Since 2009, Sparrow Collective has been a valuable asset to the Milwaukee artist community as well as a resource for shoppers to find unique handmade goods. Finding the perfect gift is made a little easier with the diverse selection of goods available at Sparrow. From unique handmade clothing to the perfect card, owner Jessica Franzen has her hands in all of it. She took some time away from carefully curating her brick and mortar store to share a little history of Sparrow, where the store is heading, and what to expect at the upcoming Maker Market.
Maker Market: Could you give me a brief history of Sparrow Collective?
Jessica Franzen: When Lisa Wierzbinski and I learned that the local artist-run collective, Fasten, where we both volunteered and sold our wares was slated for closure in early 2009, we promptly took matters into our own hands. Within weeks of the shop’s closure, we partnered up and launched Sparrow Collective in the very same storefront, with a similar ethos to its predecessor’s, but with an expanded mission. Together, we aimed to widen the boutique’s product assortment to include home goods, bath and beauty products, and small gift items, and began featuring quarterly art installations and monthly DIY classes.
Today, Sparrow Collective is a one-woman show, but it’s still going as strong as ever.
MM: What is your role at Sparrow?
JF: I, as the owner, do everything from pay the bills, to review line sheets, talk with artists from all over the country and everything in between. With the help of a couple employees, I organize and change things up aesthetically on a daily basis and always strive to keep things fresh.
MM: What are the advantages to having a brick and mortar storefront to showcase handmade?
JF: Obviously there's a great advantage for shoppers to be able to hold something in their hand and purchase it rather than trying to grasp size and feel of something on the internet. A huge advantage as well is the number of shoppers who stop in casually after grabbing lunch or a coffee and end up finding something they love but didn't set out to find. We also get a ton of people who stop in for a quick gift on their way to an event. Our customers can give unique handmade gifts without having to order and wait for it to ship.
MM: What kind of an impact on the local community can a store like Sparrow create?
JF: People love to support small businesses that are locally owned and at Sparrow they also get to support small independent designers and artists and feel great about it. In a city like Milwaukee that is so rich in art culture, stores like ours give so many artists an outlet to be able to sustain their craft.
MM: You also offer DIY classes? Whats coming up and what are you the most excited for?
JF: We've got a great line up of different crafts coming up from sewing a tote bag, to several different types of metal smithing, and loom weaving. I'm really excited to learn how to use a jeweler's saw and to learn torch fired enameling!
MM: Who are some of the makers that are really exciting you currently?
JF: One of my current favorites is Culture Flock. They do original illustrations screenprinted on to several different tanks, tees, and sweatshirts. Their designs are funny and quirky and are simply flying outta here. I love when spring rolls around and we get to feature fresh plants like the air plant pods and string gardens by Kelso Doesn't Dance and seed bombs by Sara Eichhorn.
MM: How has Sparrow changed over the years and where would you like it to go?
JF: We've definitely gradually gotten more gift and buy locally themed. Starting from just mostly clothing and accessories and some soap here and there, to everything you could imagine and constantly changing. I've learned to really utilize our space to continue carrying more and more artists. I love the variety of our DIY classes right now and hope to continue offering new crafts and projects.
MM: What can shoppers expect to see at the Sparrow booth at the upcoming Maker Market?
JF: You'll see some hilarious coffee mugs and colorful pottery, a ton of jewelry of all sorts. and a sampling of our tees and sweatshirts. We try to give a mini sampling of what shoppers can find when they visit the shop.
MM: What is currently inspiring you? Music? IG accounts? Blogs? Artists?
JF: There's a shop in Minnesota, Yellow Umbrella, that opened right around the same time we did. I love watching their shop grow and transform. I'm also lucky to know some other great ladies with similar shops like The Waxwing and Hometown Established. We're always referring artists and shoppers to each other and collaborating. Its fun to see each shop's own character and growth, always inspiring.
Visit Sparrow Collective at 2224 S Kinnickinnic Ave, Milwaukee, WI. Visit online at http://sparrowcollective.com/ and see a great mix of Sparrow’s goods at this Sunday’s Maker Market!