Decore is a new breed of furniture store. It is airy and sunlit, with nary a "No Payment Until 2011" sign in sight. The walls are peppered with Oaxacan woven tree bark paintings and abstract triptychs and sleek wooden beds and handcrafted dressers form little mock-rooms. Decore co-owner Sem Olayo jumps up from his Mac to greet those who wander in. He is eager, and his confidence belies his age. Olayo and his business partner, Rodrigo Rodero, moved to Boise six months ago from Puebla, Mexico, after they graduated from high school. Rodero's father owns four other Decore stores in Puebla, and the two decided to put college on hold to try their hand at opening a store stateside.
The store is in a prime location on Main Street. All of Decore's merchandise is from Mexico, and much of the furniture is made by Rodero's family.
"To get the furniture was easy," explains Olayo in a lilting Spanish accent. "But to get all of the vases, we traveled to a lot of places in Mexico. It took time, but it was a good experience."
The vases he speaks of are brightly colored and modern and resemble Snorks (little sea creatures from the late '80s cartoon of the same name). The vases look like striking underwater flora floating in a sea of monochrome shelves and muted nightstands. Dangling from the ceiling are swirling IQ lights, little assemble-it-yourself M.C. Escher planets. The store is contemporary and international, yet stocked with the kind of handmade items you would never find at a Pottery Barn. Olayo and Rodero both feel a certain commitment to supporting local artisans and the community that helped them as they were opening their business.
"When I started out selling [home furnishings], a lot of people tried to support me, so I feel like I have to pay it back in some way," says Olayo.
And that is exactly what they will be doing this upcoming First Thursday. Decore has partnered with local Etsy.com street team, Idaho Indie Works, to put on one heck of a craft show. Etsy.com is a rapidly expanding online marketplace for crafters and artists around the world. It has become the virtual town square where socially conscious consumers can barter with small business owners for unique, handmade goods. Etsy provides a way for people to "make a living, making things" by eliminating the myriad overhead costs that often leave independent businesses unable to compete in their local economies. In the past few months, Etsy has taken off in the Boise area, in a large part due to the efforts of Millie Hilgert—the pioneer behind the Idaho Indie Works street team.
"I found out there were street teams [on Etsy] and there wasn't one in all of Idaho," recalls Hilgert. "I thought of joining one, but there wasn't one. So what's the next thing to do? Start one."
Hilgert, who runs the online shop Miss Courageous, put out a call for other local crafters but was met with a tepid response. After adding only a handful of members to the street team, Hilgert was contacted by Nampa artist Mary Portteus of Mary Makes Art. Portteus was organizing a holiday home show with local artisans, but was unaware of the newly minted Etsy community.
"I told Mary about the street team and we ended up getting together," remembers Hilgert. "She contacted some people, and I contacted some people ... Now I just added the 50th member today."
Hilgert's shop, Miss Courageous, sells jewelry made out of colored vinyl, old Scrabble letters and bottle caps. Though she works primarily in found or recycled materials, her work is polished and fun with a hearty helping of DIY irony. She wears her Nilsson cassette tape belt buckle slung proudly around her hips. The street team has been essential in helping Hilgert promote her shop and find new avenues for procuring recycled materials.
"Having several people promoting each other, of course, is much stronger than just promoting yourself," says Hilgert.
Idaho Indie Works has proven to be a great resource for other local Etsy shop owners. It provides ample networking and idea-sharing opportunities, and allows members to organize craft fairs, like the upcoming show at Decore. And though many members prefer the convenience of the online marketplace to in-person sales, there is an undeniable excitement building for the upcoming show. Over 25 local IIW members—including Backyard Bakery with snacks and BUZZ Coffee offering wine—will have tables in the newly constructed upstairs room at Decore, a space Olayo and Rodero spent their free time clearing out and painting specifically for the event.
One of the artists who will be showcasing her work is Liz Frazier from Lovely Little Lovelies. Frazier, who has a 15-month-old daughter, makes ribboned hair clips of assorted patterns and colors for kids. In the past seven months, her Etsy shop has made a thousand sales, making her business one of the most successful on the Idaho Indie Works Street Team. And yet, she is relatively unknown in the Treasure Valley market. She has high hopes that the upcoming Decore show will help expose her crafts to a new audience.
"I'm looking to expand my business locally," Frazier says. "I have regular wholesale orders shipped across the country, but not much going on here."
Frazier originally started her business on eBay, but felt like it was too expensive and corporate to fit her business model. She stumbled upon Etsy last fall and knew she had found the right match. Frazier, used to work in the collections department at a credit card company.She's thrilled to have broken away from the 9 to 5 grind and to be able to spend time with her daughter while working from home.
"I never thought I would be making little girls' hair bows for a living ... But it's been going well, and I've gotten a great response."
Frazier's sentiments are echoed by the majority of Etsy crafters. For many, the not-your-grandma craft movement—canonized by magazines like Make, Craft and ReadyMade—represents an alternative to the endless, impersonal consumerism that haunts our daily lives. It provides an opportunity to support creativity and reconnect with the people that produce our goods. And this is a philosophy that is especially resonant with Olayo and Rodero.
"Most of our stuff is from Puebla, a place called Analco," Rodero says. "It's a huge park and they sell handmade things."
Analco, Rodero says, is similar to the Capital City Public Market. It's a place where artisans from the areas around Puebla go to sell their wares. In a twist that is refreshingly old-school, these two young entrepreneurs are already giving back to the communities that have nurtured them.
Idaho Indie Works craft show, Thursday, April 3 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Decore, 1021 W. Main St.