The Canadian crafter, best known for her YouTube channel LaurDIY, discusses her latest venture as host and executive producer of HBO Max's Craftopia

By Topher Gauk-Roger
May 27, 2020 10:00 AM
Lauren Riihimaki (LaurDIY)

Lauren Riihimaki is taking her crafting skills beyond YouTube.

The popular YouTuber and crafter is best known for her channel LaurDIY, which has over 8.9 million subscribers. Now the Canadian is taking on a new project, the crafting competition series Craftopia, airing on the just-launched HBO Max.

Riihimaki, 26, spoke to PEOPLE about the exciting opportunity to showcase her brand to a new audience.

"I feel like I'm in the big leagues," Riihimaki admits. "Obviously producing YouTube videos is home grown and it's very entrepreneurial, but it was such an honor to be part of such a collaborative effort. If I had an idea, they were so down to execute it. I feel like they really trusted me and my digital expertise."

The veteran crafter serves as host and executive producer of Craftopia, which follows 9 to 15-year-old contestants putting their imaginations to the test and competing to make the craziest creations.

"There's just so much creative innovation that these kids bring to the challenges," Riihimaki says. "I grew up in a different generation where we didn't have access to learning how to master any kind of craft medium that you possibly could think of through the internet. They all really came with their own expertise, and I was there to motivate them and give a few tips, but I learned so much from them."

"I think crafting has never really gotten the spotlight that it deserves and I think Craftopia is really going to change that," Riihimaki continues. "I think anything that occupies your mind and hands while getting creative is such a fun release and being able to stay busy while doing something fun is really relaxing."

Riihimaki has found a renewed sense of creativity while staying at home amid the current COVID-19 pandemic, and has been inspired by the the crafting she's seen from others while they have been quarantining.

"It's been really exciting to see a major spike in our community of people who are actually completing the craft," Riihimaki says. "A really common comment I receive is that people love watching the content, but may never get around to actually doing it. The amount of tie-dye photos I've gotten of people going into the closet and doing a tie-dye project that I've done a tutorial on ... It's definitely been so inspiring to see how people are turning to creativity as a stress reliever and just something fun to do to take their minds off of the current situation."

Riihimaki's tip for those at home looking to get crafty while at home? Use Mason jars.

"I feel like it's something that's so popular and so easy and I feel like a ton of people have Mason jars at home in the kitchen," Riihimaki says. "The amount of DIY you can do with a Mason jar is just absolutely endless. So just hitting up Pinterest and, based on what supplies you have access to and what you're trying to make, if you have a Mason jar, that is the base of so many cool crafts and would be a really good place to start."

Riihimaki's videos have amassed over 1.2 billion views, and the YouTuber has been a fan of crafting since buying all the kits at Toys"R"Us as a kid. But Riihimaki's DIY projects became more than a hobby while she was studying graphic communications management at Ryerson University in Toronto.

"I was always a big fan of making things unique and custom to me, and I started a blog in my first year of college when I realized the major I had chosen was not as creative as I had expected it to be," Riihimaki admits. "I was kind of just doing both at the same time, trying to balance a full course load of finishing my major and also producing content every week in the DIY space. It really is what kept me sane throughout college."

"Obviously my parents wanted me to have an education, so I was able to finish my degree but also build this business on the side that I was able to do full time once I graduated college."

Riihimaki reveals her parents were supportive of her pursuing crafting full time after seeing the LaurDIY channel blossom into more than a fun after-school project.

"If you had told me that there could be this many people interested in creativity and crafting and DIY, there's just no world where I ever could have fathomed this," Riihimaki says. "It truly is incredible being able to connect with people all over the world that share a similar interest."

Riihimaki has worked on projects for major brands like Disney, Procter & Gamble and Starbucks, but always keeps her budget-conscious viewers in mind when deciding what to do next.

"I get a ton of inspiration from things that are in stores and expensive that I know younger viewers or viewers who are on a budget want to be able to create for a cheaper price or do themselves and make custom to them," Riihimaki reveals. "It's the motivation to empower others to be creative and make something their own and make something themselves. It's like creative problem solving."

Forbes Magazine dubbed Riihimaki the “millennial Martha Stewart,” and the DIY expert takes the responsibility of a large following very seriously.

"I think there's definitely a social responsibility to be a good role model," Riihimaki says. "I definitely want to be able to inspire as many people as possible and keep that in mind when I'm creating content and hoping to be a positive light in people's lives."

In the meantime, Riihimaki is still getting used to life in the limelight.

"It's so funny because growing up, I've never been one to enjoy the spotlight," Riihimaki reveals. "This is not the path that I ever saw for myself, but it's just been so rewarding to see how others want to be involved in your journey, supporting and investing in you, and being a part of everything that you've built and helping you further build."

"And it all started with me being really sad in college and starting a DIY blog because I was looking for a creative outlet," she muses.

For Riihimaki, Craftopia provides an opportunity for aspiring crafters — one that she could only dream of when she was growing up.

"I think it's so inspiring for other kids to be able to see people who look like them, who have the same interests as them to really to really promote creativity and just being yourself."