Featured Author: Jessyratfink

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This month's featured author is Jessy Ellenberger (a.k.a. jessyratfink). She has posted an ecclectic mix of projects ranging from wholly wholesome to mildly mischievous. She has taught hundreds of thousands of people how to sew and make sweet potato fries (but not at the same time). I recently caught up with her and got the chance to ask her about her work and love of Nicolas Cage movies.

How did you first find Instructables and what inspired you to post your first one?

I know I was searching for some kind of tutorial - though it’s been so long I can’t remember what I was looking for! I found Instructables in the search results and got a little fanatic about it... I spent a ton of time looking at the site. And as soon as those oversized encyclopedias came into work, I just knew I had to do something with them. I wanted to participate so badly on the site!

Which Instructable are you the most proud of?

I think it’s kinda a tie between my Where the Wild Things Are hat and my quilting instructable. While others (like my sweet potato fries or Barbie electric chair) get a ton of views, the amazing feedback on the other two make me so happy. Especially the hat - so many people made it and posted photos! You can’t really ask for anything better when you share your project with people.

Is there anyone who has been influential on the things that you make?

Definitely my grandmother - she was a quilter, an embroiderer, an excellent cook and housekeeper, and saved everything she thought she could use later on. I still use pieces of her fabric in my projects, or little odds and ends like zippers and elastic she saved. My mother is also a big influence because she’s a great cook and very supportive of my Instructables habit - I’ve even documented two of her best recipes, chocolate cream pie and chicken and dumplings.

What is your favorite Nicolas Cage movie?

This is a tricksy one! The Rock is definitely the best all around... it’s so macho and over the top - I get so excited every time I watch it. (I actually saw it for the first time when I interned at Instructables!) Though I do have two copies of Ghost Rider. And Deadfall is one of the best bad movies of all time - Nicolas Cage can’t decide what drug he’s on, what accent he’s supposed to have, or what emotion he’s going for during his entire bit in the film. He is also wearing the most magnificent wig and moustache ever!

And all his news ones are fantastic just because his hair keeps getting more and more nuts - which is quite the feat when you think about his hair in Con Air (wow, what a mullet!) and Raising Arizona.

Did you learn anything unexpected from Thing-A-Day? Is there anything that you would have done differently?

Just that it’s really hard to stay motivated and do something different everyday. I made a list of possible projects before I started and even took a week off to crank out better projects - but I never finished the list and not all of my products were as groundbreaking as I thought they’d be. I think next time I might do more projects that span multiple days, or even work on one huge project for the entire month. I kept pushing myself to finish big projects in one day, even days I worked... and running on little or no sleep made things a little difficult! My motivation stalled completely a couple times. I will definitely do it again next year - I felt so good all month just because I was creating constantly.

Do you have any new Instructables in the works?

I’m hoping do a lot for upcoming contests... lots of food ones, and some about sewing clothes. I’ve been making my own skirts lately so I’m going to document that. And I’ve been brainstorming about making a charging deck - hopefully I’ll come up with something neat soon. I’m also wanting to add videos to ones I’ve already completed - the how to sew, embroidery, and sweet potato fries instructables in particular. I just need to get over my general camera awkwardness!

What advice would you give to someone about to embark on their first Instructable?

Explain, explain, explain! Don’t assume your audience will always be familiar with what you’re documenting. Use lots of image notes, use the macro setting on you camera, and take a ton of pictures. Approach it the same way you would if you were teaching someone in person and give them all the details. And try to check in and answer questions people have - I think that helps encourage them to do the project themselves. :D

The most indispensable tool at your disposal is...?

I thought and thought about this, and decided it’s a tie between my Wüsthof santoku knife and a sewing needle. I create many, many, many things with both of them! And sometimes use them in unconventional ways.

Do you have any long term goals as a maker, crafter and/or human being?

I recently graduated and got certified as a health education specialist, so I am really looking to get into that field and start making a difference! I would also like my making/crafting to become more of a full time gig... but I’ve still got to figure that out. It would be awesome if I could support myself doing things I love.

What did Barbie do to end up in the electric chair?

As it turns out, Ken was having an affair with a Bratz doll. Unfortunately for Ken the bedroom in the Barbie Dream House is on the second floor and has many windows. You can imagine how it ended!