Craft-a-preneur: Love of Crafts Turned into Successful Venture
Cornwall Manor resident Dorothy Wychock’s home is bursting full of beautiful, handmade and unique pieces for Christmastime. Many of the items Dotty made and others are unique pieces she purchased during her years as a successful craft entrepreneur when she and husband, Joe, had the opportunity to meet other juried artists along throughout the continental United States.
“I’ve always had a love for crafts,” shares Dotty. She began experimenting with dried floral arrangements using flowers from her garden and that led to trying country crafts and eventually to board Santas – a piece of shaped wood that is painted. This very simple technique expanded to carving facial features and then she came up with the idea for large dimensional Santas with carved features. “With crafting, you can do what you want. I always like adding another dimension to my pieces – seeing what I could do next.”
Dotty’s large dimension Santas, known as “Father Christmas” and a smaller version “Petite Papa Noel” became an instant hit. Father Christmas stands approx. 24” tall and has carved facial features, then was painted, the arms were assembled to the base of the Santa and Dotty decorated each Santa differently. “Each one had furs and were decked out with embellishments like toys in Santa’s bag, or a lantern with a Christmas tree.” All the embellishments were hand carved and painted as well. After many hours – and days of work – a piece of wood was turned into a lavish and elegant Christmas decoration.
Dotty participated in year-round craft shows, sometimes doing ten to 14 shows a year. She would sell her inventory and then people started inquiring about special colors or adding sentimental items to customize a Santa. She had one customer who was an Air Force Pilot in World War II. She used material from his flight jacket and incorporated his medals to make a custom piece. She also used a fur cape from his wife and various pieces of her jewelry and items pertaining to each of the families thus really customizing them to each family. She made thousands of Santa’s from 1990 to 2016. Each Santa would take days to make.
Joe was also very involved in Dotty’s business. He would cut the shape of Santa’s body and arms and give it a rough sanding. Dotty recalls carving “just about anywhere.” In the car, at the dining room table, watching TV at night. “You could tell wherever I was, because there was a fresh pile of wood shavings,” she chuckles.
She enjoyed working on new things as well. She would also make backgammon and checker boards and all the pieces that accompanied each game board. Some would be painted, some had fabric decoupaged to them.
Dotty loved her career of craftswoman. Dotty and Joe have six children (five boys and one girl) and after they paid their youngest son’s last tuition bill, she quit her job in the ‘working world’ to craft full time.
Joe and Dotty traveled quite extensively as Dotty participated in juried craft shows in Vermont, New York, South Carolina, and Minnesota (just to name a few). “We would make mini-vacations out of our travels by staying an extra couple of days after the craft shows. We have many lifelong friends from our travels and truly enjoyed meeting others and learning about their love of crafting.”
A juried craft show is a carefully selected, high-quality, handmade-only event. Most require potential sellers to send in an application and fee that includes a detailed description of your products along with several clear photographs of your items, booth, and displays.
Eventually Dotty began doing her own home shows, something she did for 12 years. She started out small and this grew by word of mouth. She would move the furniture out of several rooms in her house to make room for displays. She brought in other artists to offer her customers a variety of items. “People would line up at the door.”
In 2014, Dotty “retired” and she and Joe moved to Cornwall Manor in October 2015. Many of Dotty’s items decorate her Buckingham Campus home and each one has a special story to tell. Both Joe and Dotty enjoy opening their home to share their beautiful decorations with the Cornwall Manor community – which they start to put out in October.