Retailer Spotlight: Mutability in Motion

Retailer Spotlight: Mutability in Motion

Laureen Vizza, Stockbridge, MA

Mutability in Motion, a gift shop in the heart of Stockbridge, MA, represents the handcrafted work of more than 50 artisans living and working in the United States and features the best of Berkshire Mountain and New England While we showcase fine art, our focus is on distinctive, functional art for the body, home, and spirit... because even the most utilitarian objects should bring beauty to our homes and evoke joy in our lives.

Year Founded

Square Feet of Retail Space
We're in about 950 sq. ft. and utilize a variety of furniture pieces, shelves, and cabinets to showcase artists' work in a home-like environment. The space is warm and inviting as we strive to avoid a cluttered feel.

Why did you decide to open a gallery?
An endeavor that began on a whim in New York with the words, "You make jewelry and I'm a photographer. Let's do some crafts fairs," has taken Laureen Vizza and Margaret Kerswill to places they would not have imagined at the start. ​ Vizza, then a clinal social worker for hospice care and tending a thriving private practice, was beginning to explore her creative impulses while Kerswill, who holds a BFA in Fine Art Photography, had taken a break from the on-demand creative world of advertising, design, and marketing. ​ "We both have a love of the arts, in all forms, and we were looking to be more connected with our artistic sides, to explore new ways of thinking and expanding our definitions of beauty," Kerswill says of the original thought of melding their personal styles together into a single business endeavor. ​ After moving to Stockbridge and participating in several summer markets and crafts fairs in Massachusetts, they began meeting new artists and collecting information with the idea to curate arts and crafts fairs. A stroll through Stockbridge on Christmas day 2012 would prove fortuitous when they wander through The Mews and discovered a shop for rent. "It was a picture perfect Christmas day with snow lightly falling and we decided to take the family to The Red Lion Inn for a cocktail in the Lion's Den before dinner. We were taking a stroll to see if any businesses where open and that's when we saw the for rent sign. Our friend, Nick, snapped a photo of the telephone number with his phone and we started talking and planning," Vizza recalls. By mid March, the new tenants were in the shop painting and prepping in a hurrying to open by May 1st for the 2013 season. ​ The pile of business cards they had collected over the past two years led to a wealth of local talent and they launched the shop in May with the work of about 22 artists in addition to their own jewelry and photography... and that list of artists has grown to over 50.

How many artists do you represent?
50+ and growing

How do you promote your artists and your gallery?
Like every other aspect of running a small business, our marketing plans are always evolving. We advertise locally to nurture relationships with our regular clientele and rely on social media and opportunities through our local Chamber of Commerce to entice tourists. Since opening, we have held a seat on the Board of Directors of the Stockbridge Chamber of Commerce in order to be part of the marketing team that brings thousands of visitors each year into our quaint New England town.

What type of merchandise is made in the U.S., Canada, Imported?
With the exception of one Canadian collective (using materials made in the U.S.A.), all of our artistsans and craftsmen are living and working in the United States. We have a wide of fabric arts using new and repurposed materials; women's jackets and accessories; men's ties; jewelry; children's items including onesies, socks, blankets, hats; and plush companion animals; clocks; books, cards, journals; framed pen & ink, giclee prints, photography, original paintings; pottery & ceramics; wood works; writing implements; wind chimes, sun catchers, and lighted bottles; natural botanicals such as salves, soaps, lotions, sprays; and a gourmet line of oils and balsamic vinegars; and more.

What trade shows do you attend?
Other than IndieMe, trade shows are rare for us at this time.

What attracts you to new merchandise?
There is no formula for what attracts us to new items. Our shop is always evolving and we seek equilibrium in our overall offerings. Ultimately, we try to maintain a balance of our shoppers' favorite items with fresh, new items they likely haven't seen elsewhere.

Do you consign?
We consign high end fine art and one-of-a-kind craftsmen pieces, but very little else right now.

Do you sell online?
Yes and no. We have a website presence and people contact us through the website to make purchases. When someone contacts us, we send photos of our current offerings in the item that interests them. Because so many of our items are truly one-of-a-kind, we do not populate the website with items for purchase. Instead, we use it as a way to introduce or remind people to our artists and craftsmen.

What is your shopping routine on IndieMe?
We scan the pages of the IndieMe website on a regular basis looking for distinctive items that we feel will bring new life to our shop and that our shoppers won't be able to resist.

Who generates the biggest sales for you? Tourists? Locals? Repeat Customers? Collectors?
We have a diverse mix of people. At traditional gift giving times (holidays, weddings, baby showers, birthdays, anniversaries) we have loyal, local customers who shop with us. In the summer, autumn, and during a weekend event known as Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas (an ode to Norman Rockwell) we are a tourist destination for people from all over the world. Our business is built predominantly on tourism, and many of these visitors have become repeat customers.

What retail price point sells best?
There is no particular price point that sells the best for us. What we find sells the best is something that is perceived as unique, innovative, and creative with a palatable price. We have had items ranging from $10-$600 that have sold.

How is business? Any thoughts for the future of craft galleries?
Business is good, but it's definitely work. Our location allows us not to just maintain, but to grow. Locals here do prefer supporting small business when possible, and visitors from other parts of the country who don't have small, mom & pop shops anymore are like kids in a candy store when they walk through the door. Location really does play such a huge roll in the potential for a small shop's success.

What advice do you have for new craft galleries?
It's important to us to use the word shop rather than gallery. Gallery is too intimidating a word for some of our tourists and it sets them in a viewing mind rather than a buying mood. We are a gift shop. We want people to think about buying when they walk through the door. The language of selling can be as important as the items we stock. While we're sure that there are shops out there making substantial money selling handmade, for many of us, it is a labor of love. You're in the shop talking to browsers (hoping they'll become buyers), searching for new artists, negotiating rents and services, and doing your own admin and book keeping. Even if you grow and bring on employees, a lot of these responsibilities still fall on you as the business owner. You can certainly make a living doing it, but it's a 24/7 kind of commitment, so be sure it's your passion. As we once read, "Entrepreneurs are the only people who will work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week." Of course, you are rewarded by spending your days surrounded by art, beauty, and ingenuity. So, in our minds, it's a fair trade.

What advice do you have for new craft artists?
We've worked with many artists along the way: some are still with us after four years, some moved on to other things, others we've had to let go–even when we loved the work. It's never personal. It's about the reality of what sells to a particular population of people. Ask questions of the shops you're in (would like to be in) and be prepared to really listen to the answers. You may not always like the answers, but they can offer great guidance for either tweaking your work or finding just the right market. If you have a great product at the right price, there is a market out there for you!

Showing 2 Comments

Ted Hochheiser

It's funny hearing you call your business a shop. My wife Kate and I have called our store, the shop, since we opened 25 years ago. In fact, our business card lists us as Shopkeepers. Have a great 2018!

2 years ago
Wendy Morse

Congratulations on the Retailer Spotlight feature! I have been with the shop for 4 years, and it is a great place for artisans and shoppers alike. There is always something unique and beautiful in the shop!

3 years ago

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