Skip to main content

Baking sourdough, doing yoga, making whipped coffee, painting, sewing, building Lego models, buying an obscene amount of plants – all are hobbies that got people through the early days of the COVID pandemic -19 as we sheltered in place.

More than two years later, many of these pandemic modes have been discontinued. But others have persisted, becoming fixtures in people’s lives.

For some, the creative outlets they used to pass the time during the days of isolation have turned into businesses.

People also read…

“I’m now at the point where I’ve been able to put aside my corporate American job and focus mostly on candles,” said Windsor resident and candle maker Caitlin Bilderback.

She is not alone in her pursuit. Here are the stories of Bilderback and two other local women who spent time cultivating their artistry during quarantine and eventually found success over the past few years selling their work in shops and markets in Dane County. .






Caitlin Bilderback, owner of Windsor Candle Works, sells her candles at a weekend market at The Bruce Company in Middleton in March. Bilderback focuses on making its candles in a healthy way, using pure soy wax, no additives, natural fragrances and a wooden base to hold the wax.


AMBER ARNOLD, STATE NEWSPAPER


“It could be my career”

Madison resident Abigail Orgas never thought she’d be a full-time business owner. Certainly not when she was only 24 years old.

At the start of 2020, she was teaching preschool and getting her bachelor’s degree when the pandemic hit. Classes moved online and “I found myself with a lot of free time,” Orgas said.







Abby Orgas

Abby Orgas, 23, owner of Bold Blossom Shop, sells earrings to a customer during the Madison Night Market in August. It was Orgas’ first pop-up market after starting her jewelry business during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, her business has grown and she thinks she can start working there full time this summer.


EMILY HAMER, STATE NEWSPAPER ARCHIVE


Orgas has always been interested in art, whether she drew, painted or made clay animal figurines as a child. When it all stopped, she decided to try making polymer clay earrings. Initially, she said it was “stupid” to make earrings while people were dying of COVID-19.

“But I guess for me it was kind of a way of coping and finding something happy to do,” Orgas said. “And I think it made other people happy too.”

She opened a shop on Etsy to sell her earrings, then launched her own website. Her business, called Bold Blossom Shop, sells bright and colorful earrings and charms in the shape of flowers, crescents, clouds, figs, blueberries, butterflies and more.







Bold Blossom Earrings

Daisy earrings and fruit charms from Abigail Orgas’ Bold Blossom boutique.


ABIGAIL ORGAS


Interest in his shop began to grow more and more. At a product launch in early 2021, she recalls sitting in her apartment watching her website traffic as multiple styles sold out on the same day.

“I was kind of shocked and in disbelief,” she said. “I think that’s when I realized people really liked what I did and would buy the things I make. I realized that this could be my career.


Quirky hobbies are helping Madisonians through quarantine

Orgas made just over $20,000 in profit in 2021, and its sales have continued to grow this year. His store’s Instagram followers have grown by nearly 1,000 in just a few months this year. Orgas said she thinks she’s on track to be full-time by July.

“It’s really exciting, and it’s something I didn’t really expect. I never thought I would be able to be a full-time artist and be my own boss,” Orgas said. “It was really stimulating. I’m proud of myself for how far I’ve come and I can’t wait to see where I can go in the future.

Leave the company

Bilderback’s candle-making business, Windsor Candle Works, started out as a fun activity to do with friends. They had cocktails and made candles together.







Caitlin Bilderback

Caitlin Bilderback adds eucalyptus-scented candles to melted wax while making candles for her Windsor Candle Works. Bilderback sources scents from several different companies across the country and sometimes mixes them together to create its own concoctions. Some of Bilderback’s most popular scents are rush lilac, purple saffron, and lavender sage.


KAYLA WOLF, STATE NEWSPAPER


But as the weather turned chilly and people continued to socially distance during winter 2020, Bilderback was looking for “something to do”, she said. She started making candles for herself and her friends around Christmas.

She focused on making her candles in a healthy way, with pure soy wax, no additives, natural fragrances and a wooden base to hold the wax.

A friend suggested she try selling them, so she started working with The Poppy Seed coffee shop and gift shop in DeForest “just to see what happens, make a few extra bucks,” Bilderback said. The candles started to sell out and Bilderback slowly added more and more stores.

During the 2021 holiday season from October to December, she sold an average of 400 candles per month. Bilderback quit his job in digital analysis and started making candles part-time while spending more time with his children. She hopes to get a full-time job.







Caitlin Bilderback

Caitlin Bilderback, owner of Windsor Candle Works, sells her candles at a weekend market at The Bruce Company in Middleton in March. Bilderback focuses on making its candles in a healthy way, using pure soy wax, no additives, natural fragrances and a wooden base to hold the wax.


AMBER ARNOLD, STATE NEWSPAPER


She sells her candles in eight boutiques in McFarland, Windsor, DeForest, Mount Horeb, Waunakee, Middleton, Wausau and Lake Geneva. In April, she launched her own website.

“It was super exciting,” Bilderback said. “It’s better than I imagined. I didn’t necessarily intend to be where I was today a year ago. I just sort of go on a road with it, and it goes on. It’s fantastic.”

do something beautiful

As long as it’s not freezing outside, Priscilla Lentini can go out into her garage, stick her hands in clay, and make pottery. It’s an activity she does most of the time, creating around 20 cups and coffee pots a week.

Lentini, a 32-year-old Verona resident, has been making pottery since high school. Before the pandemic began, she paid a monthly fee to make pottery at a studio about once a week.


Landscape architect creates Lego models of Madison to connect with community

But when the studio closed along with restaurants and other activities at the start of the pandemic, she needed something to fill the time.

“With all the other activities kind of cancelled, I had a lot more free time to do pottery,” Lentini said. “And you can only have so many cups before I have to start getting rid of them.”







Priscilla Lentini

Priscilla Lentini, owner of Pottery by Priscilla, sells a handmade mug during the Madison Night Market in August. Lentini has loved making pottery since high school, but first started selling her work after devoting more time to her craft during the pandemic.


EMILY HAMER, STATE NEWSPAPER ARCHIVE


For the first time, she started selling her work and started her business, called Pottery by Priscilla. She sells mugs, flowerpots, vases, and magnets at local markets, including Madison Night Market, Verona Farmer’s Market, and the Verona High School Craft Fair in the fall.

Many of his mugs have natural earth tones, deep blues and purples, and bright greens and yellows. Some have buttons, some have trees and plants, and some have Midwestern sayings like “You betcha” and “Yeah, no.”

Lentini said she loves making mugs because it’s a functional piece of art that people can use every day. She said it makes her happy when she hears customers say her creation is their favorite cup for their morning coffee.


Interest in houseplants and gardening continues to flourish in Madison

She sells on average about 50 items in each market. Lentini has a website, but customers generally won’t be able to buy her mugs there because she can’t keep enough inventory.

“I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the repeat customers and people who come to the markets specifically because I’ll be there,” Lentini said. “It’s exciting to have such great support.”

Lentini, who is also a social worker for a transitional housing program for women and children in St. Vincent de Paul, said she has no plans to do pottery full-time. But she’s grateful that Pottery by Priscilla has allowed her to pay for her own pottery equipment and clay so she can create art whenever she wants.

“It’s a good hobby to relieve stress,” Lentini said. “A kind of meditative self-care activity where I can come home, get behind the wheel, put my hands in the dirt, and do something beautiful.”

“I realized that people really liked what I did and would buy the things I made. I realized that this could be my career.”

Abigail OrgasMadison