Tools of the Trade

Crafters are people who like to work with their hands. I wasn’t aware that I was one until digital photography came along and I gave up processing and printing my own photos. In a matter of weeks I went from the nice, relaxed me I had always been to a fidgety, irritable curmudgeon yelling at my friends to “pipe down”. I wish I was exaggerating.            

It became apparent that I needed to fill the void. I tried a variety of new crafts from knitting, to baking, to candlestick making. (Hahaha! Not really, I just wanted to rhyme.) Seriously though, I even tried welding. None of them were for me. Something was always wrong with the way it felt in my hands. I’d turned into freaking Goldilocks.

These knitting needles are to long. This rolling pin is to short. This acetylene torch keeps catching my pants on fire.

The swivel head that started me down the paper cutting path

So, that is why, two years ago, I was wandering aimlessly around a crafts store hoping to find something, anything that felt right when I came across the single coolest object I’d ever seen; the fingertip swivel head knife by Fiskars. I took it home and put it to work. I didn’t have a plan; I just wanted to make stuff with my new tool. Today it is how I make my living. I’m a paper cutter. I didn’t even know this was a thing when I started. I just liked the way the blade felt in my hand.

Natasha from Wink and Flip found her soul mate tool early, “As a teen, I didn't know if it was easy to find T-pins, so I treated mine like a rare diamond, always pinning it in a secret place so I could find it again. I would have been lost without it.”

The T-pin and a piece from the curated line sold at Wink and Flip

Not every tool we come across changes our lives, but all of them have a way of making us better at what we do. Aziza from Aziza Jewelry uses hers to perfect her craft. “My favorite tool at the moment is my hammer. I use it to stamp my name on my name tags (…) if I hit my stamp right on; the stamps come out perfect...or sometimes not so perfect. I get to keep learning what works and what doesn’t work.” and Martin from Adornments NYC uses his to explore new materials. “My favorite tool lately is FIRE!  I've been doing a lot of fire polishing of vintage (and new) metals and I love it!  Each piece of metal is a little adventure, as you never know exactly how it will turn out…”

Lola's Bodkin and thread snippers accompany one of her handmade bags

Even the simplest tools can be indispensable. Lola of Lola Falk Designs points out that her thread nippers and bodkins are, “two of the cheapest tools in my arsenal, but definitely the two I can't live without.”

I realize most people start with a craft and then acquire the tools, but no matter how you go about it there is no denying that the right one can make your life easier and your craft better. Thanks for all your responses! It made my first blog here a lot of fun! Until next time.  

Jessica Alpern