Women, aim your glue guns!

Entrepreneurs take arts and crafts out of the church parking lot and into the business world.

Published July 5, 2006 9:53PM (EDT)

Who knew there was such opportunity in Popsicle sticks and pine cones? Rob Walker reports on the exploding craft industry in his "Consumed" column in the New York Times Magazine this past weekend. Not only do crafts offer a unique alternative to mass-produced goods sold in big-box stores, but they may provide good business opportunities for women.

Walker tells the story of how 28-year-old Heidi Kenney was able to quit her daily grind at an insurance company and spend more time being a "working mom on her own terms" by making dolls in the shape of tampons. She also makes stuffed doughnuts, toast pillows and toilet seat covers and sells them on her Web site, My Paper Crane, which she started a few years ago. (She now fills between 100 and 150 orders a month.) Kenney has joined the growing wave of small, independent entrepreneurs who sell handmade toys, clothing, bath products and jewelry, among other things.

What's particularly interesting is that the trend is led mostly by women, according to Faythe Levine, who runs a boutique and gallery in Milwaukee and is making a documentary on the subject. "We're talking thousands of women," she told the Times. "It's really impressive, and powerful." As a result, the number of craft fairs around the country is growing. There's a cable channel for do-it-yourselfers, an online community called Craftster and a magazine named Craft is set to launch this fall.

The DIY craft movement offers a new way to combine traditional domestic skills and participation in the economic sphere, writes Walker. It does seem ideal for mothers trying to keep a toe in the business world while juggling other duties. Yet one Broadsheet reader has a word of warning for anyone who thinks her expertise with beads, wire and pliers will shake the jewelry world: "One's crafts must be good enough to sell. My scarves, for instance, won't be putting braces on anyone's teeth any time soon."

Maybe not. But we bet they look good. And it's a great day when a woman can dream of building an empire with her own hands.

By Sarah Elizabeth Richards

Sarah Elizabeth Richards is a journalist based in New York. She can be reached at sarah@saraherichards.com.

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