Bridgit Yinger is passionate about locally produced art. That's the idea behind the OnionTree, her new boutique in College Hill.
"When people buy something here, the money goes straight to the artist, which is pretty awesome," said Yinger, who opened her shop a couple of weeks ago.
There are purely decorative items for sale in the shop, like a colorful series of paintings that CityArts instructor Jaki McElroy completed on wood recovered from a birdhouse. But much of the merchandise falls into the category of functional art, ranging from jewelry to home furnishings and clothes.
The emphasis of utility comes naturally to Yinger, who once studied furniture design at the Savannah College of Art and Design. She later attended Wichita State's Center for Entrepreneurship, waiting tables to make a living.
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But she said the idea for her store came during a period of living in Portland, Ore., which she called a center of the "do-it-yourself" movement.
"It's people creating things they love and figuring out a way to make a living selling it," she said. "I decided it was time to come back and tap into all the creative people I've met here."
About 60 percent of the items in her shop are produced in Kansas, she said, "and I'm always looking for more."
One favorite is Wichita textile designer Kyle Leandra Kolkovich, who makes pillows, purses and headbands under the Leandra George label.
"Her craftsmanship is impeccable," Yinger said. "What's really exciting is she's getting ready to do bike bags."
Jewelry makers whose wares are carried include Rachelle Ablah Pulkkila, who is known for incorporating natural stones with repurposed items, and Eloyce Meis, who utilizes semi-precious stones.
Yinger also sells incense burners fashioned out of wine bottles by a Benton couple, necklaces made out of painted Scrabble tiles by another Kansas artist, a line of whimsically designed baby clothes, and used furniture from the mid-20th century modern period.
Yinger plans to keep a significant portion of her inventory in the price range of $10 to $30, which she said should appeal to the "young, funky demographic" of the nearby Uptown neighborhood. The smallest painting by McElroy, for instance, sells for $12.
"I want to encourage people not to buy posters if they can find art that's comparable" in price, she said.
On Sundays, she opens up a back room equipped with a sewing machine and paper for making greeting cards to the public.
"Anybody is welcome to come in and craft," she said.
She hopes people will use the opportunity to bounce ideas off each other and improve their work. And who knows, maybe some of it will be on sale at the OnionTree as well.
"This is a shop that's really for the artist," Yinger said. "That's my whole goal, for people to know they're supporting artists and not a machine."