Viola began her jewelry business "with a strand of tiny, blue sapphires I brought back from India," she says. "I discovered them during a trip to explore women's stories (including my own as it turned out.) That strand of tiny gemstones, purchased on a whim with no real intention, gave birth to a line of handmade jewelry inspired by what our stories are often inspired by – a sense of place."
Viola uses hand-selected gemstones, signature metal elements and soft deerskin leather.
"I hope my jewelry will help you know and tell your story, the way that strand of tiny sapphires helped me tell mine," she says.
The event is the latest in a string of events Makers Market has hosted since its debut at the Mill Valley Lumber Yard. Ekman, who met and hit it off with MVLY co-owner Jan Mathews in 2017. Ekman's ever-expanding collection of shops showcase and celebrate the products of independent creators, artists and makers.
“My brand is authentic, nostalgic, high quality and it draws upon tradition,” Ekman says.
Coupled with the opening of Flour Craft Bakery in April – in addition to the long-established Ambatalia, Bloomingayles and Guideboat Co. – the Mill Valley Lumber Yard is celebrating a new dawn, becoming a multi-faceted community gathering that also has artist studios and office spaces for local entrepreneurs.
“We’re really excited to have a space here and to connect with this community,” Ekman adds.
The arrival of Makers Market continues the history of the DIY spirit in Mill Valley, from its decades-old craft fairs and arts festivals to creative hubs like Once Around and more recent additions like Pollen + Wool and The Makery.
It also builds on the Lumber Yard’s ever-growing reputation as a community gathering space. The Mathews family bought the 42,500-square-foot property in 2012 from the Cerri family, which had owned and maintained it as a lumber yard and True Value hardware store for the previous 14 years. The property was built by lumber magnate Robert Dollar in 1892 as Dollar Lumber Company.
The Mathews steered their plans to renovate through the Planning Commission and City Council before garnering approval in July 2016. They’re now on the home stretch of that vast renovation.
The concept for Makers Market spawned in Ekman’s vivid memories of helping her father in his workshop as a girl growing up in Huntsville, Alabama. “We just had such great access to so many different kinds of people who made things,” she says. “As a result, I grew up with a great appreciation for that and loved the type of people that do that type of thing for a living, just - extremely genuine and down to earth, resourceful people.”
She launched in June 2014, and opened a pop-up shop in the Westfield Center in San Francisco five months later. Ekman moved the shop to a larger space within Westfield for one year through late 2015, and then opened a shop in Santana Row in San Jose. In July 2017, she opened another store in Broadway Plaza in Walnut Creek.
One of the distinctive elements of Makers Market are the regular events that step beyond the confines of the retail space. Ekman hosts monthly outdoor markets, providing an opportunity for artists whose work is not yet on Makers Market shelves to showcase their work in that setting. The typical event hosts between 20-50 artists, featuring live music and drinks. The MVLY location will host at least six outdoor markets a year, Ekman says, and the next one is set for Saturday, July 14.
“It’s a great opportunity to learn what products are well-received that marketplace,” she says. “That’s a big way that we learn what will end up in Makers Market. We are all about letting local makers get exposure.”
The key to Makers Market, Ekman says, is that each location features local makers.
“A big thing for us is to have it be as local as possible,” she says.
The 411: On Saturday, June 30, Makers Market, which is open in the Mill Valley Lumber Yard at 129 Miller Ave., hosts a trunk show showcasing the work of Napa Valley-based Alexia Viola Jewelry, featuring Viola's work as well as lemonade and mimosas from 10am to 5pm.
NOTE: Due to parking limitations, attendees are asked, if possible, to bike or walk to MVLY for the event. MVLY hopes to offer a shuttle for the July 14th event.
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