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The Holidays seem to be occupying more and more of our time and energy. Holiday advertising began prior to Halloween this year and with the rise of digital marketing seems to be all-pervasive. When we ponder the effect of mass consumerism (environmentally, socially, and economically) it can put a damper on our holiday spirit. In preparation for the Holiday gift-giving season, I spoke with a group of members that make direct-to-market products. The diversity of products and processes paints a nice picture of the breadth of imagination of the NextFab community. By buying from NextFab members, we support small sustainable businesses, and local production and support our community. I hope that this blog inspires you to pursue your own selling efforts and to support these exciting makers when doing your holiday shopping!

Addi Naturals - Badge of Manly Dignity gift set

Tell me about your business.

Yemina Israel (Addi Naturals), “Addi Naturals is a personal care company that specializes in natural and organic products grown from seed. Primarily, each ingredient is grown, harvested, and manufactured locally using traditional farming methods and hydroponics.”

Colin Pezzano (make friends), “I make a variety of wooden objects transitioning fairly seamlessly from sculptural to functional. Decorative boxes, hand-carved knives, turned vessels, fun house mirrors, wooden donuts, etc.

Kathleen Capuras (KCapuras Design), “I am a pyrography and woodworking artist. I do most of my wood processing and woodworking in NextFab, and do the pyrography (woodburning) design work at home. I utilize a range of domestic and exotic wood to make my products. Everything I produce is handmade in small batches, and each piece is one of a kind.”

Corey Kilbane (Padouk Crafts), “Padouk Crafts is the combination of three of my favorite things: nature, design, and working with my hands. Through it, I found a way to feature the beauty of all the grains and colors of wood with modern design and meticulous craftsmanship.”

Padouk Crafts - Wooden cutting board

John Shatney (Whidden’s Woodshop), “We focus mainly on pens from ballpoint, to rollerball, to fountain pens. I use any and every medium I can try from wood to acrylics, to stone, shells, and metals. I’ve even made the body for a couple of pens on the metal lathe at NextFab.”

Konrad Giersz (Design Unsanctioned), “Design Unsanctioned is a brand striving to bring beautifully crafted everyday use objects which besides being functional represent our view of modern aesthetics combined with timeless elegance.”

Jessica Joy London (Project Joy), “I create all my paintings in the studio on my 10′ x 10′ platform that was built by Jesse Frome, a former member of Nextfab! I designed our Daily Joy and Weekend Joy kits so that anybody can make work like mine and more importantly so they can experience the same therapeutic benefits as I do. The process I use to make the Project Joy paintings is a colorful play-based meditation. When you see the colors swirling around together you can’t help but be pulled into what is happening in the present. I have had people tell me they cried after a workshop because of the release of stress they experienced.”

Steven Rasovsky (Lenka Bar), “At Lenka Bar, we believe in hand-making joy. Our granola bars include only ingredients your grandmother would recognize and approve of. We source the most local ingredients we can and then mix, spread, and cut by hand. The only machined part of the process is packaging (and we used to do that by hand too!!). Lenka started making bars in her kitchen and we’ve since grown to a small team that serves about 400 coffee shops in Philly, NYC, Pittsburgh, and beyond.”

Karen Bice (Roadside Linen Arts), “I make shadow box art pieces that generally have a dark feel or a twisted humor to them. They’re very popular at the local Punk Rock Flea Markets (Trenton, Philadelphia, Asbury Park), as well as cons like Monster Mania, Wizard World, Horror Con, and Comic Cons.”
Roadside Linen Arts - Krampus

How do you prepare for a heavy holiday shopping season? What does ramping up production look like for you?

, “The use of hydroponics cuts growing times in half which is perfect for the demand of the holiday season. However, each product is handcrafted in small batches specially formulated using ancient herbal remedies from indigenous peoples across the world, rather than harmful commercially available chemicals. Addi Naturals avoids using toxic chemicals, hazardous ingredients, artificial dyes, or fragrances.”

Karen, “I prepare for the holiday season by sleeping as late as my dogs will let me, then working like a mad woman for the next 12-14 hours. My husband describes my process as ‘Gluing, gluing, gluing.’ But it is more accurate to describe it as, ‘computing, printing, taping, cutting, spraying, gluing, gluing, gluing.’ I print the images to photo paper using a Canon inkjet printer. Then, I adhere the paper to 1/8″ Baltic birch plywood (thank you, Nextfab South Wood Shop folks) using double-sided cold mount tape. I laser cut the images, then spray them with two coats of UV-resistant clear acrylic spray.”

Colin Bats - Drawers/Shelves with bat wings

Colin, “To prepare for the heavy season I simply just start early. Like most, I have a job outside of this work so I know the holiday season can be hectic so I start making work for the holiday in September. The hard part is photographing and uploading to update my website. With this project “make friends” I usually am in the mindset of small production so if I’m doing a run of 15 bowls I do them all at once in a step-by-step kinda fashion.”

Corey, “After exposing the curly opalescent grain of a piece of Sapele, I use the CNC router to carve it into the shape of Pennsylvania. On the lathe, I turn a rough piece of black walnut into beautiful French rolling pins. In the wood shop, I transform a piece of purple heart into an end-grain cutting board that will last a lifetime. With the laser cutter, I feature Independence Hall, from my adopted home of Philadelphia, on maple and cherry bottle openers.  In addition to my traditional products, I’ll be selling laser cut and hand-turned ornaments for the holidays.”

Steven, “As the holiday approaches and the snow starts to fly, we hunker down and keep churning while joking that if we’re snowed in at least we’ll have delicious snacks to last forever. Our online business tends to pick up before Christmas.”

Konrad, “We typically start stocking up at the beginning of November. All components are made by local vendors we have worked with for years or by us, so the lead times are fairly short. We have our metal laser cut in north NJ and then we do the finishing at NextFab. Most of our leather is laser cut at NextFab as well. We do the assembly part at our studio.”
Stylish bottle opener with leather strap

Kathleen, “Usually starting the middle to late summer I start to ramp up my production and make as many products as possible to prepare for the holiday season. Ideally, I like to have a full inventory on my ETSY Store, a personal inventory to take to craft shows with, and another set of inventory to offer to shops looking to stock their store for the holidays. This is always a hard goal to accomplish since I am the only one producing my products, but this is what I aim for. I also start applying as early as possible for craft shows because sometimes they are competitive. Social media posting and taking good pictures of my work is always a priority and even more so during the holidays to drive customers to the various places they can buy my work.

John, “Fall is always busy prepping for the holiday season and it seems each year we focus on a different type of medium or process for pens. Last year was dyed wood pens. This year acrylics and fountain pens as the focus. During the holiday season, we advertise heavily on social media and Google for our Etsy store and get quite a bit of traffic. We do our own dyeing (adding color) and stabilizing (infusing softer woods with resin to make them harder) of wood in a vacuum chamber and we also make a lot of our own acrylics (mixing 2 part resins with dyes and colored powders in a pressure pot). The overall process for making pens includes sawing/cutting, drilling, gluing, turning on a lathe, sanding, finishing, polishing, buffing, assembling, and pictures!”
Whidden's Woodshop Pen
Jessica, “I am working on getting everything on the website now and it should be up by the end of this month!”

How do you market your products? Where can customers find your work?

Yemina, “Addi Naturals can be found locally in Wilmington Delaware at the Chris White Art Gallery on 7th Market or online at AddiNaturals.com

Kathleen, “Currently my main sales avenues are selling at art/craft events throughout the year, my Etsy store, and small shops that carry my merchandise. I am new to Philadelphia this year so I am constantly trying to meet new artists, shop owners, and event coordinators to expand my business. Another thing I like to do is to maintain a presence in different states where I have done business before, to spread out my customer base and keep things interesting. For example, the locations this year where I will physically be selling or where shops are carrying my merchandise include Philadelphia PA, New Haven CT, Boston MA, San Juan Puerto Rico, and Charleston RI. Custom orders are also a big part of holiday selling although sometimes there’s not much time for it.”

Wooden business card carrier

Steven, “You can find Lenka Bars at Saxby locations, Front Street Cafe, Steep and Grind, and several other coffee shops in the area. You can also find us at lenkabar.com if you want to share some deliciousness with friends or family.”

Konrad, “The majority of our sales during the Christmas season is online through our site and through Etsy. We also usually do a couple of holiday markets. Right now we are actually slotted to do one at Squarespace HQ in Brooklyn at the end of this month.”

Corey, “You can find my wares at four local shops: XMAS in Fairmount Pop-Up, Philadelphia Independents, Vix Emporium, and Nice Things Handmade. I also sell online through Etsy and in person at the Italian Christmas Market at Pennsport on November 24th.”

Jessica, “I will be selling at the handmade BRIGADE on December 8th from 11 am – 6 pm at the 1241 Carpenter Building. I will also be selling online and I am always happy to have people come to visit me in the studio…”

Custom made art box with drawer

John, “Our sales process is two-fold. We have had a store on Etsy for about 5 years and it has grown pretty well. During the holiday season, we advertise heavily on social media and Google for our Etsy store and get quite a bit of traffic. The other sales channel we have is arts & crafts fairs/festivals/sales. We attend anywhere from 5 to 10 a year including the PA Guild of Craftsmans Rittenhouse Arts & Crafts Fair in the Spring and Fall, the Manayunk Arts Festival in July, Sugarloaf Crafts Festival in the Philly Expo Center at Oaks (spring/fall), and the Wallingford Community Arts sales in Summer/Winter. These sales are always a great time where we can meet people who appreciate writing and give them an explanation of the process we go through to make the pens.”

Karen,The best place to see my art is on the Roadside Linen Arts feed on Instagram. I don’t do online sales of the shadow boxes because I have a difficult time making enough for weekend events. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, I will have some  pieces for sale on consignment at the Weaver’s Way Mercantile Store in Mt Airy and at an as-yet-unnamed pop-up shop on South Street.”

You can also find members work at the following local events in the coming weeks:

12/1: The Market of Curiosities, Carlisle Expo Center, Carlisle, PA
12/2: InLiquid Park Towne Place Holiday Event, 2200 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA
12/7: The Philly Arts Collective Winter Show, 253 N. 3rd St, Philadelphia, PA
12/8: Trenton Punk Rock Flea Market – Holiday edition, Neshaminy Creek Brewing Co., Croydon, PA
12/14-15: Crime and Punishmas Holiday Market, Glass Factory 1517N Bailey St (Brewerytown), Philadelphia, PA

Join the conversation! Log into the member forum,  to discuss this blog, speak to other makers about their best business practices, and tap into the member community.
NextFab is dedicated to supporting the local economy and small-scale local manufacturing, check out the NextFab Holiday Gift Guide below: