Travel Crafty: Boston By Meganne Fabrega Paul Revere was crafting in Beantown even before his fabled midnight ride — and now a new generation of crafters is exploring Boston’s hidden gems.
What could be a more perfect name for one of Boston’s craftiest galleries? Magpie, located in up-and-coming Somerville, is a treasure trove of items made by local and national crafters. Aster + Sage bags hang alongside chunky bracelets by Eames & Lola, while 16 Sparrows stationery sits on top of a vintage Royal typewriter. It’s no wonder this cozy shop carries the cream of the craftster crop; owner Dave Sawkowski has Leah Kramer, founder of craftster.org, and Emily Arkin, a founder of Bazaar Bizarre, as part of Magpie’s creative team. Down the street in a light-filled space that had a former life as a classic nickelodeon theater, Grand is more than just a gallery. Owners Jonathan O’Toole, Wendy Friedman, and Adam Larson hold whiskey tastings, yoga demonstrations, art openings, and even had a movie night in the parking lot one hot summer evening. Their stock includes T-shirts by FluffyCo, Thomas Paul totes, iBride polar bear trays, and a collection of cocktail bitters that is not to be missed. If you’re looking to get your Bazaar Bizarre fix more than once a year, your prayers have been answered. Fashion maven Val Fox has started a monthly indie craft market in Cambridge that includes jewelers, clothing designers, potters, crafters, and purveyors of vintage treasures, as well as a DJ spinning tunes as you shop. After a few test dates, The Design Hive was such a big hit that Fox had no choice but to turn the market into a monthly event. “I think the artists would kill me if I didn’t!” Fox said, laughing. Dates and locations may change monthly, so be sure to check out the website before you head over.
Tucked away on a small side street in the heart of downtown Boston is landmark craft store Windsor Button. Don’t be fooled by its nondescript storefront, because inside its old-fashioned exterior you’ll find hundreds of trims, notions, tools for needlework and sewing, and an extensive selection of yarn. One wall of the store is used entirely for their button display, with thousands of buttons from all over the world awaiting a home in your next craft project. Next, wind your way through the Boston Common — the oldest public park in the United States — where you’ll see swan boats and squirrels galore on your way to Beacon Hill, where Rugg Road Paper Company is the answer to every paper lover’s dream. Owners Amy Madanick and Casandra McIntyre comb the globe to create the store’s unique collection of papers, stamps, and stationary. Homemade papers cover the walls on racks that go from the floor to the ceiling, so don’t forget to look up. On the bottom floor of a pink sherbet-colored Victorian in Cambridge is Mind’s Eye Yarns, where owner Lucy Lee holds court over a carefully selected cache of fiber, including her own hand-dyed yarn and ready-to-spin wool. When she’s not blogging, posting patterns on Ravelry, or assisting desperate knitters, she’s helping the Common Cod Fiber Guild with events that cater to the Boston community of fiber enthusiasts.
In the heart of Jamaica Plain, or “JP” as it’s known to the artists that populate this neighborhood of Boston, Amy McClure of Olaria Studio crafts her brilliant porcelain and stoneware jewelry in an old machinist factory that now houses a new generation of craftspeople. Putting her background in pottery to work, McClure designs and hand fabricates the kind of bold pieces that she prefers to wear, focusing on bright color and incorporating textures inspired by flea market finds, old bits of lace, and discarded pieces of metal that less creative people simply labeled “trash.” Recently she’s expanded her collection to include sweet little plates and other ornamental housewares. She welcomes visitors to her studio by appointment, or you can view her work online or at various shops throughout the country. It seems simplistic to say that Marie Galvin of Galvin-ized Headwear makes hats, when what graces the walls of her showroom are one-of-a-kind pieces of art that you just happen to wear on your head. Having learned her craft from old millinery instructional manuals, Galvin set out ten years ago to create a unique collection of modern headwear. Each piece is constructed by hand, using gorgeous feathers, velvets, tulle, and other top-quality materials. Visit her South End showroom for a better look. Sarah Coyne of Egg-A-Go-Go calls Somerville home, and even though she lives in the city she still finds inspiration in nature. From her painting of a friend’s Boston terrier to her note cards featuring a woolly bear caterpillar, she crafts the kind of artwork that’s functional as well as decorative. Her colorful hand-painted pillows and wearable “Pooch Pins” are playful and practical, much like Amy’s attitude toward life. If you’d like to see Amy’s studio, send her an email or visit her during Somerville’s Open Studios tour. About the Author: Meganne Fabrega is a writer and book reviewer in Portsmouth, N.H. She is a regular contributor to Publisher’s Weekly, and has written for The San Francisco Chronicle, The St. Petersburg Times, and Portsmouth Magazine. Her hobbies include selling thrift store items on eBay, knitting, baking, gardening, and many other fun things she never imagined she would ever enjoy so much. She has tried to declutter many times, but can’t seem to part with her collection of tiny, cute things, and finds it easier to believe that decluttering is overrated. She shares her bungalow with her husband, her daughter, two small dogs, and three invincible fish. Visit her blog Tiny Treats for more.