Why Attend a Creative Conference? An interview with Kelly Affleck

why you should attend a creative conference from dear handmade life part fourWelcome to our interview series about attending creative conferences! Since our Craftcation Conference is just around the corner (March 26-29, 2015) we’re sharing tips and advice from Craftcation attendees for making the most of your experience at Craftcation or other creative conferences. These lovely creatives share awesome insight about how to choose a conference to attend, make the most of your time, what to bring, how to be budget-savvy and how to meet people at conferences. If you missed some of the interviews from this series you can read them here: Part One, Part Two and Part Three.

Whether you’re a creative entrepreneur or a maker, if you’re ready to take the leap and make 2015 the best year yet for your business and/or creativity and expand your community, Craftcation registration is open now. Join us for four inspiring days of hands-on craft and food workshops, business classes and community events like our ever-famous dance party and opening dinner.

This week we’re sharing our interview with Craftcation Conference attendee Kelly Affleck of Tomato Tomato. We’re so happy that Kelly will be joining us at Craftcation 2015 which will be her third year attending. Kelly has been a professional designer for over 17 years and also crafts like crazy and teaches DIY workshops. She has some great tips for attendees like sharing a room and ditching your car and taking advantage of Ventura’s pedestrian and bike friendly downtown as well as traveling there by train (also our favorite way to get to Craftcation). At Craftcation 2014 she surprised me with a gift, a hand-embroidered brooch (I thought she’d been embroidering for years until I read below that it’s a skill she picked up at Craftcation). You can see a photograph of some of her awesome embroidered pins below.

I love this quote from Kelly about Craftcation:

“The inspiration alone at Craftcation is unstoppable! There is so much positive energy and so much creativity that you can’t help but walk away nourished with ideas and direction!”

-Nicole S.

Now onto the interview…

Please introduce yourself.

Hi. My name is Kelly Affleck. I have been a Graphic Designer for over 20 years. Once I started having kids 10 years ago I started applying my design and illustration skills to more handmade mediums. I was hooked immediately and have dabbled in everything from custom invitations to letterpress printing to screen printed t-shirts and now craft classes. You can find me at https://www.tomato-tomato.com or see my more day-to-day dabbling at www.facebook.com/tomatotomatodesign

What conferences have you been to?

I have been to Craftcation 2013 and 2014. I already purchased my tickets and airfare for Craftcation 2015. I do it the minute the tickets are released.

How do you choose what conference to go to?

I don’t usually have the attention span for typical conferences. Most often they are for design and marketing which is good. It’s just that I have to translate a lot of the information given at them into how it relates to me… the creative entrepreneur. At Craftcation the information delivered speaks directly to me and my business. No translation needed.

Why is it worth it to go to a conference?

Inspiration! The inspiration alone at Craftcation is unstoppable! There is so much positive energy and so much creativity that you can’t help but walk away nourished with ideas and direction!

How has your business or creative pursuit changed after going to conferences?

I have come home with a new passion from each Craftcation so far. My first conference I came home with a mild addiction to embroidery thanks to Amy Tan. Then my second year I came home with a Bernina sewing machine and haven’t stopped sewing since! These are two mediums I would have NEVER considered before Craftcation. They have added a whole new opportunity to the classes I teach and the products I make.

What are your tips for conference goers on a budget? 

Everyone is so friendly at Craftcation I would suggest sharing a room and the train is the BEST way to travel. The ride is stunning and it delivers you just a few blocks from the hotel. Also, there is no need for cabs or cars. You can walk or even rent a bike from the hotel to get around town.

What was your first conference like?

It was what I imagine summer camp to be like. I went on a whim the first time with some friends that were presenting. I was beyond excited to experience Craftcation. The workshops lived up to all my expectations and beyond. My biggest surprise was how many friends I made. I have kept in contact with the people I have met and now a significant part of my excitement for the new conferences is getting a chance to see them. This year i think I might just make a t-shirt for them to sign on our last day. Wasn’t that a summer camp thing?

What was one of your best conference moments?


What are the essential things you bring (or wish you had brought) to a conference?

I always bring a sketch book and embroidery supplies. There are some great moments to sit and relax. It would be lethal to not be prepared to write down or sketch out ideas.

How do you prepare for going to a conference?

First I make a countdown calendar. Just like the chocolate ones at Christmas. Then I check to see what the party theme is in case I need to make something fabulous for the festivities. Then I make sure I have comfy walking shoes and wait for my plane to take off!

How do you make the most out of your conference experience?

It’s effortless, really. I just soak up all the classes, the people and the information.

Below are some photos Kelly sent us from her experience at Craftcation:

kelly affleck kelly affleck kelly affleck kelly affleck RoslaieKELLY


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