For many people, it seems as if retirement is just as busy as when they worked full time. Annie George of Hotchkiss knows this all too well.What began as a hobby for her has now become a small business.
Well-known in the community, George is now going by a new name: Crafty Granny. She creates nostalgic wooden toys and decorative pieces, all hand-painted.
Crafty Granny first appeared last Christmas at the Hotchkiss Chamber of Commerce holiday bazaar at Memorial Hall. Her daughters helped her during the bazaar, and afterwards, one said that if she was going to continue selling her pieces, she would need a catchy name. Since her five grandchildren call her “granny,” she chose this name, and registered Crafty Granny.
The crafty granny’s projects first began when her first granddaughter, now 19, was born. One of George’s early projects was a wooden bear holding a heart. The heart contained all the information of her granddaughter’s birth: full name, date, time, length and weight. George made a bear for each of her grandchildren.
For the past 12 years or so, she has made each of her grandchildren a wooden ornament for Christmas. By the time they have their own homes and families, they will be able to decorate their trees with Grandma’s handmade ornaments.
Co-workers and friends also received one of George’s special Christmas ornaments each year, along with a bag of homemade candy. Each Christmas, George estimates she made about 60 ornaments as gifts.
Over the years, she only worked on her projects for special occasions, but since retiring last year from the First State Bank of Hotchkiss after 17 1/2 years, George has immersed herself in her creations. Customers and co-workers often asked to see some of the things she worked on, and they always loved her pieces.
“That was the first time I thought my stuff might be marketable,” she said. But it wasn’t until retirement that she had the opportunity to work on making enough pieces to sell.
“It’s something I love,” she said. “Much of it is stuff I’ve wanted to do for years, but haven’t had the time to do it, or the time to develop the technique.”
For a while, she had someone cut the shapes she wanted, and she painted them. But one year for Christmas, her husband Gabby gave her a scroll saw, and she was off to the races.
Once she has a picture in mind she cuts the shape. She then hand paints all the projects. She has taken a few painting classes, but is mostly self-taught in the craft. One of her favorite things to paint is faces, which is evident in many of her designs.
Some of her pieces are one-of-a-kind items, mainly because if George doesn’t have fun making the piece, she won’t make a second. Many of her first-time designs come out well and some are disappointments, she said.
“I told my granddaughter that you either get perfection or you get me, but it’s not a package deal,” she said laughing about a keepsake box she’d given a grandchild who has gone to college.
She admits the flaws she sees in her work are flaws no one else sees, but one thing stands out about George’s pieces, and that’s how much fun they are.
There is Tommy Turtle, Perky Puppy, Omar the Octopus, Alfie the Alligator and Sneaky Snakes, wonderful toys that seem to somehow live up to the reputations their names suggest.
She also has some brightly-painted chunky block cars that are perfect for a toddler’s chubby fist to grasp. And parents don’t have to worry about the safety of these toys. George has made sure there are no little parts to choke on, and the paint is kid-friendly and safe.
Among her many items are hand mirrors, napkin, letter and recipe card holders, keepsake boxes, wall hangings, holiday decorations, step stools and wheeled toys, like dinosaurs, frogs, turtles and more.
George personalizes some of the items when asked. She just made a beautiful little step stool for a little girl named Isabella. The stool is painted with hearts and purple flowers.
“It’s the feeling of creating that I like,” she said. “I like the feeling of creating something from nothing. I’m just lucky it’s stuff people want!”
Indeed, people seem to be snapping up her pieces, which is easy to do since her most expensive item, a very popular cowboy, is only $25, and the least expensive item, her toys cars, run $1.25.
Her wood projects aren’t the only thing keeping George busy. She also dabbles in scrapbooking, photography, crocheting and knitting. She is currently working on painting a set of six glass balls for each of her grandchildren. They’ll cherish the Christmas ornaments when they have homes of their own.
“I never get bored,” she said.
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