlines put a damper on things?
"I'll admit that I'm a bit of a workaholic as my work is so fun!! And it weaves itself alongside with my parenting. But at the end of the day it's still work and that does get hard at times. Deadlines are great because they make me get stuff done but hard when life with kids isn't so cut and dry. Sometimes we're sick, sometimes I just want to bake sweetrolls and veg on the couch with my littles but I have to keep going. It's not perfect but I'm grateful I enjoy what I do."
And finally, what’s next for you! What are your dreams for the future?
"I'm really really interested in getting back on the illustration band wagon and begin writing as well. I'm illustrating a few books now and hopefully Tiny Traveler Tilda will be making her book debut too. I also have another craft book in mind! Ah! Yeah I'm super crazy."
And also, one more – can you tell us your current obsessions (food, crafts, destinations, style trends)?
"Current obsessions: Anything that fit's into my Playful French Industrial world. We're house hunting now and I'm super excited to get to design my own spaces again. I'm also super inspired by the Bauhaus movement/school and would love to get a bunch of creatives together to do something similar. Combining art and crafts is just about the coolest thing ever in my book."