This is part 2 of a 3-part ongoing series where we asked PRA staff: What have you been working on? View Part 1.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has left us all with an abundance of free time to cultivate hobbies outside of work to rest, recuperate, and recharge. Stay tuned each month to see what our multi-talented coworkers have been making!

Ashley Krider

Due to the time zone difference in working from the West Coast, I often found myself not sure what to do with a couple of phantom hours between the end of my workday (typically 3:00 p.m.) and whenever it is acceptable for me to start thinking about dinner. I have also often missed the commute time that would allow me to shake off the day better and shift into a more relaxed mode, so I could act like an adult human when I got home. Rolling away from my apartment’s living room desk didn’t have quite the same impact, so I started filling some of the time with reading and “art.” I have experimented with diamond painting (I LOVE the satisfying “click” of the pieces into place) and, most recently, a paint-by-number kit. These are a far cry from creating art from scratch, which I’ve enjoyed in the past, but the mindless work pairs well with a podcast and lets me get lost for a while. I’m much more invested in the process than anything else. Still, my husband is astounded at my lack of attachment to the finished pieces, which provides a bonus activity of sneaking them out to the trash afterward!

I don’t have photos of my own diamond art, but I included a few examples.


Collage of various diamond art pieces in progress

Collage of various diamond art landscape pieces

Erika Ihara

Mine is the proverbial crafter’s story, where a friend admired some homemade clothing I was wearing and asked if she could commission me to make a few gifts. The commissions grew through word of mouth, and over time I delivered many finished projects to friends in coffee shops and living rooms.

I started selling my work in shops. It was a side gig, and I remember many late nights pushing to make an order deadline, no matter what else was going on. It wasn’t always fun. Bookkeeping, marketing, and photoshoots took as much if not more time than production, and while most people were honest, there were also lessons learned collecting on unpaid invoices. One weekend, following the death of a beloved pet, I needed to complete an inordinate number of hand-dyed scarves. As if caught in a nightmarish Grimm’s fairy tale, I ironed for days through tears to set the dyes on endless silk.

I credit my parents for my handiwork leanings, though I’m strictly a hobbyist. They were both self-employed and raised a family with careers in the arts. They both taught me a lot, including not to glamorize the arts professions. I told them about my small milestones, like the year I made enough profit to buy a new sewing machine that I am still proud of.

All of that ended a while ago. However, in December, I saw Auntie Sewing Squad’s call for donations of handmade wool items for communities hit hard during COVID-19. So I ordered some yarn online and dusted off some of my tools. I never follow a pattern, and I just let the materials guide me.

I had fun putting these hats together and packing them up for the mail. Some days I told myself, “No sleep until you finish one more hat.” It was like having one of my old deadlines.


Erika's handmaid hats

Erika’s hand-made hats


Emily Russell

Since quarantine, I have started a little “side-business,” you could say. Back in September, I started hand-painting signs.

My hobby started as a way for me to decorate my new apartment without breaking the bank at HomeGoods on decorations that a toddler could make (kidding—sort of). I eventually branched out and shared some of my work with family and friends. Before I knew it, I was spending every free moment I had creating custom orders, delivering, packaging, and shipping to pals across the country.

This hobby of mine has given me a much-needed mental break from reality! It has reminded me of the importance of taking the time to do what makes you happy and makes you feel like YOU. The feeling of getting into a creative flow and “waking-up” hours later to a final product that is uniquely you is unbeatable.

My process? Messy and inelegant. I sit criss-cross-applesauce on my rug, lay down some old towels, prepare my paints, and plop my unpainted wood sign down on the floor with wine in a plastic cup in one hand and a paintbrush in the other. And…I paint! Wood signs painted with acrylic and finished with a satin varnish. One-hundred percent hand-painted, made with <3.


Collage of Emily's hand-painted signs, which say "Welcome," "Happy Fall," and similar decorative messages

Collage of Emily’s hand-painted signs

Julie McLafferty

I started learning about stained glass when the lockdown began in March. I was looking for a hobby that I could do indoors that used my hands and didn’t involve a screen, so I picked a craft that has been around since Medieval times! I have always been drawn to glass as a medium but felt intimidated by its fragility. Now, its fragility is one of the things I love most about it.

I have found a huge community of young people who are revitalizing the craft and bringing in their own flair (it’s so much more than old church windows!). As a practice, it has taught me to be more precise, go the extra mile to make sure something is done right, and have more confidence in my creative ability. It forces me to slow down and not rush things, which is something that doesn’t come naturally to me. I’ve recently noticed how quickly time goes by when I’m working on a piece. With all of the chaos going on in the world, I feel grateful to get truly immersed in an activity I enjoy.


Collage of Julie's colorful stained glass pieces

Collage of Julie’s colorful stained glass pieces