For Katie Smiley, crafting is more than a hobby. The Weinberg senior engraves champagne flutes, strings necklaces and stitches coffee cozies for charity. She calls it “craftivism.”
“Crafting is not just about making stuff,” Smiley says. “It’s about learning how to reuse the items that you have in your life in a more constructive way.”
Smiley’s sales support GlobeMed, a student organization that works with health centers in resource-poor areas. Her profits go directly to the H.O.P.E. Center, a health clinic in Ghana which serves eight villages and works to reduce malnutrition, which currently affects 45 percent of the local population.
Smiley, who is co-president of GlobeMed, organized a rummage sale last spring. The fundraiser left her with heaps of unwanted scraps. “I dropped off some at Goodwill but other things I just kept and started playing around with,” Smiley says.
With some old sheet music, scrap paper and glue, Smiley turned old clocks and vases into kitschy decoupage creations. She found that strips of felt could be molded into customized coffee cozies. An extra-large green flannel shirt became plaid drawstring skirts.
Recently, Smiley expanded her business via Etsy.com, an Ebay of sorts for the do-it-yourself community.
“Etsy is just hands down the most efficient way to market handmade goods,” she says. “Sometimes if you set up a personal site, people might not necessarily trust where the money is going. Something established like Etsy gives you that professional touch.”
For years, Smiley shopped on Etsy. She doesn’t usually wear her own creations, but she likes to sport accessories that are or look like they could be hand-made. She often dons a pair of round wooden earrings painted with white, yellow and green designs. “I never buy anything if I either don’t have extreme respect for the craftsmanship or if I can’t figure out how it’s made,” she says.
Smiley’s own methods are no secret either. Her tried and true techniques include decoupage, glass etching and glass engraving. Smiley’s tools consist of her prized Dremel drill, Modge Podge glue, clear spray paint and scraps of felt, old clothing and leftovers from previous projects. Even a few strips of cloth from an old t-shirt turn into a useful accessory, like a braided belt or a headband to hold back unruly bangs.
So far, Smiley has raised $650 for the H.O.P.E. Center just by selling her wares, and she’s not stopping there. As Smiley expands her craft sales onto Etsy, she knits together the tools of the past with the digital devices of the present.