The Creative Class
Entrepreneurs who are putting their artistic visions to work
According to the women of three new creative companies, Wilmington is on entrepreneurial fire with artistic pursuits. Even when budget numbers and marketing strategies create distractions, the thriving arts districts, increased tourism, and growing pool of creative professionals provide a fitting backdrop for these artistic souls.
Aluna Works, 603 Castle Street
KAIYA MCCORMICK and ERICA WESTENBERGER had been working in the fine arts industry on opposite ends of the East Coast. Wilmington marked the midpoint that separated a valuable creative partnership.
Aluna Works, the product of their long-awaited collaboration, is part gallery, part workshop space, part home goods store. It opened in December in Castle Street’s arts and antiques district.
Having met while studying fiber arts in Chicago, the two friends have reunited through the same processes that once brought them together. Westenberger focuses on silk screening, and McCormick focuses on paper-making, as they both work on their own pieces while also managing the studio and offering classes and retail products.
“Figuring out all the accounting and budgeting and that stuff was just nothing that we want to do ever, but it’s so important,” Westenberger says. “It’s crazy because when you’re running a small business you just realize it’s not a luxury,” McCormick adds. “A lot of people think that we’re in here just making artwork all day.”
The tour of the gallery and the women’s description of their artistic practice reveals that both art mediums require intense organization and process-oriented skills that translate well for business plans. “I really like the type of printing we do,” Westenberger says, “and all of the really beautiful mistakes that happen along the way. It allows a lot of work for exploration and creativity and new ideas for new projects.”
Blossom Bay blossombaydesign.com
For ALLY FAVORY and VALERIE STINSON’s latest venture, it all began in a Wilmington coffee shop, where they met for the first time after being assigned a joint floral design job by a local events company.
“We were just drawing ideas for this install, and we were basically just really in sync and got it accomplished in like five minutes,” Stinson says.
“And we were instantly like ‘We should design things together forever,’” Favory continues.
Blossom Bay is the product of their artistic chemistry, stirred by a mutual affection for organic, free-flowing floral arrangements. Stinson, the daughter of longtime nursery owners, brings a background in horticulture and studio art, while Favory brings an appreciation for sculpture and strong connections to the local arts scene.
“Every arrangement looks so much better when there is something natural in it because it’s in its optimum state,” Stinson says. “Another reason why we started doing this is because there’s definitely a niche for that kind of bride.”
As local artists, the co-owners have been “doing the hustle” by taking on a plethora of creative and lucrative side jobs or projects. As a regular flower freelancer, Stinson noticed an increase of brides interested in the style both she and Favory promoted.
Modern Legend, 130 North Front Street
After nearly seven years away from Wilmington, CATHERINE HAWKSWORTH decided to bring her creative pursuits back to the city in which she grew up.
“I came and visited Wilmington downtown and just saw the development in general,” Hawksworth says. “It was super progressive, literally nothing like I remember when we were growing up.”
Hawksworth has a dynamic resume, having attended art school, completed a degree in music business from Berklee College of Music, and worked in retail since she was sixteen years old. Her collective knowledge allowed her to design a store representative of her personality: one that sells music records, home goods, and artistic gifts and accessories.
“I did take the visual route for a long time,” Hawksworth says, “and then I felt like I tapped that part out, so I got really into the operational and business side. Bringing those two things together were what made it possible, that with the knowledge I gained from doing music school.”
Bolstered by a strong first quarter after opening its doors in 2016, Modern Legend expanded last month from its original space in The Cotton Exchange to a larger spot on Front Street.
“I saw the thing that Wilmington was missing,” she says. “I had a pretty good feeling that there was a market for it. I trusted my gut on an idea I thought would work.”
Much like Aluna Works and Blossom Bay, Modern Legend shows that a life absorbed in creativity can provide the energy, knowledge, and motivation for a fruitful business life.
To view more of photographer Lindsey A. Miller's work, go to www.lindseyamiller.com.