LucasFilm's Bonnie Burton Gets Crafty with STAR WARS

Bonnie Burton Gets Crafty with STAR WARS

She’s a Twitter superstar, a Geek Girl goddess and she’s married to R2-D2. She’s Bonnie Burton.

If you don’t already know her or haven’t guessed by now, Burton works for LucasFilm. She’s got one of those jobs everyone who’s ever been in love with Star Wars wants; she gets to talk and write about the films and related franchises ALL DAY. Plus, she gets to do side projects like The Star Wars Craft Book. Burton has previously used her vast Star Wars knowledge to write You Can Draw: Star Wars and Draw Star Wars: The Clone Wars but has a lifelong history with crafting that made The Star Wars Craft Book a no-brainer.

Featuring items like the Chewbacca Tissue Box Cover, AT-AT Herb Garden and a Han Solo in Soapanite, the book is great for Star Wars fans of all ages and skill levels. It features full-color, step-by-step instructions and includes patterns and illustrations perfect for photocopying for use in future or group crafts. Newsarama chatted with the author about her envious job and what went into making a book about making Star Wars characters out of everyday items.

Newsarama: You know, to most of the internet, you're a Geek Superstar but there may be a few people out there who aren't familiar with your work. Could you fill us in a bit on what you do for Lucasfilm? What's your day-to-day like?

Bonnie Burton: I'm a Senior Editor at  StarWars.com. I write and edit the Star Wars Blog, as well as interview actors, directors, artists, bands and other celebs who love Star Wars. I create original craft tutorials for kids as well as work with artists to make fun Star Wars drawing tutorials. In addition to my writing duties, I do social media as well for the Star Wars Twitter. My typical day involves interviewing a celeb on the phone then transcribing it into an article, posting tweets on our Twitter, posting links to our articles on Facebook, posting entries on our StarWars.com blog, contacting our licensees to find out about new products to write about, meetings, more tweeting, more meetings, and so on. Needless to say I drink a lot of coffee. I love my job and I'm lucky to work with such a talented group of people at Lucas Online here at Lucasfilm.

Nrama: It seems like every geek's dream job. Is it?

 

Burton: It is! I learn something new every day about Star Wars and The Clone Wars. Of course, the learning curve here is fun. I pinch myself every day for this job. In fact, I urge other geeks to see if there's a job here that might be a perfect fit for them. (LucasFilm Jobs) They also have a Twitter account fans should follow here. You never know until you apply!

Nrama: You've written several other books but your latest project is The Star Wars Craft Book which was just recently published by LucasBooks. Can you tell us about the inception of the whole thing?

Burton: Crafting is a big part of my life, so this book was a long time in coming. I've been doing original crafts on the kids section of StarWars.com since 2004, so being able to finally do a craft book of all my favorite Star Wars projects that I've made over the years plus a ton of brand new crafts is such a dream come true for me. It's nice to see fans get excited about going offline and doing something creative with their hands. Crafting is a great way to bring people together -- whether it's family members, friends or even first dates -- to make a fun Chewbacca sock puppet or a comfy Jabba the Hutt body pillow. I'm really proud of the book, as well as some of the crafty fans that I had a chance to feature in the book!

Nrama: When did you start crafting in your personal life?

Burton: I've always been covered in a thin layer of glitter ever since I was a small kid. My mom was a librarian and she would always bring home children's magazines like Highlights, Cricket, Ranger Rick and others that had craft projects in them. I would instantly take the magazines down to the playroom and get to crafting. I lost count of how many pencil holders, toys, candy dishes, art collages, pillows, and other projects I made as a kid. I used to decide which afterschool programs and summer camps I wanted to attend based on their craft supplies.

Crafting makes me happiest, and even as an adult I use crafting as a way to relax and de-stress. There's something about googly eyes that will always make me smile. In fact, anyone who ever visits me knows firsthand how much I love googly eyes. I put them on all my condiment bottles in my fridge. Every time I open the door it's like a little food party in there! Studio 54 with a ketchup and mustard conga line!

 

Nrama: Do you have a favorite Star Wars craft to create? Which is the most difficult to make in your eyes?

Burton: The finger and sock puppet crafts are hands-down (pun slightly intended) my favorites to make. I blame Jim Henson for my puppet addiction. But also my mom. When I was a kid my mom used to wake me up in the morning with a Kermit the Frog muppet. I was a sickly little kid - in and out of hospitals - and my mom used to buy me puppets to keep me company while I was in the hospital and to cheer me up. And I think that just stuck with me as something magical. So now I make puppets all the time. It's kind of like creating your own posse of friends made of felt, socks, buttons and googly eyes.

The most difficult craft I think in the book is the papier-mâché Mounted Acklay Head. It's not that difficult to make papier-mâché monsters once you get the hang of it, but the first time you do it can be daunting. This craft has the most steps in the book, but it's a fun craft and totally worth it if you have the time. My biggest difficulty with papier-mâché crafts is the wait. I'm an instant-gratification kind of craftster, so I hate waiting for things to dry so I can paint them. But I really want to make some bigger creatures with papier-mâché next. I initially wanted to make a full-sized Acklay from the arena fight scene we see in Attack of the Clones, but I don't know where I would put it when I finish!

Nrama: Where you ever stumped for new ideas or do these things just present themselves to you daily?

Burton: Oddly, I never run out of craft ideas. Most of the time my craft ideas start a bit too ambitious and then I have to be realistic with my time and space. If I lived in a huge warehouse, I'd probably be making life-sized Wampas! But I usually get an idea and then rework it to fit what I want to do on a smaller level. When you start crafting on a regular basis, you'll soon spot potential craft projects just by looking at things differently. The Bith Band Spoon Puppet idea came to me when I was stirring pasta with a wooden spoon and I noticed how similar in shape a wooden spoon was to the band members of The Modal Nodes. A pile of pillows looked a lot like Jabba the Hutt, so I sewed them together and it became the Jabba the Hutt Body Pillow. A plush white washcloth became a Wampa doll. A shriveled apple became the Emperor Appletine Doll... and so on.

Nrama: In the book you also highlight some crafts created by other folks, what were some that really impressed you?

Burton: The one craft that I am in constant awe of is Kayla Kromer's light-up Millennium Falcon Bed! She's a grade school teacher from Texas who literally crafted this amazingly cool geek dream bed during her days off. I love the extra geeky details like the detachable plushie radar, the fitted sheet which is an interior map, and the lights in the front and back. The cockpit can even hold action figures!

I also love all the Amigurumi and crocheted Star Wars dolls that fans make. They're so detailed and full of personality! I especially love Sammi Resendes' amigurumi Admiral Ackbar and Amber Mendenhall's crocheted General Grievous. My friend Amanda Jean Camarillo put all her boyfriend's old t-shirts to good use by making an epic Star Wars T-Shirt Blanket. She's inspiring me to make a blanket of all my Doctor Who shirts that don't fit anymore!

 

Nrama
: You recently held a panel at WonderCon in San Francisco, mostly kid focused but I know several adults who got a kick out of it, where the audience actually got to make some of the crafts. What was the reaction to it all?

Burton: It's funny, a lot of parents bring in their kids to my craft tutorials thinking they get to have a break from the convention and just watch their kids have fun, but in the end they end up having as much fun making crafts too. There's just something exciting and relaxing about letting loose with glitter glue and googly eyes. Crafting isn't just for kids. Adults have a blast reliving their childhood and just making something for the fun of it. Crafts don't have to be perfect. They're a good reminder of the fun we all had before computers and video games took over. A lot of adults who attended the craft tutorial came up to me afterwards to say they had a lot of fun making a silly-looking Star Wars bag puppet. And that's the whole reason I do those tutorials -- to remind fans of all ages that they need to play again and let their creative side take over for awhile.

Nrama: Seems like the book is great for big groups as well as just playtime at home. What are your hopes for its usage by Star Wars fans and perhaps new fans?

Burton: I hope that not only fans, parents and grandparents use my Star Wars Craft Book, but also teachers, Girl Scout/Boy Scout Leaders, camp activities coordinators, and so on for bigger craft gatherings. I remember my Sunday school and 4-H club having a lot of craft activities for little kids when I was one. Whether we were making a papier-mâché piñatas or milk carton birdhouses, I always had a blast. Crafting with a group helped me have the courage to make new friends and to express myself. And I think teachers understand more than anyone why it's important for kids to feel comfortable to be themselves and crafting is such a great way to get kids to open up and have fun. Not only that, but learning how to paint, draw, sew, sculpt and create a fun masterpiece out of materials around the house is a great skill set for kids to then take all the way into adulthood. Creativity should never end when you become an adult.

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