For Jodi Prendergast, it all started with a floral hair clip she found in a store.
“I thought, ‘Why am I buying this when I can probably try and make it?’” she said. “And then I started thinking, what else can I do on my own?”
That’s when Prendergast, now 52, started making her own art: jewelry, wind chimes, suncatchers, and, of course, hair clips. And what better place to start than home? Prendergast creates all her art from her basement in Northport.
Plenty of the friendly faces you’ll find at craft fairs across Long Island have turned their homes into creative havens. They’ve picked a room in their house to use as a studio for carving wood, beading bracelets, melting wax and more.
These artists shared where they find inspiration, and how they make their space work for them.
Starting a business
Symone Shukur started her candle company five months ago. She works full-time as a customer service representative at a bank, and is a professional doula. But for as long as she can remember, she’s loved to create art.
“I’ve always been a crafty person, even as a child,” said Shukur, 47.
Perhaps that’s why her company is called Born 2 Craft. Shukur makes candles and wax melts that resemble sweet treats — fragrances include banana pudding, peach cobbler and red velvet.
For some of the dessert-themed candles, Shukur uses a mixer to create a whipped cream texture. She leans into this illusion for her peppermint mocha candle by placing the finished product in a mug, so that it looks like a drink you’d purchase in a cafe.
Perfecting these concepts took time, Shukur said.
“It was a challenge because I was never good at science in school,” she said with a laugh. “There are so many components that go with this, so when I started, my first candle didn’t have a fragrance or anything. I kept working and it came together.”
In her Westbury home, Shukur works from her bedroom: melting, molding, decorating and packaging her candles on a big table. She keeps her utensils, wicks and containers all together in a drawer. Some candles require additional supplies, such as her fruit loops fragrance (inspired by Froot Loops cereal). Shukur uses molding trays to create the rainbow cereal pieces that go on top of the candle.
“What really got me into this particular type of candle is that I’ve always wanted to do something different, to stand out among everybody else,” she said.
Shukur wants to continue working from home, but admits that she could use some more space for her products, which she sells on her own website.
“Honestly, my goal is to become a household name,” she said. “But I don’t know if I can be a household name and keep working in my home. I just don't want to get so big that it loses its essence. My goal is to touch as many people as I can with my candles.”
Crafting is a new passion for Marygrace Cajigan Trousdell, too. It began during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I just had this artistic itch to create,” said Trousdell, 25. “And we had a lot of time on our hands, being stuck at home.”
She found videos online of an artist who uses resin and a heating technique to mimic ocean waves across wood. “She inspired the work I do now,” Trousdell said. “The process looked really fun, and I love the beach from growing up here on Long Island.”
Trousdell lives with her parents in Huntington Station, and her workspace is set up in the basement. Trousdell is a computational analyst at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, focusing on breast cancer research. So when she comes home from work, she dives into her oceanic art, which she sells at craft fairs and on Etsy under the name TidalMementos.
The epoxy resin she uses starts as two parts, and is toxic to inhale, Trousdell said. So she always wears a mask, apron and gloves while working, and proper ventilation in the basement is essential.
After mixing the resin, she adds dye to create the blue color, lays it on the wood with a layer of white, and uses a heat gun to attain the wave and sea foam effects. It takes 48 hours to dry.
Trousdell repeats this process on serving boards, clocks and even bottle openers: “I’m really just playing with whatever I can get my hands on,” she said.
When she first started, Trousdell worked on a surface that was low to the ground because it was all she had at the time. She’s since gotten two raised 5-foot tables, which she surrounds with garbage bags to collect any spillage.
“I’m very mindful of my waste,” Trousdell said. “You can imagine after every pour, I end up with a lot of plastic cups, so I try to use paper when I can, even spoons and Popsicle sticks to stir the resin. It’s a small workspace, but I’m content with what I have.”
Trousdell is glad she’s found an outlet for her creative energy, and the response she’s gotten from Long Islanders at craft fairs has been just as satisfying.
“People approach my table and they’re like, ‘Wow, it really looks like the ocean,’” she said. “That’s exactly the reaction that I’m looking for.”
Don Dailey first got interested in woodcarving as a Boy Scout. He has spent most of his adult life building cabinets, tables and desks.
But during Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Irene, he homed in on exactly what he wanted to create: Dailey started fashioning spoons out of wood from fallen trees.
“I started doing craft shows and one led to another,” said Dailey, 70. “A lot of the stuff I have now, I added because people would request something and I’d keep making it.”
Dailey carves spoons, bowls, Christmas ornaments and gnomes. He calls his business The Sunday Woodcarver, because it started as a blog where he would take one day a week to carve something and then write about his progress.
At first Dailey used a lot of walnut, cherry and maple for his work, but his current favorite is basswood because it’s “soft but still holds details,” he said. He works in his garage, at his house in Huntington Station.
“It has pluses and minuses,” he said. “It’s nice to leave one room, go into another space and be able to work. And to have something partially done, then leave it and come back to it, that’s convenient. The downside is, I tend to track a lot of sawdust into the house.”
Dailey said it’s a crowded workspace, with pathways leading from one spot to the next. Among the wood there’s a bandsaw, drill press, a large sander and other tools.
“There are little workspaces scattered around the shop for each part of the process,” he said. “It’s a garage, so when I can, I open the door and work outside.”
When Dailey first started selling his work at craft fairs, he’d write instructions on the back of the price tags of his spoons for what they should be used for, whether it was baking or making sauce. When customers started disagreeing with him, he realized his work could find multiple purposes once they leave his home: “People figure out what they want to use it for,” he said.
No matter what, he prefers to have customers come and buy his work in person. “People can touch things and pick them up and feel them; you can’t get that across Etsy or a website.”
Woodcarving isn’t Dailey’s only art form. He’s also a musician, and composes music in an office on the first floor of his house.
“Part of that space is also where I do carving and the painting of my carvings,” he said. “It’s not messy, so I can do that indoors.”
Jodi Prendergast recently came across some driftwood at her local beach and got inspired — she fastened some wire on it so it can hang, and attached strings of beads and gemstones to the other side, with antique keys and bells at the bottom of each section.
She often gets inspired by the most random objects, she said, like old license plates or vintage safety deposit box numbers. But her favorite material to work with is antique silverware. She makes all of this into one-of-a-kind jewelry, including earrings, rings, cuff bracelets and necklaces, for her company, Joede Designs.
“It’s easier for me to buy odd pieces, rather than come up with the idea first,” said Prendergast, who finds most of her materials at antique shops and estate sales. She sells her creations on Etsy.
Prendergast studied graphic design and photography at the University of New Haven in Connecticut. Her current work is a departure from those mediums. Prendergast and her husband work together — in their basement, they have machinery so he can cut, bend, heat and drill any antique she comes across, and give it a second life, either as an accessory or decoration.
Prendergast prefers to work from home. She lays out her antique finds on a table in front of her, and her creativity can just flow from there, she said.
“I feel like I’m more comfortable here, and I have everything I need,” Prendergast said. “I make my own time, I can do it late at night or whenever, and you don't have to look too good to do it.”
But before she can sell a piece online or at a craft fair, she has to feel strongly about it.
“I’m not going to sell or make something that I don’t love or don’t think is interesting,” Prendergast said.
“It's fun for me to be creative, even though it wasn't the pastime I started with,” she added. “I think for anybody that’s a creative-minded person, it comes out eventually what you should be doing.”
From design to social media
After working at a fine jewelry store in Manhasset, Claire Post was inspired to start her own company: Clairelizabeth Jewelry. Post hand-beads all of her creations with a needle and thread, resulting in intricately woven rings and necklaces. Her pieces are accentuated by splashes of sparkle, bright colors and a singular turquoise bead, which is her signature.
“I started to really look into boutiques to carry my line,” said Post, 37. “I’m doing everything myself; I design it, make it, I do social media, marketing and packaging. There is no team here, except for myself and the support of my family.”
A perk of working out of her home office in Glen Cove is that Post can take care of Ruby, her 6-month-old daughter. But it also comes with its challenges.
“It’s really hard to make jewelry and have her be so active,” she said. “But it's a blessing because I can see every moment of her life, and that’s huge.”
Post’s office has a table for her beading process, and another where she displays finished pieces and takes photos of them for her website. She has drawers upon drawers of beads, organized by color. For tools, Post primarily works with just a needle and thread, so she has plenty of space on her desk. The room has several windows to bring in natural light, so that she can always get a good look at the colors she’s working with.
She didn’t always have a setup like this.
“When I was in my apartment in Huntington, it was my living room,” Post said. “I had a little desk and just made it work there. When I had an apartment with my husband, it was our kitchen table.”
While she’s creating, Post listens to Van Morrison radio on Spotify, which she sees as another benefit of working from home: “I always listen to music when I'm working; it’s part of the whole creative process. So having that freedom is a really big deal.”
Up next, Post hopes to someday launch a children’s line, inspired by her daughter.
“It’ll be mommy-and-me jewelry,” she said. “Matching bracelets and necklaces, and the children’s [jewelry] would be more petite to the mommy version. But it would still trendy, classic and fun.”