How did you discover the site and what inspired you to start posting projects?
I stumbled across a cupcake contest. I can't remember exactly what I was searching for, but I ended up following a link to instructables.com and I saw the contest to win an iPad. My son really wanted an iPad so he inspired me to create my first Instructable and enter the cupcake contest with it. I’ve been addicted ever since..
Your projects always have such fantastic photos! What is your photography setup like?
Haha! I cheat! It’s a lot of trial-and-error and I throw out all the bad photos. I've discovered the best way to take photos is on a light surface, preferably white, and use natural sunlight. I take most of the photos in the kitchen since a lot of my ‘ibles are food-related. Unfortunately my kitchen countertop is really dark so I bought a large white foam board from an art supply store that covers the area of my countertop. Since most people eat with their eyes first, I carefully stage each photo to make it visually appealing. It doesn't hurt that I have a really great camera too. I'm currently using a Sony Nex-3.
Any tips you can give to authors on Instructables about how to get the best photos?
Proper lighting is key! Take all of your photos during the day when the sun is out. Don’t bother with the flash or artificial lighting -- even on a cloudy day, with light through a window, natural light will give you the best results if you’re an amateur like me. Use a white or light surface (such as white foam board, available at art supply stores). Also, don’t be afraid to take dozens of photos and pick the best for each shot. Sometimes it can take fifteen or twenty shots to get the one I want. That’s what’s great about digital photos -- you just overshoot and delete the ones you don’t like.
You should also use different props for each instructable. I have a growing collection of plates, bowls, glassware & utensils to use when staging my photos. My favorite place to find new props are thrift stores, garage sales, antique shops and even places like the Dollar Store and Marshall’s. You can often find a deal because you can buy the orphaned items -- you don’t need a full set for a photo.
Is there anyone or anything that has been particularly influential towards your work?
I have two boys -- Alexander (5) and Trevor (2) -- and they are definitely my number one inspiration. Alexander gets excited when I tell him I have an idea for an Instructable and always wants to help out. He even plans to post his first Instructable soon. I also have an identical twin sister, Stacy, who is a huge fan of my work and is always showing off my latest post. As kids, we were always competitive so it's really nice that she appreciates and dotes over my 'ibles. I am also hugely inspired by the instructables community. Some of the "ibles really blow my mind. It's incredible to be surrounded by so much talent.
Of all the projects that you have posted, which is your favorite?
My Bacon Dippin Dots Instructable is my favorite. I have other posts, like my Bee Pollen brownies, which I make over and over again, and taste amazing. But the Bacon Dippin Dots were the most fun for me because they not only were Dippin Dots (the real ones) something I remember prominently from my childhood -- the process of making them involves liquid nitrogen and I got to play “mad scientist.”
As a kid, I remember eating Dippin Dots for the first time at a fair and I've been fascinated with them ever since. And I couldn’t resist the fun and danger of working with liquid nitrogen (which comes out of the canister at -321 degrees Fahrenheit). When I first mentioned to my husband that I was planning on making them, he rolled his eyes. He thought it would be too dangerous and said absolutely not. I felt like such a rebel when I loaded the canister in my car and trekked it back to my house. It's always fun when you push yourself to try something new and scary.
On the other hand, are there any projects you've made that will never see the light of Instructables?
About 20 percent of my Instructable concepts never see the light of day, but that’s part of the fun. I get an idea and I don’t really know if I can pull it off -- of course, you only see the ones that work.
I tried to make fish sticks in the shape of fish -- and they came out as shapeless blobs. I made an incredible Bloody Mary foam but I tried to create celery “spoons” to serve them -- and the spoons were a disaster. The most epic of my fails would probably be my Nyan Cat Peep Cake -- Peeps are those colorful marshmallow shapes that come in every color. I bought a rainbow of colors and my idea was to assemble them to a likeness of the Nyan Cat, with a long multicolor tail made out of each color peep. Conceptually, it seemed like a good idea! Visually, it turned out a misshapen mess.
I am proud of my mistakes, even though they never get posted. If there is one thing I've learned since joining the Instructables community, it's that you should go a little outside your comfort zone. Even if it doesn't work out, you will definitely learn something from it.
You post lots of creative recipes - how do you come up with your ideas?
I am always searching my world for inspiration, but for the most part I try to come up with original ideas. Even when I borrow an idea, I always make it mine. I'm really good at taking something that already exists and tweaking it to perfection or putting on a creative twist on it. I am always looking to be a bit outrageous because the instructables community appreciates over-the-top, weird, and funky creations.
I am pretty passionate about being in the kitchen, and I used to own a specialty foods business, so I have a good sense of flavors combinations that are unexpected but which are going to work out (at least 80% of the time!). For example, my Nerdy Bananas take your typical chocolate-covered banana and then candy coat them in rainbow-colored Nerds. It’s a simple twist on sprinkles, but the taste is completely different and unexpected (if you have kids, you must try them).