Review: TLC’s Craft Wars with Tori Spelling

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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14 Comments on Review: TLC’s Craft Wars with Tori Spelling

  1. Katarina
    6.28.2012 at 1:24 am (3 years ago)

    I usually watch all the shows about interior design, style, fashion, sewing, carfting and DIY I can find in the internet as those topics (besides home improvement) don’t seem to interest any German producers. I’m glad to read about it, for once that this show exists, for second that I don’t have to bother finding it. I value and trust your opinion and anything else than an honest review would have been a hypocrisy to your readers. I expecially value the last part; I understand your worries about possibly missed oportunities but if anything, they should value the feedback. And what’s up with Erica?! I was just wondering how longliving glueing and stapeling things onto garments was when reading her post the other day. Though I like how she takes inspiration from the runways and translates them into an easy project, her crafts look pretty amateurish to me. So with that in mind, she seems to be the hypocrite on that show. That’s a shame.
    Katarina recently posted..Tutorial: how to sew a concealed button panel

  2. Kathryn
    6.28.2012 at 5:01 am (3 years ago)

    I appreciate your honesty as I too was disappointed and after the show I wondered if it was just me until I read a post by Megacrafty ( where she too was disappointed. I feel the same way about not feeling a connection with the contestants or the judges.

    As I indicated in my comment at Megacrafty, I don’t know many people who are going to want to rip apart sports equipment to make of the duffle bags on the show and I don’t know many people who have the space to create a playhouse. Themes like you suggested, or even themes that have appeared on “Craftser” or “So You Think You Are Crafty” would be better options.

    I would prefer to see individuals craft things that will inspire people (not with a teammate or directing a team of helpers) to want to craft something similar and I would think with Michael’s sponsoring they would want to promote items they sell – as they don’t sell sports equipment or lumber, I found it surprising they would feature those items in the crafting challenges and more crafters. It would have made more sense to have more smaller crafting challenges and maybe throw in an unconventional component.

    There is already enough drama on television and I would prefer it be left out of a crafting show; I too prefer if it were more educational and inspirational.

    There are a lot of craft products I have not delved into because they are unfamiliar to me – I would prefer a craft show that gets me familiar with them and inspires me to want to try them. This show misses the mark and it is a missed opportunity for Michael’s to boost their sales.

  3. Erin B
    6.28.2012 at 10:58 am (3 years ago)

    I agree with you on all points. I’m not a hardcore crafter or anything but even i could see the flaws in this show. I would compare it with cupcake wars on the Food Network. It’s a very cheap form of entertainment. I have to say that I didn’t have very high expectations though.

  4. Anita
    6.28.2012 at 12:49 pm (3 years ago)

    Wow, I really love that you were honest with your critique, I was also disappointed with the show. To me, a lot of crafting is reusing things that would otherwise be discarded, instead of ripping apart brand new items. Some of that left me cringing. I hope there is a future one related to upcycling. I agree that the set was fun, but I also didn’t see how Michael’s products were really used much. I thought the judges were a little harsh, then I figured that the producers encouraged that since ‘drama’ draws in more viewers that way. I felt a little sorry for the judges having to sit there for 5 hours while they “crafted” the playhouse. That would have been like watching mod podge dry to me… 😉
    Anita recently posted..C@FB – May 2012

  5. Natalie Hua
    6.28.2012 at 9:11 pm (3 years ago)

    Thank you for being so honest. You’re not the only one I was also disappointed… Maybe because I always use crafting as a way to relax and de-stress, I feel that that drama and craft do not go together. They made it way too dramatic. Oh well, I hope next week will be better!
    Natalie Hua recently posted..Patriotic Manicure for July 4th
    Polish used:
    Base coat:Sally…

  6. truebluemeandyou
    6.28.2012 at 9:52 pm (3 years ago)

    Beyond disappointed – although I actually liked Tori Spelling because you could just see she really loved crafting (although I posted about how annoying it was when I had scroll through tons of sponsored posts one day – all about her jewelry). The best most original idea on the show – the tennis racket bottom used for ventilation in the sports bag – was dismissed for durability issues… really? I mean REALLY? The other two bags showed higher levels of “quality”? I thought this show was going to be about imagination and inspiration – and all it was was a game show except it had judges with badly written nasty comments (and I could just hear in my head the director yelling, “People! We need more EDGE, more energy, more DRAMA!” UGH. I want a show where I learn and see something new. I want someone intelligent like Carol Duvall to teach me in a kind gentle manner great innovative crafts that are doable and look great – is to much to ask? Apparently it is.
    truebluemeandyou recently posted..DIY Inspired Antonio Berardi SS 2012 Fish Scale Dress Tutorial…

  7. donner
    6.29.2012 at 3:27 pm (3 years ago)

    I was mildly interested in this show, mostly because Cathy Fillian has been promoting it on Facebook for ages. But, being a non-fan of TSpelling, I wasn’t all that jazzed to watch it. And now I’m glad I didn’t bother. Sounds like it was another DIY disaster…heh…
    donner recently posted..Only took a week…

  8. Rachel
    6.30.2012 at 8:51 pm (3 years ago)

    I saw the first episode and was dissapointed also. I agree, I love the idea of bringing attention to the crafting world, but this show has a lot of kinks that need to be worked out. Until the Tori Spelling DIY jewelry line came out, I didn’t know she was a crafter. I first heard of her through Tori & Dean (which I never watched, but was hounded by the commercials!) I follow P.S. I Made This….. and she did seem a little critical. She made many a valid point, but she and the male judge were arguing and it seemed to me to be very unprofessional, and on television!

    I commend you on your choice to tell the truth. I believe your’re a better person because of it. We have enough spokesman (and spokeswomen) out there persuading us to buy, watch, or do something, that a straight and honest opinion is worth a lot! I agree with you 100% and applaude your morality.

  9. Kimberley
    7.03.2012 at 11:05 pm (3 years ago)

    I just watched the patio furniture episode- I agree with all you said, Carly. I really hate the judges’ comments that are obviously added in editing.
    Its a formula Cupcake Wars, Chopped etc. , just plug in crafting.

  10. kat
    7.05.2012 at 11:17 am (3 years ago)

    Yet one more, “I really had high hopes, but man was I disappointed.” Really? Building patio furniture by soddering is considered crafting? Or breaking apart a flashlight to build a porchlight is crafting? Incredible, well executed- yes. Crafting- no.

  11. Attorney Bling
    7.07.2012 at 10:41 am (3 years ago)

    I am amazed you managed to watch the entire first episode. I tried and I could not force myself to watch all of it. I agreed with your comments on the show and posted similar comments on my blog. I tried to give the show a second chance because I enjoy crafting and really wanted to like this show, but I could not manage to watch the second episode in its entirety either. They need to have craft challenges that are realistic and that inspire people to craft (since there are a million and two shouts out to Michaels before, during and after the show). The show is very similar to cupcake wars, but I really enjoy that show and the contestants are creating cupcakes for an actual event. I don’t even think that there are any charitable organizations that would want to accept the projects made on craft wars. I’m just sayn’.

  12. Janine (Alternative Housewife)
    7.12.2012 at 2:31 am (3 years ago)

    Craft Wars is a hot mess! I see this is an older post, but on the most recent on I saw, they made dog houses. And the winner made a pet house covered in glitter. She even used real pet treats and coated them in glitter. Really? What happens when dogs smell the treat and try to eat it, glitter and all? The show claims that items have to be functional, but safety isn’t a concern? And on the previous episode the craft I considered to be by FAR the best was eliminated in the first round.

    You’re right, the P.S. girl is a bitch on the show! I have her book and follow her blog and, yeah, funny that she’s harping on poor construction. I like that her crafts appeal to new crafters – They are usually very easy and use materials you already have – but it’s definitely hypocritical. And Tori comes off downright mean and condescending.

    I keep watching the show mainly to sit and snark with my husband.
    Janine (Alternative Housewife) recently posted..Copy-Kids Eat Fruits and Vegetables

    • carlyjcais
      7.12.2012 at 6:29 am (3 years ago)

      You definitely have more stamina than me, Janine!;-) I had to turn it off halfway through the second episode, it was so bad. So snarky, so silly, so pointless. Gah, Michael’s has so many awesome crafty items…that can be used to make beautiful things…why waste them on unappealing projects? My husband would probably prefer to chew off his own arm rather than be forced to watch this (though he’s not a crafting maniac like I am, LOL; I applaud you and your husband’s perseverance!! :-)


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