I had the opportunity to sit down with Rachel Bartunek this past week to learn all about her paper goods and custom signage business, Handmade Darling. Rachel is such a sweetheart and SO talented. She makes custom home decor and event accessories (bridal showers, baby showers, weddings, ect.) She is a refined junk collector who loves antiquing and taking something old and completely remodeling it to put her own spin on it. I really loved having the opportunity to talk with her and learn more about Handmade Darling.
Rebecca: How did you get started on this business venture of Handmade Darling?
Rachel: It all started about 5 years ago. At the time I was living in the city and I hated my job. I would come home from a long day of work and make cards. (I learned calligraphy back in college, and practiced it a lot.) I started making them for friends and family, for bridal showers, baby showers, birthday invitations, you name it. People started seeing the cards that I was making and it just kind of snowballed from there. I put some cards in a small antique store that my Aunt owned and some people started contacting me to sell my cards wholesale. I then moved from the city to Clinton, NY a little over a year ago, to pursue a job opportunity at PrattMWP (I had attended college at Pratt Institute in the city, so that's how I found this job in Utica.) I was unsure about moving from the city into such a small town. I was worried that there wasn't going to be much to do, but Utica has been wonderful. It's such a great community for art and I'm so blessed to have connected with as many other local artists and organizations as I have, including Signature 81 in Clinton, NY (where a lot of my work is on display for sale) and Made In Utica. I now currently work at MPW Marketing Team in Clinton, NY, as their second designer.
Rebecca: So it sounds like you're really big into art! What inspires you the most as an artist?
Rachel: Growing up, my mother and grandmother LOVED antiques. Our home was always full of beautiful pieces. I have always been inspired by antiques as well, but I wanted to put my own spin on them. A lot of things that I repurpose I have found on the side of the road, at garage sales, I've even walked through demo fields looking for pieces of things that I could possibly use. I am very inspired byThe Junk Gypsies Company. They are two sisters who find "junk" and repurpose it to make it into something beautiful to use for mainly home decor. You may have seen their show Junk Gypsies on HGTV and they also have a book "Junk Gypsy: Designing a Life at the Crossroads of Wonder & Wander". I actually went to visit their store in Texas (I was born in Texas), and it was incredible! Both the sisters were there working at their shop. The week I was down there also happened to be the same week as the Texas Antique Show, so that was pretty awesome. I ended up buying so many antiques that I was shipping them home to me from Texas!
Rebecca: That sounds like a lot of fun! So, I know you make a lot of different signage and paper goods. What products do you have to offer to brides?
Rachel: I have a lot of products to offer to brides and engaged couples. I usually meet with them to create a whole custom package around the theme of their wedding. Depending on what they are looking for, I'll go hunting for the perfect pieces that I can refurbish for them. I am currently working on refurbishing a vintage mailbox; the bride's father is a mailman so she wanted to somehow incorporate that into her wedding. We searched all over for the perfect vintage mailbox and finally found it. I also do a lot of signage, welcome signs, cards signs, greeting cards, matchbooks, custom invitations, and personalized wooden hangers. I like to work very closely with my couples to create whatever the couple is looking for.
Rebecca: Wow, that's a great service to offer! What's the best advice you could give to future brides?
Rachel: I always tell brides to keep a notebook. When you're planning your wedding, you're going to be juggling many things and chances are you'll forget something. Plan everything out in a notebook to stay on track. Also, figure out what is important to you and focus on that. Since this is a side job for me, I price myself very reasonably to make sure all of my couples can get what they want without breaking the bank. I really care about what my couples are looking for and when they walk away on their wedding day, I want to make sure they got everything that they wanted.
Rebecca: When you're not working, or creating pieces for Handmade Darling, what do you like to do on your free time?
Rachel: I'm still exploring Central New York. I love the Adirondacks. I enjoy being outdoors and being by the lake. I must say, I'm a pretty good fisherman (I got that from my dad). I enjoy painting landscapes when I have time for it. I also teach workshops through MWPAI, Signature 81, Vintage Love, and I hosted the first "Crafternoons" at the new Triangle Lab by Jordan Marcel, Inc.
Rebecca: It sounds like you keep yourself busy, that's great! What are your future plans/goals with Handmade Darling?
Rachel: I feel like I'm in a great place with Handmade Darling. It has grown tremendously since I started it as a hobby about 5 years ago. I've been very blessed to have people reaching out to me to teach classes and some people have even approached me for private calligraphy lessons. I would love to see Handmade Darling grow even more and become a household name (like Rifle Paper Company is in the paper world).
Rebecca: What events or projects do you have coming up with Handmade Darling?
Rachel: I have 4 upcoming lettering workshops that I am teaching. The first 2 will be at Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute on February 4th & 11th. You can sign up for those at www.mwpai.com. The next one will be held at Signature 81 in Clinton, NY on February 18th. You can sign up for that at www.signature81.com. The last one will be at Vintage Love in Syracuse, NY. The date and time for this workshop is TBA. I'm also in the process of putting together a small wedding show at Signature 81. In March, I will be heading to Greenville, SC for the Maker's Summit. This is my 3rd year going and I can't wait. I always learn so much at the summit and have made so many friends there.
Rebecca: Well it's been great talking with you Rachel, and learning all about Handmade Darling. Where can you find you and your work?