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SUNDAY BRUNCH | Designing L.A.

A Small Craft Advisory

October 18, 1998

Stumped by scrapbooks? Rattled by rubber stamps? Has the whole craft explosion, in fact, got your head spinning?

Al and Marcy Welland understand. In fact, their new Santa Monica store, Create Your Own, is geared to first-timers who aren't sure if they want to invest megabucks in a craft they might not like.

So, in addition to offering everything from rubber stamps to paper, ink pads, decorative scissors, punches, ready-to-paint dishes, craft kits and scrapbooking supplies, there is ample open work space where novices can road-test crafts before they buy.

"As long as there isn't a party or class going on," says Al, "the work space is here. If you want to try scrapbooking, we have every scissor, all the glues you need, and we invite people to bring in their boxes of pictures and

we'll help you if you need help. All you have to do is buy a piece of paper."

The couple did extensive research before they opened their store in June. Not wanting to duplicate the paint-your-own-dish places or devote the store to just one craft, such as rubber stamping, they hit on this concept.

Classes offered at the store cover calligraphy, handmade books, stamping techniques and more, and are geared to beginning and advanced crafters. Saturday mornings are reserved for an ongoing kids' class that introduces a new project each week. In-store demonstrations are scheduled regularly, and in the coming months the Wellands plan to have a scrapbooker-in-residence twice a month to answer questions and help with design dilemmas. The work space can also be booked for parties, from kids' birthdays to bridal showers.

New products are found by scouring trade shows, but the couple say their best resources are their customers. Says Al, "We have so many people who will come in and say, 'I was just watching "The Carol Duvall Show" and she did this project and when are you getting it in?' "

Marcy insists that before child-friendly craft kits are put on the shelves they're tried out by their own kids and their friends to make sure the kits deliver what is promised.

"Crafts are much more sophisticated today," she says. "If it looks like junk when you're done, you're not going to want to do another one. The level of quality has definitely improved, and that's what we're going for."

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Create Your Own is at 3006 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 453-2005.

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