Studley artist takes the cake
BY DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
MORLAND -- She didn't know it at the time, but Amanda Richards got her start with her home-based business in junior high.
Now, married and a mother of a 17-month-old, Richards ships her crafts from "Home Indulgence" throughout the United States and to foreign countries as well.
A map on the wall of her craft room has pins stuck in Australia, Canada, Israel, Ireland and the United Kingdom, as well as numerous states.
"I have 31 of the 50 states conquered," she said of her online mail orders through Etsy. "And I hope I can get all the continents."
Some of the most popular items ordered are cake toppers for special occasions -- especially weddings -- made out of clay.
Richards forms the clay carefully with her hands, then bakes them in the oven of her country home she shares with her husband, Jonathon, and their son, Trent.
It's a business that works well for Richards, who enjoys her time as a stay-at-home mom.
"It's a lot of tedious stuff," she said of the process for making the cake toppers. "Sometimes I have to stop and read a book to Trent."
Richards said she always has been interested in "artsy" projects and started "selling things to my teachers and paras" in junior high when "my aunt started fiddling with clay and got me started."
"I kept playing with it and am still playing."
Now, nearly every day, Richards gets out her clay, a pasta-making roller, Gorilla glue, cookie cutters and a toothpick -- to help support body parts, she said with a laugh.
A toothpick also can help make texture for beards, and a lace curtain works well for bride's wedding dresses by pressing it into the clay.
With her supervisor -- the family cat, Tigera -- by her side, Richards folds and flattens and pats the clay until she gets it just the way she likes it.
"Whenever I get out my clay, she hangs close," Richards said of her feline companion.
Richards has approximately 40 colors from which to choose for her clay projects but also can mix colors to get the desired shade.
For example, she tints translucent clay with a shade or two of brown to get a flesh color and combines white and black to get gray.
It's all a trial-and-error process, Richards said.
"White is so temperamental," she said, laughing while talking about one of her first experiences with a pure white color. "The guy's pants were white, but they turned lavender."
Customers can order generic cake toppers, but most like to personalize them.
"I don't do faces, but I ask people their hair color, height, hair style, eye color, what outfits look like, flower colors," she said, naming several different customizing options.
"I kind of like the quirky ones. That way, I don't get tired of doing the same thing," said Richards, who added she enjoys giving each project a special touch.
There have been requests for numerous sports figures -- "I've sent several soccer ones to Australia," she said.
Richards also makes flower magnets out of clay, along with Christmas ornaments and other holiday decorations.
She even sells entire nativity sets.
Richards has filled nearly a hundred orders online since starting her business in 2009, in addition to numerous ones by special order at area craft shows. This time of year is especially busy, said Richards, who added, "the craft fair season starts (November)."
So Richards is stocked up on clay, which she buys mostly at stores such as Hobby Lobby.
"I could order it online," she said, "but I've got to feel it."