Coming soon: a little bit of everything artistic

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Laura Loci teamed up with seven other local artisans to open Wonder Made.
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Kelle Sirrelli specializes in furniture restoration.
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Chloe Miller creates durable messenger bags and backpacks.

Laura Loci's frustration at work was becoming more and more evident by the day. So her boyfriend offered up a seemingly simple piece of advice.

"He told me, 'Take it easy, figure out what your dream is, and do it,' " Loci said.

So she's doing it. But she's not doing it alone.

Loci took the plunge and left her job, and in so doing found a network of artists ready for a similar change of pace. She ultimately teamed with seven other local women to create Wonder Made, an eclectic business featuring an assortment of diverse handmade items. The shop - at 19 Warren St. - is slated to open with a ribbon-cutting March 3 at noon, but those involved have already started enjoying the freedom that comes with entrepreneurship.

"You can create your reality, be connected to it," Loci said. "You don't have to have it given to you by somebody else."

Loci, whose crafts include chain mail and other jewelry and hair accessories, wanted to find an outlet for her creativity. As it turns out, so did a handful of acquaintances. Over time, Loci connected with seven others - most of whom had never met each other before - and Wonder Made quickly came to fruition.

There was a fateful meeting over some sweets at Loci's place, and little more than a month later, the shop began to take shape.

"We came over for cupcakes and now we have a business," Kelle Sirrelli said.

Loci and Sirrelli, along with Kara Nolting, Jessica Santacruce, Jessica Harris, Amanda Godlewski, Chloe Miller and Patricia Huntley, all bring different specialties and interests to the table. They also all share a vision for the business that goes beyond a simple retail outlet.

Wonder Made will also include workshops for those interested in learning a craft, with specialized instruction from any of the eight women involved. There are also plans to host live music events so people can discover local bands and meet other community members without having to be part of the bar scene.

The group plans to reach out to local schools and businesses and hopes to post a calendar of events at local establishments like the Concord Cooperative Market. Though each artist will have items for sale, the greater spotlight is being put on an interaction with the community and the opportunity to share and discuss knowledge.

"A big part of this is people evolving as creators," Loci said. "It's a corner store for community and culture."

The range of products and specialties is broad, from Loci's jewelry to furniture restoration (Sirrelli) to soy candles (Nolting) to handmade books and photography (Santacruce). Harris is an illustrator and painter, Godlewski builds collage art, Miller creates waterproof backpacks, messenger bags and other gear and Huntley sews items for babies, children and women. Also, several of the artists dabble in a variety of activities outside of their "specialty."

All eight women are equal partners in the venture, and the goal is to let everyone flourish. There has been what Loci described as "a delicate balance of chaos" as things have come together - though it's rare for all eight artists to be in the space at once, traffic has certainly been high - but the group meets once a week on Wednesdays to discuss upcoming projects and to ensure nobody's work time is interrupted or duplicated.

The public will be invited to view the artists' progress, as the "workroom" portion of the store will be visible from the retail portion, in part to promote the teaching aspect of the business.

The idea, Loci said, is to offer a place where patrons can put a face to the products they are buying, eliminating the impersonal aspect of the shopping process. Four of the eight artists live in Concord and the others are from the greater Concord area.

"You can go to Wal-Mart and never know who made something, but buying local and being part of a community is so important," Santacruce said.

"Handmade hits the full gamut of what's awesome," Loci said. "I feel like the community is going to want to invest in us, because we are going to invest back in the community."

The community response has already been strong. The group held an opening benefit show Jan. 20 that drew nearly 50 people - an outpouring Harris called both "overwhelming and reassuring" - and continues to accept donations. Wonder Made can be contacted via email at wondermadeconcord@gmail.com or by visiting Facebook at facebook.com/WonderMadeNH. (next page »)

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