Small Things For a Prettier Life

Small Things For a Prettier Life

shop1.jpg

Earrings made with recycled bike inner tubes and slavaged leather.

Stephanie Colgan

I Like You
501 First Ave. NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413
612-208-0249
ilikeyouonline.com

When did craft earn its street cred? In Minneapolis, it happened right around April 2009. That's when the independent boutique I Like You moved into the city's vanguard Northeast neighborhood, shacking up next door to an accounting-office-turned-art-gallery and throwing open its doors to the bohemians prowling the block. With its Astroturf carpeting, re-appropriated library furniture, and tattoo-sleeved spitfire owners, the shop embodies the new vogue for urban craft. Specializing in "small things for a prettier life," I Like You sells work produced almost exclusively by Minnesota artists. We sat down with founders and co-owners Sarah Sweet and Angela Lessman.

You two are practically the patron saints of crafting cool. How did handmade get so hip? What do you make of craft's rapid ascendancy on the pop-culture ladder?
Angela Lessman: How did this stuff get so hip?
Sarah Sweet: Thanks, Etsy! [Laughs.] I think people are just really proud of what they make. And when you get to see what other people have made, and you figure out that you can do that, too ... Etsy opened up a whole new world for people. You don't get cool craft stores out in the country; that website opened the scene up to everybody. You can post your project online, you can sell, and you get automatic feedback. So it's not like, hey, [only] my aunt Martha really liked what I made her for Christmas ...

Or maybe craft has always been hip, and the younger crowd is just noticing now?
SS:
Nooo, it hasn't. I remember getting a hand-knit vest from my grandma and thinking: What in the world does she think I'm going to do with this? But 15 years later I was totally wearing it. Everything is so cyclical. Everything ... Now, with things like Etsy, it's more accessible.

So do you have to keep hipsters in mind when you're selecting merchandise?
SS:
No. That's one of the greatest lessons that we learned doing this store: to be true to our aesthetic. And not to fold for anyone. You can't order work because you think the masses are going to love it.

You have a very formal process for evaluating would-be consignors, which makes you kind of like art dealers, curating a constantly evolving gallery. Do you ever think of the store as a gallery? If so, how would you describe its aesthetic?
AL: This is probably not how other businesses do it, but we will see a product and we know: That'll look so good in our store. It's not, "Oh, these are going to sell like mad." It has to actually fit the space.
SS: We had to learn to say "no" effectively.
AL: Because we had so many people coming in trying to schlep their work on us in the middle of a holiday party or something. We had to make it a formal process. We want to be proud of what we sell.

What's the role of a brick-and-mortar shop in this age of Etsy?
SS:
It's tactile. It's instant gratification. I applaud everybody who has an Etsy store. But if I'm considering buying something, I want to see it. I want to touch it.
AL: And there's no replacing going out and about and seeing real people.

Gregory J. Scott is a freelance writer and art-scene gadabout in Minneapolis.