When I asked my friend Renee how she started her own jewelry business, she explained, “Because I bought a blouse, and I wanted a funky necklace to go with it.” That’s impressive. My friend Carol in Scotland makes amazingly beautiful and intricate cakes for all occasions, and she started “because my goddaughter had organized an event for her university degree called ‘East Kilbride bake off.’ That was my first time making a cake!”
My friend Marlys paints for fun and makes many cards and gifts for friends. They are amazing, and I keep every single one she gives me. How did she get started? “Good question. There is something deeply satisfying about it. When it is going well it is like going to another place. When I walk into an art store or am around groups of people painting sometimes my heart actually beats faster.”
My cousin-in-law Donna makes most of her jewelry, which she sells and gives as gifts, from sea glass. I asked her how she got started. “I have always loved jewelry, thanks to my mom. And I have always loved finding sea glass, so after I retired from teaching music for 34 years, I was ready to spend some time learning to make the glass into jewelry. A woman at a craft show in Canada … was selling sea glass. She took out her tools and showed me how she starts her pieces. A few YouTube videos later I was wire wrapping. I found it easy to do and everyone who saw my first few pieces said, ‘You should sell those!’ So, I decided to do my first show in 2016, which was very successful, and it turned into a small business.”
These four women along with a few others talked to me about their crafts as the world turns to the National Bakers Crafters Makers Day celebrated every January 21. The celebration recognizes people who make crafts and baked goods as important for their talents, their investment of time and energy to make one-of-a-kind items and gifts, and their contribution to the world because of their hard work and dedication.
Donna explains her inspiration comes from many places. It could be the “love of a piece we found, a new technique of wire weave or wrap, and of course what a customer is looking for. They may have a special piece of glass or a rock they want to use.”
Marlys pointed out some of the difficulties finding inspiration. “That is a tough one. Primarily I get inspiration from what’s around me that I enjoy photographing. The photographs then provide the inspiration. Sometimes though it’s other people’s photos, my surroundings like walking in the woods, or even other people’s work. Sometimes I go to my studio and want to paint but there is no inspiration and so I go to my fall back of painting trees or eyes or something that is easy, just for the satisfaction of painting.”
Carol says, “I get inspired from lots of places and images. For my cakes it depends on what the customer is looking for. For my cupcakes I look at flowers.” Renee explains why people are so enamored by her creations. “I do think people value my work. I have a lot of repeat customers, I’ve had multiple custom orders, and people I meet along the way are always highly complimentary. Also, if you ask the Mayor of North Adams [Massachusetts] Jennifer Macksey, I’m her personal ‘jeweler’.”
Donna gives insight into how she decides what she’ll make. “The pieces I make kind of call the shots. Size, shape, and color come into play when deciding what to do to a piece.”
Marlys, in my humble opinion, doesn’t give herself enough credit. As one who cherishes her birthday and other cards, I’m impressed by her work, and I value her talent. Yes, it’s nice of her to do, but the product is way too nice to throw it away, so I have a lot of “Marlys Art” on my refrigerator. “I’m not sure why people are appreciative of my work. I often suspect it is because they are nice people, and they like to see me happy. Occasionally I paint something specifically for someone, and I like to think that they appreciate the thought behind the painting as well as the painting. It’s funny, but my sons sometimes put my hand-painted cards on their refrigerator. It’s definitely role reversal and rather humorous.”
“How does someone get started making creations like yours?” I asked my friends. Renee’s response was short and sweet. “Just try it. Make, craft, sew, whatever it is you like to do. If you think it’s worthy, show it off and try selling it.” Marlys says we need to give ourselves a break and start slowly while appreciating every improvement. “I have a refrigerator magnet that says ‘Remember, every artist was once a beginner.’ It is important to keep that in mind. For most of us, the only way that we’re going to get good at it is to practice so enjoy every little improvement along the way. Also, it should be about the process as much as the finished product. You’re not doing this for someone else, you’re doing it for yourself.”
Donna has some solid advice. “Value your work. Charge accordingly and do your homework about pricing. Ask others. Go to craft shows to understand what they entail, and then go do some. Being in a store is good, less profit but a lot less work. Teach your craft to others if you are so inclined.” Personally, I think Donna can easily charge more than her chosen prices. I work with Donna on color and style and then my friend receives a gift designed from the heart with the recipient’s loves in mind; and it’s unique since we work together to get something especially for a specific person.
Carol’s cake-baking and decorating business started small, and she is clear how one can start. “Practice, practice, practice. And don’t buy too many baking items. Look for a good class and decide what you love to do more and get enjoyment from – cakes or cupcakes, biscuits, etc.”
To all the people who hand-make their favorite creations, National Bakers Crafters Makers Day is meant to recognize you. You enjoy your craft, and you bring joy to others. We thank you.
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