For years, Holly Lawyer worked the outdoor fair and market circuit, selling hand-sewn dresses, jewelry and photography. Admiring her work, people would ask her, do you have a place of your own?
“And I would say no, because I didn’t have anywhere else,” said Mrs. Lawyer, an Oak Bluffs native. “For a lot of the artists, it was the same thing. They were bouncing around constantly and not really getting known out there.”
This July, Mrs. Lawyer put a roof over her art and a number of others’ when she opened up a shop at 55 Circuit avenue. Inside the store, Made MV, Mrs. Lawyer displays the work of more than 30 Island artists who might not otherwise have a brick and mortar home.
The store is located in the upper part of Circuit avenue, in a section that’s seen a lot of turnover in recent years. Next door, a building that stood vacant for many years now has a new restaurant and coffee bar, Beetlebung. Edgartown National Bank has moved in on the other side.
Growing up in Oak Bluffs, Mrs. Lawyer, now 30, came to know this part of the street as somewhat appointment-oriented.
People seemed to go there for a haircut, or a dinner date, or to pick up office supplies at the printer’s, she said. “You are going for specific things when you are at this side, but at the other side, you are just strolling along.”
She hopes her store will help invite more browsing, benefitting all the businesses.
“I felt like we needed something new,” she said. “I felt this would be great for Oak Bluffs. It would give OB a little bit of a facelift.”
Though the town is generally known as the domain of day trippers and T-shirt shops, it has the potential to expand, she said. “I think it’s more than just that. I think people do come here in their boats, and they’re here for a week or two. If we had more diversity [of products], maybe people would be willing to stay longer,” she said.
And with so many talented artists on the Island, she laments that so much tourist merchandise sold in town is made overseas.
“It just stinks that they are all coming from China and not made here,” she said. “When we have potters who can make them a clay pot.”
Mrs. Lawyer takes items on consignment; artists earn 60 per cent of the sale, while she keeps the remaining 40 per cent.
There is also a work-trade option, where artists can help out in the store and earn a higher cut of the profits.
Artistically inclined from the beginning, Mrs. Lawyer took a photography class at Featherstone Center for the Arts in eighth grade. By 16, she was running her own photography business, shooting weddings and portraits around the Island. Since then, she’s taught swimming, washed windows and catered, but always found herself returning to artistic endeavors.
She learned sewing from her grandmother, who was a seamstress, and soon she’ll pass the skill along to her three daughters.
When her first daughter was a toddler, Mrs. Lawyer marveled at the high cost of factory-made clothing. She decided to make her own children’s clothing, and eventually settled on a style that became her signature: a loose-fitting sleeveless dress tied at the shoulders with colorful ribbons.
“The first year I did it nobody was doing it, and they were selling like crazy,” she said.
Soon, she saw her design on QVC, the television network dedicated to shopping. Nowadays, they’re sometimes referred to as pillow dresses, and they hang in a neat row in her store, sharing wall space with a collection of T-shirt scarves.
The shop is a colorful conglomerate of items, both practical and whimsical, from sock monkeys to wampum jewelry to marble tiles and pottery.
Landscape photographs and hand-sewn quilts hang against the walls alongside crocheted bags and iPhone cases. Scents emanate from a bookshelf stocked with felted soaps.
“A lot of this stuff is really the artist’s personality coming out in their things,” she said.
Mrs. Lawyer hopes her store will facilitate a deeper understanding of the Island through its artists, who she says make the best ambassadors.
“If they are not from here, I hope they will walk away knowing a little bit more about the Vineyard other than it’s just a touristy place, that we have an eclectic group of people that are unique,” she said. “And if you live here, to really treasure the talent that we have here.”