It’s impressively hot in Louisa Podlich’s Thorpe building studio, the skylight above negating the attempts of the small, white box fan to do anything about the stagnant air.
Today, Podlich is shipping manager, readying an order placed on her online store, A Mano (www.weshopamano.com). She sweats through the packing process, stamping cardboard sleeves with her “A Mano” stamp, readying a set of ceramic cups for their new home.
Podlich is a Northeast-based photographer, a staff photographer at Thirty Two Magazine, an employee of Gallery 360 and a sometime-server, who started A Mano, which sells handmade jewelry, art and goods by artists both local and not, as a way to deal with the photo off-season and as a conclusion to some long held dreams.
“Minnesota is really cold, so I needed a side project in the winter,” she said. “I’d wanted to do a gallery for years, like six years ago. After working at Gallery 360 for a time now, I really realized that the bricks and mortar thing, unless you find the perfect space and have investors … it’s just too hard.”
Taking inspiration from Ship and Shape (www.shipandshape.com), an online store started in 2011 by local artists Erin Smith, Maddy Nye and Annika Kaplan, Podlich tweaked the model by offering rotating collections.
“Every two months there’s a new collection,” she said. “It’s 75 to 100 items and there’re 15 to 20 artists at a time represented.”
Each collection is displayed on a single page, a group of images on a white background; click an image and more pictures of the item come up, along with a description.
Podlich works with artists from Minneapolis and around country, even as far away as the United Kingdom.
“This isn’t all locally made in Minnesota,” she said, “but it’s all locally made, somewhere.”
A Mano runs on consignment from artists, and Podlich said she leaves sold out items on the site, “because there’s that gallery mentality of the red dot, where if it’s unavailable, you want it.”
She links back to artists’ personal pages so that if she is sold out of an item, shoppers have a second chance by going direct to the source.
Podlich admits that the site’s first collection was a bit of a hodge-podge of items; she said she thinks that her second offering feels more cohesive, and that her third offering will be even more-well curated.
“When you look at the site it should make sense, there should be a point-of-view,” she said of her approach to assembling the collections.
While Podlich makes money off of each item she sells, she said a key motivation behind A Mano is to help support artists in doing what they love. She’s also places a huge value on things that are handmade.
“Having higher quality goods, handmade goods, and knowing that you’re buying things from people, I think it gives people permission to treat themselves to a little luxury while also feeling really happy that they’re helping someone out,” she said. “They have an intrinsic value of making your life feel more beautiful; I don’t think people feel that when they buy jewelry at Target.”
The concept behind A Mano seems tailor-made for Podlich.
“I used to have journals, little blank books, and I would get [my mom’s] Coldwater Creek catalogs and Sundance catalogs and cut out things I liked and tape them and laminate them with clear tape in the [journals],” she said. “Even from a young age I was collecting images.”
For the future, Podlich said she’d like A Mano to grow, but isn’t sure how much growth can coexist with her vision of a “small, well-manicured collection.”
She is sure though, as she cooks away in a hot studio doing what was intended as a winter diversion, of her commitment to the handmade.
She said: “Buy handmade goods, whether you buy them from A Mano or somewhere else, and support artists directly when you can.”