Thursday, May 26, 2011

Kelli Wefenstette of Greenie Bean Recycle

This week, I caught up with Kelli Wefenstette, creator of Greenie Bean Recycle, and co-founder of the UrbanFolk Circuit, which has been holding craft market shows monthly in Chicago since October 2010. I ran into her at the Handmade Market this Winter, and was immediately drawn to her handmade items that incorporated used tee shirts, bed sheets and vintage fabrics.
Kelli recently met me in a coffeshop, and it seemed there was barely a moment when she wasn't smiling or laughing about what she does. She exudes a youthful passion for her ventures, while explaining that she's become a veteran of working craft shows, and is quickly honing her expertise at organizing them as well.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Roslyn Broder of Red Ava Designs

I came across Roslyn Broder of Red Ava Designs, at the Handmade Market last month, and she has recently begun metalsmithing jewelry. She's a good example of someone taking a craft and applying a professional designer's skills to the products, and to the self-marketing she has developed.

Tell me a bit about the things you've been making and selling...
Well, I started a little over a year ago, just doing beads and wire - I taught myself how to do it. I work as a graphic designer, and my work wasn't super busy, and I had this idea I wanted to do a craft -

Did this coincide with the economic slump, by chance?
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. And I really liked making the bead and wire jewelry - it's very therapeutic. So then I decided to try the metalsmithing, and now I can do more elaborate things.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


For some perspective - An article about Indie Maker, Rob Honeycutt, who started making messenger bags in his garage, and then moved into low-volume manufacturing.

I could yammer on for hours about the value of local making, even at their scale, but it's interesting to think about that point when Indie Makers make that decision to leap out of the home studio to the factory floor, and what value they bring to their community and customers by doing so.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Jami Krause, Twister Extraordinaire

Some makers don't fit neatly into the worlds of craft, or art or design, yet they are Independent Makers, nonetheless, because they work alone, are passionate about the things they make, and about generating an income from their effort. Jami Krause is one of those 'other' types of maker.

I find her model of making very interesting, because she makes clever, visually appealing objects that please crowds of people - and then gives them away. She charges for her time, and in one session, may make only one complex object, or dozens of simpler ones.

Jami is a Balloon Twister. You might be surprised to learn that there's a boatload of folks nationwide who make all the money they need, working as balloon twisters. Some people have even found success in developing and manufacturing the tools and accessories that twisters use in their work.

This Summer, Jami is taking the big leap. She will quit her office job, sell the contents of her apartment, pack up her bike, and travel the country, twisting balloons and blogging about her adventures. If things work out, she will land in a new home, where she will make her living making balloons, and a lot of smiles.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Sara McIntosh of Sara's Shoes and Krispy Fringe

This week has been a pretty cold one, even for Chicago, but I braved the bluster and hustled over to a new shop on Damen Avenue in Chicago, to interview Sara McIntosh, veteran maker of custom footwear.
Sara made time to meet me on her day off, and we stepped into Krispy Fringe, the hybrid boutique and workshop that she and her business partner, Kristy Kladzyk, just recently opened together. The space is a feast for the eyes, feeling more like a place for vintage collectibles, than for custom-made shoes and clothes. After oogling the shoes and clothing, discretely nestled amid random objects - from dismantled violins to a Bionic Woman action figure - we sat down at the workbench in the cobbler shop that Sara has set up in the rear half of the space.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Having grown up in the Rust Belt, I've seen friends and family buy livable houses in safe neighborhoods for pennies on the dollar one would pay in Chicago, Bay Area, or the Northeast Corridor. In places like the Ohio Valley, or around Pittsburgh, there are old commercial and industrial buildings sitting abandoned, some of which could be acquired for the cost of just transferring the deed from a grateful owner. A wealth of opportunities for low overhead lay out there in the places most people would prefer to ignore. I really enjoyed this story about a maker who became self-sufficient by setting up shop in Detroit. Here's the statement from her website about her products:

Cyberoptix Tie Lab founder Bethany Shorb has applied her experience as a sculptor, couture, costume and graphic designer to transform a much maligned business necessity into a subversive object of desire with her witty hand printed neckwear. Cyberoptix ties and scarves are represented by more than 200 stores in a dozen countries: from Fred Segal in Los Angeles to Libertine in Western Australia. A paradox for the times, Cyberoptix Tie Lab operates one of the largest eco-friendly, solvent-free print shops in the country right in Detroit while providing a seditious, punky fashion statement for executives bound to the neck noose, and a sharply styled alternative for those who don't need to wear a tie, but chose to do so. 

Her products are definitely cool - I've seen them in numerous boutiques in Chicago - but I'm curious to know if she's 100% self-sufficient on just sales of the Cyberoptix products. Bethany also apparently supplements her income with a side-career as a notable costume designer and musician.

Another thought comes to mind, which is a personal criteria I actually developed in one of these Rust Belt towns. I really like walkable and bikeable neighborhoods. In Chicago, one can find cheaper living or shop space, by simply heading into underserved or distant parts of town. Aside from the risk of crime, I don't want to go back to being tied to a car as a link to the rest of my life, and I also don't want to feel compelled to stay inside all the time, behind locked doors. I'm eager to hear what Bethany has to say about where she lives in Detroit, and if it affects her lifestyle. Stay tuned!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

One Of A Kind Show 2010

After attending a focus meeting at school, I scampered off to the Merchandise Mart for a few hours, to see what I could find at the One Of A Kind Show, and discovered a wealth of folks making great stuff.

There were many, many makers of jewelry and garments there, as well as a sea of artists and woodworkers - far more than I could ever connect with in a few hours - many of which appeared to be doing this full-time or coming close to it.

Among the makers I chatted with was Elly Green, the creator of Clothing Brand Experiment, which makes their hoodies and other products entirely in Toronto, and Bob McNally, inventor and maker of the Strumstick, a beautifully simple stringed instrument, and Eric Rose of River Valley Kitchens, which grows and handmakes small batches of salsa and pickled veggies. I was also really geeked to run across Kellee and Matt of Overdue Industries, whom I mentioned earlier, and they said they'll be happy to give me a scoop on what they're doing these days, once the madness of December is over.

Then I had a really nice chat with Kimm Alfonso and some other staffers at Etsy, who happened to have a substantial chunk of real estate there, and they were rather impressed with my research and agenda in running this blog.

As it turns out, this is a pretty busy time for me, as well, but I'll try my best to document some progress every week until January kicks in.

BTW - Make 4A Living has a Facebook page you can follow!