A creative community in the heart of Kansas City
by MELISSA COWAN
We can do that together” is the philosophy of the Cherry Pit Collective, a communal studio space for artists, makers and creatives to not only work, but also collaborate and share ideas.
Director Kelsey Pike and Associate Director Adri Luna have been friends since 2009. They met at the Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI), where they both studied printmaking and discovered their true passions: for Kelsey, papermaking; for Adri, abstract art. After a successful Kickstarter campaign last summer, they opened the doors to the Cherry Pit Collective at 31st and Cherry in Kansas City’s Midtown.
“In the beginning stages (of owning a business), you’re working on your bed or on your floor watching Netflix, and it’s kind of lonely,” Adri said. “So, to be able to come into a space and just be around other people who are also making, it’s really fun.”
The Collective is currently home to 16 local entrepreneurs and freelancers. Each studio is a peek into the artists’ different worlds. Some spaces are stacked with clear containers of tools and materials; others are decorated with the artist’s own work — from watercolor paintings and calligraphy prints, to vintage clothes and installation pieces made of coffee filters.
Toward the rear is Kelsey’s studio, where large sheets of paper hang to dry like wet laundry. Through her business, Sustainable Paper+Craft, she creates handmade paper for fine artists and “anyone who wants a nice paper for a special occasion.”
As she unhooked the sheets from their clothespins, she explained the papermaking process — transforming cotton and other fibers (never wood) into unique products people can use for their wedding invitations or office stationery.
“It’s almost meditative,” Kelsey said. “I love the sound of peeling the paper off, and to make something so common from start to finish is gratifying.”
Papermaking is no easy task. Sheets can weigh 50 pounds or more because of the water, but that never deterred Kelsey, who “loved it from the first time (she) ever did it.”
She was a studio tech at KCAI, cleaning in exchange for use of the space and supplies, until she graduated and set up shop in her parents’ garage in Lawrence, KS. Every week, she would drive there and make paper all day for a few days straight, and then drive back to Kansas City to work her day job. Exhausted, she searched for a studio closer to home.
“I read a newspaper article talking about the new businesses coming in to this area: the yoga studio, the bike collective. I was only going to rent a small space for just me, but the landlords (Maker Village owners, next door) wanted to rent out the entire building.”
From there, the Cherry Pit Collective began to grow — with members, business classes and, most recently, Wanderfest!
Held on April 30, Wanderfest! was an open house and block party featuring more than 20 businesses from the 31st and Cherry neighborhood. The Cherry Pit Collective organized the event and turned their space into a pop-up shop, with around a dozen members and artists selling their handmade work. For some, like Ariel Thompson, ceramic and jewelry artist, this was their craft fair debut.
Ariel participated in the Collective’s six-week Etsy Incubator to get her shop, Wild Whims Studio, up and running online. “I learned a lot,” she said, “like how to advertise on Etsy and price my products,” which also helped her prepare for the event.
Other artists included Lost & Found Design, Peaches Vintage Collective, Freckled Nose Co., Heavy Metals Jewelry, Alyissa Letters, Travis Stewart, and, of course, Sustainable Paper+Craft and Adri Luna Studio.
Deborah Young is a freelance writer from Overland Park, KS, who has an interest in all things musical. She also composes music and plays keyboards. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.