Torie Nguyen & Cathy Zwicker: Crafty Wonderland

After attending many craft and street fairs in other cities, entrepreneurs Torie Nguyen and Cathy Zwicker realized Portland didn’t have any regular indoor fairs for people to sell their work year-round.  So they took their knowledge and experience and decided to start Portland’s first regular craft fair.

Crafty Wonderland began as a monthly craft fair in the concert venue space at Doug Fir Lounge in 2006. The high demand led them to organize two larger shows every year at the Oregon Convention Center. The fairs have about 250 artists selling their own work, goodie bags for the first shoppers through the doors and a free DIY area hosted by local craft supply store, Collage.

In 2010, Crafty Wonderland evolved into a retail store. Crafty Wonderland carries a little bit of something for everyone. The store features handmade goods by more than 180 local artists of an ever-changing assortment of cards, prints, jewelry, clothing, accessories, housewares, soaps, candles, independently published books and magazines, blank journals and all kinds of great Portland souvenirs.

Tell me a little about yourself.

Torie: I am the mother of a very vivacious almost 6-year-old girl. We have tons of fun together and she teaches me a lot about life, not taking myself so seriously and being in the moment. I enjoy looking at art, experiencing live music, chatting with a good friend or two, learning to play the guitar and reading. I’m an Oregon native with a BA from the University of Oregon in Business Administration and a minor in Art History. People always commented on what a strange combination that was, but it made perfect sense to me and was a good mix of things I love.

Cathy: I am mom, artist, seamstress and junk collector and dealer. My spare time is usually spent thrift shopping, record shopping, listening to live music, chilling at home with my 17-year-old son, my handsome gentleman and my two cats. In addition to Crafty Wonderland, I also buy and sell vintage furniture and housewares and sell them in a booth at Vintage Pink on Southeast Hawthorne. I graduated from UMass Amherst with a BA in Communications.

How did you two meet?

T&C: A mutual friend Susan Beal, who is a local crafter and author, introduced us. Along with three other crafty business ladies, the two of us started a collective called Super Crafty. We soon realized that if we pooled our resources, we could get further with advertising and promoting our group, which would in turn promote each of our individual businesses. Then we were approached by Sasquatch Books to write a craft book, which we did! It was published in 2005 and is called Super Crafty: Over 75 Amazing How-To Projects.

What inspires you?

Torie: I’m inspired by seeing the world through the eyes of my daughter, colors, flowers, sunshine, art, old jazz, ancient civilizations, live music and seeing other creative people flourish.

Cathy: I’m inspired by all things vintage, 70s punk rock music, Dolly Parton, traveling, geometry, my son’s personal style and all my amazing and creative friends.

What are some of your favorite items at your shop?

Torie: We have Instagram (@craftywonderland) where we showcase our favorite items of the day (#faveoftheday)!  I’m really excited about the new jewelry by AMiRA and the jewelry Cathy has been making. I also love the journals from Jessica Swift and the Robot Candy tile coasters.

Cathy: I’m a huge fan of anything by our vendor Mary Campbell (who is the sister of local art car legend, Extremo the Clown). She crochets giant versions of all sorts of everyday items including a whole turkey, an ice cream sandwich and a pencil. I also love these coasters made by Robot Candy that feature vintage photos of cats wearing clothes.

What kinds of arts and crafts do you personally make?

Torie: I love making jewelry! In college. I also enjoy a bit of sewing, embroidering and needle felting. This summer I’ve been really into baking, which is a new thing for me! And lately, I’ve wanted to try painting with watercolors.

Cathy: My mom taught me to sew when I was about 5 years old, so working with fabric has always been a passion for me. I also love screen-printing and embroidering fabric. As a teenager, I worked for a friend’s mom assembling jewelry and loved it. I recently got back into designing and making jewelry with raw brass and copper and have been selling it at the shop. It’s been fun to mix things up a little and work with materials that don’t require so much workspace!

How did you come up with the name, “Crafty Wonderland?”

T&C: We were looking for a name that really embodied the spirit of a room full of awesome handmade goods and we wanted to have the word craft or crafty in there somewhere. Cathy had recently moved into a new house and had turned its huge pink basement into a craft bunker that she was calling her “Crafty Wonderland.” When we were brainstorming names that one came up and it seemed like a perfect fit!

Crafty Wonderlands Flasks Crafty Wonderland Image

About The Author: Lindsay Gard