CASPER, Wyo. — Whether the declining economy combined with the rise of Pinterest created the perfect climate, or more people are simply taking an interest in crafting, one thing is clear - local craft businesses report a growing market.
"With Pinterest, it's phenomenal," said Michell Torregrossa-Kaul, owner of the Girl In Air craft store.
Pinterest is a social media site that lets users "pin" content, which often includes craft or do-it-yourself projects, to a virtual pinboard. Girl in Air boasts more than 3,000 followers on Pinterest, and Torregrossa-Kaul said she often gets custom orders for items found on the site.
"I get called the Pinterest store a lot," she added.
Torregrossa-Kaul opened her craft store in October in the Sunrise Shopping Center after success online evolved into a physical storefront. Her blog led to a local do-it-yourself television segment and a shop on Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade or vintage items and craft supplies.
That inspired Torregrossa-Kaul to sell her wares at local farmers markets and festivals, where she was encouraged to open a year-round store. Her craft classes fill up as fast as she can post them on Facebook, and she credits social media for her success.
"I had no idea the shop was going to be as busy," she said.
At Dancing Sheep Yarn & Fiber, owner Charlotte Kinner said she has also seen a growing interest in homemade items, with the local community drawing from Pinterest and Ravelry, an online community focused on knitting and crocheting. She was wrapping silk material around the shop's door handle Wednesday morning, a decoration idea she saw on Pinterest.
Kinner estimated that her business has doubled in the nearly five years since Dancing Sheep Yarn & Fiber opened.
"It's kind of crazy because I think it was a little bit of a crazy idea to start a yarn store in the middle of a recession," she said. "But I think that people, they're not necessarily spending big bucks doing big ticket stuff so they're maybe staying home more and finding ways to be creative."
The downtown store's beginner classes of six to eight people are almost always full, and Kinner said there are always people who want to learn how to knit or crochet. The store is now open on Mondays and recently instituted day classes in addition to regular evening and weekend classes to meet the increasing demand.
Longtime Dancing Sheep customer Kay Flores said she knows people of all ages who knit, including her granddaughter. She knits gifts for family members and is also willing to show them how. Flores said she's noticed more and more people picking up the hobby in recent years.
"There's almost always a crowd here on knitting nights and different times," she said.
Michele Heaphy, owner of Pottery By You, said she's watched the studio and its classes grow as well since she became the owner in 2005. She estimated a customer growth of 20 percent each year.
"When there was a recession, people looked at it as a fun way to not only get together with family or friends but also come away with something, a product, that they had hand made," she said.
And as the economy has improved, Heaphy said people still see pottery as a way to make a personal gift or a fun activity to enjoy with friends.
Outside the brick-and-mortar stores, craft shows have also had success in Casper. Shye Virgilio, an employee at the Hilton Garden Inn, is organizing the hotel's first fair on March 24 because people repeatedly ask about events outside the traditional fall season.
Virgilio, who makes homemade dog bones, has attended craft fairs as well as participated in them and has noted an increase in attendance.
"A lot of people have really had an interest in them," she said.
When the summer farmers markets begin, Torregrossa-Kaul said she will encourage others to enter - people who buy supplies at her store and occasionally return with impressive creations. She enjoys creating more crafters by inspiring others with her store items, classes and tutorials.
"When you teach somebody, you're kind of empowering them," she said. "You're giving them that confidence and they can open their own Etsy store, or sell in the community, or they'll do it a completely different way because everybody has their own vision."
Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com