Amy Isler and Mary Thomas became fast friends after meeting in a workout class at a local YMCA. Through conversations in class, they learned both women enjoyed working with their hands.
“We discovered that we both loved to craft,” Isler said. “We started thinking about different projects we could do together, and before we knew it, we were 'crafternooning' during [Thomas’] kid’s nap time, while my kids were at school.”
Now, the two Catonsville residents are on the verge of offering an art studio open to the public.
Their shop, Maker Practice, is scheduled to celebrate its grand opening at 721 Frederick Road on Friday, Aug. 3.
Customers can come and, for a price between $45 and $75, receive kits filled with all the materials, tools and instructions needed to produce a handmade good, designed by Thomas and Isler. Customers choose among six crafts to make, based on their self-evaluated experience level.
The grand opening, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., will have a carnival theme, with cotton candy, raffle giveaways and popcorn. Regular store hours will be Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m.
The ceremony will start with a ribbon cutting. Thomas said they’re going to create a ribbon out of wood, and break it with a reciprocating saw.
“It just feels right,” Isler said.
The pair decided which crafts to sell based on their own experiences and their “dream lists” of crafts they’ve always wanted to make but have not gotten to, Isler said.
Maker Practice will serve up six crafts at a time, with offerings rotating every three months. The shop owners said it’s important that anyone who enters the studio — from expert makers to those who were dragged in by their friends — has something they can feel confident creating.
“We try to think about the range of skills involved, so there will be something for everyone who comes in to do,” Isler said.
Even though the craft options will rotate, they will fall under the same six categories: leather, wood, re-purposed material, home-style, seasonal and home-grown with a Maryland theme.
The first round of projects will include a leather tote bag, a modern clock and seasonal leaf wreath made with scrap leather.
“We don’t want to waste anything,” Thomas said.
In addition to reusing materials for crafts, Thomas and Isler built the crafting tables in the shop from re-purposed wood, and the store merchandise — like shirts and tote bags with different slogans on them — were purchased from secondhand shops and re-purposed.
The prices for merchandise have not been set yet, Thomas said, because the two women are considering donating the proceeds from shirts and totes to a charity.
The studio will take both walk-ins and reservations, and Thomas and Isler said they hope to attract groups like bridal parties, baby showers and corporate team-builders.
Before getting into the craft studio business, both were “full-time moms,” Thomas said. The pair said their business endeavor was being supported by their husbands, and that their kids — both have two children — love crafting, too.
Isler’s children, who are a bit older than Thomas’ kids, like sculpting and drawing; Thomas said her son recently learned to do hand stitching and is “pretty boss with the fine motor skills.”
They also said they want Maker Practice to be a shop that builds community. Both live in Catonsville and said they consider their slice of Baltimore County to be a “gem.”
To that end, Isler said, they’ve purchased crafting tools so that customers get to experience making something they might not be able to create at home.
“So we buy the tools, and you share them; we have not enough that every single person in the studio would be able to use their own set,” which will inevitably lead to “sharing and building community,” Isler said.
And, as customers are on their way out, they’re invited to pose for selfies and sign their names on the “maker wall” at the front of the shop.
After customers sign their names, a store employee will use a wood burner to trace the name, embedding it in the store.
"We want people to leave their mark here," Thomas said.