SUTTONS BAY — It was fitting that opening day for Moraine Shop & Studio coincided with the first day of the Suttons Bay Art Festival.
A chance meeting between Kelsey McQuown and Melani Wilson at the 2018 summer festival led to the Aug. 3 grand opening of Moraine Shop at 412 N. St. Joseph St. in Suttons Bay. The store features the jewelry from both artists as well as art, objects and clothing from other independent artists.
McQuown was a vendor at last year’s Suttons Bay Art Fair and sold a pair of earrings to Wilson. The two jewelry makers started talking.
“It was quite unexpected, but exciting to meet her,” said McQuown, who said the Suttons Bay event happened to be her first art show in Leelanau County.
“I didn’t even know she existed,” Wilson added. “She said that she’s always thought about opening a store. I’ve also thought about the same thing.”
The two jewelry makers exchanged information. After thinking about a collaboration while driving back to her Leland cottage, Wilson emailed McQuown and the two agreed to meet over a cup of coffee.
“It was about a four-hour coffee ... and here we are,” Wilson said.
McQuown is the “face” of the store, partially because she and her husband are full-time Leelanau County residents. Kelsey and Steve McQuown built a house on land north of Leland and moved in 2017.
“We found a beautiful piece of land that felt absolutely right for us,” she said.
Wilson and her husband have visited the area for a while and bought a cottage near Leland in 2001. She began making jewelry some three years later, often selling her wares at art fairs in Leland and Glen Arbor.
Wilson opened The Trove in her full-time home in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 2013. That store was later sold, but Wilson opened a similar store, The Find, in 2016, that she still owns.
“It’s called a lifestyle general store because it has a little bit of everything,” Wilson said.
Wilson said she is more than a silent partner in Moraine, and coined the term “whispering partner” to describe herself.
Wilson makes a lot of natural jewelry under her brand Melani Wilson Designs. McQuown produces award-winning filigree jewelry under her own brand, KelseyGrape Jewelry.
“It’s kind of a collaboration,” Wilson said. “We’re doing it together and we’re kind of dividing and conquering what we do in the space.”
The two women also sell works from fellow artists that they’ve met along the way. McQuown has traveled extensively for art shows in major cities on the East and West coast, in addition to excursions in Florida and Texas.
“I got to meet other talented artists who have a real passion and that’s what I really wanted to bring into this space,” McQuown said. “These are all artists I love and admire in a lot of different mediums. It really is an effort to combine all the fantastic aspects of the last few years of my life.”
The collaborative nature of art is something both women strongly believe in. McQuown said she first took her jewelry-making out of a home studio in her basement to a metalsmithing department at a local community college while living in Chicago. She later did the same thing while working and teaching in a community studio in Minnesota.
“It reinforced my love for shared studio space,” McQuown said.
Moraine, named for the land formations left behind by glaciers in Leelanau County, will start offering a shared work space. Plans are for classes and workshops to be held in the fall.
“It will be a collaborative experience with other local artists who are interested in coming into this space to share their work and passion,” McQuown said.
And it can all be traced back to a chance meeting in Suttons Bay and a wild idea from Wilson to open a business in Leelanau County.
“(She is) no more crazy than I am,” McQuown said.