WRITER | NICOLETTE CHAMBERY
PHOTO | ELYSE MARIE WELCHER
Gemini Handmade on Cherry Street in Grand Rapids has been an evolving undertaking for Elyse Welcher and Jake Vroon. Back in 2013, Welcher was setting into motion her vision of a combination studio workshop and gallery that would double as a place for local artists to sell their wares. Vroon, her husband now and owner of Harbinger Designs, showed up with an offer to help. Every day he would appear at the front door, ready to help with painting, shelving, and anything else that needed to be done.
Soon, the couple realized they were connected in some fun and unusual ways that seemed to scream “You are meant to be together!” They realized that they were born just two days apart at the same hospital and, with last names beginning with V and W, were likely to have been right next to each other in the hospital nursery. They are both Geminis and both creators of leather crafts, albeit each with their own distinct style.
Gemini Handmade has grown and changed locations a few times since opening in 2013, but it seems that the new location on Cherry Street is just what they’ve been searching for.
Welcher refers to the shop as “incredibly transparent.” Because it serves as the creative studio for both of them, you may be able to enjoy watching them in action no matter when you visit. Welcher might be working on her exclusively designed and ever-popular fanny packs, and Vroon could be hard at work on his signature wallets or fitting someone with a custom cut-while-you-wait belt. Add in the over 30 other artisans, and what you have is an eclectic mix of the area’s most talented craftspeople. From wood earrings resembling tiny cutting boards by Brambles Woodwork to the comfy and casual cowls and scarves by Adventure Textiles and the signature Michigan Leather Jar Wrap by Harbinger, that list only scratches the surface of what you will find at Gemini Handmade.
A popular part of the experience at Gemini is their DIY Drop-in Days. Less structured than a workshop, guests pay a small fee and learn a new craft such as leather stamping. Or visitors can choose to hit the make-your-own-earrings bar. If you are a fiber freak, stop in for Fiber + Friends on Wednesday nights. It’s free, and you can work on whatever fiber-made thing that makes your heart sing.
Gemini Handmade is located in a popular shopping and dining district that begs visitors to walk, wander, shop, and eat. Welcher and Vroon plan to use the front courtyard for special pop-up events and other social gatherings throughout the spring, summer, and fall and hope that you will join them!
963 Cherry Street SE, Grand Rapids MI 49506