Heading upstate today to visit Kristy and Kristen of Clay Wood & Cotton in Beacon, NY. See how they are thriving against all odds.
I am certain it seems slightly insane to have opened a shop selling handmade good in this economy, when people have more limited spending money. But we’ve survived a year, and, in our small way, grown and flourished. Which is an encouraging sign that there are lots of people out there who value handmade goods, the artistry behind them, the values behind them, the uniqueness of the goods.
Having a brick and mortar shop has allowed us a lot more growth than just having a web shop alone. A large part of buying handmade is making connections, having the customer feel a connection to the artist who created the goods. Being able to talk to the customers face to face helps facilitate that feeling of connection more than any description on a web page—no matter how lengthy or well written.
Beacon, NY where we have our shop, is a small town in New York’s Hudson Valley that has really reinvented itself in the past decade or so. It used to be extremely economically depressed, overrun with drugs, full of all of the problems that small towns can fall in to. Then artists starting moving up from the city, and small galleries started opening up. Then The Dia, Beacon’s modern art museum, opened up in an old factory and brought more artists, tourists, and weekend visitors to town. Now there are young families as well as artists moving here.
There are as many new shops and restaurants opening as galleries. We’re really lucky to have a spot in this town at this moment. There’s a strong community here of creative people who are very loyal to local business. We’re friends with many of the other shop owners on Main Street, and are looking into ways to collaborate with them. For example, we’re putting together holiday gift baskets with the owners of the bakery down the street, where shoppers can get a box filled with home-baked cookies and handmade tea towels.
We have a sign in the shop that asks “Why Buy Handmade?” Our answer… “Nearly every item we sell at Clay Wood & Cotton is made by hand. When you buy handmade, you’re supporting an independent artist. And you are receiving something that has been made with love and care from start to finish. Your money doesn’t go to a huge corporation, it goes directly to the artisan or craftsperson who created your new mug, scarf, napkin, or print. Buying handmade allows these artists to continue to thoughtfully create one-of-a-kind goods. Additionally, many of our artists use recycled, repurposed, or eco-friendly materials, which makes buying handmade good for the planet too.”
We really admire people who have chosen to try to make their living by creating. Both of us came to this business as artists. In addition to Clay Wood & Cotton, we also each run a small handmade business (Kristen with Cakehouse, Kristy with Beacon Bookmarks). So we know it isn’t an easy road. But the idea of people being able to support themselves and their families by doing something they love is an ideal that we like to support.
Clay Wood & Cotton
149 Main Street
Beacon, NY 12508