Jaime Echt Creates a Feast for the Senses

06/04/24
by Victoria Ritter

Twenty-seven years ago, Jaime Echt worked in the fashion industry in New York City by day and made her own arts and crafts on nights and weekends. Although she primarily worked with fabrics for her job and dabbled in making clothing and quilts in her free time, she quickly discovered the benefits of working with paper for her personal projects.

With just as many colors as fabrics, paper lent itself to a variety of crafts that interested Echt – from collages and card making to journaling.

“Paper is boundless,” Echt said. “There’s so many types of papers and thicknesses and transparencies. Then there’s the media you can put on top of it, how it tears and cuts, how it lays on different sheets of paper.”

Echt began participating in area craft shows, where many customers, amazed by her talent, asked her to teach art classes. The idea quickly took root.

“I asked myself why am I running all around New York teaching classes when I can find my own place to teach classes and sell products around these classes?” Echt recalled.

Feeling like a fish out of water in the harsh, highly competitive atmosphere of the fashion industry, Echt decided to pursue an arts and crafts career full-time. The self-proclaimed “cautious, but optimistic entrepreneur” wrote a business plan for The Crafter’s Workshop and established a store where she taught 30 classes a month.

Within the first few months of opening her business, Echt realized that there were no stencils that she liked – so she began to design her own stencils.

Echt closed the store in 2005 to focus on the growing wholesale business of designing stencils; its online catalog is available at thecraftersworkshop.com. Today, she is the art director and designer of The Crafter’s Workshop.

 

Passions become products

The Crafter’s Workshop manufactures and distributes a plethora of mixed media materials, from stencils and stamps to powders and pastes. After she designs a product, Echt then uses it in tutorials. Her hope is to get people excited and abate any fears they have about using something new.

“As artists, we don’t just see with our eyes – we also see with our hands,” Echt commented. “I love the way I can build up textures with my stencil butter, modeling paste and gel medium.”

Echt is most proud of her stencil butters which add dimension to projects and come in 43 hues; she describes it as a “modeling paste in the form of room-temperature butter.” A lover of all things rainbow, Echt not only finds the stencil butter’s texture soothing, but also takes satisfaction in knowing that artists can find just the right color for their project.

“The colors are trendy, perfect out of the jar. Because they’re acrylic, you can blend or marble them,” she stated. “I love it when people new to a product feel successful and feel encouraged to make more art and build on that success.”

The Crafter’s Workshop’s newest product is Tacky-when-Dry, which users can scrape through stencils. The gel medium appears white when applied and dries clear. Creatives can then lay foil or gold or silver leafing on top to add an iridescent element.

In order to interact with a variety of products, The Crafter’s Workshop’s stencils are 10 mil thick. This allows for depth when users scrape modeling paste, stenciling butter or dimensional gel through the designs. The company’s butters and pastes are specially developed to be low-moisture so they don’t bleed underneath stencils. Additionally, the products don’t level out, but instead hold their shape after the stencil is removed.

“As it dries, your fingers feel that image,” Echt said.

Depending on how thickly they’re applied, most of gels developed by Echt and The Crafter’s Worshop team dry under 20 minutes. With the quick drying time and an ability to be used with other companies’ products, creatives can easily and quickly explore the wide world of mixed media.

“Above all, I’m always listening to what artists want,” Echt stated. “I never put myself into an ivory tower and assume that what I create everyone will love. I make a point to connect with local artists, listen to consumers, listen to retailers who work closely with their customers and hear what they want. My job is to be responsive to that.”

Echt’s favorite aspect of The Crafter’s Workshop is the ability to bring an idea to life with her experience and tools. “If I think of a pattern or a design that I love, I can turn it into a stencil,” she said. “I still get this charge of excitement when something I thought of is cut as a stencil.”

Another fun aspect of the business comes from watching people discover and apply the company’s products. Echt hosts online classes for retailers as well as offers presentations at trade events. The Crafter’s Workshop exhibits at Creativation by Namta, Creativeworld in Germany, MacPherson’s Creativity Hub, and Create Utopia, along with the occasional consumer show to get a better understanding of what local artists are looking for.

Echt built her business around the values of being kind, fair and honest. She believes in supporting retailers and artists alike with techniques and instruction.

“I truly feel that when other people do well, we will do well,” Echt said.

 

Make it personal

While some paper crafters stick to cardstock or watercolor paper, others enjoy working in mixed media. Echt sees herself as someone who is somewhere between the two sectors.

“I like colors that are harmonious, applications that are clean and making things that I want to display in my home or give as a gift,” she said. “I’m very practical.”

Any firm surface is fair game to Echt to work with: canvas board, wooden frames and boxes, watercolor paper and stretched fabrics. As she experiments with her products, she loves to create texture and color – a sensory feast for her eyes and hands.

“I think of myself as an overgrown 2-year-old because I want to touch everything,” Echt said with a laugh.

Echt likes to work in series, something she learned from artists in the 1970s. On the weekends, she will sit down in her workshop, put on music or a podcast, and try a concept over and over with minor variations. The results may be mixed, but Echt learns what works well – and what doesn’t – and shares her findings with other artists and crafters.

“I’m seeing where each twist and turn takes me.”

Echt is a lifelong learner, often encouraging herself to go out, explore and participate in activities. She draws inspiration at places that are outside of her regular routine such as going to a museum or walking through botanical gardens. All the while, she looks for patterns, vibrations, colors that “knocks me out of my reverie.”

“When you stop wondering, you stop growing as an artist and as a human being,” Echt said. “I love wondering and wandering.”

One of Echt’s favorite projects is making handmade cards for friends and family. She enjoys how these cards are small enough to make easily and store while holding meaning for the recipient.

“They don’t necessarily have a lot of words on the front. They can look like a lovely 5×7 piece of artwork that just happens to come in an envelope with a note inside,” Echt commented. “In our very busy days of texts and Instagram reels, I feel like this is a nice way to say ‘I’m thinking of you.’”

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