Category Archives: meet the maker series

Meet the Maker: Papyrusaurus-Unique Handmade Goods

Calling all geeks and bibliophiles, you are not going to want to miss the unique handmade goods featured in our latest Meet the Maker interview!

Meet Ashley Aranda, a nerd, a geek, a Mom and a truly gifted paper artisan. I first met Ashley at last year’s I Made It Holiday Market in Pittsburgh and I bonded with her over Firefly fandom and all her geeky creations. Since then, beyond her beautiful upcycled and geeky typography prints (which are so fabulous!) I am obsessed with her holiday ornaments! They are truly unique and one-of-a-kind and absolutely perfect as a go-to gift for anyone on your list.

Don’t miss Ashley’s unique handmade goods and all of the other talented artisans at this year’s I Made It Holiday Market, Thanksgiving weekend in Pittsburgh (Nov 27-28). Now, read on to find out more about Ashley and how she’s turning forgotten books into her kick-ass creations.
Papyrusaurus-unique handmade goods-family photo

Meet the Maker

Papyrusaurus logo

How would you describe Papyrusaurus and the items that you create?
I’d say Papyrusaurus is fun and quirky paper crafts with a geeky kick. I make a variety of unique home decor items and gifts from upcycled books and other papers, most with a little injection of my favorite fandoms: Doctor Who, Supernatural, Firefly, and various others.

Papyrusaurus-unique handmade goods-Firefly Print

Papyrusaurus-unique handmade goods-Cuffs

How did you get started working with upcycled books?
It honestly started because I didn’t want to waste good paper. I was tinkering with making paper ornaments, but didn’t want to ruin expensive scrapbook paper on a trial run. I’d had an old dictionary sitting on my book shelf forever, and since it was falling apart at the seams, I decided I’d use pages from it for practice. But then it looked so nice I just kind of stuck with it.

Papyrusaurus-unique handmade goods-Paper Ornaments

Where do you find your inspiration?
Obviously, since a lot of my stuff is fandom-based I get inspiration from watching a lot (read: too much) TV. I also get help from my kids and my husband, who are all completely hilarious. They’ve been great help with some of the funny, snarky relationship prints and cards.

Papyrusaurus-unique handmade goods-Prints

Ok, I have to ask, where does the name Papyrusauraus come from? 🙂
When I first started I operated under a truly terrible, clunky name that shall never be uttered again (it was really THAT bad.) I knew I had to rename the shop once I started getting more attention my second year around. I wish there was some really cool process that happened, or hilarious story. But it just sort of popped into my head one day while my kids were watching Dinosaur Train (the Dinosaur ABC episode. For the 9 millionth time.) I’ve always loved dinosaurs and I work with paper. Ta-da!

Do you have any favorite pieces?
Right now I’m absolutely in love with the Where the Wild Things Are ornaments. I had a copy on my cutting board and my (genius) husband suggested adding Max’s crown to them. So I made one up and as soon as the crown went on the top, I burst into happy tears. It’s always been a favorite book of mine and these little ornaments capture it perfectly.

Papyrusaurus-unique handmade goods-Where the Wild Things Are ornament

I am so obsessed with your pine cone ornaments! Is there a history behind them or a specific heritage to them?
I don’t know if they have any specific heritage, though the porcupine ornaments I make are Polish, so I suppose they could have similar roots. I’ve always seen them made with folded fabric or ribbon. I adapted it through trial and (lots of) error for paper. It took awhile to get them to be consistent, especially my signature star on the bottom and how I finish the tops. But now I’ve made so many of them, I can nearly do them in my sleep. I try to stay as stocked as possible for the holiday markets, but I know we’ll be running low very quickly. All pine cones purchased online are made-to-order, so they’re always available.

Papyrusaurus-unique handmade goods-Paper Ornaments

Do you have a gifting tip or a gift wrapping hack to share with my readers?
We love making gift wrap here! I get a big, cheap roll of brown craft paper and let the kids go crazy on it with stamps and markers and paint and stencils. It always goes over well with the grandparents. They can even save the wrap and frame it as a holiday memento.

Where can we buy your pieces?
You can find Papyrusaurus creations in my Etsy shop. will also take you to my Etsy shop (my plan of having a free-standing site before the holidays was thwarted by wedding planning!)

We’re also at Boutique 208 in Pittsburgh.

We have three markets scheduled for this holiday season: I Made It! For The Holidays on November 27th-28th in Pittsburgh, PA, and Handmade Arcade on December 5th, also in Pittsburgh.

Where can we find you online?
You can keep tabs on where we’ll be popping up next and what neat things are in the making on:
Facebook: Papyrusaurus
Instagram: @PapyrusaurusCraft

What’s a little fun fact about you? 😉
I’ve had the same best friends since age 4. Even though we’re spread out all over the country now, we all obsessively watch the same shows and then scream text each other about them the following day. (This was the inspiration behind the “I love developing irrational attachments to fictional characters with you.” print)

Meet the Maker: Frost Finery Handmade Jewelry

I met the fabulous Melissa Frost through a Mastermind for female badasses (a.k.a. entrepreneurs). She is such a super cool and energetic person and it all comes across in her amazing handmade jewelry pieces. Melissa’s designs are classy and little edgy, just like her! I’m such a fan of her work, you can even find several of her pieces on my own personal giftbug registry. 🙂

Meet the Maker

Frost Finery Logo

Melissa Frost of Frost Finery

What was the evolution of Frost Finery?
As soon as I took my first metal-smithing class and saw how metal can be melted, annealed and reformed, I was fascinated and I haven’t been able to stop. I really kicked Frost Finery into gear when I was accepted into the Made Right Here Apprenticeship Program through TechShop. Having access to new equipment gave me the opportunity to look at my process and find different ways of creating. I learn every day on the job whether it’s figuring out the best execution for a custom design, dealing with shipping logistics or updating my website.

Frost Finery: at the bench

Where do you find inspiration?
In my graphic designer days, I drooled over work by Saul Bass, Louise Fili and Richard Perez. So when I moved into the metal world, I immediately looked for minimalist metal artists and found, Patrik Hansson, a swedish jeweler who also used to be a graphic designer. While metal is a great medium for clean minimal lines, I’m appreciating how well it can be manipulated to show off texture and I’m starting to embrace that more. I recently discovered Kristin Holeman and while it’s a real departure from Frost Finery, I’m astounded by her craftsmanship. On Holeman’s instagram she describes herself as, “Not a jeweler, but a folk artist that tells stories in metals and enamels for 41 years.” Seriously, what a statement – so inspiring! So inspiration can come from a lot of places, but I feel inspired most when resonating with someone’s authenticity. It’s a reminder that while I want Frost Finery to be fashionable, I need to draw on inspiration that truly resonates with me.

Frost Finery: sample work

Frost Finery: earrings

Frost Finery: ring + necklace

What is your process for creating custom jewelry pieces?
First, I ask a lot of questions. Who is it for? What is it for? What kind of jewelry does this person like to wear? What’s their style? Do they have sensitive skin? Sometimes what people have an idea for in their mind can be difficult to describe so I ask them if they have any visual inspiration to include that as well. I usually do a few sketches and present two or three options. Sometimes I’m able to start creating and sometimes we have to go back and tweak a few things. It’s a great challenge to make something new and unique, but I love doing it because the reasons behind the custom pieces make it really rewarding.

Do you have any favorite pieces?
I loved my last custom piece. It was for a bride that is beautiful inside and out. They were art deco inspired earrings with a fan shape and 10mm sparkly white druzies.

Frost Finery custom designed druzy fan earrings
Art Deco inspired fans were designed to compliment a beautiful bride’s heirloom wedding dress that belonged to her grandmother. 10mm white druzies gave a rich contrast between the smooth 14k gold-plated edgy fans and the natural rough crystals of the stones.

Would you introduce everyone to the fabulous Ziggy?
Ziggy is my 3yr old English Bulldog. My mother-in-law jokes around that there are more picture of him than my three nieces combined (they’re really adorable too) but Ziggy really knows how to work the camera. He can skateboard, he falls asleep with his tongue out, snores very loudly and is a really affectionate and goofy pup. If it’s cool day, he often makes an appearance at my jewelry booths outdoors.

Ziggy and Melissa of Frost Finery

Frost Finery Mascot: Ziggy

Can you share a gifting tip or a gift wrapping hack?
A personalized feature and a glittery bow go a long way. One of my favorite things to do is stamp the inside of a box or a notecard. I lasered a stamp with my diamond logo that says “shine on” and it makes it more fun to gift wrap and ship things out. There are lots of shops on Etsy that will make you a custom stamp, that alone could be a really fun gift too!

Where can we buy your jewelry?
On my website or in my Etsy shop.

I have a selection of pieces for sale at Jack + Jules in Lawrenceville, Pa, the Rosewood Boutique in Sewickley, PA & The Shop in East Liberty.

I’ll also be at the I Made It Holiday Market on Black Friday in the North Side (Pittsburgh, PA).

Where can we find you online?
Twitter: @frostfinery
Instagram: @frostfinery
Facebook: frostfinery
Pinterest: frostfinery

Any final interesting facts or tidbits you want to share?
My first job was drawing caricatures at Busch Gardens. In some ways I feel like I’ve come full circle whenever it’s time to setup my booth. I really love meeting my customers in person, seeing what they respond to and being able to talk more about my process.

As I said at the beginning of this post, Melissa’s beautiful designs are definitely on my giftbug registry, now don’t forget to update your giftbug registry. You can link to her website, her Etsy shop or use any of the retail partners that she listed above. Message me if you need any help!

Meet the Maker: North Ave Candles

I’m excited to start a new series on the blog! With this Meet the Maker series I want to introduce you to some of the amazing artisans and makers out there. They are using their passions and talents to create truly one-of-a-kind gift ideas.

I first heard about North Ave Candles at last year’s I Made It! Holiday Market here in Pittsburgh (mark your calendars for this year’s event: November 27-28!).

I loved Amanda’s simple packaging (I have a weakness for a mason jar), her refreshing scents and some of her super cute wax designs (her watermelon candle is always a big hit.)

watermelon-and-banned-books-candles: North Ave Candles

Earlier this summer when Amanda launched the new Banned Book Series, I became obsessed with it and knew that I had to feature her. These candles are awe-some! I love the clever labels, the fabulous scents and the nod to literary history. And because I’ve purged all Algebra equations from my brain, I have room to remember interesting facts like this week being Banned Books Week (Sept 27 – Oct 3), so what better time to introduce you to my first maker friend 🙂

Meet the Maker


Amanda Fenner of North Ave. Candles

giftbug: How did you get started making your candles?

Amanda: Short story is that it was DIY Christmas gifts that quickly spiraled out of control.

Long story is that I had been making candles for awhile as a hobby. I was waiting tables and in nursing school and suddenly found myself (surprise!) pregnant. I always knew that if I ever had a child, I’d want to stay at home with the baby for the first few years, so nursing school was put on hold and I got to stay at home with my daughter Amelia. My extremely supportive husband suggested that I spend the winter making candles and sign up for our local farmers’ market in the spring for a little extra spending money and some socialization. And I did exactly that.

Amelia was always one of those babies who refused to be set down without crying, so I spent the late winter making candles with my daughter strapped to my back. Then in the spring and summer, I hit the markets (all the while still wearing my happy little babe!).


Once I started participating in the I Made It! Market series is when things really took off in a meteoric and unexpected way. I was able to really learn and develop the business side of candlemaking. I was able to meet other makers and network with them and learn from them. The majority of my wholesale accounts were acquired because of people I had met at or through I Made It! Market. I really feel like IMI was the platform that launched my business.

giftbug: Can you tell us a little bit about your candle making process?

Amanda: My process involves an incredible amount of trial and error. Testing, note taking, retesting, experiments, failed experiments, breakthrough, and then even more testing.

candle-process: North Ave Candles

From the start, I knew I liked veggie waxes. I like the creamy look of veggie waxes and how slowly they burn. As far as scents, I try to create scents that you don’t find often. You have to have some staples like cinnamon and vanilla, but I like to get creative with scent combinations. Two of my most popular scents are Orange + Chili Pepper, and Teakwood + Tobacco Flower. I’m also pretty picky about my oils. They’re all phthalate/paraben free, high quality fragrance oils.

I started with jelly jars and mason jars, which is pretty typical for candlemakers. They’re inexpensive jars that you can find just about anywhere. Then I started experimenting with making candle creations in thrifted vintage glassware. I have a lot of fun with that.

For the Banned Books Collection, I knew I wanted to use a larger jar with a more upscale feel. The jars I use for that collection have a nice weight to them and an upscale look.

giftbug: What makes you so passionate about candles?

Amanda: In the beginning it was like a quest to solve this candle riddle. When I first started, I thought it would be a purely creative endeavor, but there is an incredible amount of precise science involved in making a functional candle. You have to use the right type wick for your wax, the right size wick for your jar, you have to add a specific amount of oil at specific temperatures. I became, like, obsessed with creating the perfect candle.

After finding a system that worked for me, what really made it my passion was that candlemaking is something that’s entirely mine. I love being a wife and a mom, but it doesn’t leave much time for me. Making candles is my time to shut out the rest of the world, have some “me time”, create something that I’m proud of, and all the while make money to contribute to my family doing something that I genuinely love.

banned books collection: North Ave Candles

giftbug: How did the Banned Books Collection come about?

Amanda: I knew for awhile that I wanted to create a more upscale candle line. And I knew that I wanted that line to have some sort of literary twist. I always felt like books and candles go really well together. They’re both cozy, comfort items. There’s also a large overlap between “book people” and “candle people”, so I wanted to create something to appeal to both of those audiences. After playing around with some ideas, I started thinking about different moods that books can set and what scent combinations match those moods. White Tea + Rose for Alice in Wonderland; Pine + Parchment for Fahrenheit 451; scent can really tell a story.

My goal with the Banned Books Collection is to continue to reach out to different retailers, specifically book stores, and expand the wholesale side of my business. I also intend to keep rotating candles in and out of the collection while thinking up new ideas, seasonal options, and featuring “guests” in the collection. For example, Andy Warhol is currently making a guest appearance in the Banned Books Collection. I want to keep it fun and interesting and exciting.

giftbug: Do you have a favorite candle?

Amanda: I have a few.

Gin, Juniper + Daisy, inspired by the Great Gatsby was my first candle of the Banned Books Collection, so I’m partial to that one. It’s such a fresh, unique scent.

My watermelon candles are super fun.

Also, I make a three layer candle in the fall and winter that I call “Partridge in a Pear Tree”. It’s three layers of scent starting with Fresh Pear, then Mistletoe, and finishing with Pine Cones. The colors are a beautiful green ombre. I really love that candle.

giftbug: Do you have a gifting tip or a gift wrapping hack?

Amanda: Well, obviously I’m going to recommend shopping small, local, and/or handmade as a gifting tip. Not only because I want to see all of my amazing, talented, hardworking friends succeed, but because there’s been a shift in consumerism lately where people not only appreciate, but actively seek out, local/handmade wares. People are starting to appreciate how important and impactful shopping small and local is.

giftbug: Where can we purchase your fabulous candles?

Amanda:There is always a wide selection of my latest candles in my Etsy shop.

You can find me in person at many events throughout the year. I don’t know yet which holiday events I’ll be participating in because acceptances haven’t been sent out yet, but I keep all of that information current on my social media.

As far as retail partners, my jelly jar candles can be found in Sunny Bridge Natural Foods and Bedner’s Farm and Greenhouse (both in the South Hills).

A small selection of my vintage upcycled collection is available at Three Rivers Vintage in the Southside.

The Banned Books Collection is current being carried in City Books in Brookline, The Library Shop in the Carnegie Library Oakland, Kards Unlimited in Shadyside, and Calligramme in Lawrenceville.

And the Artsmiths of Pittsburgh on Beverly Rd in Mt Lebanon carries a little bit of everything I make.

giftbug: Where can we find you on the web?


giftbug: Any last fun fact that you want to share?

Amanda: I always crank music while making candles, so any candle you buy off of me was likely made whilst dancing.

BONUS: As a gift to you, because Amanda is so truly fabulous, she is clueing you in on her sale for Banned Books Week. Visit North Ave Candle’s Etsy shop and use the coupon code READBANNEDBOOKS to get 20% off your purchase. Sale ends Monday, October 5th, 2015.

And if you are in love with Amanda’s handmade candles as much as I am, don’t forget to update your giftbug registry. You can link to her Etsy shop or use any of the retail partners that she listed above. Message me if you need any help!