Jessica Crossfield, owner and founder of Handmade Toledo, has been making waves in the local art community since 2006. Owning and operating a store that supports over 200 local artists and vendors has been a journey and her biggest dream come true. We sat down with Jessica and talked with her about Handmade’s beginnings, her early creative life and how her desires to create a space that celebrates art and artists became the best job ever.
The idea of Handmade Toledo started through one of it’s now most popular events, Makers Mart. Before any building was available, Jessica had the desire to showcase artists’ work and have a place where the fruits of their creative labors could be seen and purchased. The first ever Makers Mart garnered around 1,500 people – a hugely successful first-time showing. The event grew in popularity as it continued for a few years, until a space on Adams Street became available; Jessica trusted the moment and signed a rental agreement. “The biggest risk was buying the building and taking that leap of faith despite knowing that if I failed a year later, I would be out a lot of money.” Luckily, it did the exact opposite of failing.
Jessica grew up in Delta, Ohio and attended University of Toledo. After graduating, she moved to Toledo’s Old West End and never looked back. Working as an art teacher all over the city, Jessica connected to her love of making through sewing dresses for herself in her free time. Eventually, those around her began to take interest in her dresses, and pushed her to open an Etsy shop to sell her clothing. This led to her desire to sell her own goods, brick-and-mortar style, along with other artists she knew. Instead of only looking at art in galleries, she wanted art to be accessible to everyone. When asked why Toledo became her stomping ground for a local arts store instead of a larger city like Detroit or Chicago, she responded by acknowledging the affordability of Toledo, and also identified that many of her artist friends knew of the glass city, but not much about it. She wanted to change that.
Surviving a Pandemic
In a time where everyone has had to shift their entire way of life, it has also been a period where many creatives feel exhausted or uninspired. Jessica has taken this time to learn some new ways of making art. “I want to create in my own home. I’m learning crafts that are not normally my style, like macrame, paper making.” She’s inspired by all of the local business owners getting creative when it comes to staying open and making their businesses accessible despite the pandemic’s challenges. In order to adjust, Handmade has ramped up production for their online store and modified their fantastic workshops to run again in a safe manner. “We still want to utilize the space and a lot of our instructors are artists who have lost their income… our main goal is to give artists a venue to sell work, to teach, to create.”
When asked what advice Jessica would give to anyone looking to start a small business, creative or not, she offered this wisdom. “ If you are passionate enough, you can do it. Start small and let things grow. Think creatively and ask for help from people in the community.” She leaned into what fulfills her creatively and now has what she considers to be the best job ever. Her wild ideas have no bounds, whether it’s buying 50 disco balls to make a disco ball chandelier or stocking up on a bunch of globes for no reason whatsoever (but we’re sure they’ll become something amazing!). And although 2020 hasn’t quite gone to plan, Jessica has a lot of hope for the future of Handmade, and she says this time gives her more time to come up with weird, wonderful ideas.
Do you know someone in Toledo that would be perfect to spotlight for our new local creative series? Are you a local Toledo artist and want to talk to us about upcoming projects or events? Reach out to Audrey at firstname.lastname@example.org and say hello!