Candy Johnson and SHE ART. Photo by Patty Michels
My idea of home decor is a vat of peanut butter and a futon, but Our Town strives to represent diversity. One of these days, we might even write about sports. For now though, let us turn our collective attention to a couple of LGBT owned Chicago stores.
SHE ART Chicago, first located in Oak Park and now opening in Andersonville is an eclectic celebration of the female form. Co-owner Candy Johnson spoke with Our Town about the store’s ambitions and esthetic.
Our Town What inspired you to open SHE ART?
Candy Johnson I have been a Treasure Huntress for over 40 years, collecting everything from hand painted tiles to antique buttons. When I met my partner Mercedes, she collected women in all forms. In 2004 we were talking about what to do with our collection, and how there were many "Female" collectors out there. We brainstormed and came up with "SHE ART Chicago", a store that would carry the female from all eras. In 2005 we opened "SHE ART Chicago" in Oak Park.
OT How did your background in art influence your vision for the store?
CJ [Artist renderings of] the female form have been around for centuries; the stories, the history, the eclectic mediums, and textures were all inspirational for us as artists. Our background helped us dig deeper to hunt for unusual pieces from our history. We all have a story and so does art. Art is emotional...both in the eye of the artist and the buyer. We started to appreciate not only art from the past, but current local artists. So, we carried local artist on a commission basis. We totally enjoy being a part of the community of artists, were we share stories, inspiration, and a commitment to make Chicago art available to the public.
Photo by Patty Michels
OT SHE ART has a new home in Andersonville. What are your hopes for the store/location?
CJ We want to be a part of the community. I will be reaching out to local organizations, schools, and charities to donate space for art shows;100% will go to that benefit. I want people to come in, enjoy the store, know that I am part of their community. In the future we will be exploring growth in other locations in the states and possibly other countries. Right now, I am just enjoying the store, the people, and the hunting.
Then there’s 900blok, an online design company based in Chicago. Owner Julie Purpura is an interior designer by day, but a table-creating dervish by night. She spoke with Our Town about her many inspirations and innate distractibility.
OT What inspires you?
Julie Purpura The city of Chicago, fashion, color, art, people, friends, food and where I'm from. I take in my everyday and it makes me want to create. I find beauty in textures, smells, how something feels and I incorporate that into my life. I pretty much fall in love with anything beautiful and I'll obsess over it until the next beautiful thing that distracts me. I've always been very easily distracted.
OT What sort of background prepared you for furniture design?
JP I'm an interior designer by trade. Designing furniture is a part of what I do. I'm usually designing large, super expensive pieces for clients with millions of dollars, so I thought it would be fun to design what I would want in my apartment, which would be something small and inexpensive.
OT How did you come up with the hand carved state idea?
JP I've seen states incorporated into jewelry, t-shirts, tattoos, etc. The idea has always been out there, so I thought it would be fun to make something more substantial and for the interior of my home. What a cool conversation, piece, you know? "Are those candy mints in a bowl sitting on the state of South Carolina, you ask?" "Why yes, that's where I'm from! Here, have a beer...we can talk about the dirty south." I love having a special connection with my furniture.
OT Who is your ideal customer?
JP Everyone who has pride for their state. That's what it's all about. Where you live or lived has special memories for us all. It's a way to be reminded of those special times
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," (Soft Skull press) is available for pre-order here. She is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
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