Kim Werker

Kim Werker runs Mighty Ugly. She's a writer and freelance editor whose latest book, Make It Mighty Ugly, is coming in the fall of 2014. Kim tries to make something – anything – every day. Many of those things are awful; some are not. Learn more about her work, teaching schedule and ragtag adventures at

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World Oceans Day: Inspiring Ugly

At last night’s workshop at Plush, one of the participants made a fish – a pretty gnarly looking fish she named Mightia Uglianus. She was inspired by World Oceans Day, which is a UN-designated oceans conservation day held on June 8th every year. Her message is, well, grim:


She’s not the first participant to channel her anxiety about the state of our natural world into her creature. Here’s Pam’s video from the workshop last month:


Have you channeled your fears, feelings or anxieties into things you create?

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Workshop Next Week – Register Soon!

June 7th Mighty Ugly Workshop

Just a reminder, dear uglies, that the next workshop is Monday, June 7th, from 7-9PM at Plush on Main in Vancouver. It’s filling up, so if you’ve been holding off, now’s the time to register!

What: Create a hideous creature, thus using your brain and your creativity in shiny new ways, while chatting with others and getting your craft on (no crafts experience necessary!).

How much: $35 (includes all supplies, use of tools, and pointers if you want ‘em)

Who: You. And me. And bring a friend. And make some new ones.

Register: Please contact Barbara at 604-708-5199 or to reserve your spot (only 12 spots available!).

Note: Because Plush’s workroom is used for serious work, no food or drinks are permitted. Please grab a bite to eat before you come. You’ll be so focused on creating your ugly you’d forget to munch, anyway.

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Mighty Ugly at the Summit of Awesome

Summit of Awesome graphicShoshana and I are going to hit the road in a couple of weeks, with a trunkful of Mighty Ugly. We’re chill and modest, so we’re thinking of it as our INTERNATIONAL DEBUT.

The Summit of Awesome is put on by promoters of handmade business Hello Craft, and here’s how they describe it:

The Summit of Awesome is an annual conference that brings together crafters and makers from across the U.S. to learn, grow, and be prosperous in this ever-changing economy.
The sessions strike a good balance between business and crafts, and I’ll be leading three of them:
  • Mighty Ugly: Challenge Yourself to Make Some Ugly – Without even realizing it, since we were kids we’ve taken on some major pressure to create pretty, good-looking, cute, and dare I say even perfect things. When we have a tough time of it, sometimes we give up. We limit our crafting to the techniques and mediums we feel most confident with. We judge ourselves harshly enough that we even feel great stress. Well let’s turn all that upside-down, shall we? Come spend an hour making a creature that’s hideous. On purpose. Free your mind. Giggle nervously. Relax into the safety of failure, which in this case is kinda pretty. It’s the Mighty Ugly project, and it’s time you took the challenge.
  • How to Pitch a Magazine or Blog (with Jena Covey) – Every crafty entrepreneur loves press coverage, but you can’t wait for the press to find you – you have to knock right on the virtual door of media outlets and introduce yourself! We’ll discuss how to pitch your shop and products to blogs and magazines: which publications you should pitch to, the dos and don’ts to include in your intro email, what to expect, how to follow up, how to approach an editor or blogger about writing an article or a guest post, and much more. You’ll find the confidence you need to get out there and start showing the press how awesome you are!
  • Taking the Pressure Off: When Ugly is Mighty – Ever have crafts block? The ideas dry up, even when you feel huge pressure to be making things for business or just for fun. Ever have an idea for a new product, but you can’t quite seem to make it look or feel right? Of course you have. As crafters, we spend much of our time striving for beauty and even for perfection, and we avoid the squirmy uncomfortableness that comes with exploring beauty’s nasty underbelly: hideousness. So let’s talk about ugly stuff. If we allow ourselves to go there, we can end up inspired in ways we never imagined, fearless and fuelled up to create magnificently beautiful things. That’s what this talk is about. You should come.

If you’re going to the Summit, make sure to say hello to Shoshana – it’ll be her first time across the border, and she’ll be nervous. We’ll have loads of Mighty Ugly Moo mini-cards to hand out, and I’m going to make up buttons, too. So saying hello to Shoshana will be rewarded with prizes!

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Stories from the May 10th Workshop

Mighty Ugly Crafts NightLast week, a dozen people filled the workroom at Plush on Main for our first workshop. How I fell in love with that space! And with each and every one of the participants and their creatures (ok, yes, I was already in love with the ones I’m related to – my partner and his mom were there, too).

Folks had some pretty interesting things to say about their motivations and their experience, and I’m pretty sure the level of laughter in the room indicated everyone had a good time. Imaginations were on overdrive, as you’ll see from the stories, below: there’s mention of nuclear disaster, a bender in Vegas, technology as the antithesis of art, anxiety about the health of our oceans, gender identity confusion, the gangster crafting underworld, a little bit of murder, fear of crafting, thoughts on colour…

Here’s the playlist of videos from the evening. To navigate between videos, simply move your mouse over the video, and thumbnails and arrows will appear; you can also click the rectangular button next to the “play” button to make the navigation appear. If you’d prefer to watch and comment on the videos individually, you can do so on our YouTube channel (and don’t be shy – we’d love to be your YouTube friend!). Photos from the evening are in the Flickr group.

Jen, creator of the bender-in-Vegas creature named Battina, wrote about her experience on her blog.

The next workshop at Plush is on Monday, 7th June. *nudge nudge*


(If you attended the workshop and you’d like to add to your story, let me know! Also let me know if I spelled your name wrong and I’ll correct it right away.)

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Gettin’ Ugly at Northern Voice

Last weekend was the annual Northern Voice personal blogging conference here in Vancouver. I had a great time handing out the new Mighty Ugly Moo mini cards, but beyond that I was psyched that some ugly creatures got some sweet attention.

My friend Kimli Welsh led a session at the conference about overcoming social anxiety in part by using online social media. And she gave out some swag bags. And into ten of those swag bags went creatures people made at the very first Mighty Ugly crafts night I held at my house. I joked with Kimli that she might give out the first swag bags in the history of swag bags that recipients might want to return…

Thanks to Monica for these great pics!

ETA: Check out Ariane Colenbrander’s post about the ugly doll she got in her swag bag.

Mighty Ugly @ Northern Voice

photo credit Monica Miller

Mighty Ugly Moo Mini Card

photo credit Monica Miller

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All the Ugly News That’s Fit to Email

It’s been nearly a month since I launched the project. What a month! I’m so enjoying hearing from you all about your adventures in ugly.

And so I figure it’s a good time to start up an email newsletter. Not a frequent newsletter, just a good way for us to keep you informed about upcoming events, workshops and special offers, and about any special challenges Shoshana and I have up our sleeves (mental note: make Shoshana sleeves).

We won’t annoy you and we won’t share your email with anyone. So sign up today (there’s a sign-up form in the sidebar, too)!

Powered by MailChimp

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Workshop at Plush on Main, May 10th

Shoshana and I are doing a happy dance over here, because the very first public Mighty Ugly workshop is coming up! The fine women at Plush on Main, here in Vancouver, have invited us to bring on the ugly in their awesome workroom. (Plush is a wee boutique of locally handmade goods. You should visit.)

So here’s your chance to flex your creative muscles, challenge your pretty habit, get your craft on, and meet fun people, all while taking the Mighty Ugly challenge. No matter what you expect, you’ll be surprised by your experience.

The details!

Where: Plush on Main (4296 Main Street)
When: Monday, 10th May from 7-9PM
What: Create a hideous creature, thus using your brain and your creativity in shiny new ways, while chatting with others and getting your craft on (no crafts experience necessary!).
How much: $35 (includes all supplies, use of tools, and pointers if you want ’em)
Who: You. And me. And bring a friend. And make some new ones.
Register: Please contact Barbara at 604-708-5199 or to reserve your spot (only 12 spots available!).

Note: Because Plush’s workroom is used for serious work, no food or drinks are permitted. Please grab a bite to eat before you come. You’ll be so intent creating your ugly you’d forget to munch, anyway.

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Stop. Judging. Yourself.

One of the things I’m most interested in exploring through the Mighty Ugly project is how we’re affected by the judgments we make in response to other people’s beautiful creations.

Today on Jezebel, Sadie Stein wrote a post that perfectly encapsulates what I mean. It can be very hard, when the vast beauty of crafts and lifestyle blogs is always just a click away, to judge ourselves against the stunning photos and whimsical stories people create. On the days we’re not very open to inspiration, we may read those blogs and end up feeling like crap. We can end up feeling like our photo-composition skills are severely lacking, like our fashion sense is so conventional, like we can maybe throw together a plate of chocolate chip cookies but not a meringue like she can.

We judge ourselves. Harshly. Unfairly. We decide we shouldn’t bother making stuff. And what do we get out of it those days we fall, as Stein put it, “down the picturesque-vintage-design-craft rabbit hole… and [emerge] three hours later, bleary-eyed and full of self-loathing”? Nothing good, that’s what.

I wish Shoshana could wave her magic wand (mental note: make Shoshana a magic wand) and stop people from creating such misery for themselves. But she can’t. We need to do it ourselves. We could stop seeking out all that beauty, but what good would that do? No. What we need to do is stop freaking judging ourselves so harshly.

Stop it. Now. You owe yourself better.

[Hat tip to @SisterDiane, who tweeted the link to Jezebel.]

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Ugly Is as Ugly Does?

I got the first email sent from our contact form this morning. Tisha‘s thoughts on ugly sure started off my week on a thoughtful note. So thoughtful I asked her if it would be alright if I shared parts of our exchange with all of you.

Tisha: Thought about your challenge. Looked at the pictures sent in by the people who made “Uglies” and discovered I do not think these creations are ugly and I asked myself “Why don’t I think these things are ugly?” I rolled this around for about 5 minutes and then I realized that UGLY, for me, is in intention – that is to say, if a thing does no harm then it is not ugly to me. I found many of the creatures from this Flickr group adorable.

Kim: Thanks for sharing your perspective on ugly. I hadn’t thought about the benign effect of “ugly” creatures taking away from their ugliness. You’ve brought me to a whole new level of thinking on this. If you were to create an ugly creature yourself, how would you make it ugly?

Tisha: I don’ know if I would want to spend time making such a thing – but it would have to have pins or shards of glass or be covered in a toxic substance, with the intention to cause harm. Do you think there is a difference between UGLY and REPULSIVE? Because, for me, something that is repulsive is hard to look at but does not necessarily mean to cause harm. I might be spinning my wheels here. I so understand that most people think of ugly as you intended in your challenge, it’s just that the more I thought about making something ugly the harder it was to think something up that would be passive, and that’s when I realised UGLY to me is: a high school student who is mean to a classmate, a parent who neglects their child…

I’d always thought of the difference between ugly and repulsive as the difference between something being thoroughly unattractive and something that repels me physically – a repulsive thing evokes a physical response, be it a cringe, a wrinkling of the nose, a turning stomach.

Tisha’s perspective on ugly as being defined by the intention to do harm – where ugly is determined based on behavior – is one I hadn’t considered with respect to this project.

Now that she mentions it, of course I think ugly behaviour is uglier than anything that’s only ugly on the surface – and certainly beautiful people can be hideous.

Having had this perspective brought to your attention, do you think it’ll affect your approach to making an ugly creature for the challenge?

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Ugly Creature: FU Mrs. O, by Miranda Lievers

You may have seen a snippet from Miranda Liever‘s creature video in the CBC news clip last week. She’s the one whose Grade 1 teacher used her diorama as an example of how not to use glue. Poor Miranda. I’m really glad she had a chance to work out her lingering anger about that last week during the Mighty Ugly crafts experiment.

Mighty Ugly Creature: FU Mrs. O!

Here’s what Miranda had to say about her experience making her creature:

  • I think my brain is warped because I loved many of the dolls created. I couldn’t believe no one wanted to keep theirs! I loved yours [Kim’s], I loved the giant snake, I loved the cheerleader… so many. I secretly want to keep them all, but they’ll be going to a  good cause in Kimli’s Northern Voice talk.**
  • I really, really had fun with the fact that my plans and ideas could change so fluidly and evolve as I went. There was no “but that’s not the plan” little voice… and the end product was so much better because I just went with it as I was creating. Normally once you make decisions you are more committed because you’ve already sewn that part or whatever and you can’t easily retrofit, but in the case of an ugly doll I could just sew a leg on top if I needed to without worrying about more traditional construction methods. This was freeing.
  • I liked that we were making dolls with cloth and similar materials available, because they are plush and have a certain cuddly factor even when they are filled with glass, like mine. As a kid I played a lot with paper and other materials and those items just become recycling, where I think a doll is in many ways more permanent. I felt like I was creating something more substantial and valuable than if I just glued a bunch of things to a sheet of paper.
  • I think my favourite part – like many have likely said – was that it was a social activity. I personally would be interested in doing this on my own, but the reality is that I would have a hard time making the time with everything else I have happening. Conversely, I will make time for social activities, and this was a great one.
  • I would be interested in hearing how non-creatives felt about the activity. As crafters we already knew how to work with the materials at hand – how to sew, how a glue gun works and behaves, the concept of sewing an item then turning it inside out and completing with stuffing to create a traditional stuffed item. These skills are fairly basic but something I think everyone at the table was familiar with, but I think there are people who would find the actual mechanics of working with the materials (stuffed or otherwise) to be stressful. Even if someone was gluing an item together rather than sewing, not everyone knows that white glue will take forever to dry vs. a glue gun which will actually dry quite quickly. I wonder if there may be value – and I’m sure doing a workshop with non-crafty types would tell you – in doing like a 5-minute intro on the basic tools that they have in front of them? Print out a poster showing the most basic of stitches? Have a stapler for those who want to do that? I’m not sure. Just thoughts.

I love Miranda’s reactions and suggestions, and will certainly be keeping them in mind as I begin to lead Mighty Ugly workshops***.

And here’s Miranda telling her creature’s story:


** Northern Voice is a blogging conference that will be held here in Vancouver next month. Kimli Welsh will be presenting a talk on overcoming social anxiety and she’ll be using the creatures created during the MU experiment in… a surprising way.

*** That’s right, it’s official! Mighty Ugly workshops!

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