OrangeBeautiful: Handcrafted Goods in Ravenswood

By Laura Pearson | Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Joshua Wentz and Emily H. Martin of OrangeBeautiful, a new paper goods store in Ravenswood. Photo by Laura Pearson.

?We were burnt-out on Facebook,? says Emily H. Martin, founder of OrangeBeautiful. ?And we got tired of operating behind an Internet fa?ade.?

Prior to moving her six-year-old business into a retail space on North Damen Avenue in Ravenswood, she and partner/designer Joshua Wentz worked out of a commercial loft on Irving Park, where they took on various design projects and made letterpress cards and stationery, custom invites, and handmade books. Conducting most of their business online, they started to feel a sense of detachment from their clients. ?At the end of the day, I?d think, ?I emailed 80 people today and didn?t see anyone!?? Martin says.

Tucked away in their loft, she and Wentz pondered how face-to-face interaction might help them promote their business and expand their clientele. Meanwhile, Martin’s design blog the SCOOP?where she and two friends shine a spotlight on new designers and handmade finds?was gaining popularity, and she wanted to better showcase SCOOP-approved stuff by featuring it in a physical space.

OrangeBeautiful Studio + Shop opened last month at 4658 N. Damen (the former home of Carol?s Bridal Boutique), and already it?s filled with a colorful array of handcrafted items: paper goods (OrangeBeautiful products, prints by Essimar, and others), environmentally friendly pillows from Diffraction Fiber, felt creatures (?feltidermy?) by girlsavage, local and independent music (including releases from Wentz?s label, Sidedown Audio), UPPERCASE (“a magazine for the creative and curious”), and much more. The studio fills the back half of the space, featuring a design office, a tabletop letterpress, screenprinting and bookbinding supplies, and ample storage. Now when Martin or Wentz are working on projects of fulfilling Etsy orders, they can share their process with the public.

?We wanted to push the idea of actual community,? Martin says. This includes not only inviting passersby to view their workspace, but also encouraging people who stop in to support local businesses and handmade artisans. Martin enjoys giving customers background on the designers and small businesses whose work she sells. ?I like to be able to give them a story,? she says. The customers are then eager to pass along these stories, thus extending appreciation for items made by hand. Like OrangeBeautiful?s paper goods, it?s a custom-made experience?one that has little in common with buying stuff at larger chain stores. ?We want people to really think about their shopping and to know that if they want a cute print or cute stationery, they don?t just have to go to Target,? Martin says.

OrangeBeautiful's bright interior. Photo by Laura Pearson.

Besides setting up a brick and mortar shop and keeping busy with letterpress projects, she and Wentz are also expanding OrangeBeautiful?s services to include more branding and logo design, with the goal of helping businesses look better and become more tech savvy.

Martin and Wentz still do business online and maintain blogs (check out this one, where they share the process of opening? the store and some creative DIY projects/design solutions)?only now, with the combined shop and studio, they?re able to both tell and show. See a recent Facebook update, for example: ?Tomorrow at the OB Shop, we’ll be letterpressing all new Father’s Day cards. Come check out the process or pick one up hot off the press!?

By operating out of the new space in Ravenswood, OrangeBeautiful has found that ?social networking? takes on a new, more meaningful dimension. ?It?s a better way of existing,? Martin says.

Want to look inside the store? Click on the photos below for a slideshow, and check out OB on Flickr. Better yet, stop by in person: OrangeBeautiful is located at 4658 N. Damen Ave., just north of the Damen Brown Line station.

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