One-of-a-kind handmade gifts made locally

Courtesy Photo Wendy Werth poses with several paintings of horses and owls she made on canvas.

ALPENA — Why shop online when you can find unique, handmade gifts locally?

Sandy Carlson, of Barton City, owns Sew, Love, Create, a small business she started a couple of years ago.

“I make a lot of things,” said Carlson, who sees something or envisions it in her mind, and recreates it with her own whimsical decorative twist. One of her favorite handmade items she just started making is rustic wreaths.

“I just started making wreaths about a month ago,” Carlson said. “I’ve never done wreaths in my life … I didn’t realize I could make things like this.”

She creates and paints custom wooden Michigan wall hangings and ornaments, and many more one-of-a-kind gifts.

Courtesy Photo Wendy Werth hand-painted this dog on a dried gourd.

“I make dream weavers,” she said, adding that they’re like a dream catcher. “The top is a square piece of wood that I hand paint — usually I do mandalas on them, or sunsets, or beach scenes — and then I hang everything from, like, a dream catcher.”

She also makes jewelry.

“I hand bend copper wire jewelry for necklaces,” Carlson said, “and suncatchers.”

Carlson also sews canvas bags and rice bags for heat and cold packs.

She sells her items through her own Facebook page, and locally at a shop in Oscoda called To the Moon and Back.

Courtesy Photo These cardinal ornaments are some of the items Wendy Werth makes and sells at the Alpena Farmers Market.

“I’ve never done this stuff before,” Carlson said. “I’ve never been crafty. I started two years ago, during COVID shutdown. It relaxes me.”

She works on her crafts each morning.

“I do it for eight hours in the morning, and then, eight hours at night, I’m a custodian for Alcona Community Schools,” Carlson said.

She said the Christmas season is her busiest time of the year.

“It’s my busy, busy time,” she said.

Courtesy Photo This wooden Michigan wall hanging, hand-painted by Sandy Carlson, is one example of the unique gift items she makes.

The best part is delivering her creations to her local clients, Carlson said.

“When I show up with it, and I give it to them, they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s so beautiful! It’s better than the picture,'” Carlson said. “That makes me happy.”

Wendy Werth, of Ossineke, has been painting dried gourds by hand for about nine years.

“I quit my (sales) job, and was invited by a little art group to come down and join them,” Werth recalled. “And someone had a sample of just a couple unpainted gourds. And, for some reason, it caught my eye. They’re kind of basic, organic, kind of ugly, when they’re unpainted.”

She explained that once a gourd is properly dried, it turns to wood, so she is basically painting on rounded wood, not something that will eventually rot.

Courtesy Photo This nativity scene, inside a dried gourd, was created by Wendy Werth.

“I buy them, generally, from Arizona, or the southern areas,” Werth explained of where she gets her gourds. “And they’re already dried. So, I have to clean them and then paint them.”

The cleaning process takes 20 minutes to an hour, she said. Then, painting takes anywhere from 1 to 4 hours.

“I’m doing what I love to do now,” Werth said. “You pick when you want to work.”

Werth is best known for her bird ornaments, in both “whimsical” and “backyard” varieties, but she also paints other animals on larger gourds, as well as landscapes, owls and horses on canvas.

“A lot of people have trouble going from painting on a round to a flat surface,” she said, but she has been practicing and is confident painting on both gourds and canvas now.

Courtesy Photo This rustic wreath, made by Sandy Carlson, is one of many unique handcrafted items she offers.

She uses acrylic paint on the gourds.

“The birds are my specialty, because it’s an inexpensive item, and it’s a small, compact item, so tourists can take it, even in their suitcase,” she noted.

She sells the birds for about $13 to $15 each. Her small snowman ornaments go for about $10 each.

“Most people can afford to buy it,” Werth said of her birds. “Whereas, my larger items, they might be $50 to $89.”

She said of her backyard birds, “I try and make them accurate, but cute.”

Werth enjoys creating unique handmade gifts.

“There’s never any two gourds the same,” Werth said. “I like it because you’re taking something kind of basic and you’re making it into something pretty. You’re designing something, and it has a personality.”

Werth shows and sells her hand-painted items at the Alpena Farmers Market, open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays at Mich-e-ke-wis Park on State Avenue in Alpena. To contact Werth, message her on Facebook, or call or text her at 989-657-1972. To view more of her work, go to “Wendy’s Whimsical Creations” on Facebook.

Courtesy Photos Sandy Carlson poses with some of her unique creations, including holiday wreaths on the door, Michigan wall hangings in her hands, and hot and cold rice packs on her lap.


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