Craft-work

Let’s face it — a lot of us aren’t crafty. At our best, our attempts to make something out of nothing end up looking like a fourth-grader’s art project. At our worst we’d be lucky to end up in a photo gallery of Pinterest fails.

A relatively new Madison business aims to change all that, with a simple concept that takes all the pressure out of crafting and replaces it with a relaxing, feel-good atmosphere designed to inspire.

The Crafty Project is the brainchild on Jenny Gatzke. While Gatzke has been teaching crafting classes in the area since the beginning of the year, The Crafty Project is just now getting a dedicated studio space, with a grand opening scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 17 at 312 North 3rd St. in Madison.

A former buyer for Wal-Mart in Bentonville, Ark., as well as an account manager for Disney, Gatzke understands retail. When she and her family moved to Madison three years ago to take advantage of a career opportunity available to her husband, Gatzke opted to take a break from corporate America and be a stay-at-home mom to their two young boys.

However, she never lost the itch to have something of her own, to say nothing of her passion for crafting and being a merchant, she says.

Late last year, Gatzke started making reclaimed wood signs to give as gifts to family and friends. When they saw the signs, they encouraged her to sell the signs, as well.

“Late one night, as I painted in my basement I thought, this would be so much more fun with friends, and the idea was born,” Gatzke says. “I had my first official party in late January with the awesome ladies of the Madison Moms Blog and it has just grown from there!”

Gatzke says she was able rent a small studio space for several months to host classes but she’s quickly outgrown the space, which necessitated the move to a more permanent home.

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Crafting made easy

Gatzke says she understands many people are intimidated by the idea of crafting. It’s one of the reasons the popular Paint Nite events have sprung up all over the place in recent months.

Unlike Paint Nite, where patrons gather for brief instruction on painting techniques and then proceed to all paint their variation of the same picture, The Crafty Project specializes in custom crafts tailor made to the individual.

“We supply all the gear and instruction, and you supply the special touches that make it all your own,” Gatzke explains. With the reclaimed wood signs class, everything is personalized and created for each attendee. A few design options are suggested, but Gatzke can create any design to make it perfect and special for each individual. So, when participants show up all they have to do is paint their sign and enjoy a good time with friends.

Projects typically range in price from $45 to $65, Gatzke says, and private parties are available for bachelorettes, birthdays, work events, and more.

Gatzke notes she has created a lot of the sign designs herself over time. Because each sign is customized, often with people’s last name, she typically spends the day of the class prepping the reclaimed wood and getting all the necessary stencils created. Additionally, she gets a hand from a friend to put metal back pieces onto the signs to make them sturdier.

While Gatzke specializes in the reclaimed wood signs, she’s also working to secure a stable of local artists who can come into the studio and teach new classes that fit into their niche crafting realm, including sewing, knitting, and more. One artist-taught class that’s growing in popularity involves creating custom door hangers.

Gatzke has also done classes where she takes reclaimed wood and turns it into serving trays. She’s even planning a class that incorporates old railroad spikes from Wisconsin that are cleaned up and fashioned into hooks to make coat racks.

Gatzke is already partnering with Heidi LeHew from ReKindled to teach a November class on turning junk into jewels, and she’d love for other local artists to reach out to her about teaching classes. “I can’t teach every class myself,” she notes.

The Crafty Project-s?

As quickly as Gatzke has grown her small business, she’s already setting her sights on getting even bigger.

This past holiday season she shipped signs all over the country, and she firmly believes the business could succeed just about anywhere.

“I always wanted to open my own business,” she says, “and I believe if you’re truly passionate about something you should go for it. There have been times when I questioned my decision, but I have momentum and with crafting and reclaimed wood being so on-trend right now, I felt I needed to take advantage of it. I have the benefit of a lot of support from family, friends, and the entire Madison community, which has given me the ammunition to move forward. Doing this all by myself can be scary, but it’s also exciting.

“I’d love to franchise [The Crafty Project] down the road,” she adds. “I have a vision for where I want it to go. This kind of business can work in any city.”

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