Arts & Culture » Visual Art

Collective Re-Purpose

Studio 616 showcases up-cycled artwork in McCall

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Megan Henderson seems to know everyone who walks into her McCall shop. In a short cream-colored dress with high boots and a pile of delicate necklaces, she marches over to greet those who trickle through the door, chatting as much about their personal lives as the handmade items that line the naturally lit boutique. Henderson lends Studio 616 a small-town charm, but the artwork inside feels anything but provincial.

Instead of the requisite moose kitsch, flannel pillows or paintings of snow-frosted mountain landscapes, Studio 616 features simple, modern designs by a collection of cherry-picked artisans.

"I would say we're a little more funky and functional," said Henderson, originally from Southern California. "I always say it's kind of like Anthropologie without the clothes. It's cutting edge; we don't take ourselves too seriously. ... Most of our art is something that you can find at the local dump and turn it into something else."

Henderson runs the Studio 616 collective with three other artists: glass-blowers Jesse and Shelly DeMoss, and quilter Rebecca West. Though Henderson and West previously owned their own shops--red6red and J. Beck, respectively--they decided to pool their resources to save time and reduce overhead.

"Seeing the town, and how it's so seasonal and we all have young kids, we realized there's just no way the town could support it year-round--each having our own space and all that comes with it," said Henderson.

In addition to not being profitable, West said running her own boutique ate up all the time she had previously dedicated to making her intricate, modern quilts.

"Megan and I both agreed when we first started ... that we weren't going to do it if we had to be in there all the time--then there's no time to be able to make your product," said West. "It's been awesome to be able to share that time and have the rest of it dedicated to actually putting product in the store."

So when Alpine Village owner Michael Hormaechea offered to build out the space at 616 N. Third St. specifically to be an artists' co-op, Henderson, West and the DeMosses took the opportunity. Over the three years the shop has been in business, the number of artists it represented grew exponentially. But this spring, the quartet decided to reel things in.

"We closed in April for a revamp and just sort of whittled out a lot of the artists that weren't selling because we realized that with too many, we weren't selling our own," said Henderson. "So we kind of had to regroup, reclaim."

Now, knitted antlers and glass-eyed animal skulls greet visitors at the entry to the shop, while inside, necklaces and earrings dangle off old window frames and upcycled wooden pallets shoulder Henderson's reclaimed, patchwork tin mirrors.

"People love to know that this tin, for example, came from a bowling alley in Texas," said Henderson, pointing to a mirror. "So when I get the tin, I always ask, 'Do you have any idea where this was salvaged from?' The best tin I ever got was from Calamity Jane's cabin in Billings."

In fact, most of the items in Studio 616 are recycled or repurposed, which seems to be as much of a necessity in a small mountain town like McCall as it is an aesthetic statement. Henderson jokingly refers to the dump as the "New Meadows mall."

Barbara Howell with Clementine Design (Jesse DeMoss' mom) makes copper jewelry with reclaimed wiring from old trailers and antennas. Grace Wilson crafts colorful flower lawn adornments using old dishes, knobs and hockey pucks. And Henderson's husband, David, also sells reclaimed items in the shop, including an engine block that he turned into a wine rack.

"Old farmers who come in just think that's the coolest," said Henderson, gesturing toward the wine rack. "And they know what that came from, which is crazy to me. They're like, 'Oh, that's a '57 Chevy.'"

But perhaps the most uniquely Idaho items in the place are Melaney Auxier's spent bullet casing bracelets.

"She calls them Caliber Couture," said Henderson. "People dig 'em; it makes you want to go shoot things and then collect them and make something cool out of them. They're not received well by a lot of people, but they're funky."

Though Studio 616 has more in common with Boise's handmade hotspots Bricolage or Indie Made than other stores in McCall, Henderson says the space doesn't just court young, hip out-of-towners.

"It's bridged the older generations and the younger ones because they get such a kick out of knowing that wire came from a camper trailer that they probably owned," Henderson said. "We always joke that the studio is kind of like a museum sometimes, we should charge admission because people love to come in and see what creative minds are doing with old things."