When I first meet Amy Lou Stein, the plan is to chat about Craftwork Somerville, the makerspace she opened in October at 259 Highland Ave. But before long, we’re talking about Kraftwerk, the German electronic music pioneers.
“It was amazing!” Stein gushes of the band’s recent run at the Wang Theater. “They got three standing ovations. I was shocked.”
This is what a conversation with Stein is like—arts-focused, rarely linear and completely delightful. By the end of our brief meeting, we’ve discussed the state of journalism today (bleak), the prettiest places in Western Pennsylvania (Cook County), my Dad’s favorite band (the Who) and the fact that her six-year-old son, Cosmo, drums like Keith Moon (“He’s a wild animal.”). This easy conversational ebb and flow is reflected in Stein’s own life, which has taken her from her native Detroit to L.A. to a New York City neighborhood she calls “the Sumuhvul of Brooklyn.” Eventually, she and husband Finnian Gerety landed in Somerville, where they live today with their two kids.
“I’ve basically been a maker my whole life,” Stein says. “When I lived in Los Angeles I had a multitude of jobs, but they were all based in the crafts.” She custom-blended perfumes, gardened, styled wardrobes for musicians (including Beck) and started her own accessories company. When she tired of that, she began hand stitching garments and learned to use a sewing machine.
“Then we moved here, and there was nothing,” she recalls. “There were a couple of yarn shops.” While Somerville has a vibrant artist community, Stein found it to be somewhat fractured. She was struggling to find her place, was feeling a little lost and disoriented in a new city. She wanted to open a low key, welcoming crafting space—one where creatives could come share with and learn from one another—and spent years searching for the right location. But the search for a reasonably priced space proved fruitless until a few months ago, when she signed the lease at 259 Highland. Gerety helped her renovate the space, the former home of Ruchika Madan Pottery, and Craftwork Somerville opened its doors in late October.
“There are a lot of people who live here and who are really talented but don’t have a place to teach,” she says. “I want to pull from the local talent, try to offer as many weekly classes as I can and offer a community space.” Currently, the Craftwork calendar is full of three types of courses: tastings, where would-be crafters can take a one-night class and pick up a new skill, weekly classes that build on the information from these one-off sessions, and intensives, which take the crafting up a notch from there. The offerings cover everything from fiber arts—knitting, dyeing, crocheting and more—to soap making, herbalism, mysticism and reading Tarot, and Stein’s hope is to bring in local teachers as well as artisans from around the globe to share their expertise.
“Craft stores will usually sell things, like the supplies, first, and put the pedagogy and the learning second,” adds Gerety, taking a short break from his spackling. “This kind of just inverts that—it puts the emphasis on the teaching and the learning.”
Soon, Stein wants to offer a monthly membership that lets crafters stop by to use the space at their leisure, as well as open knitting time where anyone can come work. “I’m really into community, and I’m really into creating a community space,” Stein says. She expects her store will evolve based on feedback from neighbors and input from other area crafters. Eventually, she’d like to start up a boutique with wares from area artisans—though that may end up being a long-term goal.
“After all, it’s just us,” Stein says. “And the dog!” adds Gerety. “And the kids.”