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Temple Terrace Roots Help Sisters Earn National Notoriety

Jennifer and Kitty O’Neil, originally from Temple Terrace, have written a craft book called “Steampunk Chic: Vintage Flair from Recycled Finds.” They are the granddaughters of Chic Young, creator of the comic strip “Blondie and Dagwood.”

In the constantly churning, creative minds of Jennifer and Kitty O’Neil, nothing beats roaming every flea market, thrift store and garage sale in sight.

No matter the city, state or country they’ve either lived in or visited, the sisters are hooked on finding and fashioning treasures out of trinkets and doodads others have chosen to discard.

Their imaginations and ingenuity, they say, were born and fueled as youngsters in their Temple Terrace home by the artsy and playful decorating style of their parents, Jeanne and Larry O’Neil.

“We grew up in a house with a Rube Goldberg cartoon garage door opener, a tuba sprouting ostrich feathers and a carousel horse in the foyer,” Jennifer said.

In addition, the sisters’ imaginative and artistic flair was most likely fueled by the talent of their mother’s father and their granddad Chic Young, creator of the comic strip “Blondie and Dagwood.”

From childhood and beyond, the two siblings were closely-knit. While they often lived many miles apart, chose separate careers and were busy with married life, they stayed in constant contact.

Jennifer was in the casting and production end of the film industry with such notable actors as Jack Nicholson and Steve Martin. Kitty was a toy designer for LEGO. Now, they have collected and crafted their own works of art from whatever tidbits happen to catch their fancies.

Finally settling nearby one another in the San Francisco Bay area by way of their husbands’ employment opportunities, the sisters, who identify themselves by their maiden names, decided to ditch their previous professions and venture into a business of their own.

In the last few years, the twosome has put together several published craft and decorating how-to books. They’ve had their creations featured in Woman’s World, Better Homes and Gardens, Family Circle, Ladies Home Journal and on HGTV.com.

“Our blog (RunningWithSisters.com) our website, www.ONeilSisters.com, and our Facebook page also help us stay connected with our readers,” Kitty said.

Their most recent publication, “Steampunk Chic: Vintage Flair from Recycled Finds,” may be the one in which they had the most fun composing and are the most proud. From its dialogue to its photography to its layout, the duo did it all.

The book is for sale at craft stores, such as Michael’s and JoAnn Fabrics & Crafts and is also available on Amazon.com.

What does the term Steampunk mean, they say, is a question people often ask.

They describe it in the publication as “a Victorianesque restyling of everyday objects into home accents imbued with mystery and romance.”

In it they illustrate and give step-by-step instructions on how to transform such finds like watch faces, clocks, keys and locks into elegant items with the use of crystals, beads, buttons, lace and ribbons.

“It’s a rebirth of shabby chic into a Machine-Age style that is elegant, funky and infused with soul,” Jennifer said.

Jeanne, who holds a master’s degree in fine art and is a retired fine art professor at the , said it comes as no real surprise to her that each of her two daughters is artistically inclined.

“My grandmother was an artist and my mother was a concert pianist and that’s what was pushed in our family,” she said. “Kevin (the couple’s son) also has a very creative business.

“I’m glad I’ve been able to be a conduit in their lives and my cup runneth over,” she said.

Kevin is a partner in a 3D imaging company in Coral Gables and a resident of Temple Terrace. He noted that his sisters are “terribly brilliant” in addition to being artistically gifted.

Kitty earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering and her master’s in fine arts and Jennifer a bachelor’s in communications and master’s in film design.

“They got their artistic ability from my mom and their brains from my father (a retired lawyer),” Kevin joked. “They’ve always been extremely driven…and I’m just very proud of them.”

Kevin’s wife, Renee, said she’s blessed to have married into such a fun-loving and creative family.

“These women can take pieces of most anything and create beautiful pieces of art,” she said.

For more information, visit the O’Neil sisters online.

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