Kansas City has long been a city of artists, but the last year and a half of pandemic living led to more people than ever making things like kiln-fired porcelain earrings, custom resin-filled charcuterie trays and fine art prints that forever capture floral arrangements from important life events. After talking to makers around the city, we’ve cultivated a new collection of art and goods. From plant-derived perfume oils to hand-painted ceramic teeth, our list of makers highlights the coolest projects happening around KC right now.
What’s a Maker? We use “maker” as an all-encompassing term for highly skilled and creative individuals—artists, designers, craftspeople and artisans. Most, but not all, make things by hand.
Whitney Manney (@whitneymanney) knew she wanted to get into fashion at the age of thirteen, but it wasn’t until a trip to New York that things started to click. “I went to art school and quickly noticed my strengths in color and pattern,” Manney says. “I just didn’t figure out how to put the pieces together until a study trip to NYC.”
Manney’s clothing translates street art and cultural movements into wearable art. She’s inspired by the stories and cultural shifts created by those often forgotten by the mainstream. “Everyone deserves to have their stories told, and I hope that I can convey some of that narrative through pattern, color and texture,” Manney says.
Manney describes herself as a “more is more” kind of person. “I’m not sure I have a specific word for how I dress, but just know if I’m showing up then I’m showing out,” she says.Some of her favorite garments to create are jackets, which she likes because they’re easy to mix in with existing wardrobes. “I love designing and stitching jackets,” she says. “I think a real fly, well-cut jacket can make a look come alive.” Her jackets start at around a hundred bucks, and you can shop her creations online at whitneymanney.com. —MARY HENN
Yvonne and Mitchel
Upcycled Clothing Caylin
Yvonne Willis and Jared Mitchel Armstrong founded Yvonne and Mitchel (yvonneandmitchel.com) in Kansas City with sustainability and secondhand fabrics in mind. They create completely upcycled clothing by breathing new life into thrift store finds.
“Our inspiration mostly comes from nature and, most importantly, the desire to protect and preserve it,” Willis says.Their high-fashion pieces range from around $30 to $200. The duo source, design, sew, model and photograph everything themselves in their apartment, making every design completely unique. —SHAYLA GAULDING
If you’re lucky enough to have Elizabeth Wilson grant you a peek behind the pro-verbial curtain at her Westwood shop, Asiatica (asiaticakc.com), you’ll find shelves that hold hundreds of bundles of fabric lined up in rainbow order, each meticulously bound with a ribbon. Almost every one of these bundles of cloth once belonged to a kimono, a traditional Japanese garment.
“Kimono is a modular construction, so the fabric is very narrow, twelve inches wide for the most part,” Wilson says. “And you can easily recycle it because it has straight seams and straight sleeves.”
Since starting her shop in the seventies, Wilson has made an annual expedition to Japan to shop secondhand stores and meet with sophisticated kimono dealers to handpick kimonos, most of which were produced in the forties or before.
Once a kimono makes its way to the shop on Rainbow Boulevard, it’s evaluated by her team of talented designers and seamstresses and taken apart via seam ripper, and every stain or weak piece of fabric is flagged. That fabric is then given new life in the form of anything from scarves and dresses to skirts and blouses. —NICOLE KINNING
Hot Tub Crochet Machine
You remember those granny-square crochet blankets that draped across the arm of every chair in your parents’ home during the eighties? The ones with black borders around neon orange and green and blue shapes that seemed to go with nothing and everything at the same time? Local fiber artist Adrienne Bandy does. Her pieces, sold under the brand name Hot Tub Crochet Machine, take “grandma-chic” to another level.
Fittingly, Bandy learned needlecrafts from her grandparents as a child, and her interest in crochet never waned. On her Instagram (@hot.tub.crochet.machine), find everything from throw blankets and knit pompom hats to crocheted dresses, tops, tote bags and cat toys. The more challenging the pattern, the better—and Bandy rarely makes the same thing twice. An admitted “fiber snob,” she works with eco-friendly fibers made from cotton or bamboo and secondhand yarns from Scraps KC.
“The magic of creating something beautiful with just a hook and thread is truly special,” she says. “It’s a therapeutic art. There’s something new to learn every day, and the possibilities are endless. You can literally crochet anything anywhere!
”Shop ready-to-wear garments via Bandy’s Depop online (depop.com/hottubvintagemachine). Commissions are available via Instagram. —NATALIE TORRES GALLAGHER
Hand-Sewn Linen Quilts
So many traditional crafts have faded from the modern ethos—glassblowing, woodcarving, blacksmithing. Not quilting, though. And in the hands of Alyx Jacobs, this enduring art form has a new look.
Jacobs’ studio is usually covered in fabric scraps and ink splashes. This space is her sanctuary, where she creates indigo-dyed and hand-sewn linen quilts using the traditional Japanese sewing technique of Sashiko, a type of embroidery that reinforces fabric. On her website (alyxjacobs.com), Jacobs showcases her creations—six-by-five-foot quilts cast in shades of wistful blues and grays, stitched with squares, circles, scallops and hypnotic lines.“Indigo dyeing is unlike any other natural dye,” she says. “The act of dipping into an indigo vat and watching the indigo oxidize and the color change right in front of your eyes is truly magical.
”Jacobs’ quilts are usually commissioned: The process is detailed and personal to her, which is why she prefers to directly interact with the person who is purchasing rather than selling to strangers via Etsy. Ultimately, she hopes “that people can see beauty in the simplicity of the sustainable materials that I use in my quilts.” —NATALIE TORRES GALLAGHER
W.H. Ranch Dungarees
Ryan Martin, the founder of W.H. Ranch Dungarees (@whranchdungarees) in Olathe, began sewing at seven years old and started selling lightweight denim ties on Etsy before growing his craft into a business that has made jeans for celebs like Lyle Lovett and Kevin Costner. “I wanted my jeans to fit like Dwight Yoakam’s, and you cannot find those off the shelf,” Martin says.He makes every pair by hand, reconstructing the crotch so that the jeans are flexible for movement. Martin’s jeans start at $375 for a standard pair. In the near future, you’ll be able to find W.H. Ranch Dungarees in western stores throughout Kansas.—KAYLA SZYMANSKI
Environmentally Friendly Blankets
After getting laid off from advertising, Karrie Dean decided to turn to art and founded an eco-friendly blanket-making business, Happy Habitat (happyhabitat.net), in Kansas City. She draws inspiration for her colorful and creative designs from everywhere. “Inspiration is everywhere if you’re open to it,” Dean says. “Close your eyes and it’s lyrics in a song or nostalgia from the smell of fresh baked goods. Open your eyes and it’s bugs, wind and wheat. Inspiration is geometry in Mother Nature’s creations.
”Happy Habitat’s throws are ethically made with recycled cotton, American-made wool and local alpaca and hand-dyed linen. Her cozy and sustainable creations start at $165 for a full-size throw.—SHAYLA GAULDING
KC Wood and Resin Boards
Tracey Vaeth was trying to fix her dining room table when she was struck with the concept for her business. “[The table] was not kiln-dried properly, and the humidity from our house created big cracks in the wood,” Vaeth says. “So I got some epoxy, made a mess, and it turned out amazing.”
After the happy epoxy accident, Vaeth had the idea to use the resin to make Christmas gifts for five of her closest friends. She made charcuterie trays, and her friends’ reception of them was overwhelming. Soon after that, Vaeth began taking orders from Facebook and Instagram posts, and she received her first corporate order from Encompas Furniture. She’s been busy making wood and resin boards ever since. Vaeth uses InDesign to create and lay out the designs of her boards, then she gets to work cutting the wood. The creative process happens in her home studio and garage, what Vaeth calls her “lab and mill.” “I have an amazing support structure of family and friends,” Vaeth says. “My husband will get up at 5 am and cut a project out before he goes to his job because I have been on my feet the day before.” When business picks up around the holidays, Vaeth’s support system kicks into overdrive. “They believe in me and think what I have been doing for almost two years now is pretty darn cool.”
In addition to charcuterie boards and trays, Vaeth makes petite boards, stovetop covers, countertop covers and table covers. Each one comes custom-made and has its own blend of elements and layers. Boards at 40 Grit KC (40gritkc.com) vary in price, depending on the size and complexity of the design. Small-scale boards start at $120.—MARY HENN
Matt Castilleja (@mattcastilleja) is continuously pushing the limits of what physical materials can do within and beyond the walls of his River Market studio. The furniture maker’s background in architecture and studio art sparked a desire to combine different styles of furniture for his collection of modern and minimalist tables, chairs, credenzas and more. “I pull a lot of concepts from ancient buildings and primitive methods of construction and work those ideas with a more contemporary design lens,” Castilleja says. “I don’t believe in anything new—everything you see is just an interpretation of something else.”
Castilleja uses solid marble components, woods and metals to create boutique pieces. His work can be seen around Kansas City, at high-end showroom Una Malan in Los Angeles and in projects for several NYC interior designers. You can see more of his work online at mattcastilleja.com.—MEGAN FOLMSBEE
Anita Koul’s business started, well, around when the pandemic started. Kufukaa (kufukaa.com) began in late 2019 as a global marketplace with clothing and home goods made by artists in countries such as Kenya, Qatar, Taiwan and India. But when the pandemic hit early the next year, Koul quickly realized that there were artists in her own neighborhood who needed support.
So she recruited a team—of Kansas City refugee artists, specifically—to make masks when the need was high, some to sell and oth-ers to be donated to hospitals in Kansas City and New York (where she lived until moving to KC in 2016).
Although making masks was successful and much-needed at the time, Koul knew that it wasn’t a permanent niche for Kufukaa. So, with fabric and sewing as the backbone of Kufukaa’s business thus far, Koul and her team started to produce custom aprons. “I cook at home a lot and realized I didn’t have any good-looking aprons,” she says. To get the word out about her aprons, she started cold-emailing restaurants.
“The pandemic didn’t give me any time to communicate with anyone, and it didn’t give me any time to go and meet people,” she says. “I started using free platforms like Instagram. I figured out who the top twenty local restaurants in Kansas City were, wrote to them and explained that we were local manufacturers creating custom-made aprons, and we would really love to create something for their chefs. The response I got was something beyond expectation.” —NICOLE KINNING
The furniture Andy Thacker produces under his brand, A-Frame Design (@aframe_design), echoes Scandinavian and Japanese design influences: They are bold and modern but also delicate and simple. Much of his work—an elegant white oak storage bench and matching armoire, coffee tables, cabinetry, barn doors—is commissioned, but Thacker is also currently developing a retail line. Although he can create pretty much anything out of wood, his path to furniture making was not a straight line. Thacker went to architecture school, where he spent most of the time feeling like he was going about his coursework all wrong.
“Most of my classmates would start with a big idea [for a building] and work their way down,” he says, “but I would always start with a small detail and then the design would go around that.”
After graduating, Thacker spent five years working as an architect. In that time, he realized that he was drawn more to the things inside the buildings—namely, furniture—than he was to the buildings themselves. His interest wasn’t all that shocking: His grandfather and great-grandfather had both been woodworkers, and Thacker inherited many of their tools.
“I came into a family profession through the side door,” he says with a laugh.—NATALIE TORRES GALLAGHER
Zen eARTh Studios
Redwood Desks and Tables
Tiffany and Micah Zen, owners and artists behind Zen eARTh Studios (zenearthstudios.com), draw inspiration from the outdoors. Their adventures in Redwood and other national parks across the U.S. fuel the production of their various works. “We drive to the redwoods in Northern California and hunt around for mills that supply red-wood from down trees in private residences,” Tiffany says. “We then bring it back to Kansas City and make desks, coffee tables, side tables, dining tables and nightstands. We bring it back so the Midwest can enjoy redwood in their beautiful homes.” While the studio primarily sells furniture and paintings, Tiffany has recently shifted her attention to ceramics. “I get inspired by how clouds form, how water moves and how land is layered and try to make those patterns onto my pottery with colorful dots. I use a metal stylus to dip into the underglaze and then press it onto the clay. I have to dip it every time I make a new dot. I find the mediation of it so pleasing,” Tiffany says. The couple’s pieces can be found at Shop Local KC and pop-ups like The Strawberry Swing Indie Craft Fair and the Park Place Farmers Market. —MEGAN FOLMSBEE
Jake Allen (@allencraftkc) knew he wanted to be a wood worker after reading a book about the famous American architect and furniture maker George Nakashima. After ten years of working in a cabinet shop, Allen followed his dream and began his own custom furniture business with his brother, James, creating unique furniture and wood products by hand.“I have always loved to build things and create,” Allen says.
The Allen brothers’ pieces average around $700 but can be as low as $200. Allen Craft’s products are completely designed and hand-built at Bella Patina in the West Bottoms and available for purchase on First Fridays. —SHAYLA GAULDING
Crown & Heart
After a decade of teaching elementary school art, Sara Kharatyan (@crownandheartkc) began making jewelry as a way to create art outside of school. Never having made jewelry before, Kharatyan jumped in feet first by applying for The Strawberry Swing Indie Craft Fair. She had a few prototypes and a vision: “I knew I wanted to make fun, colorful pieces that I could wear with anything.” Kharatyan isn’t making your standard clay earrings; she cuts her unique shapes from large slabs of porcelain. “I felt like most of the jewelry I saw for sale was either expensive fine jewelry made with precious metals or cheap trendy jewelry made from plastic,” Kharatyan says. “I wanted to create an affordable hybrid of classic, modern pieces that were unique.” She starts by collecting images that inspire her. Then, when she has time to create new styles, Kharatyan combines different patterns, shapes and colors in experimental sketches. Once the sketches are complete, she makes paper templates to put on the slabs and cuts the jewelry pieces. After being cut and smoothed, the porcelain shapes get multiple layers of glaze before being kiln-fired to achieve a unique, ultra-glossy look. All metal elements are added after the shaping, glazing, firing and drying processes. It takes a minimum of two weeks to complete a batch of Crown & Heart Jewelry (crownandheartkc.com). Kharatyan’s wearable art pieces start at $19 for hair clips and earrings. —MARY HENN
Katherine Blauwiekel of Anne-Marie Designs (annemarieshop.com) started her jewelry business as a way to cope with postpartum anxiety and depression. What started as a way to keep her hands busy soon turned into her passion, and Blauwiekel expanded her business to make luxury accessories for bridal and everyday wear. She is best known for her sculpted floral designs, which she makes using only an X-Acto knife and a shape cutter.
“Almost every piece is one of a kind, from the florals used to the way I marble my clay,” she says. “You know that when you order from me you’re the only one who has that shape and style.Anne-Marie Design’s earrings start at $12 for studs and have been featured in fashion magazines such as Vogue, Vanity Fairand Harper’s Bazaar.—SHAYLA GAULDING
Shea Made Earrings
Rainbow Clay Earrings
Shea Ehresman began making earrings as a hobby in July of 2019. After selling them to family and friends, she realized a business was in the making and Shea Made Earrings (@shea.made) was born. “It brings me a lot of joy to see my art being worn,” Ehresman says. Her handmade polymer clay earrings come in a variety of different colors and designs, but Ehresman’s signature design is her rainbow pair of earrings. She uses social media like Insta-gram and TikTok to boost her business. Shea Made Earrings can be purchased online (sheamadeshop.com)and in stores at Made in KC. Her rainbow earrings start at $20. —SOFIA TEWELL
Made by Courtney Taylor
Jewelry Dishes and Earrings
Courtney Taylor started making jewelry dishes and earrings in Kansas City as a creative outlet when she fell in love with clay. That led to her launching Made by Courtney Taylor (@madebycourtneytaylor). She strives to bring a minimalist, boho style to her pieces by using texture and earthy colors. “I focus on bringing pieces that you haven’t seen before but also reflecting the style within my brand,” Taylor says. Her earrings and jewelry dishes, available on her Instagram and Etsy shop (etsy.com/shop/madebycourtneytaylor), range from $20 to $28. —SHAYLA GAULDING
After Another Studio
Polymer Clay Jewelry
As a teen, Alyissa Johnson made and sold jewelry to neighborhood kids, charging fifty cents for threaded pony beads or charm necklaces made from reclaimed pieces. Johnson has always liked making with her hands, and in 2019, after starting her art print business, she returned to jewelry. “This time, I chose polymer clay as my medium,” Johnson says. “I love the colors you can achieve. You can go big without adding much weight, and you can incorporate other elements like metal, plastic, glitter or stone.
”It begins with color. Johnson selects a color palette first, then sketches the jewelry designs on her iPad. Each unique color is made by mixing clays together to create a slab. Johnson cuts shapes from the slab before baking, sanding and buffing each one. After that, charms or hooks are added to each piece. The inspiration for Johson’s designs comes from nature, floral shapes, insects and celestial bodies. Such inspirations can be found in her art prints as well. Johnson loves bright colors, hard edges and geometric patterns. Many of her earrings are designed after her artistic interests and are accented with gold, textured or patterned. You can see her designs on Instagram (@shopafteranother) and shop all of her creations on her website (shopafteranother.com). Stud earrings start at $15.—MARY HENN
Pink Lipps Cosmetics
Makeup From Quality Ingredients
Kenyata Gant knew she was meant to follow in her parents’ footsteps and be an entrepreneur. In 2011, when her daughter began asking for lip gloss, Gant decided to use her love of makeup and create her own.
What started as a project in her kitchen for her daughter soon turned into Pink Lipps Cosmetics (pinklippscosmetics.com). Gant continued working her corporate job, but when she became the most requested makeup artist in the metro area, she decided to take a leap of faith and dive into the world of makeup full time in 2015, opening the Pink Lipps storefront a year later. “I knew I had to work for myself in order to feel fulfilled and to feel accomplished,” she says. “Quitting corporate was the best thing for me. I was finally able to walk in my true passion and do things wholeheartedly because I loved making people look and feel beautiful.
”Pink Lipps, which gets its name from Gant’s nickname, Pinky, is a Black- and woman-owned business and prides itself on having a healthier solution to beauty with products that are vegan, paraben-free and gluten-free. The products last up to sixteen hours and are lightweight and non-drying. Pink Lipps offers makeovers, beauty consultations and cosmetic products such as its signature lip glosses, sticks and liners, which are available in up to twelve beautiful and bold colors and start at $10. —SHAYLA GAULDING
Buff City Soap
Amy Davenport, manager of Buff City Soap (@buffcitysoap.leessummit) in Lee’s Summit, has recently opened the first Buff City Soap in the KC area. All of their soaps are made in store and are completely plant-based. “We utilize the creativity of the team and come up with some pretty dynamic fragrances and designs,” Davenport says. Their standard-size bricks of soap, cut in store, start at five and a half ounces for $7, and their coconut oil-based laundry soap, customized with your favorite fragrance, is $18. —SHAYLA GAULDING
For Strange Women
Plant-Based Oil Perfumes
The first perfume Jill McKeever made for herself was called A Tincture for Strange Women. It was an earthy, subtle fragrance made with natural plant extracts, CO2 extracts and essential oils—nothing like the synthetic department-store-counter variety. Although the twelve scents in her line are unisex, the name For Strange Women made sense when McKeever launched her business in 2009.
“The idea was that not all women want to smell light and floral,” she says. “I didn’t want it to be a ‘This is going to make you sexy’ thing. It’s supposed to be a personal comfort. Perfume has different meanings for everyone, and when you’re working with natural materials, you’re accessing peoples’ minds, memories and limbic systems. These scents can relax, energize or comfort.
”Astral Projection—a soft perfume layered with verveine, chamomile, sage and lavender—is designed to complement a peaceful slumber, though McKeever says it can help ease daytime anxiety, too. A dab of French Oak Moss on your wrists or neck grounds you deep into the earth—a good complement to meditation. Each one of McKeever’s potions features a combination of around twenty different plant-derived oils, some featuring rare materials like Vietnamese oude (a wood fungus), sandal-wood-based Indian attar or Osmanthus flower.
Purchase fragrances online at forstrangewomen.com. For those who want a scent uniquely their own, McKeever also offers custom perfumes; in-person consultations are available by appointment only at the For Strange Women studio in the Crossroads. —Natalie Torres Gallagher
EJ Wood started making candles in 2016 to help pay for college before turning his side gig into a full-time business in 2017. Wood and his partner, Emily, create one hundred-per-cent natural soy wax and cotton core candles at their storefront, the Outpost, in Liberty, Missouri, and are one of the few trans-owned businesses in the Kansas City area. “Our inspiration comes from the outdoors,” Wood says. “We are deeply inspired by natural things, and you can smell it in the scents we create.”
Untamed Supply’s ethically sourced scents are available as travel candles for $14 or jar candles from $24. Untamed Supply (untamedsupply.com) also lets you bring in a container of your own to create a unique, custom candle. —SHAYLA GAULDING
Kansas City Textile Arts Center
Kansas City Textile Arts Center is a grassroots, artist-run and inclusive space in the Strawberry Hill district that offers small classes and workshops in textile arts. You can find their schedule for upcoming classes at kctextileartscenter.com
KC Clay Guild
KC Clay Guild promotes ceramic arts by offering studio classes and ceramic workshops in the Waldo neighborhood. They also provide gallery space and outreach programs to encourage participation from all members of the community. You can find details about their events online at kcclayguild.org.
Emily Reinhardt, (theobjectenthusiast.com) strives to make ceramic pieces that aid people in their daily rituals, from a cup of coffee to a totem on an altar. “I want them to become a vessel that brings the user what they’re looking for,” Reinhardt says. “Perhaps it helps them to slow down and practice mindfulness or becomes their favorite addition to a sacred space.
”Reinhardt makes every piece by hand in her Crossroads studio, a process she believes gives her pieces their unique touch. “You can see my finger marks or slight imperfections, and I want them to be there,” she says. “Those marks are part of what makes a hand-made piece of ceramics special.”
Object Enthusiast was recently featured among other Etsy artists in Nicole Richie’s House of Harlow 1960 line, an experience that Reinhardt says helped her grow as an artist. Reinhardt’s pieces range from $12 for an incense holder to $225 for a ceramic wall hanging. —SHAYLA GAULDING
Ceramic Teeth and More
Kimberly LaVonne knows a lot about strangers’ teeth, more than she probably wants to know. But teeth—and feet, intestines and other anatomical imagery—feature regularly in her ceramic work, and people feel compelled to tell her their oral surgery horror stories.
“Everyone has sort of a unifying bad dream or experience they want to share,” she says with a laugh.
LaVonne hand-builds mugs, planters, dishes and other vessels, inspired by the ornate reliquaries she observed in cathedrals on a trip to Italy and the traditional pots she grew up seeing in her native Panama. Her color palette is somber—mostly black with gold accents—and her lines are firm and decisive, even when etching detailed portraits onto vases.
“When you get something handmade, you’re not getting a pot,” she says. “You’re getting a piece of what that person can do and a piece of their story.”
Shop LaVonne’s work or contact her via Etsy (etsy.com/shop/klavonnestudio).— NATALIE TORRES GALLAGHER
Katherine Moes began her pottery business (katherinemoes.com) in Seattle before moving to Clay County, Missouri, three years ago. All of her pieces are made by hand, thoughtfully crafted with organic shapes and textures and often in Moe’s favorite shades of sand, earth, red clay and dark desert rocks.
“People tell me that they get a sense of calm, peace and gentleness in my work,” Moes says. “My hope is to make pieces that can bring an understated and intentional beauty to your home.”
Moes’ pieces, made in her studio space at Belger Arts Center, include pots, sculptures and vases starting at $30. —SHAYLA GAULDING
High Noon Pottery
When Ashton Bethel started making home decor in her house, she didn’t know her pandemic-era hobby would turn into her new business, High Noon Pottery (highnoonpottery.com). Bethel makes every piece with the eighties and nineties in mind, striving to match the quirky and colorful aesthetic of the movie theaters and malls during those decades. “Specifically, I think of this really run-down movie theater from the eighties in my hometown, Wichita, called The Palace,” Bethel says. Her nostalgia-themed cups and mugs start around $40. Each of her functional ceramic homewares is completely unique. —SHAYLA GAULDING
Maker Village is a shared woodworking and metalworking shop in Midtown that offers workspace, memberships and classes. Saturdays are open-shop sessions at Maker Village, and anyone can utilize the equipment during that time. They have monthly intro classes and higher-level courses as well. See more at makervillagekc.org.
Cherry Pit Collective
Cherry Pit Collective is a studio space for women and non-binary artists, makers and creatives in Kansas City. They offer classes and events for skill sharing and collaboration. Learn more at cherrypitcollective.com.
The Strawberry Swing
The Strawberry Swing is a Midwest makers market and celebration of the handmade movement. The Strawberry Swing Indie Craft Fair showcases high-quality vendors in an inclusive and accessible environment. You can shop The Strawberry Swing’s curated online marketplace at shoplocalkc.com.
Morgan Isern’s mother taught her how to cross-stitch as a kid, but it wasn’t until the pandemic hit and Isern needed a new hobby that she picked up embroidery as an adult. “I pursued several creative outlets throughout my life—photography, painting, you name it,” Isern says. “But when Covid-19 hit and I found myself quarantined at home for months on end, I needed something to keep me busy.” Isern started with an embroidery kit she found online. After realizing she could do the work on her own, she ordered supplies and tried her hand at custom embroidery, recreating wedding bouquets for friends of hers who were recently married. Now, after a year and a half of creating custom embroidery pieces, Isern spends an average of fifteen to twenty-five hours on each piece, and each one is done completely by hand. In addition to custom bouquets, Isern embroiders homes and pet portraits. “I think pets are my favorite,” she says. “Although they are by far the most tedious to recreate, it’s very rewarding to do so. Many of the pets that I capture are those that have passed away whose owners are looking for a keepsake to remember them by. As an animal-lover myself, that’s really special to me.
”Most of Isern’s creations are made to order. You can see her work on Instagram (@isernembroidery) and DM her for your own custom creation. Each of her pieces is priced individually, but most of her creations range from $80 to $150. Isern hopes to attend an in-person market or craft show in the near future to showcase her embroidery art. —MARY HENN
Spur & Serif
Handmade Signage and Print
Schalk Creations were a gateway into all kinds of lettering for Andrea Bosnak (@spur.and.serif), who handmakes signage around Kansas City. Bosnak has been creating art since childhood. “I became aware that I wasn’t the only person who valued well-made design and hand-generated work,” she says.While Bosnak works with local businesses to create hand-painted, lettering-focused branding, she also makes enamel pins, prints and greeting cards. “The greetings cards are all hand-drawn on my iPad, and then I print and cut them myself,” Bosnak says. “I really try to do everything I can by hand.”
You can purchase Bosnak’s handmade cards and other creations online (andreabosnak.com). Cards start at $8 and pins start at $10. You can find her designs around the city at places like Rye KC and Cafe Europa. Bosnak also offers limited holiday-themed lettering workshops—you can find out more about those events on her website. —MARY HENN
Commonwild Flag Co.
One-Of-A-Kind Flags and Banners
For Taylor Triano, Commonwild Flag Co. (commonwild.com) started as a happy accident.
“A friend asked if I could make something that would cover a TV in their restaurant—a flag, banner, whatever you want to call it,” she says. And she took the task seriously, always willing to take on a new challenge.
Before Triano knew it, she was making signs and flags left and right and found herself with a booth at art fairs and pop-ups around town. She had a solid collection going, but she found herself getting more excited at the thought of designing something custom for a business rather than making pieces in bulk and hoping they’d sell. “I’m far more interested in quality, not quantity, and creating well-curated, well-made, custom and one-of-a-kind pieces,” she says.
Clients come to Commonwild for their banner or flag needs, whether they have a design in mind or want Triano’s creativity to run free. You know The Town Company flags waving outside of Hotel Kansas City? Those are Common-wild commissions—as are flags and banners posted up at The Wild Way Coffee, J. Rieger & Co. and new Crossroads bar and deli King G.
A recent favorite commission of Triano’s was a five-foot-ten wall hanging to be displayed in Lake Lotawana’s city hall, where she had free rein in designing the piece herself.
“It’s so easy to spend far less money and order something cheap on the internet,” she says. “You get what you pay for. When you invest in artists, you get so much more reward. It’s a community built around supporting and hoping for all of our joint successes.” —NICOLE KINNING
Brady Vest became interested in letterpress printing while attending the Kansas City Art Institute. Old letterpress equipment was transferred to his department after being unused and dust-covered for years. Letterpress is essentially the process of printing from a raised surface that is inked. “While printing, it also has the quality of impressing into paper,” Vest says. “That’s what I’ve always loved about it, and that’s just not possible with other printing processes.
”Vest loves to make posters the most, mainly for concerts and events. Currently, he is intrigued by the artistic combination of the accidental and the messy juxtaposed with attention to symmetry and order. You can see Vest’s work on Instagram (@hammerpress) and online at hammerpress.net. The most popular Hammerpress products are the greeting cards, which start at $5. Hammerpress posters start at $20. —MARY HENN
Tufted Fiber Creations
If you ever find the opportunity to be in a room where the walls are covered by Paulina Otero’s tufted fiber creations, don’t hesitate. At first, it may feel a bit like you’re walking into a funhouse: Her abstract wall hangings are large, averaging six feet tall and four feet wide, and cast in vibrant carnival colors. They are playful, fantastical—and even a little familiar.
Otero draws inspiration from her native Cancún, where her childhood was full of tropical weather and days spent playing in the sand and swimming in the ocean. Her latest collection echoes shapes found in the water: bulbous fisheyes, squiggly coral reefs, wavy algae. And although her work process looks a lot like rug making, the pieces have far more in common with paintings. There is no denying they belong under a spotlight.
“At first I thought, ‘I want to make rugs, but I don’t want people to step on them’ because I put so much time into making these pieces and I was more interested in seeing them on the wall,” Otero says. “I started calling them tufted wall hangings because a lot of people want more texture in their space and not just on the floors.”
As beautiful—and trendy—as dried flowers are, they just don’t capture the same essence as they did when they were alive.
Emily Walters came up with a flower preservation alternative with her business Everbloom Photo (everbloomphoto.com)—she arranges flowers while they’re still fresh and photographs them into fine art prints. The world of flowers isn’t new to her, either; she worked in wedding and event floral design for nine years and, until recently, taught floral education classes.
“Last year, I was just kind of looking for a different creative outlet,” she says. “I love flowers so much—they’re kind of just part of who I am—and I’ve loved photography for years. I decided to combine those two loves and start creating floral arrangements and capturing flowers in a format that would make them last forever because, as we all know, they don’t last.”
And Walters already has the entrepreneur thing down pat: She also owns Hazel and Ollie, a handmade jewelry company targeted to children.
“I had my first daughter in 2014,” Walters says. “As one does when they have their first kid, they want to buy them all the cute things. I was looking at jewelry for kids and I just wasn’t finding anything that I liked that was modern and eclectic and colorful.” So she filled that gap in the market.
Hazel and Ollie accessories are stocked at local stores like Halls and Pink Antlers, and Walters recently dove into making modern and eclectic adult jewelry, too. —NICOLE KINNING
Innovative artists and businesswomen Kelly Porter and Bridgett Cochran of Porter Teleo have shown Kansas City creators what it means to make it. Their unique hand-painted wallcoverings and textiles are museum quality and have caught the attention of many, including designer Courtney McLeod, who featured a Porter Teleo Japanese tea paper in her in-home Architectural Digest spotlight last year. “One of the most thrilling aspects of the work that we do is the opportunity to find ourselves in the offices of our clients, who happen to be the most critically acclaimed designers in the world,” Cochran says. “The work that you see at that level of design is what fuels Kelly and I to continue pushing boundaries—not only with our designs but also with the colorizations that we create them in.” Porter Teleo is eager to launch more residential fabrics and other new products online at porterteleo.com. —MEGAN FOLMSBEE
Illustrations and Art Prints
Before pursuing art, Socorro Rico started as a nursing major. “My parents are migrants from Mexico and expected their children to have ‘wholesome’ careers,” she says. As part of her degree program, Rico was required to enroll in at least one art class, so she signed up for beginner drawing. That decision changed the entire course of her career path. After drawing, Rico enrolled in screen printing and soon found herself leaving her small town for a printmaking workshop in South Dakota. Rico received a scholarship from Purdue University and has been making art ever since. Currently, Rico manages the Cherry Pit Collective in Kansas City. Her illustrations are inspired by coloring books, children’s books and tattoo flash. You can see such influences in Rico’s drawings of animals and plants. You can find more of Rico’s work on her Instagram (@socorroricos), and you can purchase her art at society6.com/cocosrico. Most of her commissioned requests are sent via email, which you can find on her website (socorrorico.wordpress.com). —MARY HENN