Sunday, September 14, 2008

Featuring: TruKenCrafts

Who are you?
I’m Ken Gullotti and I live in Springfield, Massachusetts. My shop is called TruKenCrafts.

I should probably tell you where the name came from. Years ago, I moved into an apartment in a house owned by my parents (long story, I’ll try to keep it short) – Well, up in the attic, I found an old Kenmore sewing machine, with lots of attachments and even the user manual! So, I oiled it up, and to see if it worked I started making throw pillows out of scraps of fabric that my mother gave me.

Then I found out that my friend Trudy, who is an exceptional sewist and makes beautiful quilts, loved to teach sewing and quilting. Some time went by and Trudy and I started to get together on a regular basis to create fabric crafts and it was she who taught me the basics (and more) of quilting. I fell in love with making all kinds of fabric items from full size quilts and table runners to banners for church and just about anything I could do with a sewing machine!

In that first year together, in addition to making gift items for my family – birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, etc. – Trudy and I decided that we could have fun by creating an inventory that we could actually sell at craft fairs! And so, when we enjoyed our first craft fair back in 1996, we decided that our little sales adventure needed a name, and TruKenCrafts was born.

What do you make?

Over the next few years, under Trudy’s guidance, I “quilted up a storm” and made bed quilts for just about everyone in my family. The picture at right is a 78” X 78” quilt inspired by the book “Quilts that Sizzle” by Margaret J. Miller. I call it “Snazzle” and it was on display at a Quilters’ Connection show in Arlington Massachusetts in 2002.

Although Trudy isn’t contributing to my Etsy shop at the moment, I hope she will someday soon. When I set up the shop, I configured it as a “collective” (under Etsy Guidelines) so that her beautiful creations will also be for sale at some point.

If you look at my shop, you’ll see what I call an eclectic display of my wares. I just love to create and so you’ll see many of my fabric items and even some crocheted dishcloths (yes I crochet too – many of my family and friends have my afghans across the backs of their sofas!).

But it’s my soaps that have given me the most fun in the past year or so.

How long have you been making it?
I started making soap shortly after I moved to Springfield in 2002. Realizing that I was having many weekend houseguests from my old hometown, and never having had a guest bedroom before, I decided that it would be nice to provide my friends with their own “specialty soap.” Usually it was something that I bought at craft fairs or gift shops. One day, I was doing some websearching and found a site that had a tutorial on soapmaking. I was enthralled by cold process, hot process and even melt and pour. And my creative process started to go crazy!

I started making guest sized soaps with different ingredients that I thought people would like and ended up making enough for my family and I to use, too! I discovered that home made soap does some really great things for this guy’s 50-plus year old skin!

I started making guest sized soaps with different ingredients that I thought people would like and ended up making enough for my family and I to use, too! I discovered that home made soap does some really great things for this guy’s 50-plus year old skin!

And so for that first Christmas, I made up gift baskets for family and friends. I wanted to share what it feels like to wash with “non-commercial” soap, and I must say that my friends and family loved the idea. It was really with their encouragement that I started my Etsy shop in the first place, and so I kept making soap in lots of shapes with several different recipes that I liked. I have to say that I’ve personally “tested” every type of soap in my Etsy store and won’t sell what I don’t like. My women friends love the molded cameo soaps in light fragrances. But it’s my future daughter-in-law who got me into making soap with patchouli and experimenting with multiple fragrances in one recipe.

My “Patchouli Wake-Up Call” soap has been very popular so far and I’m glad I took CJ’s advice on that one.
What is your favorite piece and why?

You know, I’m probably no different than any other crafter in the “my favorites” department. It seems that whatever I’m working on at the time becomes my favorite piece – until I start working on the next one. When I’m in my sewing/craft room, I can make the world disappear. When I’m working on something new, all the troubles in the world are someplace else and I don’t have to think about anything but what I’m working on. And that’s a great feeling. I liken it to being on vacation when you don’t have to think about the activities of day to day life. My “crafting” becomes a passion where I can escape into my own joy of creating. I don’t think I’m unusual in that respect, either. I know other crafters who feel exactly the same. It’s great. And if I can provide someone with something pretty, or something that smells nice and feels good, then that’s even better, don’t you think?

What do you love about Western MA?

Because my “day job” takes me all over the state, when I was looking to buy a house, location wasn’t important. Being a visitor to Western Massachusetts for many years of fall foliage and trips through the small towns in the Berkshires, I focused on this beautiful part of the state and found my dream house here in Springfield. I love the fact that in just a few minutes I can bring my favorite book and drive to a spot where I can sit and wallow in a beautiful vista that just takes my breath away. Although Springfield gives me everything I need in a “big city” it’s so nice to be able to whisk away to the country or the mountains in no time at all. For me, it’s the best of all worlds.

Is there any place other than Etsy we can find your work?

At the moment, Etsy is my only “permanent” venue for sales of my crafts. I have a small catalog that I distribute to friends and I do the occasional craft fair here and there. Unfortunately my “day job” keeps me busy on weekends, and we all know that the most popular craft fairs and shows are on weekends, so unless I’m on vacation, that’s not in the cards at this time. Someday that will change.

For me, right now my crafting is “part time” and that’s ok. I look forward to the day when I can retire from my other work and spend all my time crafting. That would be the best!

2 comments:

Sandi said...

I ran across your post while searching for crocheted dishcloths. Thank you for a great interview! It's so refreshing to see a man not afraid to develop sewing and quilting crafts. Bravo!!
Sandi from Sandi's T's

Rajee said...

I love all your crafts. I think I can product reviews and giveaway in my new blog. Pls share it with me if you want me to start quickly.
You can reach me at rajikarthik@hotmail.com