Oakdale High School senior Caitlyn Hartzell is proving to be quite the Renaissance woman.
Photographs of the teen have previously graced the newspaper pages on multiple occasions, as a very accomplished Future Farmers of America member. In addition to her FFA activity, the future graduate has her sights set on law enforcement. She’s currently active as a Police Explorer for Stanislaus County Sheriff’s and has plans of majoring in Criminal Justice, with her sights set toward the Police Academy.
All that aside, Caitlyn is a crafter.
“I’ve always enjoyed crafting,” the OHS senior said, noting that even as a child she enjoyed crafting items found in mail order catalogs.
“I don’t like buying a lot of stuff. I’d rather make it,” she said. “I think gifts have more meaning that way.”
This holiday season persons in search of a unique gift for the backyard enthusiast need not look further than Caitlyn’s cottage business For the Birds. The 18-year-old, with the help of dad (ag teacher Ed Hartzell) creates lanterns and bird feeders from repurposed items.
“I first saw them when I was on vacation with my dad at a friend’s house,” she said. “My dad and I thought of a better way to assemble them.”
The high school senior shared she began her business three years ago as a way to earn money.
“I’ve always been taught that if you want something bad enough you have to find a way to pay for it and do it on your own,” she said.
The crafter shared the process to construct the feeders and lanterns is lengthy but the end result is worth it. Unlike the initial feeders she first saw on vacation, hers are bolter together versus glued.
“It’s a long process,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s a good hobby that my dad and I can do together.”
Caitlyn and her father first must drill the vintage lampshades as well as other pieces and parts, which must them be left as the “vibrations are settling.” It’s a key part to the process which she learned early on was necessary.
In the beginning, Caitlyn shared, they drilled and assembled the first day only to find it all shattered the next.
“I’ve never made one the same as another,” she said. “It’s almost impossible since the parts are found at Hope Chest, antique stores and on EBay. They’re each unique.”
The key components of the feeders and lanterns are vintage glass lampshades, mason jars, ash trays and either a chicken feeder tray or battery operated LED lights (for lanterns).
The senior has attended craft shows like Oakdale’s Cowboy Christmas, but they can also be found at her mother’s business Vena’s Secrets, 3220-A Santa Fe, Riverbank, her Facebook page For The Birds or via e-mail Caitlyn.firstname.lastname@example.org.
She noted a number of customers have also found her by word of mouth and she will do custom orders.
“Having little kids purchase them,” she said of those patrons who are among her favorite customers, “because they’re so excited to purchase them for parents. I’ve also had some purchase the lanterns for night lights.”
Proceeds from her sales made this year at Cowboy Christmas will now be put in ‘pay it forward’ motion as the teen has adopted a military troop for the Holiday season.
Caitlyn’s adopted Marine troop of 30 men and five women is currently deployed from their San Diego duty station to Kuwait.
“I’m gathering together food, toiletries and holiday items to send each of them so they feel at home,” she said.
“I’ve always wanted to be able to do this,” she added of ‘adopting’ the 35-member troop, “but being older and having the resources to do it makes it more rewarding.”