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February 16, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
The grey linoleum stairs next to Bluestem Missouri Crafts creak as customers climb up to a mustard-colored stable door, the top half of which is swung open to reveal The Butterfly Tattoo.
Inside is Amanda Vander Tuig, a cheerful, busy woman who has owned the business since 2004. The shop moved to its third location, a small but cozy space on Ninth Street, last fall. The previous location was a street-level store on the corner of Walnut and Ninth Streets.
When Vander Tuig is at the shop, she spends most of her time in the back room, a cluttered work space with a large table the perfect size for crafting.
The shelves on the wall hold vintage velveteen animals about the size of Beanie Babies. They’re Dream Pets from Japan, Vander Tuig says. These animals are filled with sawdust and are more than 60 years old. They are emblematic of the eclectic items around her shop. “I think older things just have this sense of history and something more,” Vander Tuig says. “[New things] don’t have that soul, necessarily, that the Dream Pets have.”
Besides finding distinctive items to sell, Vander Tuig, 35, has a passion for creating art. The jewelry she makes, pieces of metal coated with colored enamel, has a hardy feel to it.
Vander Tuig says she had an urge to learn enameling about five years ago when she found someone on Craigslist selling everything a crafter could need: copper sheets, ground glass and a kiln to fuse the two together. She bought the supplies and quickly became obsessed.
Vander Tuig now fires her jewelry in a personal kiln at her house instead of the shop. “I’d rather burn my own house down!” she says.
Although she makes earrings and bracelets and is beginning to make rings, Vander Tuig’s favorite things to make are necklaces. Regardless of the piece, she tries to keep the cost of her jewelry less than $50.
“I’m not a fine artist,” Vander Tuig says. “I think my focus really is getting things that I make into people’s hands that they can wear every day and not worry all the time if they’re going to break it.”
Amy Higgins Stambaugh, a loyal customer of Vander Tuig’s, says the two have been friends for about five years now.
“I think she is a really creative and hardworking person, and I think she wishes more people in the world were the same,” Higgins Stambaugh says.
Vander Tuig has a packed schedule among her business, her art, her husband and two children. Her husband, Matt Vander Tuig, who met Amanda in high school, says he isn’t quite sure how his wife manages her many responsibilities. He says that as long as he’s known her, she has been able to manage a hectic workload.
“I don’t know that we’re any different than any other family that has kids in grade school and one nearing middle school,” he says.
Ruth Walker, co-owner of Bluestem Missouri Crafts, says Vander Tuig has been a good neighbor so far.
“I’m really impressed that she can have kids at home and have a store,” Walker says. “I can barely have me at home and have a store.”
The new store location has helped in terms of balancing it all because she can set her own hours, but the added flexibility is a new twist for Vander Tuig.
“Now that I don’t have my street-level store anymore it’s a relief in a sense,” Vander Tuig says. “It’s also kind of a burden in that I don’t have this focus every day to go to the same spot from 10 to 6.”
There is definitely a bonus to the new store, other than it being near Sparky’s. Vander Tuig is able to separate her work and home life in a more manageable way.
The new store has shorter hours, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. most days, though Vander Tuig updates her store’s online calendar of times regularly. This allows her to do more at home and be more involved as a parent. Both of which are freedoms that let her live life exactly how she wants.