“There’s a lot of variety in here, that’s for sure,” Steph Buckley says, laughing. She pauses for a breath after trying to describe her store, Rustically Signed, and running through a list of products that includes bath bombs, jewelry, DIY maker kits, baby accessories, candles, pillows, clocks, and, naturally, wooden signs. “Our whole store is made up of local artists’ handmade goods.”
The defining characteristic of her downtown Lindsay business isn’t a single product type, but an aesthetic shared by Buckley and co-owner Holly Suddick. The duo recently celebrated their first year in their brick and mortar location at 12 Lindsay St. S, but the partnership dates back several years, when Suddick asked for help filling custom sign orders. Operating as a local hub for artisans was a natural evolution after selling their work through other merchants.
“It was eight locations that we were in, and it was just constant running around, and we just decided, you know what? We’re doing enough volume spread around and we’ve got enough of a customer base for our custom products, let’s just – let’s start a store.” Beginning with signs and woodworking, a need to fill the shelves drove them to experiment more widely. They dabbled in a process called sublimation, a heat-transfer printing process, to expand their repertoire. “So we got into pillows and mugs and t-shirts and from there it just kind of opened the door… We’re always trying something new.”
Rather than make all the inventory themselves, Buckley and Suddick invited a few fellow artisans to sell their work in store. The enthusiastic response, as well as a series of popular how-to workshops, meant Rustically Signed quickly outgrew an initial retail space above the Pie Eyed Monk Brewery. At their more spacious Lindsay St. location, the roster grew to a peak of sixty artisans. Current highlights include work by Kawartha Weaving Textile and Fibre Arts Studio, a Bobcaygeon-based studio specializing in loom weaving, and Lupin Yarn Craft, offering beautifully crocheted yarn goods for kids and adults alike. Animal lovers will want to check out the collection by Kawartha Lakes Collar Co.
Buckley can’t deny the pandemic has made running a business more difficult, but she remains optimistic. She’s grateful to her community for shopping local in December, and she and Suddick have kept busy through January replenishing inventory sold during the Christmas rush. Their online store offers curbside pickup, local delivery, and shipping options, and they’ve maintained the DIY spirit by selling self-guided craft kits. They’ve also made some changes to their rental-based business model to accommodate artisans who may be struggling to keep up under the circumstances. “We were finding that people were having a hard time footing the bill to take inventory and not knowing that that inventory was going to sell,” Buckley says. “We looked at switching over to just buying it outright from them and it did work for a lot of our makers.”
Rustically Signed now accepts applications for either space rental or wholesale purchases, and encourages makers to reach out. Meanwhile, Buckley and Suddick continue to make and sell their own creative output. “I have an old horse barn, a two-storey horse barn that we’ve converted into a woodshop. I ordered a substantial piece of equipment, a laser cutter, so I’ve actually now converted my garage as well to another workshop. So I’ve got two workshops on my property that all the woodworking takes place in.” With a well-equipped workspace and an inclusive approach to attracting new talent, Buckley and Suddick’s “rustic” style seems to have a bright future in Kawartha Lakes’ arts landscape.
Are you enjoying our Meet the Makers series? Please consider supporting the small businesses in your community this winter, as they rely on our support now more than ever. Reinvesting in our communities allows our hard-working artisans continue doing what they love – and allows us to continue enjoying the beauty they create.