Here at The Fold, we've long been devoted to celebrating independent makers, and so it's no surprise that we're big fans of Seattle-based designer Sallyann Corn. She and Joe Kent are the duo behind the design studio called fruitsuper and managers for a coast-to-coast creative collective called JOIN, and now they've launched their latest venture, the second of two brick and mortar JOIN locations, in partnership with Foundry Vineyards in Walla Walla, Washington.
Each of Sally's projects shares a focus on connecting and uplifting independent designers, makers and artists who produce their handcrafted goods on U.S. soil. We were thrilled to talk to her about her work and mission (and take a tour of both JOINstores) on the cusp of the first anniversary of JOIN opening their original storefront.
First and foremost, will you please explain the concept behind JOIN?
We are thrilled to be celebrating our tenth year as a Collective! It all began in 2008 with a super simple premise, as a means of giving the local design community a bigger and more united voice.
Originally including exclusively Seattle-based studios, JOIN has now expanded beyond the West Coast and proudly works with 60+ independent studios from across the United States. Currently managed by myself (also a member, from the design studio called fruitsuper) and Melanie Abrantes (a producer of handcrafted, heirloom objects), JOIN’s focus has expanded beyond tradeshows, workshops, and pop-ups. JOIN curates new and unique group shows — encouraging experimentation, supporting upcoming designers, and cross-collaboration. We’re focusing on creating opportunities that allow the designs and designers speak for themselves.
You have some of our favorite artists and makers on the JOIN roster. How does a business or person become a member? What are the criteria?
Yes! We always jokingly answer that we have to like you or your work, and ideally it's both. But in all seriousness, it's an amazing network of incredible makers who also happen to be dear friends.
Our overarching criteria is that you must be a small, independent studio and your wares must be U.S.-made. Aside from that, it's a combination of like-minded values, quality, aesthetics and good energy. This year we've added our first members in the areas of fashion and beauty. We're excited to keep expanding in all categories of beautifully made wares with members across the country.
How did JOIN then lead to two brick and mortar locations?
It all happened so fast, it was really kind of amazing! We have done pop-ups for so many years (partnering with Poketo, SF MOMA, and more) and the opportunity to bring our collective full-circle and return to our Seattle roots for a physical location was truly a universe alignment!
The second location grew out of a long relationship (and friendship) with the amazing team at Foundry Vineyards. Having grown up in Eastern Washington (myself in Walla Walla), I return for visits several times a year with Joe [my husband and partner at fruitsuper and JOIN]. This has always been one of our favorite locations to spend time. Between the tasting room, gallery, and sculpture garden, The Foundry is the perfect modern-meets-industrial interior, with the added bonus of delicious wine! Their team approached us to add one more layer to their existing offering of art and wine, by adding a curated addition of design. Obviously, we jumped at the chance! The Foundry has a longstanding reputation of supporting the arts community, so the partnership felt incredibly natural.
How did you evolve into becoming a shop owner?
Joe and I evolved from makers to merchants in a fairly natural way. We've been Managing Members of the collective for over six years, so we have amazing relationships with all of our current members. And being designers and makers ourselves, it's been fantastic to have insight into both sides and perspectives of the world of retail. It's been a delight to have this platform to host events, workshops, and highlight this incredible network of makers.
What do you enjoy most about bringing the JOIN goods physically to the masses?
Our objective is to create an atmosphere similar to a farmers market where patrons talk with vendors, choose their products with purpose, and make connections that go beyond consumption. We passionately believe that the stories behind the objects we sell are as beautiful as the objects themselves, and we want to share them with others. We LOVE telling the stories, inspiration, and process behind all of the objects we've selected for our shop!
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A lot of our joy can be explained in our shop manifesto (which is proudly displayed on our of our shop walls):
“We are a community of designers, makers, and artists. We believe in creating objects with stories, getting our hands dirty, and taking pride in what we make. JOIN Shop proudly supports small studios that make their wares in the USA.”
Can you articulate the importance of having groups and shops like JOIN in a community? How have you benefited the makers/artists/designers you work with, and vice versa?
Absolutely! Small, brick and mortar shops add an inexplicable richness and vibrancy to the character of a neighborhood. For our own personal studio, the Collective has served as an invaluable support system and group of mentors; we truly wouldn't be where we are today without this wonderful group. All of our members contribute to a network of sharing information, inspiration and motivation. We inspire each other, support each other, share and learn from each other. As a Collective, we strongly believe that a high tide lifts all ships.
How do you choose which pieces you will carry in your stores?
Overall we're aiming for a fun and colorful atmosphere that features a little something for everyone. We believe there is a misconception that American-made goods have to be costly, so we strive to have items that fit within all budgets, from notebooks to jewelry to screenprinted pillows and everything in between. Our overall focus is quality, showing the hand of the maker, and finding objects that bring us joy.
What are a few items that you are most excited about for spring and summer?
We have some gorgeous handwoven and naturally-dyed jewelry from Zelma Rose, because it’s tactile, intricate, durable, and versatile.
I love our embroidered thank you totes from Open Editions, perfect to have stashed in the bottom of your bag for impromptu shopping
The Plant Sticks from fruitsuper are perfect for supporting all of your potted friends.
The vibrant limited-edition screen prints from Gabriel Stromberg are a bright, modern and affordable way to add art to your home.
The natural lip balm from Etta + Billie is perfect for sun-drenched summer lips.
Last but not least, the Whittling+Carving book by Melanie Abrantes is pocket-sized for camping and on-the-go activities.
What is your ultimate, long-term vision for JOIN?
To continue to grow and build our network of artists, designers and makers. To keep creating platforms to showcase their amazing works. To partner and collaborate with larger brands and companies that share our same values. We're brewing up some juicy ideas for the next couple of years (including a potential book on American Craft?). In short, more, bigger, and better!