Gina Germ bio: Gina is entirely fascinated by animals –biology, behavior, ecology and history– and they provide the primary inspiration for her work, which includes observational sketches, commentary and portraiture. A self-taught artist, she has been painting for almost ten years, and drawing since she can remember. She works in acrylic, ink and spray paint.
Gina lives in Minneapolis with her husband, three year old son, and two kitties. She spends her days doing design and production on 4-color books, calendars, and marketing materials, and her evenings (after her son goes to bed) working in her coveted basement studio.
Ryan Ringel’s boys are hard on their toys. Any parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or big brother or sister can probably relate. Ryan’s oldest son especially loves a good puzzle. But when ordinary, store-bought puzzles were subjected to his enthusiasm…over time, the results were not pretty.
Of course, store-bought puzzles are merely cardboard or chipboard with a sticker slapped on, or paper glued to the front…hardly designed to stand the test of time. Ryan’s boys were going through puzzles like tissues during flu season.
One day, Ryan was inspired to make more durable puzzles while watching a sculptor use a scroll saw to create intricate patterns in wood. He figured the same technique could be used to make puzzles for his kids, puzzles that were more interesting than the standard square or rectangle, as well as tougher than the flimsy ones from the mall toy store.
The first puzzle (“Faye Fish”) was a huge hit with the boys, and could keep them entertained for hours, without breaking apart, peeling, or bending. Soon, Ryan was making puzzles for the kids of his friends and neighbors, as well as his sons’ classmates, and My Daddy Puzzles was born.
Every puzzle is drawn by Ryan, and cut, sanded, stained, and painted by hand in his Alexandria, Virginia workshop. Each design is available in a variety of paint colors, in natural stain, or unpainted.
The poplar or maple hardwoods used to make them are grown and harvested in the USA, and the paints and stains used to decorate them come from a company in Ohio.
The puzzles are simple, yet challenging enough to keep kids as young as 18 months entertained and mentally stimulated. They’re painted on both sides to add a layer of difficulty, and range in size from 5 pieces for the littlest ones, to 10 pieces for older children.
When I was a kid, we got in the car and drove my dad out to a nearby town to take a hot air balloon ride. I remember watching the balloons gliding through the sky. These earrings remind me of that day.
Elle got started in handmade when she was struggling with depression and loneliness. Jewelry-making was her way to be totally immersed in something that was not only positive, but kept her mind off of what she was going through. She fell in love with jewelry making and never looked back. Her style incorporates vintage pieces with modern beads.
Encouraged by friends and family she jumped into selling through her shop Elle’s Beads. After taking a blind leap, she learned as she went setting up up a business strategy, goals, and a budget.
I’ve met such great artisans, both in real life and through venues like Etsy, and I feel like I have a sense of community and belonging now.
Elle’s grandmother is a huge influence. She uses her antique sewing machine and vintage buttons to make a lot of her creations. She’s also inspired by items that people cast away as trash. She has a way of viewing things not as what they are, but what they could become with a little bit of fabric, paint, or beads. She’s also started sewing now due to her grandmother’s influence (she was a seamstress) and makes a point to only use eco-friendly materials in the accessories she makes.
My favorite item is my Vintage Sapphire and Silver Glass Pearl Necklace. It’s the first eco-friendly piece I ever made and it’s from an old vintage earring I repurposed as a brooch. I’m really passionate now about reusing old materials and making them into something beautiful and new. This necklace is a constant reminder to me of the beginning of that journey.
Elle supports the views that many of us handmade artisans have, even though handmade goods can cost more than mass-produced goods, especially those imported from overseas, they’re so much more valuable! When you buy something handmade, you’re supporting an artisan – a small business and an entrepreneur. You’re supporting a craft and a subculture that values the importance of keeping craftsmanship alive. Each handmade item is a little bit different and Elle, like all handmade artists puts her love and a part of herself in every piece.
These adorable vintage birdies are my personal favorite!
Elle is a full-time paralegal working for a non-profit in North Carolina. When not working at her day job or on her business, you can find her relaxing in front of the television, catching up on the latest book club book, or talking on the phone with her family. Online you can find her on Facebook, Twitter and her blog.
Janice Hagey-Schmidt: From a young age I was going to the library checking out craft techniques. I used to paint metal shapes and glass bottles as a kid. Later I progressed to throwing pots and bowls on a wheel. I was thrilled with the use of underglazes on porcelain. And then… one day I took a metalsmithing class at a community college. I have been working mainly with metal ever since. But… I make my living as a graphic designer. Metalsmithing is my art.
nism: Hi, I’m Nathan Stapleton-McKinzie. I’ve always loved to draw and paint. I studied painting for a while in Carbondale, Illinois. From there I spent some time Upstate New York where I was represented by the Varga Gallery. At the moment I am working as a Freelance Designer/Flash Animator and living in the Windy City of Chicago. I love coffee and working on art late into the night.