A Quirky & Industrial Toymaker's Studio

A Quirky & Industrial Toymaker's Studio

Lauren Pavao
Aug 15, 2013

Name: Michelle Jewell of Finkelstein's Center
Location: Charleston, South Carolina
650 square feet
Years Occupied:
1 year

When you first glimpse one of Michelle's quirky little "creatures" — as she lovingly calls them — there's no question this artist/toymaker/all around awesome gal is bursting at the seams (pun intended) with creativity. So it's no surprise that the studio where she makes these one-of-a-kind (and often custom-made) stuffed buddies is equally quirky and inspiring. Does creating, making, and playing with toys all day in a vintage-meets-industrial studio sound like a dream come true? Just wait till you see the space...

Finkelstein's studio, inspired by a banner Michelle hand stitched and by the creatures themselves, is a vintage-lover's dream, filled with Michelle's found objects, DIYs, and thrifty buys. Its industrial minimalism shows off the age and charm of the building (an old factory that also currently houses a candle factory—her downstairs neighbor!) while letting the playful and bright colors of the creatures and their fabrics be the focal point of the room. That is, if the amazing wall of doors hiding the team's storage, and the massive octopus, Barnum, don't steal the show.  

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: My studio is in a warehouse, an old rug cleaning factory, which is what attracted me to the space to begin with. I love the design elements that warehouses have to offer, like exposed brick, dark wood floors, and industrial hardware. I tried to lighten the space with a bright color palette for the doors and a vintage floral sofa.  There are also lots of stuffed creatures everywhere, so that helps too. 

Inspiration: The studio colors were inspired by a retired Finkelstein's Center banner I now use as the center piece on the production wall. It is entirely hand stitched and took me weeks to make, so while it is no longer a part of my market display, it has a permanent home in the studio.

Favorite Element: The door to the rooftop garden.   

Biggest Challenge: No heating and, more importantly in Charleston, no air conditioning. 

What Friends Say: It smells so good (I'm in a building with a candle factory). And they ask if they can come drink on the roof.

Biggest Embarrassment: I still do not have a decent product photography setup for photographing my creatures. I was a professional photographer for three years, and quality photos are so important to me, but I have not yet invested time in a proper set. I'm still rolling out paper and holding a reflector and taking iPhone photos in between gusts of wind. It's embarrassing.  

Proudest DIY: The studio's proudest DIY I actually can not take credit for. I have three 4x8 work tables that my husband, Ryan, built. I knew what I wanted and had very specific requirements for them. Number one, they had to be big. At times we have three people in the studio working on projects at once, and we all need our own spaces to spread out in. The tables also had to have a smooth surface so as not to damage or pick the fabrics I work with; we went with masonite. Lastly, I really wanted them to be on rolling casters. For large projects it's very helpful to be able to roll the tables out from the walls and have access to all four sides. He built them to all my requests, and they are also really nice to look at.  

Biggest Indulgence: Space! We have lots of space, and we feel lucky.  

Best Advice: Invest in music for your space.  Don't just blare your phone speakers from your back pocket all day (of which I have been guilty in the past) — buy nice speakers and, while it sounds obvious, spend a little time on a 'work' playlist. Music helps set the energy level and mindset I'm in, so it's important to my creative process. A playlist also means you’re not distracted by thumbs-downing or nexting songs all day like you would with Internet radio.

Dream Sources: The Government Surplus, Etsy, the wood section of the home improvement store. 

Resources of Note:

  • vintage wooden card catalog (state auction)- $50
  • found door storage build out- $70
  • antique sofa (Sustainable Warehouse)- $25
  • two 4' x 16'  schoolhouse chalkboards (state auction)- $40
  • DIY work tables on casters- $225
  • antique lamp shades (yard sale find)- $15
  • vintage rolling chairs (state auction) - $50 
  • found file cabinets (thrift store)- $15
  • ottoman/octopus stand (Urban Outfitters) 
  • vintage wooden crate DIY coffee stand (thrift store/ handmade)- $25
  • singer sewing machines
  • Apple MacBook Pro
  • Canon D60

Thanks, Michelle! (Readers, since this tour was created, Michelle has actually moved into a new space. We can't wait to see what fun new things the new studio has in store! Stay tuned.)

(Images: Rebekah Collinsworth Photography & Sea Star Arts)

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