Maker Spotlight: Molly Carroll


Editor’s Note: Thank you so much, Molly Carroll, for being our first victim Maker Spotlight! We’ll be featuring other makers here as often as possible. Have you made something you’re particularly proud of? Figured out a way to keep your screens in their corral? Inspired your kids to happily go analog for a few hours? Please send us a note and tell us all about it. We can’t wait to focus the spotlight on you!

A couple of months ago when I didn’t have a charger at work, I plugged my dead iPhone into a co-worker’s charger, a few cubes down from me. I went to work back at my desk and consistently interrupted myself with my knee-jerk habit of checking my phone. I’d reach to my left to grab it, remember it was charging a few cubes away, and go back to work.

After the fourth time of unconsciously checking my phone and remembering it wasn’t there, I started to feel ashamed. I was so addicted to my screen that I was conditioned — like Pavlov’s dogs — to check it regularly.

I sat at my desk and inventoried all the things that were adversely affected by my attachment to my phone. Productivity (both at work and home), potentially missed laughs with family, and conversations with my husband that never happened because I was scrolling through Facebook in bed at night instead of talking or laughing with him about, well, anything at all.

I think that’s why Step Away from the Screen and Make Something resonates with me. It’s a reminder to recondition myself to use my hands (and brain) for more than scrolling. I walked away from work that day with a goal to break the constant phone-checking and step away from my phone screen and create.

If you know Laurie, you know she’s insanely creative. She and the Step Away from the Screen community make some amazing things. Initially, it felt as though there was no way I could keep up with this awesome group of makers and artists and craftspeople. And then it hit me. It’s not about what they’re making, it’s about what I’m doing to meet my goal of putting down my damn phone. Making a fantastic gazpacho? Yep. That’s stepping away from the screen and making something. Creating a beautiful bouquet of flowers from the farmers market? You guessed it: Making something. Using my very best handwriting to ink justin timberlake is my patronus on my new favorite coffee mug? Um, that’s the coolest thing I’ve made in a long, long time. And I use it every day. And he is indeed my patronus, but that’s another blog post altogether.

So now, I just try to make. Something. Anything. Every day. Whether it’s a tangible craft or piece or art or just dinner. Making. For me, it’s just about the doing and the making. What will it be about for you?

PS: I only checked my phone twice while writing this. That’s progress, people. Real progress.

House Rules

Hey kids! I thought it might be time for another story about something I stepped away from the screen and made. Yeah? Okay! This story has a few “parts” to it, so I thought I’d break it down into bite size pieces.

Act 1 —

Scene 1:
About a year and a half ago, I started writing our family’s “house rules.” I had seen a few of these lists floating around the Internet and really liked what they were all about. Especially in a house with kids. So I started working. Not diligently, but whenever something occurred to me, I would add it to the list. I kept the list on Evernote so it would be with me wherever I was.

Scene 2:
One night I was sitting on my couch looking around the living room. The staircase is a dominant feature of that room because it is right smack in the middle of it. All our walls are painted different colors, but the stairs are white wood. It occurred to me that I needed to do something creative with the stairs. I mean, here it was, a giant canvas right in the middle of the living room and it was just plain white. So I added that to my ever-present, ever-growing list of “things to think about and do someday.”

Act 2 —

Scene 1:
The house rules were coming along nicely, but there was a problem: Where was I going to put it once it was finished? We don’t have a ton of walls in our house (years ago previous owners knocked down most of the walls turning a boxy, compartmentalized, 1930’s era bungalow into an open, airy, modern feeling home. We love it, but we don’t have as many places to hang things as we might like.), and most of those walls were already exhibiting art, as we’d lived in the house for 6 years.

Scene 2:
One daydreamy afternoon, I’m thinking about our stairs, and what fun thing I could create for them, when suddenly it all comes together for me. The house rules! On the stairs! One rule per step. I counted the steps (13) and opened the house rules document. I had 9 rules. Surely I could come up with 4 more.

Act 3 —

Scene 1:
The stairs were, upon close inspection, pretty banged up. 6 years of a family of 4 on white stairs? Yeah. Might need a little paint. So that was the first part of the project. meanwhile, I was trying to figure out the best way to get the words on the stairs. I considered freehand painting, sharpie, and stencil painting, but I’m a fairly compulsive person (understatement), and I know that any imperfections would drive me crazy. Finally I decided on vinyl. Choosing the typeface and, more importantly, the color took a while — the stairs are surrounded by yellow, sage green, red, and brown walls. What color would work with all of those? We ultimately decided on a steely blue grey. And practical, clean DIN for the font. I designed the words and had them printed at my favorite sign company for about $40.

Scene 2:
Got the vinyl back as one big sheet. While I cut the lines apart, I also stressed about how to apply them so they’d be straight and also spaced the same distance from the wall (remember — compulsive). I decided left-aligned would work better than centered, and would also look more modern.

Act 4 —

They came out about a million times better than I even hoped they would. And the kids love them. And I love them. And we have even invented a game around them. We frequently find our cat, Mark, hanging out in the middle of the stairs. So we decided he would choose our rule of the day. Any time someone walks by the steps and sees Mark there, they yell out the rule he’s sitting on: “Mark says WORK HARD!!” Or “Mark says, SHARE!”

Here’s the complete list of our house rules. I strongly encourage you to think about what yours would be, even if you don’t turn them into something on display. It’s pretty interesting to consider which behaviors are important enough to you and your family that you would classify them as “rules.”

Be Kind.
Laugh. A lot.
Work Hard.
Play Fair.
Tell the Truth.
Offer to Help.
Ask Nicely.
Hug and Kiss.
Say Thank You.
Respect Others.

Mail US


It’s time for another Step Away project! This time I took on the mailbox.

When we moved into our house 7 years ago, we inherited a plain, black mailbox mounted on the wall of the front porch. It wasn’t interesting, but it also wasn’t offensive. So it stayed, but with the plan that someday I wanted to make it better.

Now that I’m in the middle of my Step Away challenge, I decided the mailbox’s time had come. First thing I did was paint it. (So quickly that I didn’t even get a picture of the previously black mailbox. Oops.) We have a dark brown house with white trim, yellow window boxes, and a yellow door. Orange seemed to be the perfect counterpoint to all those colors and a few coats of spray paint made it so.


I wanted it to have a little more to it, though. And I’ve always loved vintage mailboxes that say “POST” or “LETTERS”, so I started gathering pictures. But I couldn’t help but feel like the whole “vintage mailbox” thing has been played out. So I was also trying hard to figure out something else I could do.


Then one day I  was looking at the last photo above. The one that says U.S. MAIL on the side. Suddenly the words flopped themselves in my mind and I saw something altogether new:



And voila! Our new mailbox!