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Crafting a Meaningful Home Interview With Meg Mateo Ilasco

Meg Mateo Ilasco Discusses Her New Book, Anthology Magazine, and Future Crafting Fun

Designer, writer, and illustrator Meg Mateo Ilasco is on a roll. The owner of Mateo Ilasco, a design studio in the San Francisco Bay Area that creates paper and home goods, she's also written several books, including Craft, Inc. Along with Anh-Minh Le, she helms design and lifestyle magazine Anthology, which came out in October of last year. Somehow, she also found time to let Sunset magazine feature her lovely home, even while in the midst of a book tour.

Ilasco has been touring in support of her latest book, Crafting a Meaningful Home ($25), which features 27 projects from artists and craftspeople across the country. I recently sat down to chat with Meg about her new book, crafting ideas, and resolutions and hopes for 2011.

CasaSugar: Was there a moment of inspiration that sparked the idea for Crafting a Meaningful Home?

Meg Mateo Ilasco: A few years ago we had an epiphany about how to decorate our home — we realized we felt more connected to it when it not only reflected our style, but also our memories and heritage. Shortly thereafter, it dawned on me that showcasing homes like mine would make for a good book as well.


CS: How did you go about choosing the artists and craftspeople for the book?

MMI: The projects had to be interesting and approachable and above all, grounded in a personal story. I choose projects that best fit all three criteria.

CS: Thayer Allyson Gowdy’s photography of the projects is absolutely beautiful. How did she bring out the best in the projects and artists in each photo shoot?

MMI: Thayer is amazing. She’s photographed over 20 books — many of which are craft-based — so she’s developed an intuitive sense and discerning eye when it comes to showing projects and people in the best light possible.

CS: Did any of the projects surprise you (for instance, did a certain artist or crafter bring a project to the table that was outside of their area of specialty)?

MMI: Not really. I’m familiar with many of the artists’ professional work, so I knew they’d hold their personal projects to the same, if not higher, standard. If there were any surprises, it may have come from the artists. Some would say: “I have a project, but I’m not sure I have a story.” And after I interviewed them, they’d realize they do have one to share. Sometimes you don’t realize that what you do or like came from a past experience — like a seed that was planted back in childhood.

Find out about recommended beginning crafts from Meg's book, as well as tips for adding crafts to your home.

CS: I love how your project in the book added a fresh, modern twist to traditional decor that reflected you and your husband’s shared heritage. How did you decide on using latex plaster to re-create the wooden tinikling dancers?

MMI: We wanted to express our heritage but on our own terms. Creating a mold of it allowed us to make the art from whatever casting material we wanted. Plaster has a nice, rough texture — almost bone like — that made it feel modern.

CS: What project from the book would you recommend for beginning crafters?

MMI: If you’re new to crafting, good instant-gratification projects to start with are any of the decoupage projects like Lisa Congdon’s, which shows you how to decoupage a plate, or Paula Smail’s, which shows you how to decoupage any object even as large as a refrigerator, as she did.

CS: Is there anything from the crafting and art world right now that is really inspiring you?

MMI: Thanks to the Internet, everyday I see something new. I’m constantly amazed at so many things; it’s hard to pick just one thing.

CS: Are there any crafting techniques that you wish you knew or are planning to learn?

MMI: I wish I knew how to sew (better) and knit or crochet. These are things my mom tried to teach me when I was younger, but I didn’t have the patience to learn them.

CS: Any crafting techniques you’d recommend that everyone learn?

MMI: I think people should try as many crafting techniques that interest them. Through trial and error, they’ll find out which ones they love to do.

CS: Any advice for integrating more “crafty” elements into a home while keeping the look modern and beautiful?

MMI: My only advice: don’t be afraid to bring crafty elements into your home — if anything, it’ll inject some fun, texture, or personality into it.

CS: I know you’ve been in the middle of a book tour, and you and Anh-Minh had the amazing opening for Anthology at West Elm . . . What are you looking forward to in 2011?

MMI: I’ll be working all year on Anthology as well as some new books. And I’m planning to have a workshop event for Crafting a Meaningful Home in the Spring. You’ll get to meet some of the artists as well as learn firsthand from them how to make their projects from the book. You’ll walk away with either some new techniques or finished projects!

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