You may have noticed a big shift on Shoestring these last four months: the posts are maybe a bit more frequent again; the mood might be a little brighter; and, of course, you may have noticed a visual shift from getting-the-job-done to drop-dead gorgeous. All of that is thanks to our new staff photographer, the relentlessly positive and boundlessly creative Chelsea Laine Francis.
From the moment Chelsea showed up at Shoestring HQ to carpool // trek out to a Girl Scout Camp in Texas Hill Country for our first photo shoot together back in March, I just knew that this powerhouse ball of light and professionalism had to join the team. From supportive encouragement to modern, inventive styling, Chelsea is bringing back the old energy Shoestring used to have when we were a traditional online magazine and a team of 40…even though we’re now only a team of three trying to navigate the world of blogging. She’s just that beautiful, inside and out — not to mention an integral connector in the creative and maker community, literally from coast to coast, but especially here in Austin. It’s impossible to believe that Chelsea only moved to Texas from Lynchburg, VA seven months ago when you see the impact she’s already had on the Austin creative community, single-handedly championing and collaborating on so many projects — including Notch Supply, a give-back T-shirt company she started with her lifelong best friend, who now also lives in here — and I’m honored to officially introduce her to you!
A week to the day after reviving our local, in-person workshop series with a DI-Wine Night for a dozen creatively badass Austin ladies, it was high time to sit down with Chelsea for a Maker Moment:
What’s the first project you remember making/crafting?
Collages. I used to collage mattes of these Walmart frames & put them back together. I would sell them to everyone I knew for $8 or $10. I’d buy them for a dollar or so. I collaged a lot of things. Binders mostly, for elementary school. Then in middle & early high school, I’d make these weird collaged photo frames. I loved it!
Most successful project? Biggest fail?
Hmm. I made a great headboard using found pallets. That was my favorite! I also made this hanging headboard. I don’t know my biggest crafting fail. Probably any time I try and make a cake.
What do you DIY the most?
Now I’m trying to DIY a lot of recipes! I’ve transitioned into using my DIY prowess in the kitchen. My husband and I try to perfect recipes and then change them. We’ve even dabbled in making up our own. It’s fun because I like taking process photos. I never use them anywhere. I totally should though.
Favorite/least favorite tools/materials?
Love: Fresh flowers, vintage book pages, staple guns, acrylic paint, yarn, matte mod podge.
Hate: Burlap. Glittery mod-podge.
Has a project outcome ever surprised you?
Nearly always! Anytime something works out I’m pretty surprised. I never have very much faith in myself when it comes to DIYs. Isn’t that awful? That’s probably why I’ve been drawn to photographing makers & bloggers. They’re all so good at it and I love capturing that way more than I’d love trying it myself usually.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Ever? Be your husbands friend first and lover first also.
Creativity-wise? Know your strengths and keep up the hustle.
What’s your top tip for first-timers?
Don’t be afraid to try things and fail big! It’s still fun if you let it be fun!
Anything you DIY now that you never thought you would?
I SUPER want to learn to sew. So badly.
What won’t you ever DIY/when do you call in the experts?
As it stands, I’d never reupholster a couch or build things out of wood that aren’t simple.
“When I’m not making stuff, I’m…”
Taking photos of people who are making things, playing with my pup Hank, eating pizza at new places with my husband, or watching sitcoms on the couch.
What do you love most about contributing to Shoestring?
I love the constant inspiration that comes from being around someone who is in their element. Melissa is MADE to do this. She’s somehow completely programmed to think through things with a budget savvy, sustainable, DIY brain. I love it. It’s so inspiring.
How has your DIY mindset / have your DIY projects changed over the years?
I used to DIY anything that was cutesy or easy. I’d do it just because I saw it on Pinterest. Now I only DIY thoughtful things that we need or things that we would super-love!
You also feature a Maker Monday interview series on your blog. 2-3 favorite posts ever?
Oh my word! How do I choose? Four of my recent favorites would be Dream Green DIY, In Blue Handmade, Poppy and Fern, and TOOLRY.
Why are you so drawn to Makers // the handmade movement?
I’ve always wanted to have a craft. I’ve contemplated learning woodworking and quilt-making I don’t know how many times. I love when people do things that they love. That’s what makes my heart sing. For me the handmade/maker movement extends to songwriters, shop owners, pizza makers, coffee people, and bloggers. Everyone is making something. Everyone is doing something cool and everyone needs support. I love that I can be that through photography. I can help legitimize a brand with great photos of their craft, their process, and their goods. That’s what has drawn me to the maker movement.
What about secondhand shopping?
I LOVE THRIFTING. I’ve thrifted since high school. I used to get cool granny skirts and wear them with band T-shirts in high school. Now I thrift everything from clothes and shoes to home decor items.
How do you incorporate sustainability into your life?
I’ve always been conscious about recycling, or at least I’ve tried to be. Austin makes it really easy to recycle, and since Tucker and I moved here we recycle more than we throw away. We feel really good about that!
Tips for budgeting & saving money?
When you get married young and you’re both working part time jobs to sustain you, you get good at budgeting. Tucker is super budget-minded. He is great with money. He knows how to save to get what he wants. I, on the other hand, am an impulse purchaser. I used to be, at least.
You recently made a pledge to only shop secondhand, Made in USA & ethical clothing. Why? Recently, I’ve felt really challenged to stop shopping for trends and instead shop exclusively for things I like. I feel like that’s the cornerstone to building a personal style. I also just generally didn’t like not knowing if the person who made my clothes was treated fairly or not. It began to bother me. I began to wonder if my purchases were causing someone else pain. It really shifted my perspective.
In addition to photography, you’re also the founder of Parcel Exchange. What’s that?
The Parcel Exchange is a mail group I started right after college. I wanted to stay in touch with friends and I LOVE receiving mail so I thought that I might combine the two. It’s been almost two years now, and we love it! Every month we send a package and receive a package! Your sender is kept secret until you check your mail and see who had your name each month!
What makes you most excited about joining Shoestring?
I’m excited to have a creative outlet and I’m so excited about all I’m going to learn through working with Melissa and the other Shoestring contributors. As a reader, I love doing things well and economically. Shoestring teaches me tips and tricks to do that, too.
Where can people find you & what can they expect from you in the future?
All of my photography work is over at ChelseaLaineFrancis.com. I also blog over there occasionally. I’m on Twitter and I tweet about my dog, rap music, and interesting things I’m learning from the internet @ohhhchelsea. I’m also on Instagram (@ohhhchelsea) and Facebook (Chelsea Laine Francis). I also offer mini sessions to bloggers and regular people who want professional-looking photos — my next session is on August 8th and there are a few spots left!
To see some more of Chelsea’s stunning contributions to Shoestring already, check out our stories on DIY succulents, spicy watermelon margaritas, Jack’s gotcha day, my writing shirt, our store profile on Love Ding, and my recent DIY Home columns for Eat Boutique. Much more, coming soon!