For about two decades, East Nashvillian Brandy Davenport headed to the West Side on workdays, presiding over the creative and crafty offerings housed inside A Thousand Faces. By early summer of 2014, though, she felt ready to stick closer to home day to day, and to jump back into entrepreneurship, opening eclectic shop Artisan East at the corner of Riverside and Porter.
“I finally decided it was time to be on the East Side all the time,” she says from behind the shop's counter, flanked by home goods and jewelry and all manner of other handmade items. “I felt like people would support it over here, kind of outside of 5 Points — this kind of store.”
Davenport’s last entrepreneurial venture was a flower shop up in Connecticut — an experience that spurred her love of bold colors and handmade creativity. That love was part of what informed the vision of the "kind of store" she'd open in Artisan East: “nothing made out of the country, everything’s kind of organic and natural, recycled, repurposed, reimagined, with an emphasis on the artisan, the small batch,” she says. “A stay-at-home mom, perhaps, making soy candles in her kitchen, you know? I want to support that person. Anybody who wants to create, I think it’s fantastic to give them an outlet, to get them out there.”
The other big thing that drove and drives Artisan East’s focus?
“Being an artist myself,” Davenport says. “I do a lot of wood art, and I think that kind of came out of flowers — the whole color thing. I found it in wood, and I can recycle and repurpose. It’s just tossed wood that I find and I use it and make it into something.”
The kinds of pieces Davenport stocks the shop with otherwise — stained glass pieces from local artist Wynn Smith, letterpress prints from Wisconsin makers Print and Be Merry, snuggly plush eyeballs made from upcycled sweaters by Des Moines’ Lara Newsom — are usually found in fittingly organic ways: word of mouth, neighbor visits and the like.
“A lot of it is local — there’s quite a few neighborhood people in here, which I love, and they’ve kind of found me, which is nice,” she says. “I [also] find people at the artisan craft fairs that want to be in a brick and mortar place. There’s lots of ways. Just not the traditional ways.”
And as it turns out, connecting local artisans with shoppers who appreciate homegrown creativity and the human touch is as rewarding as Davenport hoped.
“The fact that I’m getting artisans coming to me and wanting to sell their stuff,” she says, “I love that. I love actually making it happen for them. Somebody comes in and says, ‘Oh, I’ve been making these bird houses and I don’t know what to do with them. Do you think you can sell them?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah! Let’s give it a try!’”
Artisan East. Goods & Good Finds. is located at 1601-B Riverside Dr., right by Pied Piper Eatery.
For the holidays, the shop will be open every day until Christmas, with extended hours posted on the Artisan East Facebook page daily. Gift wrapping is included free of charge for all purchases.
Artisan East is also hosting open house days from Thursday, Dec. 11 to Sunday, Dec. 14 — keep an eye on Facebook for extended hours and further details about that too.