The outdoor art market business is transient in nature for the most part. I always looked at my show in the Heights as an incubator of sorts, helping artists get to “their” next level. The one rarity is moving to a brick and mortar business, the time and financial commitment the biggest deterrent.
Meet two very different artists that took that leap, Erica DelGardo, a jewelry designer and Jessica Carlos, who crochets dolls. They have a few things in common I find interesting.
They opened shop in the Heights after attending First Saturday Arts Market for several years, DelGardo on 19th Street and Carlos on Yale at 18th. Both maintain full-time jobs, are married and have children. They also represent other artists at their stores. At DelGardo’s one local and two international artists but she has featured about 15 over the years. Carlos currently represents 28 different artists.
Erica, tell me about the early years.
“I’d been doing art shows around Texas for a few years, but here in Houston, we launched the business as an exhibitor at the First Saturday Arts Market in early 2005,” DelGardo said. “We opened our first store next to Venus Hair on 29 May 2007 (11 years ago this month). Two years later we moved a couple doors down to our current location between Jubilee and Dramatika.”
What’s the best and worst?
“I love helping my customers translate their ideas into a real-life piece of jewelry. When someone comes in and describes what they want – engagement rings, custom bracelets, necklaces – and then I get to see their expression when they pick it up after I’ve made it…that’s the best.”
“The other best thing? My daughter Bella has literally grown up in my store,” DelGardo said. “My customers saw her as a newborn, and now they see her helping me in the shop – especially during 19th Street events. I love that I get to share this part of my life with her – the ups and downs of running a business, the importance of taking care of your customers, and the joy of being the best jeweler that I can be.”
“When you own your own shop, you’re always on the clock!” DelGardo said.
How about some advice for future store owners?
“Follow your passion – whatever got you to this stage where you are thinking about opening your own store – make sure you hold on to that. Sure, you’ll have to work to grow your business and adapt a bit here or there to keep up with the times, but never forget the essence of what makes your art unique.”
Jessica, you just opened your store the first of March, what led you to that decision?
“CultGrrrl Creations was formed in December 2010. I had been crocheting off and on for quite some time before I learned the art of amigurumi (crochet doll making),” Carlos said. “I had a ton of different design ideas that I couldn’t wait to try. I would post pictures of my creations online to raise funds for breast cancer research. I started selling at outdoor markets in October 2011 and was blown away by all the support from the fellow artists and patrons.”
Why did you open a store?
“It was just a natural progression for me. It had always been a faraway goal of mine to have a very small part of the universe to showcase my wares,” Carlos said. “After six years of creating, promoting, setting up, selling, tearing down, and doing it all over again once or twice a month, it was finally time to set my roots in somewhere.”
What’s the best and worst?
“When people come in not knowing what to expect and instantly falling in love with the atmosphere I created. That is the best feeling ever. Bookkeeping is the worst!”
Both miss the camaraderie of doing shows and I sure miss them. Congratulations to you both, Erica on 11 years and Jess, for taking the plunge!
The Whimsy Artisan Boutique, 1802 Yale St., Unit E, Houston, TX 77008 thewhimsyartisan.com.
Erica DelGardo Jewelry Designs, 329 W 19th St. Houston, Texas 77008 ericadelgardo.com.
Cohen is an artist and founder of First Saturday Arts Market and the new Market at Sawyer Yards, find him at ArtValet.com.