New craft kit business makes DIY easy

Melanie Gehrke launches The Mad Makery

Melanie Gehrke’s house is a gallery of finished projects created from do-it-yourself craft kits she assembles herself. Walking through her Madison home, you’ll notice a tiny copper wall hanging near the kitchen, four coasters on the living room coffee table and a copper clip display holding three photos.

“I can kind of think about where there’s a space in my house that I want something and what I want to put there,” Gehrke says. “I start with the end and work backward.”

Her company, The Mad Makery, helps give others the same sense of accomplishment she gets by creating functional decor items.

“I think working with your hands is super important,” Gehrke says. “They’re still going to make along the way, but I’ve kind of gone through and hopefully eliminated all of the pitfalls.”New craft kit business makes DIY easy

The idea for the homemade craft kit business, which officially began in November, came about when Gehrke visited a craft bar in Denver called Upstairs Circus. Having been an art major at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she says she’s been crafting her entire life and has experience with various mediums.

In each craft kit, all of the items an individual would need to complete a project are included. To prevent a classic Pinterest fail, Gehrke also provides detailed and visual instructions.

Some of her smaller kits require no tools and take about 20 minutes to complete.The larger ones might require a hammer or hot glue gun, and require around 45 minutes.

As of now, Gehrke has five different kits: a yellow or gold pineapple kit, a tiny copper wall hanging, gray or navy and white tassel coasters, a black or white copper clip display and a copper necklace. She says she has many ideas for future kits that she hopes to sell on her Etsy shop.New craft kit business makes DIY easy

Her crafting-made-easy business is not the first of its kind. The do-it-yourself proclivity, which gained speed during the recession, has resulted in a small business boom of independent makers who sell on Etsy and elsewhere. Crafting kits give the not-so-crafty people (or those who don’t want to spend time gathering a ton of materials for a project) a way to join in on the fun, too.

Madison has a fairly robust makers community for a city its size — examples include a downtown craft bar and a couple other DIY kits.

After working as an elementary art teacher in Denver for a few years, Gehrke decided Wisconsin was the right place to start her business, but she didn’t want to return to her hometown of Waupaca. So she moved to and set up shop in Madison, where she converted her basement into the main workspace for The Mad Makery.

Her dad built temporary walls fashioned with electrical wiring so she could have a separate room in her basement devoted to woodworking projects. This way, sawdust from her grandfather’s table saw she uses wouldn’t scatter into the other space where she creates the individual pieces and assembles the kits. One of the bedrooms upstairs has become her office, where she can complete all of her bookkeeping, photography, social media plans and everything else she needs. New craft kit business makes DIY easy

All under one roof, Gehrke runs her one-woman business that helps others find the same joy in crafting that she’s found.

“I think especially in today’s age, everything is so digital and online,” she says. “I think for a lot of people [working with your hands] takes you kind of outside of yourself for a moment,” Gehrke says. “You’re not worried about everything else that’s going on in your life.”

Maija Inveiss is digital content editor of Madison Magazine.