At first glance, one might mistake Catherine Jabusch’s work space for a Charms class from the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Or maybe a Divination class, per the handmade office sign that reads “Professor Trelawney,” the fictitious professor from the Harry Potter series.
It’d be an easy mistake to make. Wands in various stages of completion cover the work table in her Kelso home. A large piece of curly willow sits propped against her wall. Eventually it’ll be transformed into a staff fit for a wizard – or maybe a costumed cosplayer.
Her business began just as one might guess – with a little inspiration from Hogwarts.
Jabusch transformed her home into the school of witchcraft and wizardry two years ago for her son’s 6th birthday party. For party favors, she doled out about 30 of her hand-crafted wands. At the prodding of her friends, Jabusch added the party favors to her existing Etsy shop, where she sold clay beads. From there, a fledgling business took root.
“I just put up a couple of (wand) listings in my bead shop, and my views took off, the stats took off, the sales took off. ... It was just happening organically,” explained Jabusch. “I had to move away from (clay beads) because the wands have just become this phenomenon.”
Jabusch can’t put a number on how many wands she sells per month, noting that sales are contingent on outside factors such as festivals. The early spring – when most of the festivals take place – typically is when most of her orders are sent out, though she added that her “busy season” is slowly expanding.
“I’m headed into the busy season, and I keep saying that, and then I think ‘Wow, but you know for the last three months I’ve been like swamped,’” she said. “I try to keep a flow going. I’m not a numbers person. I just do it, and I kind of have a feel for it. You develop a rhythm when you’re making a lot of something.”
Jabusch – who goes by the name Woodland Wandolier – crafts handmade wands by the bundle, topping them with such items as Vaseline glass, crystals, beads, vintage Lucite and buttons. She uses an assortment of wood, including hickory, curly willow and black bamboo for wands that look more natural. For a straighter wand, she uses machine stock wood, however, many of the wands are crafted using wood from her own wooded backyard.
To gather wood she can’t find in her own backyard, she turns to her customers.
“I advertise on my Facebook page and say ‘If you’ll send me a dozen pieces of dogwood, I’ll send you a wand, so I gain stock that way,” she said. She also gathers pieces of driftwood from the coast and keeps an eye out for tree trimmers with branches to spare.
“I’m definitely a gatherer,” Jabusch admitted.
To decorate her wands, Jabusch said she uses an assortment of material, including different types of paint, leather and an assortment of beads and crystals.
“Anything with color is fair game. I’ve been an artist all my life,” Jabusch mused. “I mix mediums. I mix stuff. Like I’ll mix something oil based with something water based and come up with an effect.”
Her audience of buyers is as unique and varied as her wands. Some buyers are cosplayers, looking for a staff to complement a costume.
“People will send me pictures of cosplay costumes and say, ‘Will you make me something?’ I always try to find a way to say yes because why not,” she said.
Other customers purchase the wands to use during live-action role playing or renaissance fairs, she added. Then there are those who use wands for therapy or to use as a pagan tool.
“The people that practice Wicca or other earthen-based religious or spiritual paths will ask me to craft healing tools for them, Jabusch explained. “They have moonstone and turquoise, shells from the sea. I have just buckets and baskets of shells and stones.”
One of her more creative buyers chose to use his purchased wands in the workplace.
“I had some kind of engineer that works for a company that builds models of airplane designs, and he said his crew was having a really hard time getting over this design hump, so he was going to give them all magic wands,” Jabusch said, smiling. “It’s like you have a magic wand, you can make this happen, what would you do?”
Jabusch said she makes most of her wands in large batches. To construct something custom – such as a large staff to complement a cosplay costume – she might spend several weeks crafting it.
Though her business has gained momentum since she first added wands to her Etsy shop two years ago, Jabusch said the success has come as a bit of a surprise. Her first love, she said, is mud. She created and sold clay beads online.
“It took me about a year I guess to set my shoulders and say, ‘wow this is like a whole new world, a whole new path, and it’s great fun,” she said of her wands.
The requests for wands sometimes catch her off guard, she said. But much like the magic she brought to her son’s birthday party two years ago, Jabusch said she tries her best to meet every custom request – no matter how big or small – with creativity.
“I have kids that write to me on the site and they’ll send me drawings and say, ‘Can you make something like this?’” Jabusch said. “I find a way to say yes. I mean, you know, when you’ve got kids that are so excited and believe in all things that are possible, you go with it. You find a way.”