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Darby Smart gives crafters a head start

Unwinding after work at an investment banking company, Nicole Farb found fun – and frustration – when she tried to duplicate projects she spotted on Pinterest, the San Francisco-based social media and inspiration website for visual people.

“I’ve always been crafty, but not particularly creative – I’m a paint and glue girl,” Farb said. “Pinterest truly exploded with beautiful imagery. I tried to make things and I realized just how bad I was at these projects. Why doesn’t my stuff look like that?”

Farb, 34, discovered that it wasn’t so much her lack of skill, but not having the right tools and materials. Some of those items were hard to find or too expensive for many weekend crafters.

“It became my passion because it was a source of frustration,” she said. “What I found is that there are ingredients you need for success – the right materials, the right tools. And I realized there also were a lot of other people like me. This was not a crisis, but an opportunity.”

So Farb left her job at Goldman Sachs and co-founded Darby Smart, a do-it-yourself crafting e-commerce site with craft kits based on popular Pinterest posts.

“We launched June 18 and it has been such an incredible experience,” she said. “The response has been really, really cool.”

Also based in San Francisco, Darby Smart challenged area designers and crafters – mostly from Northern California – to create kits for projects that not-so-crafty people could use to achieve very polished results.

“Our kits range from starter sets made for entry-level crafters to more difficult projects,” Farb said. “We launched with 10 designers and now we have more than 300. Our goal was to have 30 our first year.”

With a rotating selection of 50 kits, Darby Smart launches a new kit every three days; they’re available up to 60 days or as long as supply lasts. The website – www.darbysmart.com – is free to use and kits start under $20.

Anyone can become a Darby Smart designer, Farb added. Crafters can pitch ideas via the site.

“It’s so exciting,” she said. “We have 10-year-old girls to retirees and disabled vets submit their designs. They have such a huge range of interests.”

Interest in crafting always tends to pick up this time of year as people gear up for holiday gift giving. Crafting has become a huge industry, accounting for an estimated $29 billion in sales and services.

Farb sees her service as an outgrowth of not just the crafting craze, but a craving for personalization.

“People want more personalized experiences in everything,” she said. “It makes it more special. Sure, you can walk into a department store and buy what everybody else is buying or you can make your own pillows or other accessories. But you need the right tools and materials to get started. Kits help break down the chaos of crafting.”

To spur creativity on all levels, Darby Smart asks users to vote for top trends (such as fringe vs. crystals) and submit ideas for more projects. For example, the website challenged its designers to come up with ways to use up nail polish. (As colorful paint, it proved to have almost as many uses.) Crafters can then post photos of their finished projects on the site, too.

Several kits are made for group crafting. Called “Girls Night Out,” they include enough supplies for four people to use (or to produce four final results).

“My favorite is the magazine clutch,” Farb said of the Girls Night Out selections. “It was inspired by a Kate Spade clutch. You can use the magazine cover of your choice (the kit includes a cover of Vogue).

“I have 10 different versions of that purse,” she added. “It’s a cool way to express yourself.”

Farb still finds crafting a great way to relax.

“Crafting is very therapeutic and satisfying,” she said. “That’s why I love it.”

Especially when the finished project comes out looking like something on Pinterest.

– Debbie Arrington

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