I can only describe the scene as pure craft nirvana. Vases of fresh-cut flowers filled perked-up tables while urban pop hummed lightly through the speakers, with a staircase on the edge of the space leading to a second floor full of one-of-a-kind treasures. Located in the same space as New Living/Rest & Rec at 321 19th Street in the Heights is the new storefront for Pop Shop America, the semi-annual indie art festival and modern craft fair.
Founded by Houstonian Brittany Bly, Pop Shop America is essentially a mecca for makers—imagine Etsy come to life. But when Bly started the movement in 2012, there was nothing else like it in Houston and she craved an experience that would allow her to meet other local makers.
“There was no place to exhibit in Houston, to meet new makers, and get the in-person experience,” said Bly. “My background is in running galleries, programming events at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and installing art with a music festival. I was either going to start this festival or there wasn’t going to be a cool pop up shop in Houston—so I just did it!”
The fair takes place twice a year and has boasted as many as 25,000 attendees in addition to the artists, designers and various creative businesses who take part each year. And now with the new Heights storefront, local and out-of-town makers alike can get their locally made fix year-round.
“We handcraft many goods that you can shop at Pop Shop America boutique and we work with lots of other artists and makers too,” said Bly. “You can find a few of our favorite makers from the festival [at the shop] but for the most part we prefer to keep the festival and the shop fresh! Instead we work with handmade artists that you will probably never see in person at any event in Houston.”
Visual art, prints, paintings, clothing, housewares, handmade beauty products, and jewelry are among some of the items on shelves. Wares include Juniper Ridge, a line of hand-foraged men’s body care items; Zana handmade leather goods from South Africa; and prints by Ecobota, an artist from Philadelphia. Everything offered in the store is modern, stylish and fun.
Pop Shop America is a place full of like-minded individuals that value the beauty and diligence that it takes to create something. Now they are sharing the satisfaction that comes from crafting, making and DIY with the rest of the world. In addition to shopping, the storefront also offers interactive DIY classes. In addition to the longstanding evening classes on the first Friday of every month, starting this month Bly is adding a second monthly class on Sunday—yes, get ready for a crafty brunch.
“We like to teach things that people can replicate at home,” said Bly. “We almost never teach the same workshop twice so that people can keep coming and have a fresh experience.”
I sat in on the floral crown making class and, when finished felt like Titania, queen of the fairies. As for the queen maker, Bly says the terrarium building classes are by far her favorite. The next offering is on March 3, making geometric clay jewelry and marbled ring dishes.
“They are the easiest plants to care for and they are so stylish,” she says. “They make people feel good about themselves and they are also good for you since house plants are a great way to freshen the air!”
Bly’s vision for the DIY classes is to offer people, whether they consider themselves a maker or not, a sense of satisfaction. Because we all know there is nothing better or more therapeutic, than creating something with your own hands.
“Being a maker is definitely something I’ve never given up, never escaped,” says Bly. “Pop Shop is a labor of love and I don’t think I could do it if I didn’t have such passion for being a maker.”