star_wars_the_force_awakens_01.jpg

From pet rocks to kirigami: How Star Wars inspires its fandom to craft

Contributed by
Nov 2, 2017

The first Star Wars crafts Bonnie Burton ever worked on were pet rocks, as rocks were readily available in her driveway. Some of the odd shapes looked like Star Wars characters, from ovals reminiscent of a Bith to oblongs that looked like R2-D2. With this easy kid craft Burton became an expert rock painter, transforming rocks into characters from the series in what would be the first of multiple Star Wars crafts she would make in the years to come.

Burton is one of many Star Wars fans who have felt inspired to express their love for the series through crafting. The fandom is full of creative minds who work with their hands to put together amazing creations whether it's a Porg pumpkin or a Chewbacca doll. Their passion motivates them to spend months building the Millennium Falcon out of wood and customizing dolls of their favorite characters.

They all get started in different ways, and for Burton, who is now a member of the SYFY advisory board, active fandom began young. She was always working on crafts as a kid and learned to sew at a young age. Her mother was a librarian and teacher, and would bring home kid magazines such as Highlights that included tutorials in the back for making crafts like bean art and puppets. She didn't have a lot of toys growing up, so she was encouraged to make her own. The tutorials inspired her to start crafting and soon that interest merged with her love for Star Wars.

"Star Wars made me a sci-fi fan and I was able to express myself creatively even more so doing Star Wars crafts," Burton told SYFY WIRE.

admiral_sackbar.jpg

The Star Wars Craft Book by Bonnie Burton

Burton would be able to combine her love of Star Wars and crafting professionally while working at Lucasfilm. Working on the children's section of the website, she suggested having a section that would be reminiscent of the back of the magazines she remembered. It would offer different characters to try drawing each week and different crafts like bag puppets that would be simple and have printable instructions. At the time, Burton said there weren't really any craft books for Star Wars available (unlike today) and at first her editor thought kids were more interested in video games and digital pursuits than crafts. They gave it a try though, and it became a hit.

"We got a ton of traffic and I got a lot of emails from parents saying ‘thank you for giving our kids something to do other than video games' and ‘this has been really fun!' I would go to conventions like San Diego Comic-Con and I would do either a drawing tutorial with an artist or I would do a craft tutorial and we would always have to turn away people from the door," Burton said. "We had to get bigger and bigger rooms to do these demos because they started being really popular and that's when parents would come up to me and say ‘are you guys going to do a book? Something so we can have all the crafts in one thing?'"

That led to Burton writing You Can Draw: Star Wars, Draw Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and eventually The Star Wars Craft Book, in which she included the pet rock as an homage to her first craft. Today the world of Star Wars crafting books has grown to include a wide range of options from Star Wars Felt to Cross Stitch Creations Star Wars: 12 Out-of-this-world patterns. On Force Friday II this September, Star Wars Kirigami was released, offering a unique way to build ship models created by artist and designer Marc Hagan-Guirey. A long-time Star Wars fan, Hagan-Guirey also started crafting as a kid. He said he was a nerdy kid who was a bit of a loner, and his "currency was in egg cartons, cereal boxes, and toilet roll tubes." When his mom would come home with groceries, he would ask if he could have cereal boxes to use to make things for his action figures.

"As a kid, I had loads of different activity books and I would papier-mache anything I could get my hands on," he told SYFY WIRE. "Even now as an adult, when I look at a toilet roll tube and I'm putting it in the recycling, I'm looking at it and thinking ‘I could make a really cool lightsaber out of that.' It pains me to put it in the bin."

After being inspired by a visit to Frank Lloyd Wright's Ennis House in 2012, Hagan-Guirey started building paper models and kirigami came to his attention. He created an exhibit called Cut Scene in 2015 that focused on classic moments from the franchise. In this book, he features 15 models of ships including a Star Destroyer, X-Wing, Jedi starfighter, Rey's speeder, and a new ship from The Last Jedi, the TIE silencer. Hagan-Guirey said the process of working on the book was very exciting, and that the secrecy of everything around the new film was part of that.

jedi_starfighter.jpg

Jedi starfighter from Star Wars Kirigami by Marc Hagan-Guirey

"I only saw a few bits and pieces to help me design the ship, but as a fan having the opportunity to do that was incredible. The great thing about Star Wars' design style and the design language of Star Wars is that the actual concept designers have this ethos that a kid should be able to draw a very simple rendering of a ship," he explained. "It has to be a very basic shape. For example, X-Wings and A-Wings and triangles for the Imperial star destroyers, so because they have these very geometric and easy shapes it's quite easy to translate that into paper. It worked really well in kirigami form."

Not all Star Wars fans began crafting as a kid or have had books published, of course. Kelly Knox didn't truly start crafting until her daughter was born. Before that she made things occasionally, but didn't take it seriously. Her love of Star Wars did start early on, though, and she counts seeing Return of the Jedi in theaters as one of her first memories. She told SYFY WIRE her first Star Wars craft was likely making a Wampa stocking for a stocking contest held when she worked for the video game Star Wars Galaxies. She may have done other themed crafts like that for work, but that was all.

Then, as Knox was looking around for things to do with her daughter when she was a toddler, Knox started to come up with ideas related to Star Wars. She would see crafts on Pinterest and be inspired by them to create Star Wars variations. It was around this time Burton's book was released as well and Knox said they made crafts from that too, occasionally tweeting their results to Burton. Eventually, while writing for GeekMom.com, Knox realized her favorite thing to write about was crafts and DIY.

"I didn't have a single place for them so I started putting them on my own blog, The Start Button," she said. "I would share those and they weren't just Star Wars. There's some Nintendo and Minecraft, but I think the majority is Star Wars."

porgcone.jpg

Credit: Kelly Knox

At The Start Button, you can see Knox's impressive range of Star Wars crafts. She offers tutorials for crafts like a Porg pine cone and lightsaber training droid ornament. Her work gained the attention of a StarWars.com editor a couple of years ago who asked Knox if she'd be interested in creating crafts for the official website. Now she regularly contributes craft ideas to StarWars.com. According to Knox, the feedback she's received from readers about her crafts is mostly from parents and those parents will sometimes share with her what their kids have made.

"I think I approach [crafts] from a kid point of view because that's how I started. Plus, I would never have classified myself as an artsy person so I always tend to make crafts that are, not on the easier side, but maybe the less complicated side and that happens to also be kid friendly," she said. "Most parents I think use it the same way I do, which is kind of a way to introduce their kids to Star Wars maybe before they're old enough to see the movies or Rebels or anything like that. That's kind of how I originally started approaching it. To my daughter, it was an art project but to me I was sneaking in the Star Wars introduction to her."

Burton thinks crafts are a great way for kids to express their individuality, though crafts are clearly not just for kids.

"I love that Star Wars still inspires me to make stuff and that was the whole point of the craft book. It wasn't just for kids, [it was for] adults too. Fans of all ages. If you have zero crafting skills, there's crafts in there for you or if you are an advanced crafter there's crafts in there too," she said.

jabba.jpg

The Star Wars Craft Book by Bonnie Burton

 

The Star Wars crafting community has remained consistent and changed in some ways through the years.

"I do think it's still mostly parents looking for kids crafts because the more serious crafting I think would go into more cosplay category or props and those are always incredible, but I think the more art and basic crafts maybe still tend to go on the kid side," she said.

She does think however that Pinterest has had the biggest impact on changing the crafting community "just by putting out idea after idea." For Burton, she's seen a disappearance of gender boundaries over time.

"I think now guys, especially adult men, are finding it's fun to make Star Wars crafts and not thinking that it's not being masculine," Burton said. "I think they figured out that if Frank Oz and Jim Henson can dedicate their lives to puppets then it should be ok for any guy to make a puppet no matter how immature crafting skills they've got. Creating is creating and art is art and there shouldn't be any gender boundaries."

She also sees less people being worried about their skill level. When Burton started, she said fans would have concerns about not being creative or artistic enough. Her response would be, did you say that as a kid? No. Burton noticed adults had forgotten the "simple pleasure of just sitting down at the kitchen table and making a puppet or sewing something together like a pillow case that they made themselves."

reycraft.jpg

Credit: Kelly Knox

"I think nowadays people are realizing that personal hang-ups or personal insecurities about crafting, you don't need to have them anymore because it's not about who's best or about being a perfect puppet maker from the get go. It's about just having fun and that's key to crafting," Burton explained. "It's not necessarily highbrow art. It's supposed to be something where you express yourself, but you're having fun with it and it's not supposed to be something that you necessarily put on display. It's just for you."

Like the franchise itself, there's no sign that the amazing Star Wars crafts created by fans will stop growing anytime soon. Burton hopes she can do a sequel to her crafting book at some point. She no longer works for Lucasfilm, but knows the audience is there based on what she sees fans make and the other books that have been released. She already has ideas for what she would do, including ideas from the new trailers (Porgs are a great inspiration). Knox also continues to be inspired by new books, shows like Rebels, and the new films as well as the trailers when it comes to craft ideas. She said seeing the crystal creatures on Crait in The Last Jedi's trailer made her immediately think "I have to make that."

To Hagan-Guirey, crafting is a popular activity among Star Wars fans "because the visual style Star Wars has is so strong."

"It kind of lends itself to lots of different mediums and people just like to explore that and work out different ways in which they can recreate ships in different formats and so on. It's a really expansive world…" he said. "It's a very open armed community and very quickly after I started making Star Wars kirigami, I found that fans flock to new ideas and are very supportive of each other."