Spinning passion into profit | SteamboatToday.com

Spinning passion into profit

Local weavers, quilters, jewelry makers enjoy freedom of craft work

Blythe Terrell

— When local leaders discuss the sorts of businesses they’d like to encourage, they tend toward terms such as economic gardening and location neutral.

When artists and entrepreneurs discuss their home-based businesses, they tend toward terms such as creativity, passion and freedom.

Lauretta Davidson runs her business, Distinctively Handwoven by Lauretta Davidson, out of a studio at her ranch near Hayden. The longtime weaver said she loves the customer contact and creating custom pieces.

“I design the fabric as well as the piece, and I design the color, and I love all that,” Davidson said. “That’s why I shy away from being too commercial. : I would be narrowed into making 50 pieces exactly alike. I really like the individual design per person per item sort of intimacy.”

Davidson once had a shop in Steamboat Springs. Now, she takes her work to shows. Her customers are from all across the world, and they keep coming back, she said.

“Things just tended to sell,” said Davidson, who has no formal training but has been weaving for 30 years. “People really liked what I wove, and they bought it, and I would make more, and they kept wanting and buying.”

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Davidson dyes her own yarn, using and combining whatever colors move her at the moment. She creates her own patterns and designs, and she makes all kinds of clothing.

Working at home allows her to spend time with her 16-year-old daughter on the ranch she owns with her husband, Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger. She’s considering setting up shop on the Internet but isn’t eager to add to her workload.

“I’m as busy as I can be,” Davidson said, “and I could put something under the fire and be busier, but life is very important.”

The market

Down the highway, the Hayden Marketplace fills its shelves with various homemade goods.

Beading pro Sue Fulton sells jewelry she makes in her studio. It’s sort of a guest bedroom, actually, with racks loaded with plastic trays of beads. Each bears a label, some with exotic names: fire agate, rhyolite, Czech glass, tanzanite.

Elkhead Bead Company has existed since about 2006. It’s a side venture to which Fulton dedicates 30 to 40 hours a week – in addition to her full-time job at Steamboat Veterinary Hospital. She can sit quietly for hours, creating custom items for buyers or making her own to sell. Fulton also can take old or broken jewelry and remake it.

She loves the creativity of the art.

“Just looking at the array of inventory that you have and just creating something, creating something somebody likes and wants to buy from you – that’s the fun part. : Every time I sit down, everything’s new.”

Not far from Fulton’s work at the marketplace, Mary Pat Dunn’s home handiwork is for sale.

Dunn curates the Hayden and Craig history museums. She paints, weaves and designs greeting cards. For her, art is about bringing out the best in others.

“My paintings are who I am, so I feel like my art career isn’t about how skillful I can be,” Dunn said. “It’s about how I can affect people so they can be all they can be.”

Dunn’s eyes light up when she talks about her peaceful paintings and bright greeting cards. She has sold her work for years, but she cares more about the passionate end of artistry. Dunn said she is a “utilitarian weaver” and doesn’t have formal technique.

She takes her small loom camping or out into the moonlight.

“I just feel like I weave my enjoyment of camping into the piece,” she said.

A homey shop

Across from the Hayden Marketplace, Connie Todd leans over a quilt on her long arm machine. She’s not quite a home business, but Elkhead Quilting is a homespun venture. She has been quilting about three years.

“I just decided that after my boys graduated and left home, I needed something to keep me occupied,” Todd said. “I love sewing, and quilting just seemed to be the perfect thing to do.”

She doesn’t custom-make quilts. Todd takes the top and bottom pieces of already sewn quilts-to-be, puts the batting in and puts on a pattern to secure them together. She taught herself the trade.

This is a busy time for her because people are coming in with quilts they want pieced together for the Routt County Fair in August. Still, Todd works at her own pace.

“I can make my own schedule unless someone is on a deadline and wants to have a product done at a certain time,” she said.

For her, as for the other women, the real treats are the flexibility and freedom of craft work.

“It’s relaxing,” Todd said. “You can be creative. It’s just really a lot of fun.”

Craft contacts

Distinctively Handwoven by Lauretta Davidson: 276-4291

Elkhead Bead Company: 276-3386

Elkhead Quilting: 135 S. Walnut St., 629-1003

Hayden Marketplace: 144 S. Walnut St.