My Holiday Challenge – Presents REVEALED!

It’s hard to believe that just a mere three weeks ago was Christmas: the hustle and bustle of running from this place to that, the constant eating of delicious treats and meals, and the quick conversations. And now, since I shelved out the final Christmas gift this weekend, I wanted to showcase some of my favorite pieces that made my holiday week that much brighter.

I will put out the same disclaimer that I shared in my previous blog post about this topic – I loved every single piece that I got for everyone.

Handmade Cutting Board

Beautiful handmade cutting board from A.Heirloom

1. My favorite piece that I purchased is something that I just MUST have: this awesome cutting board from A.Heirloom. Not only is it shaped like Wisconsin, but the little heart can placed anywhere (since I bought it for my husband’s grandparents, I had it placed at their locale). The cutting board is high quality, made in America and handmade. Stunning doesn’t even begin to describe this. I.Must.Have.This.Cutting Board.



Whiskey Disks

Handcrafted stone disks from Whiskey Disks





2. My second favorite piece was something that I’ve purchased before but was a big hit – Whiskey Disks. These handmade stone pieces are perfect for that whiskey or scotch connoisseur in your life.



Personalized home brew glasses.








3. My third favorite gift was a set of personalized homebrew pints. I knew that finding something that was homebrew-focused was going to be a little more challenging, but to know that my bro can brew some fantastic beer and pour it into his own glass is pretty awesome. Thanks to Scissormill for these fab glasses!



Shopping for only handmade and made in America was much easier than I thought. The only challenging part was that I typically liked everything I came across! My goal for 2013 – any gifts will be handmade and made in America only 🙂

Enjoy your week!

Thank YOU aftcra supporters​!

In the spirit of being thankful, we want to take this time to thank YOU for supporting the launch of aftcra! We are a couple months into beta and we’re overwhelmed by your engagement and enthusiasm.

You have followed us on Twitter & Facebook and spread the word to your friends (and we like your friends)! You have also provided valuable feedback to help make our site better. A great example of this is the new “Guest Checkout” feature that is enables buyers to make quick purchases without registration. Incorporating your suggestions is exciting for us because this site is just as much yours as it is ours.

At aftcra, your success is important to us. Our priority is to provide the best customer experience by maintaining a humble, family-like approach to doing business while having fun and promoting all things handmade. If you have suggestions, don’t be shy, we want to hear them! We are excited for our journey together.

Thank you again for your support. We are thrilled to you have joined us in the made in America craftolution!

The aftcra team

Exercise Your Mind: Take Time to Be Creative

Let’s face it; life can be busy and hectic. We have all sorts of demands for our time and attention. When we get a moment to ourselves it is easy to revert to something mindless such as watching tv or checking our facebook profiles. That down time is important but so is taking the time to exercise. I am referring to mental exercise not physical. The best way to exercise our minds is by exploring our creative sides. From personal experience, I believe taking the time to be imaginative provides an array of benefits.

Recently, I joined a friend at a local paint bar which is exactly what it sounds like…a place to paint while enjoying an adult beverage (or two). I was surprised at how invigorating it was to explore my creative side in a new way (I am not a painter). With each brush stroke, all the noise from my day faded away. I was truly living in the moment focusing on what color to pick next and how to angle my brush. Was it a masterpiece? No. But I transformed a blank canvas into unique creation.  I found expressing myself artistically to be immensely satisfying and very inspirational.

My friend seemed to have the same reaction. She had a particularly rough day at work but by the end of our session she was smiling and laughing and having a wonderful time.

The best part about this form of exercise is that the options here are truly endless. So I would love to know, what are some of the ways you explore your creative side?



Laura Martindale has an Artistic i


We recently met up with one of our first sellers, Laura Martindale, to learn more about her passion for art and her thoughts about aftcra. First and foremost, who is Laura?

Laura is an artist from the low country of South Carolina, just outside of Charleston.  

As the founder and owner of Artistic i, Laura wields her brushes and paints on behalf of diverse residential and commercial clientele. She paints everything from nurseries and children’s rooms to model homes and commercial interiors. Whether it is a detailed mural or commissioned painting, Laura’s art is beautiful and purposeful. She works closely with clients to fulfill their vision and the potential of the space often in ways the client may not even have thought possible. Not only does Laura paint throughout the Southeast, she travels world-wide to perform at live events. She even creates live wedding paintings! 

Laura’s artwork doesn’t stop at the canvas, she also designs websites & logos to develop company branding. As quoted in Daniel Island News, “Laura has fine-tuned her craft so thoughtfully that she can produce a stunning oil painting one week and a tight corporate graphic design package the next.”  

 “Artwork can be a very powerful tool for any setting. I understand the importance of layout, design, color persuasion and how to speak visually to people. Instant gratification and awe are part of my weekly repertoire. The fulfillment of being a professional artist is immeasurable.” – Laura Martindale


Laura, we think you’ve got talent! How would you describe your art? 

Modern, colorful/bright. I enjoy high contrast and realism. My goal is for my artwork to demand attention when you enter a room.


 We love that your artwork can be customized.  How do you work with your clients to deliver what they want?

One of my strongest talents is listening to my customers. I ask a lot of questions and ask for photographs of the space (when necessary) or if I live close by I will visit the space. I listen to what my customer is envisioning and I make it happen. I’m happy to say, I’ve never had a disappointed client. My customers almost always say “This turned out better than I ever expected.” They are over the moon with the final product whether it is a mural or on canvas. That is my goal – to exceed their expectations.


 As an American artist, how important is “Made in America” to you?  

Products made in America are very important to me. All of the products I use: paint, canvas, stretcher strips, giclee printing, etc. are all made here in the states. I feel the government needs to do more to make it possible for more companies to operate this way.


What makes you excited about aftcra? 

I think it is wonderful that you are supporting “Made in America” companies. I know people that only shop this way, and now you have made it easier for them to do so!


 For original artwork by Laura, check out her aftcra store, myArtistici, by clicking here:

EXECUTION – It’s the only thing!

Ideas, ideas, and ideas – everyone has the next game changing idea. I’m sure you’d agree with me that most people like to share their business ideas but rarely execute on them. So today we’re writing about something that you’ve accomplished as a small business owner – the act of execution! Execution is the only thing that matters in the end. It’s the major step in starting a business that aspiring small business owners and entrepreneurs need to think long and hard about.

What is execution and why does it matter? Execution is defined as: The carrying out or putting into effect of a plan, order, or course of action. At aftcra, we have learned how difficult this can be over the last couple of years. What started out as an idea quickly morphed into a constant challenge of execution – web development, social media integrations, online payments, etc. What that means is an idea is only about 5% of a total project (although absolutely critical). The other 95% of the project is tackling one thing at a time.

What I’m trying to say is, starting a business isn’t easy. We know how many long hours get put into your job to make sure that your product is exactly what you intended. We understand all of the other challenges that come along with being a business owner. We appreciate all of the blood, sweat and tears you put into your work and your company every day.

We believe that, by continuing to follow our passion and enhance aftcra, “Crafted by American Hands” will become something that creates a lot of value and promotes a movement that we are all proudly contributing to…