Review of Online Craft Classes: 30 Days in Your Journal by Julie Fei-Fan Balzer


I’m a work at home mom with a spouse who travels- so as much as I’d love to take craft classes, often it just doesn’t fit into my calendar or lifestyle. I’ve seen a bunch of new online classes pop up, but I was wary. Truth be told, I signed up for an online class last year from a well-known blogger, but I’d stopped after the second class. The “set-up” videos that explained the art task for the week went on and on, and the weekly tasks too big for me to tackle in a week.

However, when I saw Julie Fei-Fan Balzers’ online class, 30 Days in Your Journal, I was intrigued.

I was optimistic to begin with for two reason: one, I’ve read Julie’s blog for a while and I like her art-making style. It’s intuitive, on-the-fly, and open-ended. (And a bit messy, too.) Secondly, I’ve met Julie personally a taping of Scrapbook Soup and again at at CHA– so I was familiar with her personality: open, outgoing, encouraging, authentic.

I asked Julie if I could “sit in” on her class for review purposes- and she said “yes.” I have to say that it made me admire her all the more- not because she comped me the class, but because she knows that I’m going to share my  (honest) results from the class with you and she stands by her ideas and process.

So I signed up for the class, which you access through a URL and a password. (It’s basically a set of hidden blog posts on her website.) For this class, Julie sets up every post into four parts: {taken from her website}
Every single day for 30 daysyou will get a power packed blog post!  Each blog post consists of:

  • A video tutorial: A daily 5- 20 minute video where I work in my journal, describing everything I’m doing and the thinking behind it.A supply list: Each day the supplies used that day are clearly listed so you can easily gather your supplies and work along with the video.
  • A substitution list: A list of suggested product substitutions is provided every day.  This is not a class that requires you to go out and buy a bunch of stuff if you don’t want to.  I try to show you a lot of different supplies in use, and then indicate what else you might have on hand to use instead.
  • A list of take-aways: This is not a class where you are meant to copy what I do exactly.  If you want to, awesome!  But my goal is to inspire and empower you.  So after every video lesson I have posted a list of lessons I hope you’ll take away and put into use in your own journal.

Screen shot of Julie Fei-Fan Balzer's "30 Days in Your Journal" online class.

Here’s an example of one day’s layout. In the video, she brought us through, step-by-step, on making the background texture as well as starting to create the focal image, the face.

What I liked about Julies’ process is that it builds- you don’t have to sit down for an hour to get something accomplished. Actually, in her video  she sets the timer for 10 minutes- and that is so “do-able.” Also, even though the face image is started one day, it doesn’t need to be finished for many more. That’s one of the main principles I came away with: do what you can, when you can. Here’s my journal in the exact same point of progress:

I also like that Julie provides a visual list of the supplies used for that day. If you aren’t familiar with them, it helps to know what they look like before you go shopping:

How Julie displays her supply list.

Even better, she gives you a HUGE list of substitutions. Not once did I feel like I couldn’t complete the day’s journaling task because I didn’t have the “right supplies.”

Also, as Julie is talking to you, she’s making mistakes, sharing why she’s making the choices she is, and generally thinking aloud. It’s feels like she’s talking with you and to you, and not just AT the camera. Know what I mean?

And she makes mistakes, too. Or changes her mind as she’s going along, just like a “normal” person. While she certainly has a lot of tips, tricks, and techniques to share, she’s not afraid to observe that something “isn’t working” and comes up with solutions on how to make it better.

Now, if you are looking for an online class to make your journalling deeper, richer, more profound- this isn’t the class for you. Julie’s mission is to get you making art everyday in your journal- to take the time to make your journal richer, deeper, and more profound by the art you put into in, not necessarily the words. I found that on a few of the prompts (like the face above) I wanted to just keep working on the art part, and the words became almost unnecessary.

Another thing I like about Julie’s series is that she gives you PERMISSION. Iif you skip a day in your journal, it’s OK. (After all, she does on occasion.) And if you want to bounce around working on different things on different days, that’s OK, too. Julie stresses that it’s the process of making that is important, and giving yourself a little sliver of time to make something that benefits no one but you. The art in your journal isn’t meant to be hung on a wall or even shared with your Significant Other- it’s private art. Julie’s class reminded me to give myself permission to play in my journal, take some risks, and most of all “gift” myself with the quiet time.

Now, I have to tell you hat even though this class started in October, I’m still not all “done”- I’m on day twenty-four. But Julie’s permission-based philosophy and at-your-own-pace set up make me feel perfectly OK about admitting that! But I feel as if her tips and techniques have started me on my own journey- that I have the tools I needed to get started and now I can kind of go off on my own and explore.

May I show you some of my pages?

As you can see, I’m still more “journal” than “art”- but just learning how to prepare my journal for art-making and creating backgrounds on which to build was a huge break through for me. What I know for sure is that I’ve incorporated a whole new style into my journaling, and I feel like it’s habit that’s going to stick.

I would highly recommend this class- it’s an “at your own pace” class, so you can start and view the videos at your leisure without worrying about Julie taking the posts down. In addition to the class, Julie has also set up a Flickr group for sharing photos and a community forum. (I have to confess that I’m not a “forum” type girl, so I didn’t ever bother to check into that aspect of the class.) But for $50, you get 30 days of inspiration. (And she takes PayPal- WOOT!) Why wouldn’t you take the class?

Disclosure: A HUGE thank-you to Julie for allowing me to take the class and share my honest opinions about it.




About Jenny

Chief Craft Test Dummy, Craft Evangelist, Founder, Editor, bottle-washer, trouble-maker, and creative whirlwind.

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