Cindy Bogart is the co-creator and editor of Artisans List, a website that seeks to connect consumers with authentic, independent companies and craftspeople.
Together with co-founder Mary Gervais, she has created a Portsmouth-based website that provides an online marketplace for companies in home decor, renovation, antique preservation and other specialties.
PBN: The website already has several hundred listings from around the country. How have artisan companies found it, and or, how are you locating them?
BOGART: The concept of Artisans List began when we kept on finding amazing resources at antique markets that were barely, if at all, found online. The concept expanded when we realized that right in our own backyard, traditional building trades were too busy to create and/or maintain a viable online presence. That was how the list began and we expanded it to include businesses, trades and products for people who were looking to incorporate traditions, methods and technologies into their lives. This list was started two years ago, so it has been an intensive search because we approached it organically.
We believe in getting out in the field to meet people face-to-face and have been to numerous antiques markets and trade shows. We gathered stacks of business cards and scraps of paper with artisans’ information on it and that started the list. Many of those businesses have shared our site with others who subsequently joined the list.
PBN: Some of the specialties under home and renovation topics are interesting, such as old-house movers and barn makers. Are all specialists located outside New England willing to work in Rhode Island?
BOGART: Artisans List is a geo-directory, meaning that you can find businesses locally or nationally on a map search. Our starting point is New England, but we’ve gotten sources from all over the country, including Hawaii and Alaska, and we’ve included Canada. However, many businesses in Virginia, let’s say, would love the opportunity to expand their markets and build a barn for you in New England or even Florida.
There are also many businesses that make products that ship and sell nationwide [such as] handmade-tile makers in California or hand-forged coppersmiths in Washington state. Artisans List is great for those folks because it helps them grow their market size, which in turn, helps them stay in business and keep their craft alive. From the consumers’ point, they are exposed to a larger market than just the tile or lamp store in town.
PBN: Who is the audience for your website?
BOGART: Think of HGTV, “This Old House,” “The Fixer Upper” – that’s our market. These shows do a great job of showcasing how projects are done, but they don’t tell you where to find the sources to help you do the restoration or find the products. That’s where we come in. Our viewers are also in big cities – people want to personalize their homes. They might be looking for some old beams to add character to their spaces, or even find someone who hand-makes unique lighting fixtures.
You will also note that, we have included farm-to-table sources because we found if our audience restores and repurposes, they also shop fresh and local, or have their own kitchen gardens. We felt it all belonged together.
PBN: Why do you think people want unique or artisan approaches to home design, construction, renovation?
BOGART: Everything has a story. People want to know where things come from and know their stories. It fascinates me to look at the furniture in my house and think about the people that made it, the people that sold it and so on; I cherish them for the link they provide with the past.
People want to embrace their roots and heritage. It helps us create our own stories and create our own unique homes, or nests! They can find the sources to do that on Artisans List.
PBN: What do you want to bolster on your marketplace the most – the number of specialists represented, or more within New England?
BOGART: Good question. We definitely want to build a solid foundation here in New England; after all, this is where so much of what we are has all started. We talk about New England in our magazine section and in our upcoming video series on Artisan Spotlights. Next phases include a gradual national push; we are an online community, which allows us to connect local consumers and small businesses with a much larger global community.
Mary MacDonald is a staff writer for the PBN. Contact her at email@example.com.