Jackson puts a 3-D spin on arts and crafts

MIDDLEBURY — Sandy Jackson has always been a crafty person.
“My hands never stop making stuff,” she says. “I can’t stand to be idle for a minute.”
When she and her husband, Bruce Eichinger, went to Paris for three months back in 1996, she decided to put her craft skills to the test. She brought along a book called “Pop-up Geometric Origami” by Masahiro Chatani and determined she was going to take her greeting cards and decorations to the next level.
Through the book, she gained an understanding of how origami “slice forms” work and decided to let her own skills and imagination take over. She needed only look out her window to find the inspiration for her first 3-D creation: the Eiffel Tower. She measured its dimensions from postcards and before long she had deftly crafted a three-dimensional facsimile of the iconic Parisian landmark, which she has kept to this day.
“I was very excited with that result,” she recalled in a recent interview at her Middlebury home.
But the Eiffel Tower was only the beginning. Jackson came home and used her new skills to make pop-up Christmas cards, a Christmas tree and 3-D ornaments, including a see-through sphere with a snowman inside.
“I thought, ‘This is too good to keep to myself,’” she said. “I had to share it with other people.”
So Jackson created her own business called “some assembly required (SAR),” which produces the tools for craftspeople to fashion dozens of 3-D creations, including Greek vases, eggs, snowflakes, hearts, snowmen, frames, bottles and birds.
The tools in question largely consist of dies, stencils, pre-cut paper kits and stamp sets that Jackson devises with her considerable imagination and artistry, with a little help from a plethora of special printers and other equipment lined up in the lower level of the couple’s home at 44 Main St. in downtown Middlebury.
Another one of her products: Hasty Lace templates that are made of heavy, laser-cut plastic. The designs consist of many 1-millimeter holes in the template, which are used to emboss and pierce paper. The most commonly used paper is translucent vellum, which, when embossed, can resemble brocade. It’s a technique that lends an elegant look to a frame or background, or can add accents to a card.
The hallmark of SAR products is that they can be used with relatively few ancillary products.
In some cases, it’s as simple as stamping the pattern on paper, cutting it out, and putting it together.
“There’s no glue,” Jackson noted.
And no scissors are needed for those who purchase one in the wide variety of dies. The die is placed, along with paper, into a rudimentary hand-cranked machine to produce a design that can be punched out and assembled with relative ease.
“For the 3-D stuff, it takes some amount of brainpower,” Jackson acknowledged, though those who get perplexed need only go to the SAR website (some-assembly-required.com) where they will find videos in which Jackson leads people through the crafting process.
Her personal favorites? The handcrafted snow globes, vases, and card with a 3-D snowman.
Jackson exhibits her wares at several shows each year in North America and beyond, and she also sells the products online through her website. Prices of SAR products range from $6 to $120, with the average item selling for $15 to $20.
Business has generally been good, in spite of fluctuations in the crafting market. Stamping was all the rage in the early 2000s, but then fell on hard times. Jackson and Eichinger used to attend around 18 craft shows per year; they have since pared back to approximately six. Their next will be a show in Texas in January.
“In 2008, a lot of stamping stores went out of business,” Jackson said.
The stamping and 3-D crafting industries have seen a lot of peaks and valleys in recent years, but Jackson said suppliers who stick with it can make a decent living. September is usually one of the busier months for SAR sales, while December is one of the slowest. Jackson last year created 21 new products to what is a growing portfolio.
Sure, 3-D crafting won’t land SAR on the list of Fortune 500 companies, but that’s not what Jackson is shooting for.
“It’s really for the love of it,” she said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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