There’s Card Making Magic in the air!
It’s all about the flowers, ribbons and pearls, as CraftStash catches up with YouTube sensation and Queen of Craft, Christina Griffiths – who has exciting news to share! Read on to find the full, in-depth interview!
Take a peek at her new collection – EXCLUSIVE to CraftStash!
For more Card Making Magic inspiration, check out Christina’s other videos!
Christina Griffiths was practically bursting with delight when I popped over to her northern seaside home for a chat and a brew, ahead of the launch of her signature brand, Card Making Magic. The launch marks a turning point in Christina’s life, finally bringing to reality her ambition to create a brand that encompass her trademark style.
Christina’s home is a true reflection of her artistic nature. Her own lovingly painted – and exceptional – oil seascapes adorn the walls, nestled alongside an eclectic mix of layered acrylic prints and bold animal sculptures. Yet there wasn’t a piece of cardstock, ink-pad or die-cutting machine in sight. That’s because husband Griff, a builder, purpose built a craft room tucked away in their loft, after Christina’s growing hobby firstly outstripped their dining room table – and later – their spare bedroom.
L: Not even thinking about your cardmaking, I can tell already that you’re a naturally artistic person. The pictures you have painted that are around your house tell me that!
C: I’ve always done something, even if it’s just decorating the house. I remember I used to collect stencils from a magazine and I had a huge wisteria stencil and I decorated the stairs and hall and it took me weeks to do it in shading and everything and I thought it was absolutely brilliant. But my girls thought it was disgusting, they thought it was horrendous. So it took me hours to paint it out again. They wouldn’t bring their friends in because it was that embarrassing! But I’ve gone to night school for watercolouring, oil painting – a long time ago. Watercolouring I tend to pick up from tutorials I can watch and my favourite one is Sandy Allnock, she’s an American on YouTube and the stuff she does with Copics is unbelievable. I’ve gone to night school to learn French polishing and renovated furniture.
L: Is it a family thing, have you inherited creative genes? A crafty family?
C: No, there are no crafters in my family, nobody that I can sit and talk craft and cardmaking to. When I do try, their eyes roll skywards! They aren’t interested. But they do support me in what I’m doing and are happy that I’m making progress and moving forward but they’re just not crafty inclined.
L: What about your children?
C: I have two daughters and they aren’t interested at all.
L: Is it like an alien concept to them?
C: Yeah, everything I do is like, “Oh god, my mum’s off again!”
L: Do they realise how many followers you have on YouTube?
C: No, I don’t think so.
L: So it’s a bit like they have a celebrity mum but don’t realise it!
C: When I went on Create and Craft they would tell their friends. Especially Vicky, she used to put the TV on and tell her patients, “Oh look, this is my mum!” But they aren’t into crafting themselves. Yet they like the stuff that I do. They take my cards for her friends, or ask me to make a card for a special occasion. Weddings, new babies, and her friends are delighted with what they get. When my grandson came to stay for a little while, his daughter – my great-granddaughter – she’s 5 and she loves going up into my craft room. She’ll colour, she’ll cut things out, she’ll make a little card for her friends at school.
L: So there is hope the Christina gene will continue – it’s just skipped a few generations!
L: When did you start doing cardmaking?
C: It was way before I started my YouTube channel. I had an auntie that was into parchment, pricking all the little bits out. And the things she made were beautiful but it was too fiddly and long-winded for me. So I started buying card crafting magazines. I used to get one that had all the bits in it – glitter, glue, gems – a complete kit. Ribbon, a full thing. And inside the mag were pictures showing how to use the free kit. That’s how it all started – with that magazine, sat at my dining room table. And that spread rapidly, all over the table! So whenever anyone wanted to come and have a meal, I had to pack it all away, and as soon as they were gone, I unpacked it all again! So I had a die-cutting machine, printers, a PC on the end. All these card bits. It was absolutely full.
L: What are your favourite magazines that you used to get?
I’ve always had Simply Cards & Papercraft, and I like Creative Stamping because of the big stamp plates that you get, it helps build up your collection.
L: How did that move on from there?
C: I moved into the little bedroom, because Griff fitted it out as a craft room for me, and then I expanded! I bought more craft mags, I bought more stuff.
L: During all this, what was Griff’s reaction to your expanding hobby?
C: We were both working at that time, so we were both out to work a lot. He was very supportive. He’s not crafty, but he’s supportive of what I do. He kitted my craft room out and at least we had a clean and tidy living room again! From there, one of my daughters said, “He’s a builder, you want to get him to convert the loft into a craft room!” So of course there was the lightbulb moment and he said, “Yeah, okay!” He then had the little bedroom for his photography and I then moved into the loft.
L: So is that Griff’s hobby?
C: Yeah, he likes photography and making videos for family and friends. He goes with a camera on his helmet on his bike filming Blackpool. So we have a room each. My room is perfect, it’s beautiful, I love it!
L: So you’re both very creative, just in different ways.
C: He’s a builder. Give him bricks and mortar and he’ll design and build you a beautiful house, a fantastic kitchen. But he can’t make a card. I can’t build a house, so… we’re equal on that score!
L: When you started with your magazine kit, what was your style back then? Dies haven’t been around for that long, and the sort of stamps we have now were not around back then. So did you start with things like toppers?
C: Yes, toppers and if anyone showed me a card I made 9 years ago, I’d deny it was mine! I don’t have any now, they’re awful! Vicky used to take them to work, and she’d sell them for 50p or a £1.
L: Are you making an unfair comparison to the cards you can make today? As today, the resources you have far outstrip what was available back then. At the time, would your cards have been classed as really good?
C: Well, people used to like them. I didn’t! Some I did but they weren’t brilliant. But I was learning, I was learning how to do things. I didn’t have a website at that time and I was still going out to work every day so I was doing this at weekends.
L: How long ago did you set up your website?
C: In 2009, because I wanted a hobby. I was coming up to retirement from work and I was already making cards, and I was already selling them, so I said to Griff, “I’m going to build a website.” And he said “Good on you. If you can do it, then do it.” So I researched it for 12 months, from 2008-2009, how to build a website, and I found a company that would help me do it. You can build them for free, but I wanted the traffic, and that to grow, so I found a Canadian company to support me with that. So over the last few years, that’s just grown and grown.
L: A few months ago, when I was learning, I Googled ‘matting and layering’ and your website was on the first page, so it must be working!
C: There were terms people were using in blogs and magazines, on YouTube – this is before I discovered Create and Craft – and I was asking these questions. What is matting and layering? So I decided I needed to put together a website that if people are asking these questions, the answer’s there right in front of them. Then Griff said, why don’t you start doing videos? So he started filming my videos back in 2009 and we started putting them on YouTube. And they were getting views, getting followers and fantastic comments. So it just progressed from there.
L: Did you feel at that time on YouTube, you didn’t have that kind of content available? And you’d tapped into something not yet available?
C: There was the odd video there but there wasn’t the amount of content there is now. A lot of them now are young women, and 10 years ago, those women would have been teenagers or younger than that. So not particularly interested in cardmaking. But they’ve now grown up, they make videos and get their content out there and get an amazing following, especially the American girls. Somebody said to me, why don’t you start blogging? That will promote your website, it will get you in front of people and get your name known. So it 2012, I came up with the idea of doing a blog. I tried lots of names, but they were already taken, and I went to bed and in the middle of the night I had a lightbulb moment. What do I like to put on my cards? Well, I like flowers, I like ribbons and I like pearls, and that’s it! Flowers, Ribbons and Pearls is the name of my blog. And that was available, and that was my blog born! I’ve blogged more or less every day since then. Even when I’ve gone on holiday, I’ve blogged where we’re at! I try to make a card every day. I try to use CraftStash products, or Tonic, or Spellbinders.
L: Tell me a little about your weekly tutorials.
C: Every Tuesday I pick a die – Spellbinders – and I make a complete card from start to finish and I photograph each of the stages. So I tell which dies I use to make the base card and layers, where the flowers and sentiments are from and I put all the links in it. So rather than someone ask where I got something from, I put all the links in such as Wild Orchid Crafts, where I get all my flowers from. I put all the links in it. It’s a complete package of information. I listen to the feedback – and adapt. They know exactly what’s what. I’m showing them how I’ve done it and if they want to copy it, they can do.
C: Every Wednesday is my card for the covermounts for Practical Publishing, making videos and uploading them.
C: Every Sunday is my Ruby update, Ruby is my little puppy dog. People are thrilled to bits with the stories, like Ruby’s diary – and people comment back to her! As if they are her dogs, such as Barney, who is Jenny’s dog – dogs all over the world, their fur babies. It’s really nice and quite funny!
L: How would you describe your style?
C: Flowers, ribbons and pearls! And pink – I love pink, that’s my favourite colour. A lady once said, “There’s too much on your cards, they’re too fussy.” And she was inundated with people saying no they’re not, we love your style, don’t stop doing them the way you do. I would say, if I can put flowers on it, if I can put ribbons on it, if I can put pearls on it – I’m happy. I love flourishes – pearl flourishes on a card are the bee’s knees for me. My followers call these ‘Christina cards’! People recognise my style – there’s a lot on it! If you stand still long enough in my craft room, you get glittered!
L: Going back to your first videos, what were they like? Are they much different to the videos you make today? Was it quite pressured to have to perform and create for the cameras?
C: Things have changed in the last few months. Griff used to do all my videoing and he used to stand on a ladder and film it, as we had no lights or camera set up then.
L: That’s a tough job!
C: We did more arguing than anything! He used to stand on a ladder and film me with my hands, and every time I’d put my head in the way he’d pull my hair, because he couldn’t speak when the cameras were rolling, so he’d pull my hair to get my head back and I’d say CUT! So he’d stop the video, and maybe I’d done something wrong on it so I’d have to redo it. But then Christine Smith does her videos and she doesn’t speak, and I like the style of her videos, so I said to her, would you mind if I started speeding up my videos and making them with music and no speaking and she said no, go for it! So as Griff was working and was busy, instead of waiting for him to have a day off or to come home, I started doing the videos myself. So he rigged up a device so I can screw the camera in, put up the lights and I just get on with it. I can usually make one video – from start to finish – in a day. It was much easier to do them solo. Since I started that, I’ve now done 75 solo videos. And a lot of them have been for CraftStash, some for Spellbinders or Tonic, but it’s far easier now as now I can just go up.
My craft room’s only tidy today because you were coming, I’ve had a good clean out in there! So normally I can just switch the lights on, plug the camera in and then I’m away. And that’s the best way to do it. My style has changed drastically, if you see on my YouTube channel.
L: Do you think you’ll ever get to the point where you won’t speak at all on your video? I’d like to say – please never do that! Your voice is part of your style, your character.
C: No, I did one video where I did that, I played music right through and I got so many comments saying, “Where’ve you gone? We don’t like this! Please come back, please speak!” So I thought I’d better speak – my following on YouTube has just rolled over to about 48,099 people and if they want me to speak – because I hate the way I sound! – then I shall speak.
L: I would say the appeal of your videos is your voice. I don’t know if you’re conscious of that when you speak, but it’s very welcoming and talking directly to the viewer. There’s no detachment. The tone – and you can tell you enjoy it. You’re informative. You explain things – it’s not gibbering.
C: I try to keep the videos this way – I don’t want to be patronising or talk down to people. I like to say, if you are new to cardmaking, you might enjoy this process, if you are a seasoned cardmaker, then skip it. I try and do the videos from the point of video that they’re new and they don’t know what heat embossing is or what something else is.
L: I don’t think you alienate the experts or intermediates, it doesn’t have that effect, with the way that you speak. It’s just very matter of fact and you throw in hints tips or alternatives and it covers all bases. It’s not pitched at a specific level. And you do your colouring, too, which is my absolute favourite!
C: I get many comments saying I’ve been making cards for years and I didn’t know how to do this or that. But watercolouring, or colouring in general – which is why I did all those gnomes to try different ways – it’s just the way you squiggle a pen – and sometimes people don’t know how to do it.
L: I have an artistic background so it isn’t difficult for me to see something you’ve done and figure out how you would have approached it. But someone who isn’t that way inclined needs that guidance – that’s why I like to see your tutorials, particularly if someone has gone and bought some Spectrum Noirs or a Gansai Tambi palette and don’t know how to use them to their fullest. It’s not just a case of doing a solid colour – there are so many things you can do with them.
C: There are so many techniques.
L: It’s just having someone to show you what to do.
C: And it’s having the confidence to do it. I keep saying – if it’s not right, it doesn’t matter. If it’s not perfect, it doesn’t matter. It’s merely a bit of card or a bit of colouring or a piece of paper. You can re-stamp the image, you can start again. It doesn’t matter – what matters to people who receive your cards, is the fact that you’ve taken the time to make that design and produce that card, you’ve taken the time to colour it. That you’ve gone ahead and added these flowers in it and done it with love. You’ve done it because you want to give them something special that you’ve made. And I don’t think there’s anything nicer than getting a handmade card made especially for you.
L: Coming back to present day. How does it feel to have that many followers? Was there a point where it tipped over, or was it a slow build on YouTube? Was there anything you did that tipped it?
C: When you first start on YouTube you can’t make videos over 15 minutes, so I capped mine around 11-12 minutes and Griff did all my editing. When you move up a stage on YouTube dependent on your followers, you can join a creator academy programme. I was willing to do anything to help me learn more. They had a training session up in Edinburgh, so I went up there. A lot of them were gamers – so they were very different from me. But one of the things I learned, from a consultant called Jenny, was to create an introductory video – face on, telling people who you are and where you work and what you do. And once I did that introductory video, which was up to about 38,000 views at that point, my following went up rapidly. And my views too. And when I first went on Create and Craft, I had nowhere near the following I have now – over 9 million views, and 48,000 followers. And I think my introductory video has helped a lot to get me known.
L: Do you think it’s because people want to know what you look like? As you’re quite anonymous, it’s all about your hands and voice!
C: Yeah, I once went to a craft show in Harrogate, and I was talking to someone on a stall and there was a lady stood at the side of me. She said. “Let me see your hands. And she said ‘It’s Christina. I knew the voice and I recognise those rings!” So it’s quite flattering to be recognised – but to have so many people subscribe to your channel, watch the videos and leave comments on the blog – it’s quite humbling really.
L: Does it take a bit of time to keep in touch with your audience – to respond to them, engage in conversation?
C: I do read through every comment. If someone asks me a question, I’ll do my best to answer it, and if I can’t answer it, I’ll tell them that I’ll find out and get back to them. Any personal comments, then I will ask them to email me privately so we can have a discussion. I met a friend that way – we ended up chatting on emailing, Skype-ing and even went over to Canada to visit her! We had a fantastic time!
L: Do you enjoy having a connection with people?
C: Oh yes. I suppose a lot of people think because you put videos there and respond to questions, they feel they know you. Someone once told their doctor about me, and the doctor said, “I think Christina should be on the National Health Service, as an antidote to depression!” So that was quite flattering. I get a lot of nice comments and feedback and conversation on my blog. It’s nice to get their personal stories, and the responses that Ruby gets for her little post. It’s all part and parcel of doing the blog and I thoroughly enjoy it.
L: Do people’s comments influence what you create? Maybe someone says they like this, or aren’t so keen on that… does it feed into what you’re making?
C: Yes it must do, if someone’s asking you about pens or watercolours and asks how to use them – it’s nice to say, just wait for the next video, it’ll be in there. That’s nice to do. It’s like the foiling. People were saying they didn’t have a Mink machine, or needed a laminator. So I’d say, I will do a video in the next week or two, I’ll do a video without using these items – a workaround.
L: Who are your influencers? You mentioned about Christine Smith. Who do you watch who has inspired you to do different techniques or try different things?
C: Being on the Spellbinders design team, I love Becca Feeken’s work. The dies that she creates are absolutely brilliant. They’re intricate and big – I’m not a fan of little dies. I like the big, filling-a-page types. So I love her work. With colouring, I love Sandy Allnock, and another is Kelly Latevola, she does amazing things with pens. There are quite a few I like. But for designers in the UK, my top has got to be Christine Smith. We’ve chatted for a long, long time now on Messenger, and we are finally meeting at Alexandra Palace this weekend. The ideas she comes up with – how did her brain work for that? Her cards are fabulous. And the plaque on my craft room door – Christine made that for me. She’s good.
L: Do you feel you feed off each other sometimes, share ideas?
C: No, we don’t use each other’s ideas, we sometimes have the same idea that we’ve put in a different way. So we may use the same items and may use a splattering background, and we’ll do similar techniques and use the same products – as we are both on the CraftStash design team – but create completely different cards. She’s fabulously and I love what she does.
L: So, your new collection…
C: I’m so excited!
L: How did that happen? How did you get to the point that you are a YouTube cardmaker, an artistic person, to having your own collection? There are lots of creatives out there doing YouTube but will never get to the point of having their own product, concepts, collections.
C: First of all, do you want to pinch me to make sure I’m not dreaming all this? Because this for me is just absolutely amazing, I’m so happy about this new collection.
I like to make cards that are 5 x 7, it’s the perfect size for me to get lots of flowers, ribbons and pearls on that. And I like to make cards that have a fold at the top – which I’m also known for – because then the cards are so full of stuff that if they open sidewards, they’d topple over. But at the top like a tent they stand so much better. And because I put so many layers and so much detail on them, they wouldn’t fit in an envelope. So people were asking, how do you send your cards? We love your Christina cards and your style, how do you send them? So I said I make boxes. I make a box that’s deep enough to add all the embellishments. Well, how do you make the boxes – show us how! So I did videos making 5×7, 6×6, square boxes and so on. And then I thought, what if I have a die that will save all the measuring and cut this out in one go? And then I thought I suppose I could put another layer in the box that could create a card? And how about another layer that would give another matt that would go on the card? And it just went from there. Maybe put a pattern in the front of the box and a matching one on the card. Let’s have some flowers on there, flourishes – it went on and on. Then Carol Jones came to see me, and asked if I’d like to do a collection – who in their right mind would say ‘Nah I don’t think so…!’ It’s my collection, my idea and someone likes it enough to put it into production.
L: Carol’s your number one fan!
C: Is she? She’s given me such an amazing opportunity, and I will be forever grateful to Carol, to CraftStash and to Practical Publishing for what they have done. They’re all there, in the background, the designers have been brilliant. It’s something I never thought in my wildest dreams could come true. And now that it’s happening, I can’t believe it.
L: Talk me through the packaging. Kay Whittaker designed the packaging, and the watercolour background style and colours are very much in keeping with you.
C: I loved the design, they’ve done such a good job and I love it. It’s me, isn’t it? The flowers – they’re just perfect.
L: These inserts are such a clever idea.
C: The inserts will go into the box, the front of the card, you can have matching things completely. And you can use them as standalone products, too.
L: They remind me of the Creative Stencils, and I know you love to them, and you use them quite a lot!
C: Oh yes, I love the flourish one especially. I’m really into stencils at the moment and a lot of people don’t realise that you can use a die to create stencils, they are just beautiful. And then we have co-ordinating die and stamp sets – butterflies and flowers. And the little hinge was just another lightbulb moment. Once you have your box, then you can fill it with some of the inserts, you can add in the flowers, you can stick a butterfly on it, dress it with the pearls, you can add the flourishes that come with the design of the box – there is so much you can do with it.
L: I think versatility is the word!
C: I can’t believe that this is happening, it must be somebody else that’s doing this because this is absolutely amazing. There really is a lot you can do with this collection, just get your imagination and off you go.
L: With the die concept, you have a reusable box design which will easily become a staple of your craft collection.
C: It is. Getting a die out to cut your box saves you so much work. Just 2 A4 plus another for your card and another for your matt/trellis. A complete box, a complete card, you’ve got patterns and decorations. You could even do a clean and simple card with a paint effect. With the butterflies, you could cut out an aperture with the outer part, and then dress that up however you like. There’s so much that’s available to you. And so who’s a lucky girl to have this with my name on it? The whole concept is just amazing.
L: So now that you have your own brand and a huge YouTube following, what’s next?
C: The world’s my oyster! I’ve no idea – I’ll have to get my thinking cap on and get some more designs in the works! I can’t wait to show people what to do with this collection. It’s going to be fabulous!
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