Tag Archives: Etsy

Your Trash, Her Treasure

April 9, 2017 by
Photography by Keith Binder

Even on a blustery, freezing January day, as Christmas lights still twinkle from neighbors’ homes, it’s Halloween inside Diane Hayes’ apartment.

Enter into her abode, which is located in the 105-year-old West Farnam Apartments off Dewey and 38th streets, and you’re confronted with fortunetellers and witches and skeletons, oh my! The 1,800-square-foot place is spacious, with floorboards that squeak and much of its early 20th-century charm still intact, but it’s Hayes and her often-merrily macabre refurbished artwork that makes the apartment truly spellbinding.

“For a while, I tried to keep all my work hidden in one room, but then I said ‘Oh, to hell with it,'” Hayes says. “By the time they carry my body out of here, I suppose things will really look strange.”

Hayes lives to make the old new again. From turning a vintage side table into an animatronic fortuneteller to using antique alarm clocks to create mini terrariums that depict tragedies like the Titanic sinking and Lindbergh kidnapping, she uses her creative magic to take everyday objects and turn them into art. A strong believer that “décor shouldn’t come from Bed, Bath & Beyond,” Hayes scavenges through Goodwill, antique shows, and online to buy things only for their pieces and parts.

After purchasing an item, she stows it away and lets ideas start marinating in her head. Once inspiration strikes, the tinkering begins.

“It’s not my thing to come home after a long day and sit down to watch TV,” Hayes says. “I’m always putting something together.”

While she displays most of her work in her home, she does sell some items on Etsy and has donated pieces to benefits for the Nebraska AIDS Project and the local chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

If she isn’t selling or donating a piece, chances are it will end up in her year-round Halloween-themed office. Teeming from floor to ceiling with things that go bump in the night, this room is more fun and festive than frightening, as most of her collection reflects Halloween styles that were popular in the 1950s and ’60s. And come Halloween night, Hayes is the ghostess with the mostess, inviting around 80 costumed party guests into her apartment to have their palms read by a fortuneteller and watch silent films like Nosferatu.

“I love the Halloweens I grew up with,” Hayes says. “It’s such a fun time of year, and it doesn’t have the stress or religious and political connotations of Christmas.”

Beyond Halloween, living in Omaha’s first luxury apartment building offers its own inspiration. Built in 1912, the West Farnam Apartments house the city’s oldest working elevator.

“You can hear those 100-year-old gears cranking and groaning, almost like a tiny factory that’s come to life,” Hayes says.

Perhaps, this explains her next project—refurbishing an old clock complete with its own ancient gears. Some projects she completes in a day, others she’s always working on, always tinkering. This clock’s finish date is yet to be determined, and to Hayes that’s just fine.

“It’s been an unfocused life,” Hayes says, “but I’m not sure I’d want to do it any other way.”

Visit etsy.com/people/halloweenclocks for more information.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Home.

Ben Petersen

October 11, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Ben Petersen has always been good with his hands. Growing up on the family farm in Exira, Iowa, Petersen spent a lot of time watching his father work with his hands to create beautiful pieces that also served a purpose. “Dad was always making something,” Petersen says with a smile, “but it had to be practical.”

It’s that commitment to quality that inspires the furniture that Petersen makes today. “I built my first stool when I was 12, and for my birthday, my parents gave me a small workshop of my own. I have been making furniture ever since.”

That small workshop in Iowa was the start. He now operates a large co-working space for other creatives, builders, and business owners in Omaha’s North Downtown District. Bench—founded by Petersen in 2012—offers hobbyists and professional makers a collaborative environment, equipment, and space to practice their trade.

Bench feels like a place where the past and present intersect. If you enter through the front door and walk up the narrow stairway, you will notice the exposed brick, the cracks in the concrete floor, and the smell of sawdust. After signing in on an iPad that notifies Petersen of your arrival, you will hear someone walking up an old wooden staircase. You will be greeted by the most impressive beard this side of the Missouri River. The building is also home to Petersen’s TimberSmith Goods.

“Every part of our furniture is functional. We take a great deal of pride in the furniture we create for customers and local businesses.”

-Ben Petersen

TimberSmith Goods grew out of PhilipDesignLab, a custom furniture company that Petersen had established in 2009. TimberSmith Goods consists of a small team of furniture makers and craftsmen who specialize in Danish-inspired, hand-hewn goods. Much of the wood used in their furniture is locally sourced and milled at the family sawmill in Exira, Iowa.

Petersen, Kyle Petersen (custom furniture lead), Adam Findley (project manager), and Matt Williams (shop assistant) use traditional methods and time-tested joinery to make furniture out of hardwoods like cherry, walnut, and oak. Their designs are intended to be handsome, timeless, and practical.

“Every part of our furniture is functional,” Petersen says. “We take a great deal of pride in the furniture we create for customers and local businesses.” Like the Paul Lounge Chair, named after Petersen’s dad. “Dad had a tough time getting out of a chair I created, so I made him the Paul Lounge Chair. It sits higher and was much easier on Dad’s back.”

Or the Draper Sideboard, named after Don Draper of Mad Men. “It reminds me of furniture from that time period—around the mid-20th century. And because I like Mad Men,” Petersen explains.

Petersen and his team’s intense commitment to detail is obvious in each piece. Around town, their work is on display in the form of three gorgeous tables for The Market House Restaurant, and they made cabinets, desks, and credenzas for the KANEKO. But their work doesn’t just stay in Omaha.

TimberSmith’s Etsy page is full of five-star reviews and satisfied customers from all corners of the country who applaud Petersen’s work. Every custom project is an opportunity for Petersen and his team to express their creativity doing something they all love. For Petersen, furniture-making is all he’s ever known. It’s a skill he learned from his dad, who was taught by his dad. At 12, he started with a stool. And now, Petersen has his Bench.

“These last couple years have been a whirlwind,” he says with a laugh. 

Visit timbersmithgoods.com and benchomaha.com for more information.



Being True Blue to Friends Old and New

August 1, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

True Blue Goods and Gifts looks a bit like the popular web-based store Etsy set up a storefront in NoDo. True Blue is a retail store stocked with handcrafted goods from local and regional makers, as well as national vendors creating products not found elsewhere in Omaha. Jewelry, quirky handmade cards, vases, and baby onesies promoting “The Good Life” line shelves.

TrueBlue3It is beyond Etsy, though. Not even a year old, the store one-ups the online site with a gallery of rotating shows and regular classes offered for adults and children. Owned by Omahans Melissa Williams, Jessica Mogis, and Jodie McGill, the store is set up to showcase local artisans, providing them with a brick and mortar outlet in which to sell their wares that eliminated shipping costs.

A stack of soy candles by The Wild Woodsmen are made by a 12-year-old boy named Nic. Nearby lays jewelry by Heather Kita. Kita’s jewelry is one of the most popular items in the store. “She’s become a good friend,” says Williams.

Friendship’s a theme that carries throughout the store. “We had a lot of help from people—friends and family,” says Mogis. They sell bags made by Cody Medina, a friend who also built their display tables. The hanging pots in the front window are by their pal Andrew Bauer. The owners convinced Bauer to sell his goods at their store after seeing one of his handmade gifts.

The three women are first time entrepreneurs—Mogis was a teacher and Williams worked in hospice. McGill continues her law practice. “We wanted a change,” says Mogis.


The setting, located in the Saddlecreek Records complex, fits their needs and personalities. The shop’s loft doubles as inventory storage and a holding corral to entertain the owners’ children while their moms manage the shop downstairs.

The storeowners started out selling goods from their friends—who happened to be talented artists—and creatives they encountered at different markets. Artists now approach True Blue with their wares.

TrueBlue4Williams, Mogis, and McGill curate their store with the eyes and minds of art gallery owners, intentionally maintaining the vibe of a boutique from the coasts. A rotating gallery of fine art fills one wall of the store. Each showing is kicked off with an opening night event.

Like artwork, many items sold at the store have “Meet Your Maker” signage explaining the artists’ backgrounds. The ladies behind the counter will fill in the missing details as you shop, explaining how the collage-maker from Ashland used pages from an old dictionary found at Bud Olson’s Bar, or how the store’s popular Brucie Bags are handmade by Williams’ dad.

The jovial relationships the storeowners have forged with their vendors also extends to customers. On a recent afternoon, a woman walked into the store and Williams cheerfully greeted her like an old friend. There’s no long history between the two—she’s a regular customer who’s been folded into the family that is True Blue.

Visit truebluegoodsandgifts.com for more information.

l-r, Jodie McGill, Melissa Williams, Jessica Mogis

l-r, Jodie McGill, Melissa Williams, Jessica Mogis

Juan Mora-Amaral

December 30, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Juan Mora-Amaral knows how to talk. The bubbly 19-year-old makes one feel like an old friend after just a couple of minutes. It’s not surprising that this jewelry designer likes to chat up the people who buy his one-of-a-kind designs.

“I really like to talk to my customers,” he says. “I want to see how they style it. I want them to tag me in it on Instagram.”

He has an Etsy store, but prefers to sell in person. “I don’t like not knowing how (customers) react,” he says. Selling locally gives him the instant feedback he craves.

Mora-Amaral starting making jewelry by accident nearly six years ago during an internship at Flying Worm Vintage. There the eager teen learned everything he wanted to know about retail and the world of vintage clothing. “I’d fix buttons, solder broken chains,” he says. “And I started doing that more and more, so I asked if it would be OK if I took the broken stuff and make other things from it.”

Eventually he started creating assemblage jewelry and sold the creations on a little stand on the front counter.

“I never thought jewelry was such a wanted thing,” he says of watching his burgeoning business grow. “There I was, 14 years old and making money, being able to spend money on things I like.”

JuanMoraAmaral3He put a lot of it back into his business, Amaral Jewelry, in the form of etching supplies, copper wire, and other materials. He uses “anything and everything” in his work, but it seems all anyone wants to talk to him about are his bones.

For the past couple of years, he has harvested animal bones and carcasses and worked them into a variety of pieces.

“There’s a whole culture of people who make this kind of jewelry—vegan jewelry from an ethical perspective,” he says. Ethical, he says, because he never purposefully hunts or seeks out animals for his work. Instead, he finds animals that died through natural means and then lets them rot naturally before skinning or dehydrating them for use in his work.

“I like the whole idea of rotting by itself and using only what is supposed to be left,” he says, adding that he prefers to use the teeth because it can be “added to a lot of things.”

“Rotting and dying can be gross, but how are you supposed to learn about [death] if you’re not willing to make yourself uncomfortable?”

Mora-Amaral focuses on his jewelry full-time while working at Paper Doll Vintage Boutique in Benson.

It’s hard to believe that I was 14 and fixing little things and now I’m making enough money to pay actual bills with the money I make on jewelry,” he says.

Where he’ll take his work in the future is still uncertain—he’s still young—but he’s amazed at how far he’s come.

“I’ve done five years of work—that’s 6,000 necklaces,” he says. “But I’ll never get tired of seeing someone wear my work and thinking ‘so cool, that’s mine!'” Encounter

Visit facebook.com/jamjewelry to learn more.



October 20, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

In this issue we are taking inspiration from all things Wes Anderson! The masked characters on our cover were inspired by the strange, large painting hanging above the couch in the 2001 film The Royal Tenenbaums. The masks themselves were inspired by the disguises worn to hide from adults in Anderson’s 2012 Moonrise Kingdom. Whether you are a grown man posing intimidatingly on a four-wheeler, or a 12-year-old running from consequences, a good mask ignites adventure and makes you feel like you can get away with anything.

What You’ll Need:

  • Felt (assorted colors)
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue gun
  • Spray adhesive
  • 1/4” elastic band


  1. If you are not naturally gifted at visualizing shapes to build a critter, there are all kinds of great templates that you can find and print out on Pinterest or Etsy.
  2. Cut out shapes from paper, then place them on a piece of felt of the same color. Lightly trace around the shape with a pen, and cut out that piece of felt with scissors.
  3. Continue this until you have all of the shapes cut to form an entire mask. I doubled the felt for any piece of the mask considered to be a “base” in order to make the mask a bit sturdier by spraying one layer with an adhesive, laying it on top of another piece, and cutting my shape out of both pieces at once.
  4. When layering the mask together, flip over cut-out pieces so that you do not see any pen marks that you have made. Keep in mind that the mask will look backwards compared to your template, but the result will be much cleaner.
  5. Make sure that all of the pieces are in order before hot-glueing each piece in its place.
  6. Cut a hole on either side of the mask and feed the elastic band through the holes. Tie the elastics to the masks, and you are ready for a night as a woodland critter!




The Object Enthusiast

June 26, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article appears in May/June 2015 The Encounter.

For artists dreaming of making a living from art, Emily Reinhardt’s life must seem like the ultimate fantasy. Every day, the 26-year-old turns down high-end retailers and specialty boutiques who are clamoring to carry her distinctive ceramic vases, tumblers, vessels, tableware and signature ring dishes. Demand is so high, in fact, she’s having difficulty keeping up with orders.

Object Enthusiast 5

It’s a great problem to have, one Reinhardt never would have envisioned several years ago. That’s because she didn’t set out to be a ceramist. She initially studied photography at Kansas State University, but after receiving oblique praise from a professor while taking a ceramics class, she realized clay was her medium. “For my first project, I made sculptural mounds with indentations to hold bowls, and a professor walked by and said, ‘That’s pretty good,’” Reinhardt recalls. “My teacher said, ‘He never says that! You should definitely change your major!’ I walked right over to the office and made the switch.”

The professor was Yoshi Ikeda, a ceramist known for works imbued with serene symmetry. He saw something in Reinhardt, so much so that when he retired, he gave her his kiln and wheel. “He told me, ‘I wouldn’t give this to any of your other classmates,’” she remembers. “Yoshi had a way of seeing something in you before you saw it. Without that equipment, I never would have been able to do what I’m doing.”


Before then, however, Reinhardt needed a lucky break, one that came via a broken foot in 2013. Her boyfriend received a job in Omaha, but instead of joining him that summer, she had to wait until September. In the meantime, she prepared for the move by opening her store, The Object Enthusiast, on Etsy. “I ended up doing it purely as a way to get rid of pottery,” she explains. “I was just getting rid of stuff. I wasn’t planning on starting a business. I really didn’t think it was feasible.”

Feasible it was. Shortly after opening, Etsy contacted her about featuring her work on its homepage in September. Reinhardt’s profile skyrocketed. “It led to a lot of sales,” she says. “I had to make everything to order. That first holiday season was insane!”


Things got crazier. In 2014, retailer Anthropologie approached Reinhardt about carrying a limited run of her small dishes, which can be used for rings, bracelets, and other delicate sundries. Additional retailers quickly took note, and today Reinhardt’s elegant ceramic wares can be found in shops as far away as Australia as well as closer to home at Hutch in Midtown Crossing.

All of this has led Reinhardt to move her studio from her cramped basement into a downtown workspace, where she is expanding her collection to include tableware as well as other new items.

The young artist associates Omaha with much of this success. “When I moved here, I started making what I wanted to make,” Reinhardt reflects. “I feel like I can kind of equate all of the good things that have happened with Omaha. This is such a great place.”

Object Enthusiast 2 Object Enthusiast 1



Don’t Fear the Bobbin

May 24, 2014 by

DIY is the trend that’s never going to go away. Ever seen anything on Pinterest or Etsy that made you think, I could totally do that, only to be confronted by a certain lack of skill? Sewing an A-line skirt might be something your grandmother could whip up in 30 minutes, but it’s an endeavor that’s more than a little intimidating for some.

Fortunately, Bonnie Smith is one Omaha grandmother willing to share a few of her tricks with newbies who want to overcome their sewing anxiety. As a grandmother of 12, she keeps her sewing skills sharp with lots of crafts for the kids. “Right now, I’m in a major project making quiet books for everyone,” she says. The colorful, intricate books made from fabric are pricey, time-consuming, and not at all what Smith would recommend a newcomer begin with.

Select Your First Project
Pick a project that’s realistic, which means avoiding clothing or alterations. “Something with straight seams,” Smith says. “Like a baby blanket. Or infinity scarves are super simple.” She recommends finding an online video tutorial instead of a written pattern. “There’s just something about seeing someone do the steps.” You can always upgrade to a more complex pattern, like a simple skirt, for your second attempt.

Collect Your Tools
Smith runs down the list of small tools she keeps close by during every project:

  • cutting mat
  • iron
  • pins
  • rotary cutter
  • scissors
  • seamripper
  • tape measure

For anyone trying to build a sewing kit from the ground up, Smith says to hold off on the more expensive tools and either request them as gifts or make use of the coupons that are always in ads for local hobby and fabric stores.

Choose Your First Machine
Speaking of expensive, “don’t go hog wild over a highfalutin machine,” Smith advises. “The old machines are heavy and made to last. The new ones are made out of plastic.” She suggests finding a used one to begin with—Millard Sewing refurbishes old sewing machines, for example. At minimum, Smith recommends a machine that can sew straight, zigzag, and buttonholes. “You can always upgrade.” Plan to spend under $200 for a decent machine.

Set Yourself Up For Success
Finish off all of that planning with a few extra tips from Smith, and your first sewing project is primed for success.

  • Start with any materials found around the house. Fabric can get expensive. For good-quality material, Smith recommends Country Sampler. For your first project, consider turning an old T-shirt into an infinity scarf or a baby’s headband.
  • Get familiar with your machine. “Thread it and practice on some scrap,” Smith suggests. Maintain it by keeping it oiled and take it in once a year for cleaning. Have the right needle for the fabric you’re working with. Replace the needle after several hours of sewing or whenever it seems dull.
  • Iron everything. “Prewash and dry the fabric in case of shrinkage,” Smith says. “Then you need to iron it. Every time you make a seam, you have to iron. It turns out sloppy if you don’t iron, iron, iron.”
  • Have your seamripper handy. “You’ll be ripping stuff out a lot,” Smith admits.
  • Ask the experts for help. Smith is a fan of Hancock Fabrics and Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft largely because of their helpful staff of professional seamstresses.

“If you enjoy it, for sure don’t give up,” Smith encourages. “It’s so fun to get to that finished product!”


Bareknuckle Bazaar

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Partners Cameron and Audio Helkuik are the owners of Bareknuckle Bazaar, a new online home goods business based in Omaha. The company, “in the business of making art,” launched in May and features pillows, small housewares, and other home décor items, all hand-crafted by the duo.

“I have a string of highly creative jobs under my belt: art tutor, costume designer, art gallery manager, arts & crafts instructor, fashion designer…” shares Audio. “Cameron has a resume filled with more traditional business experience but has always wished to do something creative with his hands. We finally decided to join forces and take the plunge. Here we are now with Bareknuckle Bazaar, and we have so much creative energy we can barely stand it.”20130531_bs_8594_web

Audio says the business aims to infuse high-quality, rugged yet refined design into the lives of its customers. “They might be looking to make tiny home improvements here or there, or to do a total overhaul [of their living space], but they’re focused on surrounding themselves with great design that will last.” Included in the store’s initial collection is a line of linen pillows with leather detailing, available in several patterns. All of the products featured on Bareknuckle Bazaar’s Etsy site are priced affordably at $40-$150.

Audio hopes to eventually expand the business into upholstery work—vintage furniture makeovers, custom bicycle seats, even auto “hotrod” upholstery. A brick and mortar storefront is not out of the question either.

For now, the business is using primarily social media—a blog and Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram—to share photos of new items and market their goods to customers.

Bareknuckle Bazaar