If you’re not tuned in to the local art world, the difference can be easy to miss. “There’s this invisible line between Carmel and the rest of the Peninsula,” screenprinter Chris Powers says. “A painting that can cost $200 in Monterey can cost $6,000 in Carmel.” This invisible line dictates everything in local arts and crafts, from how goods and artworks are produced, priced and branded to who “makes it” in the art world, Powers says. He, along with painter Jessica Ansberry and farmers market entrepreneur Nile Estep, are trying to bridge that gap with their new enterprise, The Shop in Monterey.
The Shop opened its doors in July of this year. It’s part art and sound studio, part commissary kitchen and retail shop. But generally, if you have a craft – be it bath bomb concocting, podcasting, portraiture or candlemaking – it’s likely the Shop will find a way to accommodate you then help you sell it.
Powers explains that artists who want to make it their career have a hard time launching themselves in the market. First, makers need to have space – a studio, gallery or even a food truck – and then have the connections and business acumen to stay afloat and make it their full-time job. “[The Shop] provides a transition point – where we can help you tap into our network and grow your business from whatever that person’s comfort level is,” he says.
The adaptable model is one of the reasons the trio of Powers, Ansberry and Estep went into the lease together in the first place. Ansberry was looking to downsize her studio as shelter-in-place orders forced her to rework the in-person paint parties she had previously been hosting. Estep had been doing pop-up markets for the corporate world, but also had a lot of business and networking know-how. As for Powers he was fresh off a printmaking apprenticeship. “Instead of renting all these little spaces around town, we thought, why don’t we go bigger? It’s one space for everyone,” Powers says.
It’s been going well, with a steady stream of customers buying goods like hand-painted reclaimed vintage denim, homemade candles and custom skateboards at reasonable prices. No $6,000 paintings here.
It’s a part of the arts, crafts and artisanal food market that Powers says the Shop is glad to occupy. “I think now – during lockdown – people are going back to things that are handmade or limited quantity. It’s like people who are buying record players now. They have a nostalgia for things not necessarily of our generation. People want to know the artist, who made it, and support their community.”
Ansberry says the approach starts with listening: “We listen closely to what people need – does the artist need this or that? And what is accessible for customers? Ask us questions, we mean it.”