The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Features

January 3, 2013

Local crafters find outlet for wares at EcoKids

JOHNSTOWN — Jennifer Blair of Johnstown has always had a thing for doodads.

“I started creating hair accessories and sewing after taking a home economics class in eighth grade,” Blair recalled. “And as a child, I loved playing in my grandma’s large jar of buttons she kept on hand,” Blair said.

“She would always say to me, ‘There you go playing in those doodads again!’ ”

That memory of her grandmother eventually led Blair to name her crafting business after that quirky word.

The talented crafter juggles her DooDads business with her career as a nursing assistant at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center.

But it’s her life as a mom that has kept her inspired as a crafter.

“Throughout the years, as my 15-year-old daughter, Kassi Lynn, has grown and her tastes have changed, I have adapted my own style and continued to craft with her in mind,” Blair said.

Blair started taking requests from moms in her daughter’s class to make their children things as well.

“In recent years, interest has picked up, and I have been crafting nonstop,” Blair said.

Several local artisan/crafters have found a home for their creations at EcoKids, the Learning Lamp’s children’s consignment boutique at 2025 Bedford St. in Geistown Borough.

Blair enjoys the feedback she is receiving from having her specially made DooDads hair accessories and bodysuit-tutu combinations available at EcoKids.

Blair is one of about a dozen local crafters whose items for kids are on sale at the store.

Christie Martinazzi of Richland Township, a self-taught seamstress, said selling her creations at EcoKids has worked out well, given the time she can dedicate to crafting and sewing.

Her 4-year-old son keeps her busy, but she has managed to sell items online. Displaying articles at the consignment store has been beneficial, she said.

She is immersed in fabric and has a large selection from which to choose.

“I love working with fabric and have created many fabric-covered buttons to be used as ponytail rings, bracelets and earrings, to name a few,” Martinazzi said. “Other items I have created for the store are tote bags, baby blankets and even Pittsburgh Steelers dresses.”

Ponytail holders sell for $2 to $3 and button bracelets go for $10. The more pricey baby blankets can sell for $25 and $30.

Leah Spangler, Learning Lamp’s executive director, said she is encouraged by the rapid growth of EcoKids since its opening July 6. More than 350 families are involved in the consignment store, and the facility is attracting crafters and artisans who want to sell their wares.

“The store offers a blend of shopping experiences,” Spangler said. “Consignors receive 50 percent of the sale price of the items they bring in, and the remaining 50 percent supports Learning Lamp’s three outreach sites in Johnstown.”

With the addition of wares from crafters and artisans to the store, shoppers also can discover uncommon gifts they may not find in other retail outlets.

“Crafters like it because we offer a place for them to display their goods without worrying about packing everything up after a typical weekend craft show,” Spangler said. “With EcoKids staffing the store and handling the sales, it gives artists and crafters more time to create new things.”

Blair didn’t always have a physical location to show off her array of girls’ accessories. In fact, she used to make the sparkly ribbon-and-bow items for her daughter to wear to school. But within a short period of time, other mothers at the school began to recognize Blair’s talent.

“Being a single mom has made me appreciate the need for thrifty spending,” Blair said. “I try to keep my prices affordable while still offering handmade, quality items. Most of my hair accessories range between $4 and $8.”

Blair credits EcoKids for being one of her biggest supporters.

“They had been looking for someone who makes tutus, and after meeting with the ladies at EcoKids, I knew right away that it would be a great way to showcase and sell my items,” Blair said. “They do all the hard work, and I get to craft. It is a win-win opportunity for me.”

Bodysuit-tutu combos sell for about $20 and can go up in price according to size and the amount of materials needed.

“I have made several Army-themed combos that have shipped as far away as Texas and New York for birthday gifts,” she said. “Including the shipping, they were still under $35.

“An Internet search can find these combos often priced at $60 and above.”

The most important thing to Blair in terms of crafting is bringing smiles to little girls’ faces when they see her accessories for the first time.

“I find satisfaction in making things that bring happiness to them,” she said.

EcoKids is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.

Information: 266-0111 or visit www.ecokidsresale.org.

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