Fair Earth was featured in the New York Times!
Sally Ryan for The New York Times
By BONNIE TSUI
Published: December 6, 2009
Located in a traditionally Swedish neighborhood that’s undergone an arty transformation, the Andersonville Galleria is quietly becoming the go-to spot for handmade jewelry, clothing and other wares, most made locally by an eclectic mix of artists and designers who rent space month to month.
In late 2007, two local developers, Mark Falanga and Ray Pesavento, opened the galleria in a 7,000-square-foot exposed-brick space that was once home to Wikstrom’s Gourmet Foods, the neighborhood’s historic Swedish deli. It has since grown to become an incubator for homegrown indie artisans; there are now over 90 tenants on four floors. A flea market this is not — more like a clean, well-lighted gallery, down to the spotlighted photographs and artist bios, and the front counter, fashioned from the deli’s antique freezer.
A visit during a recent fall afternoon yielded an impressive array of basic retail offerings, like linen bags and gourmet toffee. But the work can also tack toward the whimsical, as with a hand-printed T-shirt emblazoned with the slogan “Mayor for Life,” paired with a likeness of the longtime city politician Richard M. Daley ($21, from Novem Studios, a local brand). The graphic artist Annette Rapier, who designs under the moniker Blamgirl, makes clever use of architectural glass blocks, turning them into super-heroine-themed items (a night light sells for $45). Another inventive display is from the “Drinking & Writing Brewery,” a Chicago-area radio show that celebrates “creativity under the influence”; books, clothing, and posters are for sale, including artwork by the artist Ralph Steadman.
Wood-handled handbags made from recycled magazines and newspapers sell for $65, imported from East Africa by Fair Earth, a Chicago-based company that supports fair-trade designs. In the same stall is a wire-frame jewelry box that uses recycled bottle caps from Kenya’s Tusker Lager, each cap with the signature yellow elephant ($32).
The galleria acts as the brick-and-mortar retail outlet for many start-up designers whose work may be available only online, or nowhere else.
“I loved the concept of the galleria — helping artists who can’t afford to rent an entire store,” said Ariel Arwen, a jewelry designer who opened her exhibition space in May. Her work centers on gorgeous clusters of keshi pearls with a champagne sheen (earrings from $28).
Andersonville Galleria, 5247 North Clark Street; (773) 878-8570; www.andersonvillegalleria.com.