All By Hand
Sharon Blatt’s creations can be found worldwide.
Above: Sharon Blatt with some of her handmade, personalized blankets and pillows; her stylized dollhouse in the background became a replica of her own house.
Sharon Blatt of Farmington has always loved being a homebody. But rather than veg out with a book or TV show, she used her free time to create works of art. Today, her handiwork can be found all over the world.
About 45 years ago, the former Detroit Public Schools art teacher crafted a personalized patchwork gingham pillow for her daughter Susan, then created less frilly versions for her sons Neal and Jonathan. Before she knew it, she was making personalized items as gifts for friends, and her hobby soon turned into a thriving cottage industry.
“It just mushroomed,” said Blatt, 82, who attends Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills. She named her business Sharynne Originals, choosing a stylized version of her first name.
Blatt started selling her creations at Heaven to Seven, a gift shop in Birmingham, whose owner Barry Parson encouraged her to find a larger audience.
“He kept telling me they were too nice to just leave there and that I should take them to Saks,” Blatt recalled. “I thought, ‘I can’t handle a big thing like that.’”
But she gave it a go and the upscale retailer put in an order for 17 stores and featured her pillows and quilts in its baby gift catalog.
Orders started pouring in and Blatt, with the help of her dear friend, the late Peggy Rose, got to work. “I still have the receipts when I would get an order. I would send them to New York and they would send them all over the country. We were able to keep up with it all,” she said. “We must have made thousands. Someone told me they saw one at a house in the Middle East. When I took the kids to Europe, I made pillows for our guides and their grandchildren as a nice way to say thank you. I am so pleased they went to all those places.”
Though she rarely sews anymore, Blatt keeps the business running with the help of her daughter. “I am just too old to do it, but once in a while I can squeeze out a pillow,” she said.
The biggest challenge is finding people who know how to do the sewing and applique work, she said. Currently, a local woman is making the products, but she works fulltime sewing in an awning factory so can only devote so much time.
One of Sharynne Originals’ biggest customers has been Doris Werner, 88, of West Bloomfield.
“I started buying pillows 40 years or more ago and have given them to hundreds of kids,” she said. “I have spent thousands of dollars on those pillows! Everyone adores them.”
Among the recipients are Werner’s many nieces and nephews (and years later, their own children) who live in Israel. When the family gathers for Sukkot, everyone brings their pillow and they all pose for a group picture to send to Werner.
“In a way, it’s my legacy, not only Sharon’s,” Werner said. “Those pillows have a tradition of history and love.”
A Realistic Dollhouse
Blatt’s creativity goes far beyond the pillows and quilts. Her handcrafted jewelry was sold at Saks and the DIA giftshop; but perhaps her most treasured creation, a large dollhouse, will never leave the family.
The Blatts bought the dollhouse for a young Susie, but it soon became Sharon’s pet project. The more she worked on it, the more it began to resemble her own house.
The children’s rooms are accurate replicas of their childhood quarters, while the front hall is filled with items that reflect the family’s Jewish heritage, including a Shabbat prayer book, menorah and Chanukah giftwrap. “Dad’s Office/Den,” the space favored by the late Ronald Blatt, includes a wee copy of a TRS-80 Radio Shack computer, which was launched in 1977. Many rooms include, naturally, tiny Sharynne Originals pillows, quilts, sheets and towels.
“I was amazed at how it became to look more and more like our house,” said Blatt, who has promised the dollhouse to a granddaughter. “It’s really a reflection of what was going on in our home.”