Editor’s note: This is a weekly series focusing on the importance of buying local.
Michaelene and Rich Kalinowski both had demanding jobs.
But Michaelene, who directed and built truck driving schools in three states, was forced into retirement in 2008. Rich, a former construction manager, retired nearly 10 years ago.
The South Franklin Township couple are not ones to sit around. Both became immersed is their hand-made skills, Rich with woodworking and Michaelene with crafting with a focus on stained glass, fused glass, crocheting, quilting and making baby blankets.
The Kalinowskis are a perfect example of those who should be celebrated this weekend as National Handmade Day is being celebrated – annually on the first Saturday in April. It recognizes all those who put forth their creative talents into gifts warming the heart and leaving us awed.
“I always had an interest,” Michaelene said. “When forced into retirement, you have to reinvent yourself, a self-journey of complete evolution. It’s really evolved for me.
“I always loved crafting and when I was working didn’t have time to do it. We moved here from the South Hills in 2004 and we love the community here. It’s tight-knit, and it helped me broaden my horizons with the craft.”
Rich said in retirement one must find him or herself and find out what you like.
“I got into woodworking by accident,” he said. “I was able to purchase a lot of tools at a cheap price. I make a lot of different things, for myself or give them away. Carving, you name it, I can do it.”
He also makes corn hole boards, furniture and is rebuilding a 1975 Harley Davidson motorcycle.
“We have varied interests,” Rich said. “My wife is the crafter though. She can make anything.”
Donna and Karen Sukel, retired teachers, make beautiful jewelry. While it’s not a business per se, the sisters made a lot of teachers in Washington School District happy through the years.
“We started this years ago,” Donna Sukel said. “We took beading classes at the old Washington Arts building. We made a lot of beads, but it became boring. Now we work with metals, Smith’s sterling silver sheet and copper sheet.
“We make bracelets, necklaces and earrings. We also work with copper and silver wire.”
The Sukels work with rolling machines, they solder with torches, use anvils and do attend some festivals and a Christmas show.
“We basically do this for fun,” Donna said. “It’s our retirement. We don’t have a website because we don’t want to feel pressed. It’s basically word of mouth. People will call us.
“We started this when we were still working. It sort of snow balled and we’d have some shows at the school.”
Sarah Trenk is a retired fiber arts for crafting, foods and nutrition teacher from Monessen High School, who now makes crafts and attends shows and promotes her goods.
“Mine are predominantly repurposed items,” Trenk said. “I make purses out of wool and clothes, old jeans.
“I convert men’s shirts into aprons. I also make potholders, pillows, wallets and little boxes from scraps. I sell a lot of ornaments, birds and animals are hot items.”
Trenk added she also sells a lot of patchwork and old blue jeans.
“I do very well because people see me,” she added. “People will call me because we became friends, or they kept my card. I love to sew, and I enjoy going to shows and being among people.”
Donna J. Gazboda is 79-years-old and has been crocheting and making wedding cakes for nearly 50 years. The Carrol Township resident is a master nut roll baker. She won several blue ribbons at the Washington County Fair for her crocheting. With the exception of the wedding cakes, she never sold her goods.
“I don’t sell (the nut rolls) because the price would have to be high (because of the price of ingredients) and people wouldn’t pay that. I do it for family and friends.”
Nancy Trapuzzano takes it even a step further.
When she was a little girl crafting and making special things became a hobby.
“As I got older, it just expanded,” she said. “I like making seasonal things and special things that would be special to somebody.
“Special gifts are important. Anyone can go to the store and buy something. In giving a special gift, you’re giving your time as well.”
She also makes items for charities and for donations to the needy.
“These items can make people feel special,” Trapuzzano said.
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