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Women find joy in connecting local artists with consumers

Sheila Bindon left her job as director of HR technology and analytics at McCormick & Company. She calls the transition a mid-life calling to do something different. (Submitted photo)

Sheila Bindon left her job as director of HR technology and analytics at McCormick & Company to participate in craft shows and events for her jewelry business, Silverhill Designs. Now she’s opened a  shop in Hydes that helps connect other artists and craft makers with consumers. (Submitted photo)

In August 2019, Sheila Bindon left her job as director of HR technology and analytics at McCormick & Company. She calls the transition a mid-life calling to do something different.

During the fall and holiday season, she started doing craft shows and events for her jewelry business, Silverhill Designs. “I just loved it,” she said. “I absolutely loved it.”

When January came around, Bindon was unsure of what to do. Her husband asked “‘Well what’s the dream?’” She recalls. “I said ‘100 percent the dream is to open my own shop.’ I think initially he thought I meant just with my jewelry and I said no I really would like to have a place that I could carry a lot of other makers and artists pieces. Kinda of a version of the pop-up shop but in a really curated and beautiful setting.”

Bindon decided to go for her dream. After finding her ideal space inside a historic building that previously served as a train station, she signed the lease in February. Once COVID-19 lockdowns were lifted in the end of May, she opened Chosen, an independent retail shop featuring around 40 artists and makers showcasing homemade and unique items such as home decor, accessories and gifts.

Some of the artists she found through events she did last year while others she reached out to through social media because she thought they would be a good fit for the Hydes-based store.

“What has been really great for me as a business owner is now it has flipped and a lot more people are seeking me out to see if they could be selected to have their stuff in Chosen,” Bindon said.

She believes it is important to have a space to showcase artists and makers.

“I think art is really critical for mental health and then I think there is really a positive benefit of having other people appreciate your work enough that they want to spend their hard-earned dollars on it,” she said. “There is so much benefit to that and I think the maker and artist community in Maryland is really growing and having a community and a place where handmade is celebrated, I think, is really important. It is important for the people that are doing it and it is important for the people that are buying it.”

Vanessa Milio

Vanessa Milio

With an undergraduate and graduate degree in fine arts, Vanessa Milio noticed how some artists and makers loved the process of creating but not the business aspects of marketing and selling their work.

At the same time, she had a lot of friends and neighbors that wanted to support artists but wanted an easy and convenient way to do so.

“You could shop on Etsy but a lot of times if you are buying handmade it really is that experience of seeing it, touching it, feeling it, knowing a part of the story,” she said. Some people also felt pressure to buy when they attend events where the artists are present.

“There were these two groups that needed each other and wanted to help each other but didn’t necessarily know how to connect the dots and so I felt like I could connect those dots,” she said.

Milio opened Taken about five years ago featuring 50 Maryland-based artists and makers. The boutique experience began with hosting eight to 10 pop-up shops a year through central Maryland. Events are hosted usually over two day periods in vacant storefronts or partnerships with other business owners. Though pop-ups have mainly been canceled this year due to COVID-19, Milio anticipates starting them up again when possible.

In mid-November, Taken opened a brick and mortar shop in Towson. Having a home base allows the shop the opportunity to have larger items and pieces of furniture for sale.

“It allows for a different kind of creative,” she said. “It also gives us a bigger footprint to show more people’s work.”

Though the shop is open, they also offer virtual shopping experiences for patrons who may not want to leave their homes. Folks make an appointment and a staff member walks them virtually through the shop — highlighting items they are excited about but also answering questions patrons may have on pieces.

Vanessa Milio opened Taken about five years ago as a way to connect artists and consumers. She began by hosting pop-up shops throughout the year, but opened a brick and mortar shop in Towson in November that allows for larger items and pieces of furniture to be sold. (Submitted photo)

Vanessa Milio opened Taken about five years ago as a way to connect artists and consumers. She began by hosting pop-up shops throughout the year, but opened a brick and mortar shop in Towson in November that allows for larger items and pieces of furniture to be sold. (Submitted photo)

“These have actually been super fun and more popular than I expected,” she said. “… We pull whatever they want for shopping, invoice them and then do curbside pick up.”

Milio recruits artists and makers through word of mouth, social media and referrals. “We are at a point now where people are sending others to us or are reaching out to us through our website and our application process,” she said.

Milio wants to support artists and makers through her store as a commitment to recognizing the power of creativity and the importance of handmade items in our lives.

“People are being more intensional about what they bring into their home and we can tell you where it is made, how it’s made, who made it. That carries weight for people. …I think there is something really special about that. For us, it is all about telling the story. We love the story.”

Women Who Lead This article is featured in The Daily Record’s Women Who Lead: A Woman’s Guide To Business. The mission of the Women Who Lead (formerly Path to Excellence) magazine is to give our readers the opportunity to meet successful women of all ages, backgrounds and beliefs and learn how they define success. Read more from Women Who Lead.

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