How many of you caught the premiere episode of Craft Wars on TLC last night, hosted by Tori Spelling?  If you didn’t, here’s a little recap:

The series, hosted and executive produced by Tori Spelling, is a competition “reality”-style show in which 3 new crafters each time compete for a $10,000 prize.  From the PR office:

Here’s how it works: first, the contestants face off in the Pop Craft challenge, where they must create one of the craft world’s most popular items in just one hour, using surprise materials and just about any crafting supply they could dream of from the “Michaels Craft Closet,” supplied by Michaels, North America’s largest arts and crafts retailer. Judges Erica Domesek (author of the DIY book, PS I Made This), Stephen Brown (author and founder of the multi-million dollar gift wear company Glitterville Studios) and Jo Pearson (author and creative expert for Michaels) will evaluate their crafts and eliminate one contestant. Then, the final two must wow the judges in the challenge of a lifetime, the Master Craft challenge. With their team, they’ll have to use all of their creative prowess, and push themselves to the limit, because when time is up, only one can win the WAR.

I was so excited about a design challenge TV series that’s not necessarily about producing salable items for mass market (ahem Fashion Star), or over-the-top one-off fashion creations (what Project Runway used to be *sigh*) but instead was just about creativity, utilizing a variety of materials for the challenges.  That’s what DIY is, after all!

However, I felt disappointed and bored while watching the episode last night.  Here are some thoughts regarding the premiere episode:


Bright, colorful, fun-looking set, tight, splashy editing.  (Could also be a CON depending on your view of clashing bright hodgepodge as the background, epileptic tendencies, or exactly how tired you are of the familiar, overly-dramatized realty television series format.)

Bringing crafting to a mass audience.  Love that it’s going mainstream and being billed as a national past-time…and that means better and wider range of consumer-grade products, projects, and techniques available to us!


“The 3 new crafters every week” format.  Undoubtedly one of the reasons for Project Runway’s success was the format putting 10 designers through their paces over weeks: the viewer got to “know” each designer as the weeks went by, rooting for their favorites and hating on others.  It drew you in.  With 3 new people every episode, there’s no way to become emotionally invested in anyone’s success.

Silly challenges.  Making a bag from sports equipment, really?  Is this really one of the “world’s most popular craft items???”  And though the design and construction of a kids’ playhouse is cool, I’d argue that that is more “production design” or “stage fabrication” and NOT crafting per se.  Maybe I’m being a little picky, but I think that including a challenge such as that one assesses people on a very different skillset than what “crafting” usually encompasses.  Some projects creating a “world’s popular craft:” Creative scrapbooking pages.  Polyclay anything.  Re-imagined bottlecap jewelry.  Metal stamping/embossing/repousse with Michael’s line of metal-working tools.  Pretty handcrafted thank-you notes.  I could go on and on, LOL!

Obvious producer manipulation and scripting.  When will the producers learn that audiences don’t respond to this??  (see: Project Runway after it moved to Lifetime and Bunim/Murray)

Rampant negativity.  The judges were overall negative and extremely critical of the construction techniques used in the projects (ironically Erica Domesek of P.S. I Made This [the DIY blog recommending constructions techniques such as gluing trim onto a skirt, stapling sequins onto fabric, and closing a stress-bearing seam with a line of safety pins] was by far the nastiest re: poor construction).  Though much of what was said was on-point, I questioned exactly what the goal of the challenge was, which wasn’t exactly clear.

Many crafters have also expressed distaste at the choice of host, arguing that Tori Spelling has very little “craft street cred” so to speak. Her new line of {styled} by Tori Spelling interchangeable jewelry components has just been released in stores, but very few people think of her as an established crafter or a legitimate voice of authority in this niche.

Crafting is a very low-drama activity.  (Sorry.)  The challenges are pretty boring, so the editing, music, and judges’ attitudes seem all the more contrived and ridiculous.  It got tiresome after awhile when I realized there was very little to learn either.  I mean, why not educate your audience [of CRAFT-LOVING PEOPLE, ahem] a little with recommendations for construction techniques or adhesives or something as you go so at least there’s something of value here?  Missed opportunity, especially for Michael’s to push more of their product.



I’ll give it another episode or two, but given what I’ve seen already I’m not too hopeful that future episodes will be any more interesting or useful.

If any of you missed the show, you can see some short clips here on TLC’s Craft Wars page.

What did you guys think of this show?  Must-see TV…or Kill it with fire!…?

Also: I struggled with writing this review the way I did, knowing that by being honest I would not be garnering any points with Tori Spelling, the production company, the judges, associated people, et al.  I wondered if I was stupidly burning bridges by being so open with my criticism and whether I should just write “It was awesome, guys!  Watch it!” and leave it at that.  I also am assuming that these people/companies would probably not want to do any business with me further down the line by me writing my honest opinion of their show, and I could be impacting my future opportunities by doing this.  HOWEVER I feel detrimentally compelled to be brutally honest about my opinions when it comes to something that’s really close to my heart and I feel I know fairly well, so there it is.:-)


Disclaimer: I was neither asked nor paid to review this show.  The opinions I expressed above are my own, and I have received no compensation for them.  To read more about my Disclosure Policy, please click here.

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