It is a match made nearly perfect by their creativity, experience and adventure.
Twelve area women have teamed up to open Inspirational Cup and Gift Gallery, an arts and crafts shop located at 2724 Brady St., Davenport.
Each woman has her own story of how she ended up as part of this unique business partnership. But for most, the love of their craft and the necessities of life played a role, said Diane Michele Wall, who serves as business manager and is owner of the house. She also makes stained-glass products.
“We all have different stories about our company, but we all have the same story of why we have pooled our monies to open a gift gallery and advertise together,” she said.
“We all have had dreams of opening our own galleries. But with the way the economy is, that would not be possible alone. Here, we all help pay the bills and have worked out a system to pay each other as we work the sales counter. Each person decides what items they will put into the gallery and we arrange them into one big gift shop full of really fun and beautiful gift items.”
During the holiday season, several of them opened the shop for what they called the 24 Days of Christmas.
“This came about because many of the artists had venues that were canceled or not doing well,” Wall said. “Out of a need to get our art and gift items out, we formed a small group and opened the building up for 24 days. We did so well we decided to open it up on a full-time basis at the end of March.”
Wall’s journey has involved running a bakery called Cake Creations out of that house for several years. During many of those years, she fought a condition called Baker’s asthma, or an allergic reaction to wheat. Ultimately, that made being a baker impossible.
“I have considered selling the location on several occasions, but with the down market it really was not a good business decision,” she said.
But then, it all came together to form the unique artist-colony concept.
“A truly unique feature in our shop is you are always greeted by one of the 12 actual artists because we all take turns working and advertising our store as a group,” she said.
Judy Gray of Bettendorf is one of the 12. She works with pastels, making prints and painting inspirational messages on cups and wooden objects.
“This is a wonderful endeavor, a wonderful opportunity,” she said.
Gray taught art for years to elementary students. A health issue coupled with retirement led to her needing to add more income to her budget.
“As a retired person, I can make extra money by selling my artwork,” Gray said. “The gallery is a wonderful opportunity to do my work at home and take it over to the gallery.”
Rhonda LeMar-James, of rural Davenport, also got connected out of necessity.
She worked for years in the hospitality field. But two years ago, she had to quit to stay home and care for her mother-in-law, who had developed breast cancer and suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.
“So, I started an entirely different path of my life,” she said.
That included growing gourds on her two-acre property, which she uses to create items ranging from gourd purses to centerpieces.
“My main focus is on the gourd, growing and enhancing of the gourds,” she said. “I never make exactly the same thing twice. Some, I carve. I use different yarns and threads. You can use almost anything on them, glass, threads, wires. That is what makes it so fun. I am only limited by when I stop thinking.
“I truly believe there is a little bit of artist in each of us. It just takes time to allow it to come out. I didn’t think I had any creativity, and have surprised myself.”