A room of their own

How women-led creative collaboratives are crafting Sacramento’s maker scene

Tanasha Smith, owner of Good Vibes and Positive Minds.

Tanasha Smith, owner of Good Vibes and Positive Minds.

Sacramento’s creative landscape has a new DIY ideology woven into its fabric—and it’s creative women making the first stitch. The movement represents a shift toward more locally made, artisan goods, and it means that as the region’s creative economy expands, so do the needs of its makers.

When you see such creatives—fiber artists, ceramicists and others—selling at hip craft fairs such as Makers Mart and River City Marketplace, it may seem like they’re part of a well-oiled machine. But how did they actually make it in what’s often a solitary and challenging industry?

The answer draws on equal parts business know-how, a collaborative spirit and feminine energy. Of course, Sacramento’s makers scene includes all genders, but its women are arguably in the midst of a quietly crafty revolution, one thriving thanks to collaboration, mentoring and camaraderie.

community over competition

The co-founders of Broad Room, a “creative womxn’s collective and self-care centered nonprofit,” are cut from the same cloth. Claire Curley and Shevaun Zakhir, 20-something entrepreneurs who already had their own businesses (selling vintage and ceramics, respectively), both saw the need for a women-driven creative space.

Broad Room, located at 23rd and S streets in Sacramento, opened in summer 2018. Now, what was once a lonesome endeavor is shared, and affordable. Broad Room’s Instagram-worthy vignettes and DIY-vibe workspace add to the charm. The interior boasts a bright, industrial studio aesthetic and includes a retail section, community coworking tables and a gallery. Membership packages are available at two tiers of investment, with corresponding levels of access and perks.

Several blocks over at 24th and J streets, there’s another new retail and creative coworking space. Together Midtown, which also includes a salon, is meant to serve and support artistic women, recognizing that tight budgets are a hurdle for many. Co-founded by Purpose Boutique owner Rachel Minyard with the owners of Pomegranate Boutique, sisters Stella and Araxia Manukyan, it’s designed for makers and creative-minded shoppers.

“There were a lot of coworking spaces, but there weren’t spaces for people to actually share and have their own brick and mortar,” Stella Manukyan explains.

For Araxia Manukyan, the numbers add up.

“If you could start your own business and not have a $5,000 overhead, would you do it?” she asks.

Together features a stylish lounge area and rear workshop. There’s also a marketplace, which includes both the Purpose and Pomegranate boutiques. Purpose focuses on ethically made apparel, while Pomegranate serves the modern mother with stylish, comfortable clothing, as well as matching children’s ensembles. There’s also Minyard’s salon, which with its perfect selfie mirrors and organic touches is meant to attract customers, as well as bring business to the shops inside. The variety of experiences and products contributes to its one-stop appeal.

But why Sacramento?

Austin, Portland and Los Angeles are all maker meccas, so what makes the local competitive? For Sarah Barkawi, co-founder of Sac-Made, a new maker collective, the community here is thirsty for connection.

She points to the popularity of local speakers series such as Creative Mornings and Creativity Plus as proof. Both series aim to inspire and connect through monthly events that showcase creative thinking

“People [in Sacramento] are ready for it.” Barkawi says.

Sac-Made, whose co-founders include Trisha Rhomberg and Eric Ullrich, launched in December and is designed as much for the consumer as for the maker. Rhomberg says she recognized a need for a directory for folks looking to hire makers for both commercial and custom projects. (Some of Sacramento’s more stylish restaurants, including Canon and Beast & Bounty, are known to utilize makers’ wares in their designs). Rhomberg’s many creative endeavors have put her in tune with the city’s needs. She’s the force behind Makers Mart and R Street Block Party as well as the owner of Old Gold vintage boutique.

“We needed [a collective] that was easily accessible and open to the public, that didn’t have such an exclusive vibe to it,” Rhomberg says.

Those behind Sac-Made also aim to prepare makers with mentorships on scaling a business, a key to longevity and success, Barkawi says.

Broad Room’s Curley and Zakhir agree that what sets Sacramento apart is that it’s a reflection of the ethos that’s become a staple of independent creatives: community over competition.

“It’s friendships and relationships first, selling second,” Zakhir says.

In practice, this spirit means guiding women with specific questions. Although many of Broad Room’s members are already experienced business people, the co-founders also want to share insights with newer entrepreneurs, such as tips on how to sell directly on Instagram.

Some might argue the communal spirit is more readily embraced by women; certainly, stereotypes still abound in regards to women and crafty things. Stella Manukyan believes most women share a different mindset than their male counterparts

“I don’t know if it’s because we’re women, or if socially we’ve been constructed [that way], but there are definitely different energies,” she says.

The Together team says this helps them create a support network, whether it’s aiding women’s businesses to gain traction or encouraging them to bring in their small children. In short, it’s about championing someone’s creative needs in a welcoming and practical way.

Over at Broad Room, Curley says their collective corrects an imbalance in which women don’t receive the same time or attention as male artists.

“The big names in art in Sacramento are pretty much all dudes. So for me it’s not really that it’s female-centric, so ‘men aren’t allowed',” she says. “It’s trying to create some sort of balance between the way it’s always been and the way it should be moving forward.”

In addition to elevating profiles, these communities also focus on wellness. With its weekly “Self-Care Sundays” series, Broad Room offers a rare resource for its community: meet-ups that allow women to unpack whatever’s on their mind. Or they can simply show up to listen and “just be there to hold space for other people,” Curley says.

“It’s the best of both worlds, caring for yourself and others, while doing what you love,” Zakhir says.

Likewise, Rhomberg stresses the need for support. “Being part of the community helps people continue to push forward and keep growing,” she says. “Especially through the beginnings where … it may be hard to balance work, social and family time.”

Whether the craft industry is expanding, or whether these women are catching up to a demand remains to be seen. What’s certain is there are many lined up to join.

Both Together and Broad Room’s calendars are full with trunk shows, pop-up sales and other events. Meanwhile, Sac-Made is off to a strong start, working toward a goal of 100 makers this spring.

What unites them is the drive to make art happen, and not just a side hustle—collaborative and social, yet project-oriented.

“They come in ready to work on a specific thing,” Zakhir says. “But it’s not a heads-down space.”