It started out simply enough: a project making fun, whimsical Christmas gifts for family members. Now, it’s a lucrative side business for crafty Crys Gorman.
Buying unfinished wooden nutcrackers and turning them into custom keepsakes, the far north Fort Worth resident paints them in personas of gymnasts, football players, brides and bridegrooms, train conductors and, well, practically anyone or anything.
The only limits are the wooden forms and the imagination.
Nutcrackers get customized clothing colors plus individual hues for their hair and eyes. A farmer might hold a shovel; a bride, a bouquet.
Her first nutcrackers, crafted four years ago, went to close family members: a farmer for her dad, Ray McDonald, who raises alpacas at McPaca Ranch in Keller, a “Winter Wonderland” nutcracker for mom Laurie who is crazy for Christmas decor, a drummer for her brother who plays the drums and a cat for her sister-in-law who is a big fan of felines.
A year later, after earning praise for her unique gifts, Gorman started her company, The Pink Hard Hat — launching her wares through a virtual shop on Etsy. She’s sold about 150 nutcrackers, many of them one-of-a-kind custom creations.
“It’s a gift that no one else has,” Gorman says. “I was surprised how many people will give a family member a nutcracker every year. It’s neat to help make that family tradition for them.”
My friend, before all this happened, said if I was an inanimate object, I’d be a pink hard hat. I love feminine things, but I’m also a set designer and drive a truck.
Crys Gorman, owner of The Pink Hard Hat
Setting Up Shop
Naming her business was easy, Gorman says. It stems from an off-the-cuff remark from someone who knows her well.
“My friend, before all this happened, said if I was an inanimate object, I’d be a pink hard hat,” she explains. “I love feminine things, but I’m also a set designer and drive a truck.”
Having earned a master’s degree in fine arts in theater set design at Sam Houston State, Gorman says she still uses her set design skills at Fellowship Church’s satellite campus in north Keller. Husband Matt Gorman works there as a children’s pastor, and she’s frequently tasked with developing sets and elaborate props for their programs. The couple met when they both worked at the main Fellowship Church campus in Grapevine.
Matt says he’s been amazed at the way her crafty business has taken off.
“She saw an opportunity because her parents and brother enjoyed them so much,” he says. “A couple turned into a couple more. Next thing you know, there’s a card table in the middle of the living room and an army in the closet.”
Now she has a dedicated craft room where she works on her foot-tall creations. She purchases unfinished nutcrackers in a couple of slightly different designs from Hobby Lobby. After a light sanding, she paints the base and the face, and uses stencils she made for the eyes and facial features. Then she waits for the order.
An Army in the Closet
Gorman can customize clothing color, hair and eye color and the item the nutcracker holds in one hand. For a gymnast, it’s a first-place medal, a shovel for the farmer and a bouquet for the bride.
Along with the most commonly requested designs, she enjoys the challenge of unusual requests — which have ranged from a mad scientist and train conductor to the Rat King from The Nutcracker ballet and an owl.
While Gorman enjoys the creative process and the extra income — she and Matt are headed to Disney World this month, courtesy of the nutcrackers — she doesn’t employ many of the designs in her own Christmas decor.
“I never really had an affinity for them. Sometimes this closet haunts my dreams with zombie nutcrackers,” she says, smiling, as she shows off the rows of faceless figures lining the shelves.
Her customers, however, are enthusiastic in their support of her creations and several have come back every year since she started.
Jordan Day, who bought a gymnast nutcracker for his daughter, identifies a top selling point. “Her craftsmanship and quality of work are just awesome,” he notes. “She has such strong attention to detail.”