Ok...so it's been ages (well a couple of months anyway) since this article came out and we've been dying to share it with you. A (as we affectionately call co-owner Beth Albrecht) and I drove by the newstands every week to look for this super cool article that the lovely and sweet Maddie Crum of The Daily Texan wrote about us. Of course, as luck would have it, the one day we didn't swing by to pick one up was the day it was published. :) Well anyway here it is for your reading pleasure, or if you like, you can see it in context at http://issuu.com/thedailytexan/docs/02-03-2010
Better late than never!
By Maddie Crum
Photos by Andy Phung
The muted silver exterior of the Airstream trailer that resides behind a row of retail shops on Burnet road is deceivingly commonplace. Inside, you won’t find camping supplies or tacky ‘70s décor, but electrifying orange walls, elegant brass jewelry, do-it-yourself screen-printing kits, handmade stationery, and four women who are enthusiastic about art.
“Come on in!” said Beth Hempton, one of the founders of The Wondercraft, a mobile art studio and craft shop. “And you can’t leave until you make a button.”
Hempton met Beth Albrecht, Jenifer Bryan, and Kimberly Sae-Eua through EtsyAustin, a local craft group, where they recognized their varying talents. Hempton enjoys drawing and sewing, whereas Bryan’s focus is on photography and resin jewelry. Both Albrecht and Sae-Eua have a knack for fashion design. The women decided to open a store that utilized these skills to create an all-inclusive artistic experience for customers.
“We were brainstorming the best place in Austin for an art store, but we couldn’t decide,” Albrecht said. “So we decided to go everywhere.” Admittedly inspired by Austin’s recent food cart fixation, the women purchased and renovated an Airstream trailer, which allows them to attend events and customized parties in addition to the classes that they offer. In keeping with The Wondercraft’s celestial theme, the women lovingly refer to their trailer as “Stella.” “We sort of saved her in a way,” Albrecht said. “She was being used for storage. We brought her to life and gave her a purpose.”
Though their business, which was conceptualized in July and began classes in October, has already been invited to a slew of local events, the Wondercraft’s journey has not been without a few bumps in the road. Each of the four women owns and operates a personal craft company, ranging from screen-printing to recycled children’s toys. These separate projects have graced them with entrepreneurial and promotional skills, but makes time management a challenge. Albrecht likened her balance of responsibilities to that of a student. “You could spend all of your time doing homework, but there are also dirty dishes in the sink, and your dog wants to be played with.”
Fortunately the business has been met with overwhelming support from other creative companies. “Austin loves quirk,” Sae-Eua said. “And the atmosphere for local businesses here is great. People who would be considered our competitors elsewhere are our friends here.”
One such friend is Carole Schatz Robberson of The Art Pad, who allows the women to park their trailer behind her store and provides them with supplies. The Wondercraft will be celebrating their partnership with The Art Pad on February 25 by hosting a necktie themed party in which each attendee can screen-print, embroider, and generally craft a vintage item into a unique statement piece.
It’s no wonder that Austinites have been welcoming towards the women of the mobile studio, as they are strong advocates of using recycled, or “upcycled” supplies for their products and classes. “Upcycling is like recycling, but instead of just creating something new or different, you create something better,” Hempton said, acknowledging her bold, ruby-red floral necklace, which had been made from an aluminum can.
Another unique component of The Wondercraft is their selling of do-it-yourself merchandise, such as floral chokers and paper stars. “We want to inspire people to make things with their hands,” Bryan said. “Plus, it’s really interesting that you can give a kit to several people and the final product will always look different.”
The Wondercraft also offers holiday-themed classes, such as their upcoming “Valentines & Anti-Valentines” lesson, in which attendees will learn rubber stamp carving, embroidery on paper, and fabric envelope-making. “Those crafts are perfect for Valentine’s Day but some people don’t like that holiday,” Albrecht said. “Maybe they could make a card with a monster eating hearts on it.”
As seen through the nature of many of their events and classes, the mission of The Wondercraft is a light-hearted one. “We want to bring crafting everywhere,” Sae-Eua said. “We want to create a community of crafters.”