The word “maker” is one that gets tossed around a lot these days. It’s pretty trendy to say that you’re a maker, a word that allows for a vague definition of your job yet informs people that you’re creating something, whether it’s original music, organic eats or even Instagram stories.
For the Huggett family in Excelsior, “maker” is a literal term. The Maker’s Studio, located in downtown Excelsior, is definitely trendy, but given the response the small gallery has had since opening its doors, it’s clear the art they showcase and sell is timeless. With high-quality furniture and other housewares, the items are largely created by local artisans and craftspeople. Now in business for just under six months, the store is co-owned and managed by Ryan Huggett, who is dedicated to introducing original and unique works of art to people all over the Twin Cities.
Huggett, who has been a hobbyist woodworker for a number of years, has always had a passion for working with his hands. Through his years of connecting with like-minded craftspeople, he discovered just how difficult it was to make a living as a creator. It inspired him to found The Maker’s Studio, hoping to create an outlet where artists could sell their creations. Prior to opening The Maker’s Studio, Huggett had been working as a survey taker, traveling around the country and “doing [his] part to make sure the pipelines didn’t explode,” he says.
While working at The Maker’s Studio doesn’t have stakes that are quite as high, it’s obvious in speaking to Huggett that his passion for handcrafted works of art makes him a perfect fit for what he does.
“I wanted to be able to put these things in front of people and be able to talk to them about the wonderful person who made a table,” Huggett says by way of example. “And all of the hours and decades of work that have gone into it.” When he was in college, Huggett worked retail jobs while he was pursuing his degree, an experience that informed how he interacts with potential buyers at The Maker’s Studio. “I [wanted] to connect customers with craftspeople and beautiful pieces of function and art,” Huggett says. “The retail experience is really special. When I’m in my most grandiose state, I feel like [The Maker’s Studio] is the anti-Amazon.” Huggett also mentions the online marketplace Etsy, which offers a buying experience that’s similar in some ways—customers purchase work directly from artists and craftspeople—but also less personal and less local. He says, “The connection to the pieces that you fill your home with can be really special.”
The Maker’s Studio truly is a family affair, with Huggett taking the lead. While his official title is shopkeeper, when asked what his main responsibilities are in the studio, Huggett responds with a laugh. “Everything,” he says. Along with procuring all furniture and being the direct link to makers who showcase their goods in-house, Huggett spends time running the store with his dad Bruce. “It’s a messy blob, what I have my hands in,” he says. “I get a lot of help from my co-owners.”
He’s referring to his family, of course. Each member of the Huggett clan plays a specific role in making sure the cogs of The Maker’s Studio machine keep turning. Huggett’s mom Sharon does all of the bookkeeping (she’s credited as the “financial wizard” on the studio’s website), and his wife Suzanne is responsible for creative direction and marketing.
The studio itself sits right off the shores of Excelsior Bay, a carefully selected location. After turning down typical hipster prospects in Minneapolis’s North Loop and the shops on 50th & France in Edina, Excelsior felt like the perfect fit. The community does “a wonderful job of supporting small businesses,” Huggett says. The city’s walkability played a huge part in the selection, too. “Turning walk-through relationships into people that will come back again is important,” he says.
As for what waits inside, The Maker’s Studio showcases a collection of both local and global pieces. One of Huggett’s personal favorites is work by local artist TiAna DeGarmo, a furniture creator from Minneapolis. “She makes the most wonderful things,” Huggett says. DeGarmo’s work ranges from larger conversation pieces to small work that she takes to craft markets. “She has a tremendous eye for style. She’s got this wonderful blend of Scandinavian and Japanese styling that speaks simplicity,” Huggett says. “With me, though, and I think with our customers, you can see how much work goes into something that exudes simplicity but can be incredibly complex.”
While Huggett says the majority of the pieces in the studio are more modern and Scandinavian-influenced, he’s always trying to diversify the showroom. The Shaker style, a simpler, American-rustic school of designing furniture, is one that he appreciates. “There’s a subtle ornateness to it,” Huggett explains. “Our customers really appreciate that.” If it’s difficult for you to differentiate between the two styles, fear not. Huggett is always game to explain and offer an educated, passionate few moments to let you know about all of the differences between Shaker furniture, Scandinavian style and everything in between. “It’s a rewarding experience,” he says.
Another one of the featured collections includes works from Digo Goods, a company founded by Suzanne Huggett that’s dedicated to distributing textile goods from around the world. Currently, the studio is home to a collection of pillows and rugs from Morocco, as well as table runners from Guatemala. Huggett says his wife’s company’s work is important not just to the studio, but to them personally. Suzanne had gone to Guatemala to complete a portion of her graduate degree, and Huggett traveled with her. Between taking some stellar shots for his photography collection (another hobby), the couple was introduced to a women’s weaving co-op. They maintained that relationship, and now the co-op’s goods are displayed in The Maker’s Studio.
“That’s where a lot of the passions came together,” Huggett explains. “[Suzanne] has the textiles, I’ve got the background
What are his hopes for the studio as it grows and evolves? “The mission is connecting customers with pieces of art. If we can continue to do that, that’s all we’re asking for,” Huggett explains. That, and continuing to share the stories that come attached to these pieces of furniture. “This stuff is incredible,” Huggett says. “We have to do our little part to tell the world these stories.”