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Local Artisan Spotlight: Saratoga Custom Engraving, Collar City Candle And Fig Tree Furniture

Big Box is out, #shoplocal is in: These three area artisans bring the personal touch to engraved gifts, handmade candles and custom furniture. 

Amanda VanPelt believes that everything—from the right gift to a corporate award—deserves a personal touch. (Francesco D'Amico)

With our 2020 Design Issue, Saratoga Living is starting a new ongoing series, where we shine a spotlight on emerging, local artisans in the region, ones that you should have your eye on for all your interior design needs. In our first feature, we’re focusing in on Saratoga Custom Engraving, Collar City Candle and Fig Tree Furniture.

Lasered Focus

When Amanda VanPelt was laid off from her marketing job at Liberty Mutual Insurance after 13 years with the company, she took it as a lesson in silver linings. In almost no time at all, she was at the Detroit headquarters of AP Lazer picking out her own engraving machine she named Saratoga Sue. 

After a few months of practicing in her garage, she opened Saratoga Custom Engraving in Downtown Saratoga in June of last year and quickly became one of the top local engravers, making everything from hotel coasters and swag items for the town’s biggest-name companies, to one-off wedding gifts and bulk orders of all kinds (think awards and plaques for businesses and sports teams). “Some of my most popular engravable items are personal tumblers and handwritten recipes on cutting boards,” says the entrepreneur, who works with materials such as glass, leather, stainless steel and anodized aluminum. ”I can also cut materials such as wood and acrylic, so cutting ornaments for various shops was popular during the holidays.” 

The creative Ballston Lake native is also carrying on a family tradition of artisanship. “My father passed away unexpectedly in 2018, and the last conversation we had was about my starting this business in Downtown Saratoga,” she says of her woodworking hobbyist dad. “My father was not a man to talk about feelings, and the last thing he said to me was that he was proud of me.”          

—Abby Tegnelia


Candle With Care

Collar City Candle’s origin story sounds like the plot of a middle-aughts rom-com. In 2004, newlyweds Jamie and Josh Wallbank were celebrating their first Christmas together, and Josh went out shopping the day before, saw a candle-making kit and thought it sounded like a fun gift for his new wife. Clearly, Josh had Jamie’s number. “We both got really into it,” says Jamie of the candle-making craft, and it eventually blossomed into a business.

Home base for the couple’s candle-making production is, well, in their home’s basement, which houses their 70-pound wax-melter and commercial scent collection. Popular candles from the Wallbanks’ growing waxy oeuvre include scented candles with tongue-in-cheek names such as “Birch, Please” and “Gin & Juice.”

Josh and Jamie Wallbank in the candle-making studio in the basement of their home. (Francesco D’Amico)

In lieu of a brick-and-mortar, Collar City Candle normally sets up weekly at the award-winning Troy Farmers’ Market, where the Wallbanks have become a popular fixture among the reusable bag set. (Since the COVID-19 outbreak has temporarily shut down the market, the Wallbanks have been doing all of their business online.) “The market has changed our lives,” says Jamie. They’ve also smartly partnered with a number of local businesses such as Troy’s anatomie gym and Albany’s Nine Pin Cider on signature candles—a savvy way of expanding their reach (Jamie’s got a marketing degree from Siena College). They’ve even launched their own crafting pop-up series, Craft + Draft, which is hosted monthly at different bars around the Capital Region and is exactly what it sounds like—a chance to make your own candles while drinking with friends. (Obviously, the series is on hold until further notice.) Totally wick-ed, we say.

—Will Levith


Go Fig And Go Home

Most construction workers enter the field as laborers. From there, they may learn some framing and eventually work their way up to custom carpentry. That wasn’t the case for Saratogian Andrew Figliozzi, owner of Fig Tree Furniture. “I came into construction backwards,” he says. “I was basically learning to build cabinets my first day. I started with very precise, intricate and detail-oriented work, and so I love that stuff.”

Fig Tree Furniture is essentially a passion project for Figliozzi, who also co-owns Figliozzi Potter Group, a commercial and residential contracting firm. “It started when my brother needed a dining room table,” he says. “He was looking at all these tables from Pottery Barn that aren’t necessarily better quality and are very expensive, and I was like, ‘Dude, I’ll just build you a table.’”

Fig Tree Furniture started when owner Andrew Figliozzi offered to build a dining room table for his brother. (Francesco D’Amico)

Two-and-a-half years later, Figliozzi is a one-man furniture machine, creating built-in units, fireplace mantles, tables and other custom pieces for clients who find him mainly by word of mouth and via Facebook. He’s built tables and a floating bench for Saratoga steakhouse Salt & Char, and is currently selling his cutting boards to raise money for the American Cancer Society. His design aesthetic? “Tough but warm,” he says. “You can tell my furniture is meant to be used—you don’t have to worry about putting a cold drink on it—and it looks good in someone’s hunting cabin or in a million-dollar house.”

In the coming years, Figliozzi hopes to spend more time in his shop building furniture, while still running his contracting firm. “I want to be a shop rat but then still get out and meet people and just rub elbows in Saratoga,” he says. Saratoga, as it turns out, is a pretty good place to do that.  

—Natalie Moore

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