|4/1/05: Onalaska Life, "Crazy for Crafts"
by PAUL SLOTH/Staff writer
For some area crafters, selling their handmade items seems to be in their blood, something that's been passed on from one generation to the next. For others, it's something they just pick up and it becomes a part of their life.
Angie Cavaiuolo started selling crafts at an early age when she would accompany her mother Susan, a sculptor, to craft shows. During the shows, Cavaiuolo would get to use a section of her mother's table where she could sell her own handmade items.
Cavaiuolo, 30, is still doing craft shows. She will be one of 95 vendors at this weekend's Spring Gift and Craft Show at the OmniCenter.
When she was younger, Cavaiuolo, who grew up in La Crosse, learned to crochet and do needlepoint and she also made beaded items. She was always making things. Her mother, grandmother and aunts were always making something with their hands. "I come from a very creative family," Cavaiuolo said.
Four years ago, Cavaiuolo again started sharing booths with her mother at area craft shows, only she started selling her handmade soaps instead of beaded bracelets.
She was inspired to try making soap by a cousin who had given handmade soaps to her family as Christmas gifts.
Cavaiuolo has created her own line of handmade skin care products, Handmade Natural Beauty, that she now sells at area gift and craft shows.
It started out as a hobby, but quickly turned into what she now calls a habit. "I'm very motivated. I don't do things half way."
"Before it was a hobby, it wasn't something I considered getting into as a sole source of income," Cavaiuolo said.
Now she finds herself devoting more time to her growing business.
Judy Thompson has been making her wearable crafts for the past 15 years. She makes embroidered shirts. She also sews and embroiders bibs.
Since she was making things, she figured she could try and sell them. She got the idea from her husband who sold his wood crafts at shows.
Making crafts wasn't something she learned at her mother's knee. Her mother didn't do anything of the sort.
Thompson, 58, moved to Onalaska in 1975 from Alton, Ill., where she worked as a bundle girl in a sewing factory.
"That's where I learned a lot of tips," Thompson said.
Thompson has always taken her son, Aron, with her to shows. At 16, Aron is following in his mother's footsteps, making and selling his own crafts, which are geared toward the young, or at least the young at heart.
For the past three years, Aron has been making and selling marshmallow shooters made out of small PVC pipe. Last year, Aron and his mother had a booth at Country Jam in Eau Claire, Wis., where he sold $500 worth of the toys to George Strait's band.
Novelty items aren't the only things Aron makes.
During the summer he travels with his mom to shows and sets up a table where he makes sand art. "It's just something I do for fun," Aron said.
In the kitchen of her new Onalaska home, Angie Cavaiuolo makes her skin care products. She even fills the individual lip balm tubes with the hot mix of ingredients.
"When I say I make them by hand, I mean it," Cavaiuolo said.
When she started making her soaps and lotions she never gave much thought to how far her hobby might take her. She certainly didn't consider that she would one day be selling her products anywhere other than at craft shows.
"When I got into it I thought I might go and not sell anything," Cavaiuolo said. "When I started I was excited if I could pay for my table rent."
After college, Cavaiuolo worked in the advertising and marketing. She eventually lost her job.
Besides making and selling her soaps she also runs her own Web design business. "I've always had that entrepreneurial spirit," she said.
Her background in marketing and design have helped her with her new venture, which is something she hopes will one day take off.
"I really would like to make a go of it," Cavaiuolo said. "I absolutely love the independence."
Now Cavaiuolo does about 10 area shows per year. She also sells her products at a few local retail stores and online from her Web site.
For Thompson, selling her embroidered shirts is not her sole source of income. She provides day care to three children in her home and thinks of her craft as the perfect compliment to her regular job.
Her work with children is a source of inspiration. She also makes children's masks and doll's clothes, which fit American Girl dolls or any other 18-inch doll.
Judy also started selling crocheted items. She learned to crochet by watching a woman who was making dish rags as they waited in line together for Beanie Babies at the Valley View Mall.
Besides the OmniCenter show, Thompson does between 25 and 30 shows each year in Wisconsin and Minnesota and Wisconsin.
"It doesn't pay to do one or two shows a year," Thompson said. "It's mostly love. You don't get paid for your time."
Craft shows aren't only a place to sell handmade items, it's a chance for people to meet their customers face-to-face, find new customers and get new ideas.
Cavaiuolo gets a lot of her ideas from her customers, who find different ways to use her products and come up with suggestions for new ones. She often finds herself making the products her customers suggest.
"I like having that personal connection with my customers," Cavaiuolo said. "I love feedback from my customers."
The shows are also an opportunity to meet fellow craftspeople and make new friends.
When Cavaiuolo's son Cameron was born, she would take him with to shows, which was always a hit with her booth neighbors, who enjoyed seeing him there in his play pen.
"They got so disappointed when I stopped bringing him," Cavaiuolo said.
Once he turned 3, Cavaiuolo's son started staying with his grandpa while she and her mother would go to shows. They continue to share booths at area shows together.
Cavaiuolo and Thompson have both been doing the OmniCenter gift and craft shows for several years.
Thompson has been doing them since they started eight years ago.
"I'll never give that one up because it's so close," Thompson said. "It's like a reunion. It's a good place to meet people."