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9 Snohomish County crafters to check out this holiday season

From puzzle cubes to Mickey Mouse ears, locals have found a market online for niche products.

EVERETT — When I was in journalism school I learned something that changed my life. Another student told my class she had used the online marketplace Etsy to track down a person to write about for an assignment. Apparently, you can look up vendors by their home city in the website’s search bar. It’s a bit tedious and requires some luck, but I’ve used this trick to find some of the most interesting people I’ve ever interviewed.

For this holiday season, I’ve used Etsy to compile nine mini-profiles on crafters living in Snohomish County. Some use their online shop as a means to support their hobby. For others, the virtual storefront is the start or an extension of their business. What they all share is a passion for their art.

I hope you take the time to read their stories, learn something neat about your neighbors and possibly support them with a purchase. Enjoy!

Reiden Chea’s twisty cubes are modified from store-bought puzzles. (Photo provided)

Reiden Chea’s twisty cubes are modified from store-bought puzzles. (Photo provided)

3D Modded Puzzles — Lynnwood

Reiden Chea wanted a more challenging Rubik’s Cube. And when he couldn’t find one, he made his own. That eventually led him to launch his Etsy shop specializing in homemade cuboid twisty puzzles.

Chea, 21, is a software engineer from Lynnwood. In his free time, he modifies commercially available puzzles to make them considerably harder to solve. With a 3D printer, Chea creates extensions that alter a store-bought puzzle’s dimensions. So a 4-by-4-by-4 cube is transformed into a 5-by-5-by-3 cube.

Completing these complex, shape-shifting cubes with uneven sides and pieces sticking out, Chea admits, is a niche hobby.

“Why do people do this? To be honest, I don’t really know why,” Chea said.

But speaking for himself, he loves having a brain teaser that really tests him. When solving Rubik’s Cube became muscle memory for Chea, he needed something new.

He got his first 3D printer at 14 and soon started experimenting with puzzle designs. To date, Chea has created 45 twisty puzzles.

It’s not tough to print off parts, but Chea said it’s difficult to meticulously refine each piece and ensure they align perfectly. The less-complex cubes take Chea about three hours to glue together, but his more expensive models can take 24 hours to assemble. Prices range from about $60 to $670.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Chea said. “I get bored really easily. So to make a puzzle is particularly fulfilling to my creative mindset. So that’s why I do it.”

Online store: etsy.com/shop/3DModdedPuzzles

Bob Williams turns obsidian into display knives and tomahawks. (Photo provided)

Bob Williams turns obsidian into display knives and tomahawks. (Photo provided)

Dazzlez — Monroe

Bob Williams had a problem. He loved crafting obsidian knives, but his hobby was overtaking his home.

“When you get to the point where you’ve got so many knives on display in your man cave, there’s no place else to put them,” Williams said, “then you have to either stop making them or start selling them.”

So he began selling his work at art shows and on Etsy. His online storefront named Dazzlez is left over from when his wife Pat used to sell jewelry she made from bullet casings. At craft fairs, Williams sells his work under the name Man Art.

Williams, 65, is an electrical equipment salesman from outside Monroe. In his free time, he mines the glass-like volcanic rock from eastern Oregon and California and then shapes it into blades through a chipping process called knapping.

He got into the craft about five years ago while serving as scoutmaster for a Boy Scout troop. The kids wanted to make knives so Williams took it upon himself to try it with them. The group watched YouTube tutorials and got to work in Williams’ garage.

“And then immediately turned about 75 pounds of rock into 75 pounds of very sharp gravel, and didn’t have anything to show for it,” Williams said.

Undeterred, Williams sought advice from Marysville Rock and Gem Club member Denny Cook, who died last year, and learned the tricks of the trade.

“Once I got my first successful blade, I was hooked and couldn’t stop,” Williams said

At first, Williams broke every other knife. Now he’s able to complete a blade within two hours. Williams also makes his own handles using exotic wood over the more traditionally used deer antler.

Williams sells knives standalone or his “signature series,” including a signed and serial-numbered display stand with certificate. The knives are too fragile to use and are only intended as art pieces. Price ranges from about $100 to $300.

Williams also dabbles in tomahawks and has created an obsidian katana sword on sale for $1,500.

Knife-making is therapeutic for Williams, and he plans to continue the hobby for as long as it doesn’t feel like a job.

“It beats being a greeter at Walmart,” he said.

Online store: etsy.com/shop/Dazzlez

Karrie Curtis creates Micky Mouse ear headbands that are like no other. (Photo provided)

Karrie Curtis creates Micky Mouse ear headbands that are like no other. (Photo provided)

Ears from Wonderland — Everett

Karrie Curtis is a huge Disney fan. In fact, she has visited one of its theme parks almost every year since she was born. For her Disneyland trip in 2018, Curtis brought along several homemade Mickey Mouse ear headbands. The positive feedback and encouragement from friends led her to start selling her creations online.

Curtis, 45, a stay-at-home mom from Everett, didn’t expect to sell anything when she launched her Etsy shop. She surpassed a hundred sales in her first month.

“It blew up,” Curtis said. “That was just insane.”

To date, Curtis has created about 65 designs based on characters from Disney, Star Wars and Marvel. She sells her work under the name Ears from Wonderland, a reference to her favorite Disney film “Alice in Wonderland.” Prices range from $22 to $29.

Curtis sews everything herself. It takes about 45 minutes for her to complete a pair, but more complicated ears can take several hours. Curtis’ gingerbread ears with faux frosting take a couple days just to dry.

Sewing is a creative outlet for Curtis. She enjoys being her own boss and setting her own work schedule.

The ears appeal to customers because Curtis said they’re unique and more comfortable than the ones sold at the park. Curtis has sold so many ears that she often encounters people wearing them when she visits Disneyland.

“It’s just surreal,” Curtis said. “You can get them at Walmart, Walgreens, Target, Claire’s, they all sell Disney ears. But for someone to take the time and shop small, that still amazes me every day.”

Online store: etsy.com/shop/EarsFromWonderland

Luke Englert transforms circular saw blades in his clocks for a unique timekeeper. (Photo provided)

Luke Englert transforms circular saw blades in his clocks for a unique timekeeper. (Photo provided)

Englert Designs — Everett

As a kid, Luke Englert always admired his father’s circular saw blade clock.

“It’s just a unique item, and I’m a big fan of fun eye-catchers,” Englert said.

Two years ago a home improvement project reminded Englert of that tricked-out timekeeper and he decided to make one of his own. He sourced the 10-inch blade and clock mechanics from online and constructed a functional clock. His wife was so impressed she encouraged him to start selling them.

Since then Englert, 33, a stay-at-home dad from Everett, has built more than 470 clocks. He sells them on Etsy and at local craft shows under the name Englert Designs. Prices range from $29 to $65.

The Customizable Saw Blade Clock is Englert’s most popular product. It’s his standard model with the color of numbers and clock hands picked out by the customer. Englert also makes saw blade clocks with designs based on sports teams. For kids, he makes wooden clocks with artwork inspired by superheroes and video games.

Englert hasn’t made a profit from the business yet as so far he’s put all revenue into purchasing better equipment. Englert has a laser cutter for cutting wood and a Cricut machine for cutting vinyl sheets.

The craft is a stress reliever for Englert. He loves tinkering in his garage and making things.

“It’s just been fun creating these clocks, and then hearing the feedback,” Englert said. “If I didn’t have positive reviews, I wouldn’t do it. And that’s what’s keeping me going.”

Online store: etsy.com/shop/EnglertDesigns

Kristal Schwartze said her monster hats bring out the inner kid in adults. She named the left hat Viktor and the right hat Alexander. (Photo provided)

Kristal Schwartze said her monster hats bring out the inner kid in adults. She named the left hat Viktor and the right hat Alexander. (Photo provided)

Fairly Enchanted Designs — Edmonds

Despite the ferocious horns and pointed teeth, these beasts are friendly.

Kristal Schwartze’s monster hats are “fleece and fur creations that look like they’re slowly sucking your brain out of your head.” Some have wings. Others have scarf-like tails. But all beanies come with a name and a backstory for added fun.

Schwartze, 39, an accountant from Edmonds, can’t remember how many designs she’s created. Her Etsy shop Fairly Enchanted Designs currently carries about 20 different hats mostly based on characters from video games and the children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are.” Price range is $35 to around $100.

Schwartze made her first monster hat in 2009 as a gift for a relative. Her family loved it.

“Everybody just fell apart,” Schwartze said. “They just thought it was really cool. So I thought, hey, this might be a thing.”

Schwartze said the business, which she named after her player guild in the computer game “NeoPets,” gives her a creative outlet and the ability to earn a side income. More important for Schwartze is the opportunity she gets to meet “zany and silly” people through tabling at craft fairs.

Sales peak in the fall, which Schwartze said works out great for her as tax season is in the spring. Her mom Tara Schwartze is there to lend a hand whenever she’s backlogged.

By far, Schwartze sells more adult-sized hats than children. She said it’s because the hats make for an easy Halloween costume and “it just ignites this little inner kid that you don’t always get to show.”

Online store: etsy.com/shop/FairlyEnchanted

Gene Boyd has been carving birds out of wood for 40 years. On the left is his replica Spruce Grouse and on the right is a Snowy Egret. (Photo provided)

Gene Boyd has been carving birds out of wood for 40 years. On the left is his replica Spruce Grouse and on the right is a Snowy Egret. (Photo provided)

Gene Boyd Bird Carvings — Darrington

Darrington’s birdman still soars.

For 40 years, Gene Boyd has carved wood into realistic bird sculptures. He promised his wife to never stop for as long as he wanted to work from home. And at 74, that oath remains unbroken.

Boyd has made 1,850 bird carvings to date, along with a few carvings of fish and mammals. He’s replicated birds as small as hummingbirds and as large as Golden Eagles and Great Blue Herons.

Small birds can take a week for Boyd to complete, while larger pieces can take months. His work is so lifelike that Boyd said people have mistaken it for taxidermy. It’s a skill that comes from decades of refinement.

“I had an inch of talent and a mile of perseverance,” Boyd said. “You just got to stick with it. It’s very time-consuming and very labor intensive, but I like that.”

Boyd sells his art at galleries and shows. He launched his Etsy shop in 2017. Prices range from $200 to $15,000.

Before carving, Boyd spent the majority of his career as a logger in Darrington, aside from the five years he worked as an English teacher and athletics coach. He got into his craft after a work accident sent him to the hospital.

A family member brought him a book on bird carving to give him comfort. Boyd said he had an interest in decoys from duck hunting and the text prompted him to research the craft further at the library.

“It steered me in a new direction,” Boyd said. “Next thing you know I was a bird carver.”

The Daily Herald profiled Boyd for his efforts back in 1996.

Moving forward, Boyd wants to continue his carving for as long as he’s able.

“I can’t believe I’m this lucky, that I get to do this and stay home in Darrington,” Boyd said.

Online store: etsy.com/shop/GeneBoydBirdCarvings

Karen Goodwin turns leather into fashion statements. (Photo provided)

Karen Goodwin turns leather into fashion statements. (Photo provided)

KG Western Designs — Arlington

It’s a side business that became a full-time job.

Karen Goodwin, 34, resides near Arlington and used to work as a photographer. Five years ago she got into leatherworking as a hobby and now splits her time between designing patterns and making physical products.

“I’ve always been into the Western lifestyle and history, and leather is a decently big part of that,” Goodwin said. “It’s just a really fun medium to work with, like something more physical than photography.”

Goodwin creates clutch purses, phone wallets, belts, bracelet cuffs, jewelry, saddle bling, riding gear and other accessories out of leather. She sells her work and templates on Etsy and on her website kgwesterndesigns.com.

Patterns sell for $5 to $10. The prices for handmade leather accessories range from about $25 to $150.

Goodwin grew up in Eastern Washington where her family raised farm animals including horses. She came to admire other people’s horse tack, or riding equipment, and dreamed of making her own. It wasn’t until she came across a picture of bridles, the headgear used to control horses, that someone posted to Pinterest when she decided to give it a try.

She taught herself the craft from YouTube videos and then started uploading her designs to Etsy. Her business took off from there.

Currently, Goodwin is working on a how-to guide on leatherworking. The booklet will include instructions on how to replicate her patterns and designs.

“It’s an old tradition,” Goodwin said, “and I’m trying to keep it alive.”

Online store: etsy.com/shop/KGwesterndesigns

Grace Martell calls her style alternative goth. On the left is her Third Eye Kitty ornament and on the right are her custom pet tags. (Photo provided)

Grace Martell calls her style alternative goth. On the left is her Third Eye Kitty ornament and on the right are her custom pet tags. (Photo provided)

Miss Torture — Everett

On her website, Grace Martell describes herself as “a clad in black woman with an insatiable love for fashion, death, all things horror and macabre.” It’s a style she embraces to stand out.

Martell, 42, of Everett specializes in Gothic jewelry, pet tags and accessories. She sells her work online at TortureCouture.com and in 2018 launched an Etsy shop called Miss Torture. Prices range from $4 to $80.

“It all started because I never found things that I liked to wear,” Martell said. “So I would just make my own.”

The Torture Couture brand originates from Martell’s time studying at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in California. She had to design a clothing collection for a class project and made business-wear with Gothic influence and accents. The aesthetic stuck.

Growing up in Arizona and California, Martell was the kid with everything pink. But her parents were huge horror fans and family movie night centered around slasher flicks.

“My mom still calls me about vampire movies,” Martell said. “And she’ll be like, what did you find this year? What’s out? And what can I watch? And everybody thinks it’s so bizarre.”

Her most popular items are personalized pet tags in the shapes of bats, coffins and skulls she cuts out and engraves with a Glowforge Laser Cutter.

In the future, Martell wants to branch out into tumblers and start selling wholesale. She has no plans of slowing down anytime soon.

“I like creating,” Martell said. “I like the fact that we can make things that are really weird for people, that they can’t find anywhere.”

Online store: etsy.com/shop/MissTorture

Liudmyla Zelenska crotchets all kinds of animals, both domestic and exotic. (Photo provided)

Liudmyla Zelenska crotchets all kinds of animals, both domestic and exotic. (Photo provided)

Perfectoys — Marysville

Liudmyla Zelenska loves to crochet. She makes about five toy animal dolls a week. But when her hobby started to overtake the house, her daughter Tetyana Zelenska said something had to change.

“My oldest daughter, she loves horses,” Tetyana Zelenska said. “So we probably had in our house at that time like around 100 horses. It was too much. So my mom started selling them at those street fairs.”

In 2015, Liudmyla Zelenska launched her Etsy shop called Perfectoys. She sells digital downloads of her pattern instructions for about $3 to $7. Her finished toys sell for about $30 to $70.

Liudmyla Zelenska, 64, is a retired chemistry and biology teacher from Ukraine. She moved to Marysville about a decade ago to live closer to family. She is not a strong English speaker, so her daughter interpreted an interview with The Herald.

Years ago, Tetyana Zelenska said she encouraged her mom to take up a hobby because she was worried about her spending all day sitting around watching TV. So Liudmyla Zelenska took inspiration from her sister and started knitting and crocheting clothes for her grandchildren. From there she branched out into toys and embroidery.

A lot of her inspiration comes from browsing the internet. She tries to replicate the things she sees, like emojis or the Minion characters from the “Despicable Me” franchise. She prefers to make something unique instead of what’s popular for money.

Tetyana Zelenska wants her mom’s work to become more appreciated and one day be displayed at a gallery or art show. Or at the very least she wishes her mom had more opportunities to sell her creations.

“I feel she’s doing great,” Tetyana Zelenska said. “It’s just that we have this house. It’s not that big.”

Online store: etsy.com/shop/Perfectoys

Eric Schucht: 425-339-3477; eric.schucht@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @EricSchucht.

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