This week we’re headed to Los Angeles, CA to meet maker and embroiderer extraordinaire, Robert Mahar. Though Robert says he’s a Michigander at heart, he has proudly called the west coast home for the last 25 years and currently operates out of his downtown L.A. studio. You may recognize Robert from his guest blog appearance sharing embroidery tips; or if you’re like us, you were cheering Robert on in the new crafting competition series from NBC called Making It. We’re so happy to have our friend here to share more about his creative background and future plans in today’s maker spotlight—we promise you’ll be ready to try your own hand at embroidery!
My day starts with…
“Coffee and emails! Doesn’t everyone’s day start this way?! ”
I fell in love with making goods when…
“As a kid, I worked my way through the ‘Make and Do’ volume of the Childcraft Encyclopedia and found great joy in following tutorial instructions to create projects with (varying degrees of) success.”
How do you feel in your creative space?
“For years I worked out of a home office (aka my bedroom!), but four years ago I took on a studio space with my artist friend Molly Meng and it’s been such a luxury to have a little bit of home/work separation. When I’m in my studio I feel grateful for the space to spread out and work, surrounded by all of my materials and tools.”
What influences or inspires your work and why?
“So much of my work is influenced by vintage crafts and folk traditions. There is nothing I love more than falling in love with a project buried deep in a dusty library book and figuring out a way to make it uniquely my own.”
What’s in your toolbox as a maker?
“One of the laws of the universe is that you ‘expand into the available space’— so what was once contained neatly in a toolbox now fills my studio! Working with so many different materials I have a ridiculously wide variety of tools, but when I’m prepping embroidery samplers that I’ve created from Spoonflower fabric I’ve found there’s nothing more valuable than a self-healing cutting mat and a brilliantly sharp rotary cutter!”
What is your proudest accomplishment over the last year?
“This year I’ve had the great privilege of being one of just eight makers to participate in NBC’s new competition series ‘Making It‘. I’m immensely proud of the work I was able to create for the show! I’m also very proud of the example this small group of makers was able to extend—showing what a kind and collegial competition can look like.”
How did you prepare for the show?
“I’ve been creating short format DIY and crafting videos for many years, amassing a catalog of more than 100+ projects that I’ve designed and presented on camera. Exploring everything from soap making to woodworking has allowed me to become familiar with so many different materials and tools—and inadvertently prepped me to undertake all manner of making challenges on the show!”
Subscribe to Robert’s YouTube channel, Crafted with Robert Mahar, and never miss a video!
We loved the shadow puppets you created on the show. How did you get into that art form?
“I love vintage children’s craft books and have a number of them in my studio. Nearly every one includes a shadow puppet project. I think they’re a classic DIY and love exploring ways to put my own twist on the genre.”
What is in your craft travel kit?
“I absolutely packed a craft travel kit for the show including (but not limited to): fabric sheers, paper scissors, tacky glue, embroidery needle and floss, a bone folder, craft knife with extra blades, and a variety of pens, pencils and tape!”
What advice would you give to your younger self?
“If I could have a conversation with my younger self, we’d discuss the wisdom of keeping my day job and thoughtfully easing my way into being self-employed full time. There’s a lot to be said for enthusiastically jumping into a new venture with both feet, but with hindsight, I know the road could have been smoother with a little more financial planning. ”
How does Spoonflower meet your business needs?
“Spoonflower allows me the luxury of offering a wider range of product than I might otherwise be able to if I had to print fabric in large quantities. I can fully stock my shop without breaking the bank.”
My favorite Spoonflower textile to work with is…
“Linen-Cotton Canvas Ultra because it takes printed detail beautifully and is a joy to embroider. There’s nothing quite like the lovely popping noise made by a needle when passing through this fabric!”
What piece of your wardrobe best represents your style?
“When the weather begins to cool, there is nothing I love more than a cozy shawl collar cardigan—if it has elbow patches, even better!”
What has been an important resource to you as a small business owner and why?
“Right now I am post-production on a wonderful series of DIY wedding projects that I’ve created with my talented friend Julianna Strickland that we hope to release during the coming months. Julianna’s smarts and style make her a wonderful collaborator and I’m so excited to be able to share our fresh take on projects for your big day.”
We loved all the craft puns sprinkled throughout the show. What was your favorite?
“I macraméd you and I can macra-break you!”
Want more puns? Get them here: Making It – Amy vs. Nick: Craft Pun-Off
Earlier this year we had the honor of sharing Robert’s 5 Ways to Personalize a Map with Embroidery on the blog. If you’re ready to learn embroidery skills and techniques from the master himself, hop on over to that inspiring post.
Visit Robert’s online shop to pick up all of his great embroidery sampler packs!
Robert Mahar is an artist and designer who develops and teaches imaginative crafts and clever do-it-yourself projects through high-quality video tutorials and in-person workshops. He is also a contestant on the new NBC creative competition show Making It. The crafty content he develops and presents to his YouTube viewers, online audience and workshop attendees is often rooted in nostalgia. His talent for reinventing old-school crafts with a decidedly modern twist is evident in the gift line he continues to develop with Knock Knock and has gained him a loyal following.
With an education in studio arts and art history, he has worked in a variety of creative fields including 13 years as an appraiser of modern and contemporary art. When he’s not working in his downtown Los Angeles studio, Robert obsesses over vintage craft books and schemes ways to make it big as a doughnut connoisseur.