Starting a Creative Collective May 13 2022

Imagine a world in which we share our gifts.

When resources are scarce, we can pull ourselves inward. Like the folk story, Stone Soup, where the villagers did not want to offer their food to strangers simply because they were strangers. They wanted to remain isolated - to shut out people they felt ungenerous toward, depriving themselves at the same time. We would all feel richer, sharing and receiving, with equal abandon and abundance. In the same vein as the Stone Soup strangers, Kelsey Pike and Adri Luna had the genius to create a vision of feast and good fortune that needed testing, and the journey of Cherry Pit Collective was born.
Simple Beginnings:
Kelsey Pike was looking for a studio space for her hand papermaking business. She longed to reignite a communal studio much like her art school days. Kelsey saw an article about Maker Village, a community wood and metal shop in an underdeveloped area of downtown Kansas City, Missouri. She inquired about available space, explaining her vision: The idea of a communal studio for artists, makers, and creatives where the work and vision of women, non-binary, and marginalized genders/communities are supported and celebrated. The building owners loved the idea as they had been rehabbing the space and were ready to install final details.
Looking towards the Collective's front-facing windows.
Artists need adequate lighting for work throughout the day and night, heating & cooling throughout the year and plenty of electrical outlets for various tools required to create.
Ignited by the first steps, Kelsey and Adri Luna began forming and refining. Working with the landlords, they designed and build-out (and eventually up) the interior space that would become Cherry Pit Collective.
Part of the Pit Collective.
Enter and feel a sense of comfort, inclusion, and safety.
The warehouse, nestled between Maker Village KC and Oddities Print Shop, resides in the center of Kansas City, MO, near the corner of 31st and Cherry. Kelsey and Adri loved the exposed brick interior, thirty-foot ceilings, and tons of natural light from its south-facing glass panel front. There is a mixture of wood and cement floors and an additional skylight at the apex of the roof. The vision was open-ended studio spaces ranging from thirty to two-hundred square feet with simple wooden partitions designating each maker space while still creating community. They kept the basement open with its ten-foot ceilings. Most of the work was completed in 2016. By the summer of 2021 the final touch of a loft, financed by the building owners, was completed. The loft area, built towards the back of the building, houses an ingenious papermaking set-up, washer & dryer, plus an area used for orders and shipping needs.
How did they do it? Money & Resources.
Viewpoint from the front door.
One: Friends & Family Two: Kickstarter & Exceptional Donors Three: Shear Hutzpah Kelsey and Adri wanted to create a space to support female-identifying and marginalized genders/communities.

- There was a story to tell.

A look-see at a workspace.

Like many makers and artists, most work from home, their bedrooms, kitchens, dining room tables, and ill-equipped basement spaces doing double duty. Creators pushed projects aside to accommodate family, children, roommates, day jobs, side businesses, and housework, with a lack of professional places to discuss collaborations and projects that were safe and quiet enough. Cherry Pit Collective would provide dedicated spaces for members to create, meet, and make, leaving home responsibilities to arrive at Cherry Pit Collective. Folks could come ready to work, focused, with space, light, comfort, and community, no longer isolated but in a safe environment for the development and growth of female-fronted businesses. Members would work together to support and promote each other through a shared workspace, shared environment keeping, costs, benefits, and risks. The collective would include monthly programming and skill-sharing events while creating a community of local makers - fostering collaboration over competition. So, in June of 2016, Kelsey and Adri ran a Kickstarter to raise $10,000 for a building deposit and final build-out expenses. For thirty-six days, Kickstarter offered possibilities. Cherry Pit Collective supplied their vision video and perks to backers for exclusive items made by local artists and folks who would be bringing their creativity and community to the Collective. In addition, throughout the campaign, the fledgling collective-to-be hosted a final push event called the Cherry Bomb-A-Thon. The campaign was a success and ended up $180 over the $10,000 goal. ​The Kickstarter took care of much-needed lighting, heating, cooling, and the build-out of electric outlets, making the space more affordable for its members at the get-go.
Welcome to Cherry Pit Collective.
Paying for these expenses upfront, with funds from friends, family, colleagues, and patrons keeps the space more affordable for members. In addition to crowdfunding efforts, they supplemented with annual fundraising events, classes, and monthly fees from members. If you are an artist or craftsperson in the Kansas City area, you may benefit from the minds at Cherry Pit Collective. They host workshops and classes on topics small art businesses need to succeed, such as craft fair booth set-up, filing taxes, fine-tuning SEO for your online shop, and how to get products into local businesses. Q & A with Kelsey Pike What are some obstacles to creating a Collective? In the beginning, we had trouble finding the right balance of work between members. As members grew to know and trust one another and felt autonomy and agency as members of the collective, it was increasingly easy to divide tasks based on personal interests and skills.
Crysta Henthorne - Illustrator, Graphic Designer, and Painter.
Members handle all aspects of managing the collective, including cleaning, promotional work, class programming, event coordination, and member recruitment. What is the significance of being a female-only space? The original mission was to fill the studio with hard-working artists & makers. The first dozen happened to be female-identifying which worked so well that we intentionally moved in that direction, making members feel comfortable, safe, and relaxed while working, freeing themselves, which is sometimes challenging in male-centric workplaces. How important is networking for artists and makers? A community feel is deeply integral to networking, rather than trying to meet the right people or make specific connections. Our collective builds on members with varying skill levels and backgrounds. Businesses are a decade or older, while others are just starting. The aim is to learn from each other. Fresh perspectives help seasoned makers see different vantage points, and established artists offer experiential advice. Members encourage each other to try new approaches, share unique specialties and support each other.
Kelsey Pike working in her papermaking studio.
Kelsey, how did you begin your business - Sustainable Paper+Craft? I learned papermaking in 2010 when I took a class at KCAI called Materials & Methods. I fell in love with the process and decided to make paper for the rest of my life. I started an Etsy shop at the end of that year. The original concept was to sell handmade paper sketchbooks I made as a studio project. The initial sketchbooks sold out. I did the math and realized the direction had to change, and selling loose paper sheets to other artists became the focus. In my senior year, dreading graduation and no longer having access to the paper studio, the thought of never making paper was disheartening. I finished with a degree from the Kansas City Art Institute in Art History and a minor in Printmaking. I tried for grants and got rejected, so I combined my Etsy profits with graduation gifts and purchased my own Hollander beater and other studio equipment that I still use. Initially, how important was branding to you with Sustainable Paper+Art? At the start, my concern with branding was minimal. My primary focus was making the highest quality papers that would perform in a way that brought people back for more. Over time, I made a logo, picked a font, created a website with photos, and it all went uphill from there. Did you have a mission when starting Sustainable Paper+Craft? I had no mission. I just knew I loved making paper and was good at it. More than anything, I wanted people to use what I was making because of its beauty, functionality, a pleasure to the eye, and forgiving qualities.

Kelsey's advice for fledgling makers/starting their own company

Sharpen your craft ⋅ Spend hours, days, and months learning ⋅ Become the expert ⋅ Travel if you can ⋅ Learn from masters ⋅ Read the books ⋅ Never stop practicing and stretching yourself ⋅ Listen and give back

What are the challenges creatives face in your city? Kansas City is a great place to live because it is still relatively affordable. As an artist or entrepreneur, you can pursue your creative interest and still afford to live comfortably. This idea is not lost on the community here and has created a saturation of creatives. With saturation in any field comes competition, the fear that every new venture is somehow detracting from your own. I confirm there is space for further cultivation of new ideas to develop success.
Kelsey Pike and Lauren Pearlman at Cherry Pit Collective in Kansas City, Missouri.
What physical aspects of your co-working community make people feel at home and welcome? The space has several shared areas, open to all members, making it feel like a cozy home. The kitchen, large communal eating area, lounge, and a big backyard with a fire pit give space to individuals outside their studio. Workspaces are open to the communal area, encouraging exchange between studio mates. It is impossible to arrive and not see who else is working, welcoming conversation and closeness. What are your top 3 tips for people hesitant to join a co-working space? We designed our membership admission process to ensure a mutual best fit. Our written application requires answering personal questions, then informal interviews and coffee meetings with members. If the candidate passes all these gateways, we know they will be a great addition, ensuring we have chosen them based on fit and what they offer the collective, as much as them choosing us. For any collective, Kelsey suggests the following:
  1. Test it out. Depending on the space, this might mean attending an event, going for a tour, or checking out open studio hours.
  2. Be your authentic self from day one. You want to connect with meaning and sincerity. These are people you'll see regularly. Allow them to get to know you and be a support system.
  3. Once your space is secured, spend time there. You make connections by showing up.
  4. If applicable, try volunteering in a way that will make you a valuable member of your community.
Cherry Pit Collective stands on ancestral land, honored with gratitude, the land itself and the people who have and continue to steward it - to the people of Kiikaapo (Kikapoo), Wazhazhe Mazhá (Osage), Kaw (Kansa), and Očhéthi Šakówin (Sioux). Kelsey Pike co-founded Cherry Pit Collective, a communal studio space for artists, makers, and creatives, where the work and vision of women are emphasized and celebrated. Kelsey is the cornerstone in creating an environment of members who work, support, and promote each other through a shared workspace and creative communing. Cherry Pit Collective hosts programs fostering collaboration over competition. You can locate Kelsey and view Cherry Pit Collective: Kelsey@Sustainablepapercraft.com cherrypitcollective.com Cherry Pit Collective on Facebook Cherry Pit Collective on Instagram
Fricka Jones - Artist, Writer, Editor
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