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Meet Clarissa Thorne of Unexpected Hobby in Santa Clarita

Today we’d like to introduce you to Clarissa Thorne.

Clarissa, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I am an avid crafter, diehard geek, and the proprietor of Unexpected Hobby… my creative outlet for expressing my love for a variety of fandoms. Since 2015, I have been designing and selling Cross-Stitch patterns and project kits online through Etsy and in person at a variety of local events and comic-book conventions.

The name “Unexpected Hobby” is my homage to J.R.R. Tolkien. The first chapter of “The Hobbit” is titled “An Unexpected Party”. In it, Bilbo Baggins is jolted out of his comfort zone and thrown onto a road filled with adventure; as a result an unexpected visit from a group of messy dwarves and a meddlesome wizard. In many ways, this parallels my experience with crafting and starting a creative business.

It was certainly NOT in my comfort zone to try something artistic like designing needlework patterns. But, as an avid crafter, I was desperate to find a creative outlet that spoke specifically to things I loved. So I started piecing together small cross-stitch patterns and eventually the volume of patterns overtook my ability (or desire) to keep them to myself.

About the same time that I was considering starting a business around this hobby, I found Craftcation, an annual conference hosted by Dear Handmade Life that offers business classes and craft workshops. Held every spring at the Ventura Beach Marriott in Ventura, CA, this amazing group of industry experts, newbie entrepreneurs, and creative hobbyists has been instrumental in helping me find the confidence to step out on my own.

I’ve attended every year since 2015 and can track every major step I’ve taken in my business back to something gleaned from this amazing community. Locally, I offer a monthly “Cross-Stitch Night” event through Geek Girls Forever, a social club located in Newhall, CA. Geek Girls Forever hosts monthly meetings to “craft, game, discuss books, graphic novels, and comic books, play trivia, binge-watch TV shows, learn new skills, and socialize and discuss pop culture in general.”

In October of this year, I released “A Geek’s Guide to Cross-Stitch: Journeys in Space” with the help of local publisher, Fanbase Press. This book is a collection of 25+ cross-stitch designs that celebrate my love for space exploration, NASA, the hunt for extraterrestrial life, and more. “Journeys in Space” also offers a guide to the basics of cross-stitch, so is perfect for the newbie stitcher.

Has it been a smooth road?
I don’t think anyone trying to learn a creative skill or to start a business based on that skill does so without some struggle. Finding a community of supportive and like-minded people, who are going through similar struggles, has been a life-saver. It has also been vital to be continually reminding myself that absolute perfection is not the goal, whether it’s in my artistic expression or my business knowledge. Giving myself permission to make mistakes and to learn from them helps make the road as smooth as it needs to be.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Unexpected Hobby story. Tell us more about the business.
I specialize in cross-stitch designs that celebrate very specific fandoms. From movies to comic books, from zombies to spaceships, I keep my creative focus on things I love. I think this focus on niche fandoms sets me apart from most crafting products you’ll find on the market today.

I am proud of the part I’m doing in keeping a craft like cross-stitch alive and vital in my generation. I am proud that I’ve brought a hands-on, DIY product to the comic book convention world. I am super proud of putting a book like “A Geek’s Guide to Cross-Stitch: Journeys in Space” out in the universe. And, most of all, I am proud of the time I spend connecting with other avid fans and crafters.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
I have two “industries” that I keep my eye on… crafting/DIY and pop-culture fandom. I think both are only going to get bigger and better in coming years, especially as the two continue to find ways to overlap. These are communities that naturally complement each other and encourage all participants to individual creative endeavors.

Consumers of popular culture are increasingly turning into creators of popular culture, whether it’s through independent publishing, fan-fiction, cosplay, blogging… name it, and there’s a creative geek out there somewhere doing it!

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