A growing movement to focus on quality rather than quantity has resulted in a number of successful independent artisans able to make a living from their craft. Whether it is a side job or a full time career, crafters and creators have found a new market in the internet age. And Northwest Indiana boasts some of the most creative and interesting independent designers in the country.
By day, Kim Rasberry holds a full-time management position at a trucking company in Griffith. But when the 5 o’clock bell whistles, this crafty guru escapes her desk and computer for crocheting.
“When I get home, I want to make something,” Rasberry said. “Creativity is something that is just born in you. It’s about finding what inspires you.”
Rasberry, who comes from a long line of knitters, has been making homemade items for fun for years. But recently, her hobby became a side job when she created Hooked Up — using the vintage skill of handmade construction to create modern cozies, wallets, purses and more.
“I was already crocheting anyways and it was piling up everywhere around my house so I thought I should try and sell it,” she said. “I’ve always been the type to take something old and boring and jazz it up a bit.”
Quirky Threadz, Inc.
With a background in restaurant/hotel management and sales, Vanessa Amanatidis had been an artsy wannabe for years. The Schererville mother of three needed a creative outlet. So, she began dabbling in fashion design by embellishing her children’s clothing for special occasions.
Today, Quirky Threadz Inc. includes original children’s designs of spring/summer and fall/winter collections.
Quirky Threads offers dresses, pants, skirts and tops for girls, sizes 12 months to 12 years, in a variety of “funky, fresh and unique” colors and designs. Each item is designed and created by Amanatidis and her team from her home as quality pieces to last multiple seasons and growth spurts.
“With so many people out of work in this economy, the fact that we are smaller and local is unique,” Amanatidis continued. “I’m easily accessible and have relationships with most of my customers.”
Temporarily unemployed in 2010, Hammond resident Brian Ellis took up glass working to occupy his time. Now back to working full-time in production design, the between-job hobby slowly turned into a growing business.
Wife of seven years, Heidi, soon joined in creatively. A fiction writer by day, she began making mosaics as a more hands-on form of artistic expression.
The duo created Einini Glassoworks — named from an Irish lullaby meaning “little bird” — offering stained glass and mosaic items like suncatchers, windows, candle holders and lampshades.
As a student at St. Thomas More School in Munster, he was always fascinated with the building’s decorated windows. “I took a lot of art classes. They were my favorite. Gym or history, I didn’t care for those classes much,” he said, chuckling.
For the Ellises, creating memorial pieces for others is what drives them still today. “You can buy a cheap lamp in a store but those are quickly put together overseas,” Brian said. “We’re creating heirlooms that are constructed in the finest craftsmanship possible.”
For Vincent and Jessie Leman, turning their crafty creations into sellable décor was the most unexpected and enjoyable wedding presents they received.
The duo had already been making custom furniture together for some time when they married in 2006. Just one month after their wedding, the newlyweds took their show on the road, literally, to a wholesale market in Philadelphia. Due to the many orders from different galleries and stores, the couple was forced to design their products full time.
“We didn’t really decide we could do our craft for a living. It was a decision that made itself for us,” Vincent admitted.
Uncommon Handmade offers “homey meets modern” décor and fashion accessories online at a variety of economical prices.
“It’s been a necessity for me from very early on to make and sell things,” Jessie said. “I like the whole idea of crafts and making things with your hands to turn a sketch into something real and physical that you can touch and interact with.”