Aldona Bird, Columns/Opinion

Hoot and Howl: local handmade artisan gifts and crafts shop

Although Hoot and Howl – an eclectic and charming shop on the corner of Walnut and Spruce streets in Morgantown – opened about a month ago, I only checked it out last week, and ended up stopping in four times since.
The first time I visited, I left feeling excited; I wanted to tell all the makers I know to hurry in with their wares.
The second time I visited, I left with all natural and handmade grapefruit scented silky smooth body butter.
The third time I visited, I sat down and interviewed shop owner Stephanie Swaim and became even more fond of the shop.
The fourth time I visited, I was excited to see all the new items Stephanie already had. She told me she stocks new items every day – works from new artisans, restocking items from current artisans and antiques.
The shop is stocked with handmade gifts (from ceramics to jewelry to macrame to personal care products) from about 25 artisans — about 90 percent of them local. The remaining items are USA made, with the exception of a few handmade things.
Stephanie is among the artisans. “I started making jewelry about 15 years ago,” Stephanie said, adding that she didn’t much like her first works, but she was supported and encouraged by her mother and friends.
“I started to experiment more and expand my craft,” she said. Now, her work has a vintage feel, particularly in the colors she uses. She described her work as “eclectic for sure.”
Inspired by her experience as a maker and by a friend opening a similar shop in Virginia, Stephanie said she wanted to open Hoot and Hollow for a while. When the space became available, she jumped from her corporate job into this new adventure quickly.
Wanting to open the shop by student move-in at the beginning of August, she, her mother and a friend painted walls and installed new flooring in a single weekend, set up merchandise the following week and opened the doors the next Saturday.
“This is an outlet for people to bring their work and share it with the city,” Stephanie said. “We have work from people just starting out,” she said. She enjoys seeing them grow and learn as artisans. “It’s super cool and rewarding.”
Delighted by the number of people who came in and talked to her about their creations, Stephanie said she enjoys learning more about the makers’ community. “I knew we had a lot of artisans here, but — wow!” she said.
She’s still looking for more handmade items to stock in Hoot and Hollow and encourages artisans to email her photos of their work. She’ll see if their work fits into her shop without creating competition within the store or with fellow downtown merchants.
“We aren’t creating any competition, it’s all community,” she said.
Going forward Stephanie plans to not only increase her stock of handmade items, but also “to do small classes, where people can learn something new.”
She said learning a hand craft is not only fun, it can also create confidence and pride and preserve skills that our society is rapidly losing. Stephanie also said that more artisans would “help make the world better.”
Personally, I totally agree with Stephanie. Making things can change your mindset — when I’m in creating mode, I have far less interest in buying mass produced things and end up spending my dollars on handmade items — not only enriching my own life, but also directly impacting the local economy.
If you haven’t already, I recommend stopping in to Hoot and Hollow — multiple times.