Crafting a hobby; Four local hobbyists find profit in their crafts

Published 10:40 am Thursday, October 29, 2015

Amy Lanorgen works on some of her jewelry from her dining room. -- Photos by EricJohnson/

Amy Lanorgen works on some of her jewelry from her dining room. — Photos by EricJohnson/

Starting up a hobby can be difficult to do, especially starting from scratch. When these local hobby crafters started their work, they didn’t know it would become a big thing, but now they enjoy selling their art at different craft shows or stores.

Though they didn’t know much when they started, each one became knowledgeable in their field and know how to take on a new project.

Whether they started because of a community education class, or because they simply ran out of soap, each person has found enjoyment in their craft, and even some amusement.

Cute as a button

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Amy Lonergan

This fashionable thought — a few buttons glued together on a ring make a great accessory to an outfit — doesn’t cross many minds, but Amy Lonergan didn’t pass up the opportunity to be creative with her grandmother’s jar of buttons.

“I had a coffee can of my grandmother’s buttons, and I probably had those for 15 years,” Lonergan said. “I just thought they were cool.”

Lonergan makes rings, bracelets, earrings and even necklaces out of buttons, which she said she tries to make look more like jewelry.

Lonergan started making the accessories for fun, but after someone saw and liked her jewelry, she started to make them as gifts. Eventually, the button jewelry spilled into her jewelry hobby-business, which had already taken off after she started making jewelry with wine corks.

She began making wine-cork pieces for family and friends, and started her business. With corks, Lonergan started making necklaces, but she moved on to keychains or purse decorations, earrings out of tiny corks, as well as boat keychains. She even showed off some cork-reindeer Christmas ornaments.

Examples of Lonergan’s jewelry.

Examples of Lonergan’s jewelry.

Lonergan has been crafting jewelry for about four years, and she didn’t know a thing about it when she started. She has learned over time through creating, and she had no idea it would turn into a small hobby business.

“It must be that it’s just a relaxing, creative outlet,” she said. “Because every one turns out differently. “It’s just something that your’e driven to do.”

Her items are usually made right at home on the kitchen table. Lonergan sells real estate with Furhman Real Estate, and her button-cork hobby business is just a hobby, though she does sell the items where she can.

“The nice thing about it I would say is you can devote as much time to it as you want to,” she said.

Currently, Lonergan’s jewelry is for sale the Austin Artworks Center, and she has done several craft shows when people invite her. She said it’s very flattering when people like her items enough to buy them. Yet she just enjoys the time it takes to make each one into something unique and special.

“It’s just the appreciation of making jewelry out of something that’s not jewelry,” Lonergan said. “… It’s kind of the repurposing of it, and also the humor of it.

Dawn Butler mixes a batch of soap in the basement of her home.

Dawn Butler mixes a batch of soap in the basement of her home.

Naturally sudsy

Dawn Butler

Dawn Butler’s business, Soaps by Dawn, came about because Butler ran out of soap one day.

“I have very sensitive skin, and I used to buy homemade soaps at craft shows and I was out of them,” Butler said.

So about two-and-a-half years ago, she attended a class offered by the Austin Community Education on how to make homemade soap. She left knowing she wanted to help others with sensitive skin and happy that she would never run out of soap again.

Butler’s soaps are made with all natural ingredients, including olive, palm and coconut oil, and essential oils for scent. She also makes hand lotion and lip balm. She sells her products at craft shows and flea markets. She also has product at several stores and online website,

Butler makes over 65 scents and is always looking online for new smells to try.

“It’s just exciting to pick out different scents,” she said. “And you never know what you’re going to get.”

Dawn’s soap dries.

Dawn’s soap dries.

Butler makes the soaps in her soap shop, which is in the basement of her home. She mixes, bakes and labels each soap on her own. Some of the soaps even have exfoliating items, such as oatmeal.

Although Butler has a basement full of soap, this is only a hobby, as she also works part time at the Auto License.

“I love working part time because it allows me to do this, and I can also be with my grand-babies,” she said.

Butler loves making her own soap because she knows what ingredients are in the bars and that she won’t have a reaction to it.

“I love it because I know that it’s all natural ingredients, and it’s great for everybody’s skin,” she said. “That’s one thing we all have in common.”

Butler said making her own soap out of all natural products has made her watch the ingredients in other items, also. She hopes to be as chemical free as possible, and said she does a lot of do-it-yourself projects.

Butler hopes people will try natural soap, whether it’s hers or someone else’s, and see the difference it makes on their skin. She said whether people shower in the morning or at night, the scent of soap start’s many people’s days.

“So why not have the first thing to start your day be good for you,” Butler said.

Jeff Peterson cuts a piece of glass at his work bench.

Jeff Peterson cuts a piece of glass at his work bench.

Catching the sun’s rays

Jane and Jeff Peterson

One of the most noticeable things about a building is its stained glass. Jeff Peterson and his wife, Jane, owners of J & J Glass Art, are happy to help those pieces — and the art — stay alive.

“After you get done putting the amount of work you put into it, is the satisfaction you get from it,” Peterson said.

He and his wife started working with fused glass art about five years ago, while his wife has been working with leaded glass for about 12 years. Peterson said about 90 percent of the work they do are custom orders.

“We’ll replicate the items, if they send us a picture,” he said. “… We’ll make it into a wind chime or a sun catcher where you hang it in a window and you’re able to have the sunlight come through it and enhance the colors and such.”

They also work with older pieces, restoring glass to the way it originally looked.

The Petersons got into working with glass when Jane bought a glass piece at an archery shoot and later asked her glass-work instructor how to make something similar.

Depending on the item, the work can take a few days or a few weeks to complete.

The Petersons have restored things such as windows, doors and more, but mostly the couple makes custom pieces from photos sent in. A popular replication they do are farm tractors, making wind chimes or a glass piece with a tractor shape.

The hanging glass art of Jane and Jeff Peterson.

The hanging glass art of Jane and Jeff Peterson.

Both Peterson and his wife have full-time jobs, so glass work is more of a hobby for them.

“This here is kind of our retirement job so we can kind of stay busy,” he said.

They visit craft shows, art fairs, tractor and steam shows and more. Peterson said the wind chimes they make can stay outside and won’t break, and even look better outside when they catch the sunlight.

“The same piece can be outside, and depending on the time of the day or if it’s cloudy or anything, everything looks a little bit different each time,” Peterson said.

Many of the customers are repeat customers, asking for more art or asking to get things restored. Peterson said the hobby is fun but very time consuming, as he is usually in the workshop if he’s not at work or at a show. The couple still makes time for themselves and their family though. Peterson said the biggest thing is to make sure the hobby stays a hobby.

“Enjoy it,” he said. “You better enjoy it or else it becomes a job right away, and then you’re going to hate it.”

Check out the full story in Austin Living Magazine.

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