April 6, 2011

My Favorite Things: Craft Catalogs

People (such as myself) like to complain about junk mail. And with good reason.

It is so disappointing to come home, open my mailbox, and spend the elevator ride to my apartment shifting through cable offers that don't apply to me, high school alumni solicitations (hello, that's what Facebook is for!), magazine renewals, and let's not forget the miracle formula that will improve my eyesight. I have no idea how I got on that list.

Oh, but the excitement, the pleasure a new catalog brings! Instantly I forget the Iowa City Regional Bank credit card offer with 0% interest for the first month only, and am instead transported to the life I wish I had. Imagine it...endless hours and resources to pursue every idea, every craft I'm intrigued by, until it either consumes me or some other idea takes its place. Also, each idea would be wildly successful and make a million dollars.

As a jewelry designer, most of the catalogs I get have to do with specific tools and trade. My favorites, like the annual Rio Grande catalog, I savor. I still have copies from 2007, 2008, and 2009, marked with post-its and dog-eared page corners. Unfortunately, I took the 2010 on vacation to FL and left it at the house where I was staying. I do expect to get it back.

The Fire Mountain Gem catalog is a heady alternative to TV for a perfect post-a-long-day-at-work zone out. I especially love the pictures of real people who work for the company, posing with their creations. If you spend enough to get the 1,000+ page catalog, expect to lose a day or two thumbing through it.

Then there's the Blick Art Materials and Studio catalogs. Every year they come up with themes and request submissions from artists and students. I still have the one from 2009; it reminds me of my dorky college days. Not only are the covers artistic, but the catalog itself evokes wandering through a well-curated but packed attic. There are items you'd never expect to find, laid out in an old-school, small-type, this-is-the-only-catalog-you'll-ever-need kinda way. Eventually someone will find a SKU for the Lost City of Atlantis in a Blick catalog. It could happen.

The truth is that I order a lot of my supplies online, with occasional forays into local stores. However, I still love getting paper catalogs. For starters, nothing beats the ol' Post-It system (I borrow mine from the office, but yay for the Staples catalog!) for bookmarking things you need, want, dream about, will never get but like to pretend you will. Also, stuff disappears from the web all the time and the catalog is a permanent record -- not just for future shopping lists -- but also of what I was into at any given moment. It's fun to flip through old catalogs and review what I dog-eared in 2005. Some things I've forgotten -- like my thankfully brief but unfortunate conviction that pipe-cleaner hair clips were the next big thing, don't ask -- and sometimes I'm surprised at how consistent my interests have been over the years.

And finally, whatever you're into, there's a catalog for it. How awesome is that?

Do you have any favorite catalogs? Come on, spill...

Sue De
made for you


PurtyBird said...

The Blick catalog is my bible!

Simone said...

I loved that article. What a great topic.

Jennifer Quinn said...

The FMG catalog is a total time warp; love it. I've had to stop keeping the full catalogs though. I tear out the pages that have things I want to get and organize them by catalog into poly folders.

persuede said...


i used to do that, and then ended up with piles of torn out pages in random folders that were the legacy of many unsuccessful attempts at organization. i've given up, and just eat the floor space. though i remain convinced that i can make a floor lamp out of a stack of magazines, i just have to figure out how to insulate the paper.