Friday, January 19, 2001
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Posted on: Friday, January 19, 2001

Hand-made happiness

Advertiser Staff and Wire Services

Ten years ago, Karen Riska of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., could have never imagined that she’d be in the market for a band saw and a belt sander. But that was before she took a serious interest in decorative painting on wood for everything from holiday ornaments to "welcome" signs.

Pottery: Making or decorating pots adds a personal touch to decor.

Advertiser library photo

"Sometimes when I get home and it’s been rough, you get a paintbrush in your hand and everything just goes away," says Riska, 50.

Kelli Takara, a retail manager from Mililani, stays up late at night making intricate bracelets fashioned from beads she buys in a Kaimuki store. She’s so excited by her new-found hobby that she sometimes gets her mother, her aunt and several girlfriends to join her.

"It’s kind of therapeutic," Takara said. "It’s really rewarding to wear something nice and know you made it yourself."

Welcome to a new kind of crafter.

Folks like Riska and Takara have helped push national sales of craft and hobby products to more than $10 billion per year, according to the Hobby Industry Association, a trade organization with more than 4,000 members. While 1999 was also a record year for movie ticket sales, Americans spent almost $3 billion more on crafts.

In Hawaii, the hottest craft trends include beading, stamping, pottery-painting, woodworking and scrapbook building, according to crafts retailers. Traditional and local crafts, like origami, lei-making and feather craft, also are finding new enthusiasts.

"For a lot of people, it’s really satisfying to come in and make something themselves fairly easily and quickly," said Jill Barry, an owner of Bead It Inc., a Kaimuki shop which has been on the list of Hawaii’s 50 fastest growing businesses for the last two years.

Painting: A plain pre-made mug waits for you to add a creative touch.

Advertiser library photo

"When you create something yourself, it’s something you take pride in doing," added Sidney Hamada, president of Flora Dec Sales. The company’s craft classes and supplies include everything from bow-making to model clay sculpting, Valentine’s Day stamp kits to wedding favor production.

"Parties and weddings, those are the big ones," Hamada said. "Doing your own favors will save a lot of money, and get all your friends and relatives involved in the special occasion at the same time."

"Craft used to be a pejorative term," says Susan Brandt of the Hobby Industry Association. "People turned their noses up at it. What has happened is that the craft manufacturers have given us products that are faster, easier and have much better results."

The industry has moved away from cute and country and given craft enthusiasts many more choices. While there are still plenty of folks finding ingenious ways to cover a tissue box, a walk into any craft store reveals lots of sophisticated, simple craft projects that can be done in a few hours.

Women are pushing the craft renaissance, says Brandt, with virtually all women older than 55 having completed at least one craft project in their lifetime.

Hamada said about 80 to 90 percent of the people taking Flora Dec classes are women, but Barry said more men, children and senior citizens are joining the beading trend.

"A lot of them enjoy the chance to work with their hands without needing a lot of training or expensive tools," Barry said.

For Takara, beading is new-found joy in a lifetime of crafting interest.

Some statistics
on crafters

More than 8 out of 10 households have at least one family member engaged in crafts.
1 percent of hobbyists use their projects as gifts.
The typical crafter spends 7.5 hours per week on crafts.
The most popular crafts or hobbies are cross-stitch/embroidery, crocheting, apparel sewing, home decor painting, craft sewing, cake decorating, needlepoint, floral arranging, home decor sewing and making scrapbooks.
Most crafters subscribe to a magazine or newsletter, and most watch crafts-related TV shows.

Source: Hobby Industry Association

"I’ve always been interested in crafts and I’ve done a lot of sewing before," she said. "Then one day I went into the bead store and something just clicked. I wanted to know how to do that."

Next she hopes to make her own silver jewelry.

"Silver-making takes a little more training and tools," she said.

"Typically these women are very busy, but they still like to do a craft to keep their hands busy even when they have down time," says Karen Owen, owner of Cross-Stitch Cupboard in Fort Lauderdale. "They’re creating, but they’re not spending hours and hours on a project. We call them tweensies’ because they do projects between things."

"Some people exercise. Some people cross-stitch," says Jeanne Hattier, 45, a critical-care nurse in Fort Lauderdale. "I like to keep busy. I can’t sit and watch TV. It’s very relaxing and, with the job I do, I truly find it’s cheaper to do than paying for a shrink."

She likes the sense of accomplishment she gets from needlework. "For cross-stitch, you start out with a blank piece of fabric. If you can count, you can do it. All of a sudden, it’s like magic. This picture starts appearing."

Diane Seward, a therapist and operations manager for Children’s Home Society in Fort Lauderdale who also does cross-stitch, remembers writing a letter that appeared in a cross-stitch magazine asking for a pattern she’d lost.

"It was an old one and they don’t make it anymore," says Seward, 52. "I got letters from all over the country and one from Canada where people sent me the pattern book or said, I’ll lend you mine if you send it back to me.’ " She calls it a kind of subculture, one in which she’s been warmly accepted.

The Advertiser’s Mike Leidemann and Joahn Tanasychuk of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel contributed to this report.

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