Creative cups runneth over

Laura Christenson of Waubeka started making customized cups and tumblers as a hobby. Now it’s a growing business.

Kyle and Laura Christenson decorate tumblers in their Waubeka home. Photo by Sam Arendt


Ozaukee Press staff

It’s not that Laura Christenson fell into the hobby of making custom drinking cups and tumblers. It came from a personality trait.

“I have this habit in my life,” the Waubeka resident said. Once she sees how something is made, she thinks, “I could do that.”

That’s how she got started canning foods years ago, and now she’s creating custom vessels to hold people’s beverages.

She began her venture when her husband Kyle was on a deployment last year with the National Guard’s 128th refueling wing. She ordered some cups

and discovered different styles on a few social media sites.

“He came back and I had cups all over the table,” Laura said.

Kyle wasn’t entirely shocked. Laura had sent him photos of her new endeavor, and he is well aware of the ambitious aspect of his wife of nearly eight years.

“She does that but she comes through,” he said of Laura’s new ideas. “She puts her mind to it.”

The process isn’t easy or cheap, but Laura makes money on her newfound passion.

“The last thing you want is a craft hobby that’s a money pit,” she said.

Laura watched several videos online to get started and joined a cup community on Facebook that led to making some new friends, including one who does similar work who lives down the street.

She buys the basic cups and tumblers, then customizes them with assorted materials.

The process varies by the type of cup. Most get spray paint, alcohol ink or acrylic paint. Prints and stickers are created using an app, printed and trimmed with a Cricut machine. All the cups get epoxy, which costs Laura $100 per gallon.

Clay is used for texture to create things  such as gnomes’ noses, and Laura and Kyle have figured out a way to adhere a flag design so it looks like it’s blowing in the wind.

Laura has a spinner that can hold 17 cups in her laundry room that dries her products. They slowly spin for 24 hours to prevent getting lumps.

“One of these cups takes about five days to make,” she said.

The mother of children 5, 3 and nearly 2 years old squeezes in an hour to do her hobby here and there, with the bulk of work done after her children go to bed.

“A lot of times I’m at the dining room table working with glitter and they’ll do Play-Doh or draw,” she said.

The cups are fun to make, watching patterns come together and paint droplets turn into striking designs, but that’s not Laura’s favorite part.

It’s not marveling at her finished products either, many of which look professionally done.

For Laura, it’s the effect a customized cup can have on someone.

A last-second modification on a sea turtle cup added blue water. The customer said that was the perfect color to honor her best friend who had died.

A rush order for eight cups was for a family taking a vacation to Las Vegas, the first happy event since a sister and father died.

“They have a lot of sentimental value,” Laura said.

She made one cup that features adopted superheroes for a boy who was adopted.

An 11-year-old daughter of one of Laura’s friends opened up her birthday gift of a Christenson and “got that kid face that shows they got exactly what they wanted,” she said.

“I love making other people happy. Being a part of people’s special events and making an impact in people’s lives is one of the biggest joys I get out of this.”

Working on children’s cups is some of the most fun, she said.

She made a unicorn cup for a girl who watched online and helped design it in real time.

“She picked out her own font,” Laura said. “It’s fun. It’s interactive.”

The Christensons registered their business as a limited liability company to make it easier to get permits at vendor fairs and events, and named it Blue Starfish Creations, playing on the military’s Blue Star Family theme. Blue starfish aren’t made up, Laura said; they are animals that live in the ocean.

Joining the Handmade Ozaukee Facebook page has been a plus for the business. Laura has become one of the page’s administrators and posts one live video of her working on cups each week.

“Handmade Ozaukee has been an amazing resource for crafters who were afraid to get out of their shells,” she said.

She and Kyle both grew up with an interest in art.

Laura loved drawing and ceramics. She was born on Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota — her parents are originally from Grafton and her father was a crew chief and mechanic the military — and she grew up in Saukville, graduating from Port Washington High School in 2004.

Laura worked as a chef at Horse and Plow and worked in the pastry kitchen at the American Club, baked for Panera and was known for her soups at Sendik’s. She still works two nights per week at Stony Hill Bar and Grill, which is across the street from her house.

Kyle was born in Waukesha and also enjoyed art — drawing, pastels, ceramics and jewelry making. He still does woodworking and made shelves from old doors for his family’s home.

He met Laura while the two worked for a food brokerage in Pewaukee. They got to know each other while spending 10 to 12 hours in the kitchen each day.

The couple married in 2014 and lived in Oconomowoc with the plan to move to Ozaukee County within five years.

They put their house on the market on a Friday and it sold on Monday. Forty days later, they were in their home in Waubeka.

Laura uses every inch of space in the basement to work on and store her cups. The spinner is across from the washer and dryer.

She planned to start small. Her first sales event was in April, and she sold 15 cups with more orders coming in. Since then she has made more than 200.

She figured on Flag Day being her launch day and joked about inviting other crafters. She soon had nearly 10 vendors from the Handmade Ozaukee on her lawn.

“Next year the goal is to fill up our yard and do 15 vendors,” she said, adding they’d like to partner with a nonprofit military organization for homeless veterans.

The couple completed a dream board six years ago that included a goal of being financially secure enough to donate to nonprofit organizations they believe in, Laura said.

“Doing this gives us a little income so we can give back,” she said.

Blue Starfish Creations will be at several events this summer, including the Harley-Davidson Party on Main Street in Thiensville July 9, Summer Nights LIVE in Belgium July 22, Paramount Music Festival in Grafton on July 23, Hollandfest in Cedar Grove on July 30 and other events in August.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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