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Business of Craft 

Retailers are looking to a handmade future

Designer labels are so 1990s. These days, shoppers want goods with labels that say things like "handmade by" or "made in Idaho."

The craft movement long ago left the confines of the art fair or the church bazaar. Now, it's a mainstream retail force, and businesses across the country are jumping on board, stocking their shelves with creations made by hometown crafters. The Treasure Valley is no different, with several businesses now either incorporating craft in their offerings or dedicating themselves entirely to the wonders of craft.

Many credit the popular website etsy.com with providing a catalyst for the movement. For many crafters, it was the first outlet they had to reach a larger market. Now stores are running with the idea and bringing the goods directly to consumers.

When the White Pine Boutique (1306 Second St., S., Nampa) opened its doors roughly two years ago, locally made goods were always part of the plan.

Owner Diana Shafer said the demand for handmade items has been growing, a trend she attributes to the fact that crafting has become more "normal" and more widely accepted by the general population.

"Etsy has definitely become a household name," she said. "It's changed everything in the last 10 years."

Shafer works with between six and seven local artists on a consignment basis, featuring jewelry, accessories and a limited amount of clothing in her downtown Nampa boutique, alongside more mass-market offerings.

"I wanted a mix of the two," she said. "[The clothing options] are enhanced by the funky, locally made things."

Part of the attraction for shoppers is that their new treasure won't be found in mass quantities in the local mall, but Shafer said people also like being able to say that it was made by a specific person nearby.

Idaho Indie Works (106 N. Sixth St., Ste. C, Boise) has taken the idea of Etsy and given it a brick-and-mortar home, where crafters can combine resources and shoppers can browse a department store of craft.

Idaho Indie works operates as an artists' cooperative: each crafter pitches in for rent but keeps all of the profit from their sales.

Millie Hilgert, artist and owner of Idaho Indie Works, said the handmade phenomenon is national, adding that Etsy happened to hit the market at the right time to take advantage of craft-hungry consumers.

Many of the artists who are a part of Idaho Indie Works started at Etsy (and some continue to sell online), but the business has grown to include work from 21 artists, as well as offer classes to the public.

Bricolage (280 N. Eighth St., Ste. 118, Boise) is following a similar path, offering a selection of handmade T-shirts, bags and accessories. Even the name of the store hints at its approach to retail. Co-owners Juliana McLenna and Chelsea Snow chose the word, which, in French, roughly means to make creative use of materials available at hand.

"The more localized trade, the better. We love that more artists and makers and designers are finding ways to get themselves out there," McLenna said.

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