The bad news on the craft front is that Rainbow Creations, a paint-your-own-ceramics store and studio on Zeeb, and Scrapbook Haven, an enormous emporium of scrapbooking supplies, have closed. The business provided a quick entrance into handicrafts: perfect for those who wanted to create some handmade memories but didn’t necessarily want to spend a lot of time learning a skill.
The good news is that Siobhan Lyle opened Blue House in March to fill a related niche. Lyle’s mission is to reestablish “that connection that we seem to be losing. It used to be that you would learn sewing or knitting from your mother, your grandmother, your neighbor. So we’re trying to fill that void. Our community is teeming with creative people. It’s just a matter of collecting them all together in a safe, inviting environment, where there’s no expectation of your quality of work or your experience–no intimidation factor.”
Lyle respects the self-taught, those who resurrect forgotten crafts, and those who invent new ones with materials at hand. Paper earrings, brooches made of old wool sweaters, and “found art” framed in discarded windows are some of the things for sale in the small consignment gallery, as well as more traditional photography and metal work. Blue House holds workshops and rents studio space by the hour and month.
Though Lyle doesn’t consider herself an artist, she does like to “find trash and reclaim it, paint it, up-cycle it.” She points out the graceful, narrow display shelves holding artist Maureen O’Brien’s purses “made from repurposed fabric.” “These shelves are actually bunk bed ladders, three dollars at the ReUse Center, and how purposeful are they?” The question is, of course, rhetorical, delivered with a brisk, satisfied nod.
Lyle, thirty-four, is a trim, self-possessed mother of three who once wanted to be a pro soccer player. But “when I got to college, I saw that wasn’t going to happen,” she says. “Then, my next goal was to be a mom and have some kids. Well, I’ve done that. But all along the way, I’ve always been creating something.”
The Blue House building itself is an example of Lyle’s own style of up-cycling, purposeful craftiness. The 1890s house across from the Michigan Stadium has been in her husband’s family as commercial property for years. Lyle has refurbished it with open and Shaker-like simplicity: two airy studios upstairs; workshop space, kitchen, and consignment gallery downstairs.
“My initial thought was to be nonprofit,” Lyle says. “But my accountant said, ‘You know what? With all the hurdles you’re going to have to jump through, start out as an LLC, but model yourself after a nonprofit.’ So that’s what we do. We have an advisory board, for instance. When we do go to nonprofit, we’ll have everything in place.”
Blue House, 1026 S. Main. 780-1762. Tues.-Sat. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and during scheduled workshop hours. Otherwise closed Sun. & Mon. www.bluehouseannarbor.com
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