Hippo? Why is this gift shop called Hippo?

People often ask... "Hippo? How did you get that name?" and my answer is always a shortened version trying to explain the path to get to the name. Here's the long story.

When I started selling printed t-shirts and paintings at art and craft markets in New Bedford, the markets were called NB Open Market and they were organized by Elissa Paquette of Calico (the awesome women's clothing boutique in downtown New Bedford!). I started helping her out as the vendor coordinator and the name changed to CRAFT-O-RAMA. We would run outdoor markets once or twice a year and some indoor craft sales. In 2010 I got a call from Elissa and she said "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if we set up like a shop? We'd have people drop off their stuff and we'd sell it and they don't have to be there?" She called a property manager that had an empty storefront (now the home of Finest Hour Athletics and Purchase Street Records) and they said we could use the space. We borrowed some tables and set it up in one night. We did a four day sale in December and it was great! The next year we wanted to do it again. We hit up Jeremiah Hernandez at UGLYgallery and asked if we could partner with him and set up our CRAFT-O-RAMA pop-up shop there in the gallery for a few weeks in December. The next few years, the sale got longer and better each time but Elissa was like "girl, just go for it" because her business was keeping her busy. After having this temporary holiday pop-up at UGLYgallery for 3 years I moved to 741 Purchase Street and then 98 William Street the following 2 years. Customers started to know that CRAFT-O-RAMA would have locally handmade unique gift items but where we'd be? Who knows! Luckily the name spread and they found us.  

When I had the pop-up at 741 Purchase Street things changed. It was my first time really running the shop without the help of Jeremiah or Elissa. I hired help (thanks Devon!) and had to just make it work. And luckily it did! I didn't want to leave the space. I spoke with the property manager about renting year round and he was open to it but my work schedule didn't allow me to really give up any time. All of my money was going into a house I was about to buy, and I had no one to run the shop. The property company and I spent a few years playing tag trying to make something work. 

Sarah Furtado started selling her ceramics at the shop in 2014 and after having a discussion about how she wanted to someday run a store like this, it just made sense for me to hire her to help the following year. We worked together to bring a weekly outdoor art market to Custom House Square during the summer and it was a great chance for us to learn our work habits and shared vision.  After running the summer market with Sarah and having multiple people telling me to JUST DO IT! we decided to go for it. I signed a lease in the summer of 2016 and we started painting and finding vendors to not just open a holiday shop but a year round store.

In August of 2016, Elissa (from Calico), Sarah and I took a ride to the New York Now Gift Show so we could find some awesome greeting cards for the shop. As soon as we hit the Connecticut border, Elissa said "so.... what are you going to do about the name?" Sarah and I both grumbled. We had both done so much over the summer and spent a lot of money building up the CRAFT-O-RAMA social media for the art market, changing the name now seemed like the worst timing but I always knew if I opened a year round store I'd want the name to be different. Elissa said "well, what names have you at least thought about?" I quickly blurted.... "oh, something with the word hippo in it. Like Hippo Hippo or like 100 Hippos" They both were confused "why hippo?"

And now I get to the point of this blog... I told you it would be a long story....

When I was in high school, a friend of mine would sing me a song when I was in a bad mood. It went like this "Oh what (clap, clap) can make (clap, clap) a hippopotamus smile? They ooze in the gooze without any shoes, they wade in the water til their lips turn blue. Oh what (clap, clap) can make (clap, clap) a hippopotamus smile?" Over the years I would collect little trinkets of hippos because they made me smile. When I was in college and set up an email for the first time (yeah, that shows my age) I remember trying to come up with a password and someone saying "well think of something that will make you smile" and hippo was the first word that came to mind. 

So, we kept driving to New York and saying different names. I honestly don't remember the other candidates but we listed a lot! At one point I said "When people walk into the store I don't want it to look like a gallery. I want them to walk in and they just feel like they're in a hip gift store" and Elissa said "Hip? Like Hippo?" And at that moment we started putting it in sentences "Hey, did you see what's new at Hippo?" or "Hey I'm just going to run to Hippo before Calico."

But damn, I was still scared to change the name! It was 6 years of having the CRAFT-O-RAMA pop-up! We had actual customers! We had just about 3,000 FB followers. I had just paid for an LLC named CRAFT-O-RAMA, got a new email, got business cards. Starting from scratch seemed horrible. Besides coming up with a new name, I spent a lot of time on the car ride venting that a lot of people that would apply to the shop were really a lot craftier than I wanted it to be. After all, our vision was a hip gift store. This is when Elissa said "Have you ever thought that changing the name would help that? Like maybe the name CRAFT-O-RAMA is what is making people think what you sell is the same as a church craft fair?" That really hit me. Now don't get me wrong, I love church craft fairs too! But again, just a different vision for the store. 

We got to the gift show and I asked a few awesome makers and sales people there. "What do you think of the name CRAFT-O-RAMA?" Their responses were pretty monotone and mostly just explained it was cool and sounds crafty. Then I'd say "What do you think of the name Hippo?" And they'd smile. They'd brighten up. I loved the smile we'd see when they heard that name. 

We spent some time on the ride home texting friends for advice (not while I was driving, sis) and saying Hippo as well as other names in sentences but a few days later we confirmed.... Hippo would be the name of our new year round gift shop. This way people wouldn't think it was temporary. They'd know it was different. We kept the name CRAFT-O-RAMA around for pop-up events and art markets we still run from time to time.

But when people ask "Why did you name it Hippo?" The easiest answer is, it's just a word that makes me smile. 

 

 

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Sarah's Favorite New Arrivals

It's that time of the month again where I share my favorite new items at the shop! Even though it's September, we're already thinking about Christmas here at Hippo. We've started the process of getting lots of new inventory in for you all and it's already started rolling in! Check it out below...

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"Sea Witch" Print by Tess Burns. Hailing from Somerset, MA and going to school at Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, Tess Burns creates brightly colored prints featuring chic, stylish, and stylized ladies based on everything from fashion illustrations to her favorite musicians to the queens from RuPaul's Drag Race.

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Laser cut earrings by I'm Your Present. Kelly Eident is a Providence, RI based jewelry and accessories designer specializing in laser cut work. We're totally obsessed with these bold statement pieces! 

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Mermaid Enamel Pins by Oh Plesiosaur. It's no secret we love enamel pins, and our customers love them too! One of our all-time favorite sellers, Serena Epstein, designs these inclusive mermaids in Baltimore, MD. We love hearing "Hey, that mermaid looks just like me!" from women and young girls who come into the shop. 

Musical Cat Pin by Natelle Draws Stuff. We heard about Natelle Quek through Serena at Oh Plesiosaur and immediately fell in love with her sweet and funny cat pins and stickers. Natelle designs and illustrates everything in Gainesville, FL where she resides with her partner and fur babies.

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Mismatched Socks by Friday Sock, Co. The best socks around! Intentionally mismatched with things like 'bacon & eggs', 'coffee & donuts', and 'burgers & fries" these socks are super fun and comfy. Friday Sock Co., is headquartered in Calgary, Alberta Canada and run by owner Adam Thompson. Adam works closely with a family owned sock producer in Italy to ensure that his products are made in an ethical and environmentally responsible way. 

I hope you enjoyed this month's product round-up. I'll be back next month with some new favorites!

xo Sarah

 

Animation Station!

Last Thursday we hosted an animation night at Hippo. Every couple of months or so we have small animation sessions here at the shop. What is an animation session you ask? WELL... It all starts with LightBox Collaborative Animation Project. We round up a small group of friends and LBCAP's head honcho Eric brings portable light boxes, index cards, and permanent markers. I know you're wondering, "That's it?!" I wondered that myself when I saw him arrive with only a file box of materials, but it's true. That's it! 

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After setting up, it's time to get to work. The goal of the evening is to create a giant flip book of sorts that Eric then takes home and digitally animates. You begin with a starter card of a random hand drawn image and over the course of a few minutes alter the image index card by index card (again think flip book) until the allotted amount of time is up. Now, this is where is gets really fun! You take your stack of cards and pass it to the person on your right. That person now has to build another mini flip book based off of your drawing and so on until all of the index cards are gone. If it sounds complicated, don't worry, it's totally easy! Detailed instructions are given and once you start and get a feel for it, it's simple.

When the night is over, Eric takes all of the index cards home and combines them into a digital animation video with music. In a couple of weeks he uploads it to YouTube and Facebook where everyone can see the finished product. It's the coolest! 

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You're probably saying "Sarah, why are you telling me all of this?" I'm telling you because this Thursday, August 24 Shelley is hosting a Drawing Social at Groundwork here in New Bedford. From 6pm-8pm you can try Eric's LightBox Collaborative Animation for yourself, as well as drawing games, and a collage station. No experience is necessary. Bring your friends, bring your fam and go have a great time! 

 

 

 

Check out the links below for more info and to RSVP:

Drawing Social

LightBox Collaborative Animation Project

Subscribe to Eric's YouTube channel

If you're interested in hosting your own small group animation session, contact heavensmechanic@yahoo.com.

August 12: A day to be remembered

People often ask how long ago we opened the gift shop and we very quickly blurt out "November 10!" We've thought of this date a lot as our anniversary date. Knowing the next time November 10 comes around, we'll be ready to celebrate.

As I was recently planning our trip to the NY NOW gift show it hit me hard that just a year ago on our first ride to the show, we were deciding if we should change the pop up and art market name from CRAFT-O-RAMA to something else that would fit the year round shop. We spent hours in the car to New York City brainstorming names. We talked about a color theme, we talked about the type of inventory we'd have. We purchased a few things and drove home with the name Hippo! 

I woke up this morning thinking it was a normal Saturday. Leave it to Facebook to tell me otherwise. I was scrolling through my news feed and a photo came up "On this day.... one year ago...." This was the day that we received the keys to 741 Purchase St in the heart of downtown New Bedford. This is a space I had the CRAFT-O-RAMA pop up shop in 2 years prior and I had been thinking about non-stop since and had probably a dozen conversations with the property manager to see how we could make it happen. 

Sometimes it feels so right being in this spot that it seems much longer than a year, but seeing this photo of my hand holding the keys in an empty space, I'm amazed how much we've accomplished in such a short amount of time. Since this day just one year ago, we painted the walls, we assembled a lot of furniture, we brought in inventory, we changed our name, we rebuilt our social media, we brought in more inventory, we rearranged shelves, we've done a lot to create this quirky little gift shop. The shop we both imagined in our dreams. 

So many people have supported us on this journey. I'm so thankful for the social media likes, comments and shares. For the in store purchases, the waves from out the window, the reviews, the customer comments that make us feel like all the work is worth it. And of course, the awesome artists, artisans, designers, and crafters that have put their faith in us to carry their one of a kind treasures. 

Sarah's Favorite New Arrivals

We're always getting lots of new inventory here at the shop. Check out my recent favorites below!

Sarah's Favorites

(1) Succulent in hand painted terra cotta pot with lace and turquoise accents by Planted in Simplicity. Our resident plant lady Amy Rapoza makes sweet little succulents in upcycled planters. These are perfect as housewarming, thank you, and "thinking of you gifts" or just for brightening up your own home.

(2) Woven Wall Hanging by Bloom into the Sea. Artist and soon-to-be Fibers Major at UMass Dartmouth, Gwynneth Burns makes the most lovely wall hangings and dream catchers with a variety of beautiful yarns and other textiles with crystal and found object accents. Her work is great addition to your bedroom or dorm room for good vibes and sweet dreams.

(3) Blue Moon Beer Soap by Earth & Anchor. This Providence, RI based company makes soaps, scrubs, bath salts, cleansing masks and other bath and body products in a plethora of amazing scents, but what really sets them apart is their beer soap! In scents like Mercy Brown, Narragansett Lager, Shiner Bock, Old Rasputin Imperial Stout, and Captains Daughter IPA, these are popular among the craft beer crowd. Plus the Blue Moon soap smells like a citrusy creamsicle! 

(4) Teeny Bowl by Michelle Phaneuf. Handmade in Barrington, RI Michelle's ceramic work incorporates unique glaze and decal layering. Much of her work features a nautical twist or local landmarks within the imagery. You can grab a shot cup, mug, bud vase, or the always popular teeny bowl, which are small all purpose dishes to use for ingredient prep, to hold your keys, bobby pins, rings, or anything else you can think of.

(5) Gold Feather Earrings by Winterhill Jewelry. All of artist Vanessa Templeman's jewelry is 3D printed in Somerville, MA, making it a sustainable and highly affordable option for jewelry. PLUS they are probably the most fun earrings you will own in. They come in fun bright colors with designs like flowers, hearts, birds, geometric shapes, and our personal favorite- pineapples!

(6) Labradorite and Snake Rib Rings by Project Om. Metalsmith Alisha Ray crafts fine jewelry at her home studio in Johnston, RI, using crystals, precious gems, and different specimens casted in silver and bronze. Her intent is to spread positive vibes and good energy and from personal experience, it works!. I have begun to amass my own collection of Project Om jewels and each piece is incredibly unique with so much attention to detail. These make lovely gifts for a special person in your life, even if that person is yourself.

I'll be back soon with another assortment of my favorites to share with you!

xo Sarah 

This card is Perfect! AHD Paper Co. does it Again

Friday afternoon, I was sitting in the shop and I heard a man yell from the greeting card racks "It's perfect! It's perfect! Oh my god it's perfect!" He made his way to the register smiling and laughing. Well I'm much too nosy to let that go, so when I took the greeting card to ring him up I asked about it. He said he was on a journey from San Francisco, through his home town of New Bedford MA, up to Maine to a friend's retirement party. They've been friends for years and they've always bonded over their love of music. This card from AHD Paper Co. has a stack of cassette tapes on the cover including Jane's Addiction, Nick Cave, Rage Against the Machine, Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, The Smashing Pumpkins, Massive Attack, Beck, and Bjork. A great collection for sure! He also needed a bit of ribbon. We don't sell that at the shop but sometimes my hoarding habits come in handy. I was able to gift him a roll which caused a bit more smiling from both of us. 

These are the moments at the shop I live for. Hearing someones excitement when they find a card or gift that means something. When I hear the story of a great friendship. When I hear about the journey someone is on. 

It's been a great weekend filled with special moments. I'm thankful for all of the wonderful visitors that shared their stories with me. 

 

Greeting Card art by Mark Drew. Printed by AHD Paper Co

Greeting Card art by Mark Drew. Printed by AHD Paper Co

Do you have ______?

Often times people come into the shop with something very specific in mind. 

"Do you have photo albums?" "Do you have jewelry with an elephant on it?"

We'd love it if we had everything that everyone was looking for in our little gift shop. .Wouldn't that be nice? It seems like often times when people come in with something very specific in mind, our answer is "Sorry, we don't have that in the store"

But you know what we do have?  We have the perfect thing that you don't know you or someone you love needs. One review we got on Google from our customer Mary Beth says "Great place to find one of kind items you didn't even know you were looking for! The shop itself is cheerful, organized and inviting too!"

Seeing that, we realized that we can't always fit the needs of people when they know what they're looking for but we can often help someone find the perfect gift they had no clue they were looking for! It's always so fun to hear someone exclaim "Wow! A cat mermaid pin!! My bestie will LOVE this!"