Kristen Rask calls herself a hack job. Which is ironic, because for 10 years she’s found a way to sell toys to adults and lead a crafting revolution. No, really—she swears she’s been making it up as she goes. “There’s no secret,” Rask says, incredulous. “I didn’t have a business plan. I literally did this on the fly because I hated my job.”
That job was in patient services at a naturopathic clinic. At night, though, Rask made quirky little rings out of black elastic and vintage buttons and dreamed of selling them at stores in every zip code in Seattle. She would walk around the city, popping into stores unannounced, to peddle her wares. But it was a friendship with Sally Brock, owner of the Belltown jewelry boutique Fancy, that helped Rask realize crafting could be more than just a hobby. She would visit often to restock, and on one of those trips Brock encouraged her to set up shop in the newly vacant space next door. Three days later she had a lease, and in September 2004 Rask opened Schmancy.
Naming the store was one thing; describing it was another. Rask has always been a purveyor of cute, a collector of hip tchotchkes like Kinder Surprise eggs and designer vinyl toys. Schmancy started as an extension of her obsession, so it seemed only natural to call it an adult toy store. “But then one day the barista down the street came in and immediately started cracking up,” Rask recalls. “I asked him what was so funny and he goes, ‘This whole time we thought you owned a sex toy store.’ Now I explain it as an adult art collectible toy store.”
A lot has happened in the decade since—and Rask has done it all virtually by herself. While juggling her responsibilities at the store and her job at the clinic (she went part time after opening Schmancy and eventually quit), she also landed a booth at Urban Craft Uprising, which at that point was a fledgling, two-day independent craft show. Four years later, in 2008, she met the organization’s president, who asked Rask if she could recommend someone for its open PR director position. Because she didn’t have enough to do already, Rask filled out an application. And got the job.
Long before there was a popup shop on every block and Pinterest made DIY a thing, Urban Craft Uprising was making a case for the idea that crafting was something to be proud of—not to mention something that people could make a living from. A decade after it launched—and just as the rest of the world is catching up to its ideals—the show attracts crowds of 10,000.
Last winter, after six years in the same position at the organization, the always-in-motion Rask ascended to the role of Urban Craft Uprising’s president. But that doesn’t mean she’s forgotten about her first love. And while Schmancy has evolved to focus more on plush toys—“Everyone assumes I must do really well with Japanese tourists and 13-year-old girls,” Rask jokes—she’s still her only employee and she still writes out receipts by hand. It’s all part of the DIY mentality that got her this far. “Crafting is my Prozac,” Rask says. “If I don’t do it for a while, then I get really crabby. People notice.”