By Cassie Ronda
When Kim Christiansen began regularly attending local craft shows this year as part of her new job, she was surprised by a trend she noticed among the many vendors of handmade goods.
“I’ll ask them, ‘Are you LDS?’ and at least 50 percent of the time—at least in Arizona—they are,” said Christiansen, who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Christiansen, 57, works for the Pinners Conference and Expo, a Pinterest-inspired event that came to Arizona for the first time last month after three years of drawing “do-it-yourself” crowds in Utah. As the event’s only vendor recruiter in Arizona, Christiansen helps invite local businesses to sell their wares and online personalities to lead DIY and lifestyle workshops.
Roxanne Bennett of Bennett Events, the Utah-based company behind Pinners, is also a Mormon and she agrees with Christiansen.
“A lot of times, the LDS community does participate in DIY,” she said, adding that her faith’s emphasis on the importance of learning is a big reason why she started Pinners.
It’s an interesting phenomenon: Mormon community members’ newspapers and blogs have sought to explain the group’s collective love of Pinterest. Search the DIY site and one can quickly find a flood of LDS-related pins, ranging from inspirational memes curated from the Mormon Church’s October 2016 General Conference, to pages upon pages of craft ideas for church-wide women’s events called Super Saturdays. And the LDS Church, based in Salt Lake City, has official Pinterest and Instagram profiles. And don’t forget Etsy, where Mormon-themed goods include handmade scripture cases and LDS temple prints.
Gilbert residents Mary Burkinshaw and Tracey Simas take part in the Mormon crafting trend. Friends for 20 years, they say that starting a blanket business. Goosebumps, was spirit-led.
Simas joined her longtime friend in marketing and selling the blankets that Burkinshaw had been making as a hobby.
“For me, this was a very spiritual thing,” Simas said.
She added that the Mormon church has taught her to value lifelong learning and the development of individual talents, which this business allows her to do.
“As young women, we were taught all different values of who we are, what our divine nature is, that our gifts come from a higher power, that they are our gifts and that we need to keep growing them,” Simas said. “Whatever it is—if it’s cooking, making blankets, photography—we’re just taught that.”
Being a stay-at-home mom is integral to the beliefs of another crafter, Brandy Reed, but her DIY business also allows her to be a breadwinner.
Reed runs The Polka Dotted Girl out of her 1,600-square-foot Gilbert home, where she lives with her husband and three children. She sells handmade home decor and DIY kits, travels around the Valley teaching crafting classes and strives to make her home a haven for her children.
“I’ve always worked in some capacity since we’ve been married, and I’ve been happiest when I’ve been home doing it,” Reed said. “I love that I can make an income and be home, and I think that is why so many LDS women learn to be independent and make an income in that way.”
Growing up, Reed remembers honing her love of crafting with her mother at women’s group gatherings sponsored by the church. The gatherings showcase the heritage of LDS women who bond through crafts, from scrapbooking to today’s DIY projects.
“In a month from now, we are doing a Super Saturday, where it’s Saturday and we just craft all day long,” Reed said. “I’m providing the craft for our group. We’re doing Subway Art with all the names of Christ.”
Her DIY business also allows her the flexibility to create a safe home environment where she feels her children have the best opportunity to grow.
“Our doctrine talks about ‘the Lord’s house is a house of order,’” Reed said. “When your house is organized and clean and a place where you can feel that spirit—that ideal learning environment for your kids—things run smoother.”
Kim Jackson, whose hand-crafted signs sell nationwide, said her business can be a form of ministry.
She started her Mesa handmade sign business by accident after she created a sign for her sister as a Christmas gift.
“I started doing them at church functions with neighbors and then ventured out into my first boutique, called Junk in the Trunk Vintage Market,” Jackson said. “From there, it exploded.”
Jaxn Blvd now occupies a 4,000-square-foot warehouse and has 20 designs featured in Hobby Lobby stores nationwide. Jackson, a hairdresser by trade, did not intend to turn one sign into a big business, but she sees herself as having a unique opportunity to share her faith through the signs she produces.
“I’ve been able to share a lot of words from the LDS community, from prophets and teachers throughout our church, and I’ve been able to put them on wood and share them with the world,” Jackson said.
Hobby Lobby carries one of her signs featuring words inspired by LDS leader Elder Daniel P. Hall, who gave a talk about the importance of the home.
“The best part of it is it doesn’t really matter that a Mormon said it,” Jackson said. “What matters is that there’s a commonality between the importance of family and the importance of being at home and being great together.”