The sip and paint industry is taking off in West Ashley this year and later this month SpaceCraft will put a new twist on the concept, extending it to the textile arts and other crafts.
Owner Allison Merrick has been making things her whole life, and over the past eight months or so she's decided to turn that love of the "do it yourself" ethos into a viable business model. Her new business, SpaceCraft Studios at 8 Avondale Ave., will offer a wide range of crafting classes led by skilled local crafters.
The company follows a similar concept to the sip and paint industry, which includes pARTy & Paint, Bottles n' Brushes and Wine & Design in the West Ashley area. Clients will be able to sign up for classes online and are encouraged to bring a bottle of wine or a six-pack of their favorite brew to enjoy while they learn new and time-honored techniques.
Merrick plans to dip her metaphorical toe in the water beginning in late June with a soft opening, followed by a grand opening in late August after most people in town have returned from their summer vacations.
"Opening in mid to late June in Charleston will be kind of slow because a lot of Charlestonians are already out of town for the summer," Merrick said. "Having those eight weeks to hammer out all the details will be great."
And there are lots of details.
Catering to the crafting community gives SpaceCraft loads of avenues to explore, from sewing, knitting, crocheting, weaving and felting, to screen-printing, linoleum and vegetable printing, to terrariums, to jewelry-making, to paper-making and bookbinding, to soap-making, glass etching, bicycle maintenance and repair, picture framing, and more.
"We're a DIY modern social crafting studio," Merrick summed up.
SpaceCraft will also include a small retail section that will sell modern, hand-crafted, ready-made gifts that inspire and support the craft classes taught in the workshop and some DIY kits and other gift items. The hand-crafted items will include jewelry, upcycled t-shirts and bags and some frames, along with some other odds and ends, mostly crafted by local artisans.
"It will be primarily local artisans, but not exclusively" Merrick said. "I want to be able to bring in things from around the country to inspire people here."
Customers can also make their own 1-inch buttons. Merrick keeps a stack of vintage magazines and craft publications in the shop for raw materials for the buttons.
The retail side of the business won't stock much in the way of yarn, knitting and crochet needles, scrapbook pages or other crafting supplies though, Merrick said she simply doesn't have the space.
"I feel like a shop like this can't compare to a Michael's, Target or A.C. Moore," she said. "We will have some supplies, but I'm not looking to get into selling paper and fabric and art supplies."
The studio is larger than it appears from the outside, with a few small rooms in the back of the business to stock the supplies necessary for the crafting classes, but it is still a realitively small space, so the classes will be limited to 15 people at the most. Some will need to be smaller depending on the type of class though.
Merrick grew up in Louisiana with a crafty mom and several crafty aunts. After graduating from Louisiana State University in 1999 she moved to San Francisco, Ca., at about the same time the crafting movement began to boom there, and she started joining various craft groups. Merrick met her now husband in San Francisco and moved with him to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
After a year in New Orleans the couple, who were now engaged, wanted to buy a home, but decided not to stay in the Big Easy. Her husband was originally from Charleston and they came here to look for a house. They've been here since 2007.
"I've seen Charleston have a thriving arts community over the last four years," Merrick said. "The crafting community is here too, it's just not cohesive. There are a lot of people making things in their homes though."
Merrick was laid off last October and decided now was the time to take a chance and open a crafting studio, a dream she nurtured for almost a decade. So she headed to the local SCORE chapter, a nonprofit association devoted to helping small businesses get started supported by the Small Business Administration and the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, among others, and got help creating a business plan.
She said the Avondale Point Business District was one of only a few neighborhoods in the Charleston area that would be a good fit for SpaceCraft, and when the studio space became available she felt she had to jump on it.
"There is a community here that supports the arts," she said. "And it's very close to my home."
The afternoon and evening classes will range in price from $20-$40. All supplies necessary for each class are included in the price. Most classes will be single sessions lasting 2-3 hours, but a few may require multiple sessions, Merrick said.
"There are no letter grades," she said. "I want them to be fun, so most of them will be entry level and more concerned with the process than the end product."
"Come in, drink a beer and make something fun," she said. "Have a good time and learn you can make something on your own."