A new rallying point for local artists and creators will open today in the heart of downtown.
The Makers Loft, 119 ½ E. Washington St., will sell a variety of arts and crafts items, including home-decorating items and clothing. The second floor retail outlet will host products and designs from Iowa City talents.
Founder Simeon Talley said he was able to explore the local artist community through his work with such businesses as Little Village and with enterprises, including Flyover Fest and Middle of Nowhere music festival. By being immersed in the community, Talley found different ideas and methods to apply to The Makers Loft.
“Opening up a storefront in the downtown Iowa City area is costly. For many, the costs are prohibitive,” Talley said in an email to The Daily Iowan. “Solving that problem, or at least making it more accessible for local makers and folks who are creating physical products to sell their goods in a store, was the starting point for the business.”
Monica Berry, the seamstress and designer behind her business, Cielo Goods, is one of Makers Loft’s partners who will sell her products at the store. An essay reader for Pearson and craftsperson by night, she makes homemade clothing for women and children and handmade “self-care” goods for aches and pains such as neck wraps and eye pillows.
“This really puts us in a real store,” Berry said. “It gives us a little bit of credibility, a lot more visibility.”
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Previously, Berry worked for Revival and The Shop in Kalona. She was contacted by Talley, and the two of them brought other local art vendors into their project, many of them Berry’s friends.
Berry, who has been sewing for 18 years, had considered starting her own business but was put off by the expenses and the work of running the store. She said she preferred the creative process, marketing, and communication with customers.
The items Berry is most excited for customers to see is her “Moonchild Kitty” T-shirts, a celestial theme from a nickname her mother gave her as a child.
“The most important thing is in working with the right people and having a great team,” Talley said in the email. “Starting a business from the ground up is a lot of work. And you really can’t do these things by yourself.”
The Makers Loft’s manager and fellow contributing artist Kristi Pearson owned a store of her own similar to The Makers Loft a year ago in Iowa City, and Talley reached out to her to see how she should contribute.
Pearson works in a wide range of project types, including printmaking, painting, jewelry-making, and working with natural materials such as bones.
Talley said their hope is that the store allows for local makers and artisans to grow their businesses and reach more customers and that those customers can come to Iowa City as a source for their arts and crafts needs.
“We all have the same idea of what we want this space to be; it’s just about making it work that way,” Pearson said. “We all want this community-based, artist-driven, all-local, all-handmade, very much Iowa City.”