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by Lydia Krupinski

Tis the season for holidays, food, family and friends. As some people prep for the fellowship, reflections, and feastings of Thanksgiving, others around the country are already salivating at the midnight shopping promises of big box stores and retail chains. While the term Small Business Saturday may not be as catchy as Black Friday or Cyber Monday, the first Saturday after Thanksgiving has been designated as such to encourage consumers to support the vendors in their own communities.

In the spirit of this week’s holiday and the upcoming shopping stampedes Sprout Chicago would like to highlight a group that’s launching a special campaign to remind Chicagoans to spend their dollars locally this holiday season. Urban Folk Circuit is a group dedicated to supporting and growing the handmade craft and music community in the city. Started in July of 2010, the team unites artisans from around Chicagoland in monthly traveling craft shows that highlight the diverse talents and skills of handmade business owners.

Sprout Chicago caught up with Kelli and Jess, super-crafter extroadinaires and founders of Urban Folk Circuit, to pick their brains about crafting in the city and their latest campaign: Shop Chicago for the Holidays.

Read the rest of this entry »

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On My Mind, Under the Root
We all rush through our lives…living day by day within the chaos of this city of Big Shoulders. Between work, volunteering, events, errands, and other responsibilities, we often forget to stop, look, listen, and simply…breathe.
This gentle reminder was revealed to me while interviewing Jennifer Brown, dancer, writer, and eco-business owner. Owner of Under the Root, a whimsical line of mythically inspired undergarments, and Quark, an equally magical collection of eco clothing and accessories, Jennifer does it all while taking the time to muse with me about life, Chicago, and living sustainably.
Q. Tell us a little about yourself.
A. I am originally from Peoria, Illinois.  Those times were filled with tornado alarms, outdoor play, and more bicycling than you can shake a stick at.. I still ride a bicycle and hoping to acquire a more trusty, road bike soon.  The move to Chicago twelve years ago for Columbia College Dance, shuffled me here.  I had already moved across the United States a handful of times, and the hopes of following my passion for body discipline led me back here.
Now, the dust has settled a little and Under The Root is underway.  The Business of Art has been the leap from the beginning, and luscious from the landing.
Q. When did you first discover that you had an eye for design?
A. I love this question.  My great-grandmother was a seamstress and the curiosity came to fruition inside a high school classroom from another woman in my life that was silently grounded.  I have always admired the human body and simply wanted to swaddle it.  The drive to master design was, and continues to be, secretly the adventure running concurrently to my desire for body movement.
Q. What inspires you in your day to day life and in your designs?
A. Inspirations at this moment are the lush nature of individuals and the soft curves of a sonnet.
Q. What does ecological sustainability mean to you?
A. As a dancer, and a woman, I am deeply rooted in our awakening.  I have always wanted to ‘clean up’, ‘clean out’, and connect with those individuals whom desire freedom and wholeness as a means to help balance each other with our individual quests.
I understand there are countless ways to ‘give back’ to nature and even our immediate environment has potential for creating less waste. The reminder that mindfulness is the ultimate motivation, it is a way of life.  Under The Root has not always used sustainable fabrics. The shift is happening due to the price finally reaching a cost I can afford and the technology catching up to reach me.  I will continue to use reclaimed, recycled, and vintage materials.
Q. What’s the most rewarding aspect of leading an ethical business?
A. The knowledge that hope for balance with our environment is possible and now.
Q. What initially inspired you to open shop on Etsy?
A. I chose Etsy because it was a tool that presented itself as the means for reaching individuals globally.
Q. Quarks is celebrating its one year Etsy anniversary in August. What would you say has been the most rewarding, and challenging aspect of bringing the two businesses to an online community?
A. The reward is the continued motivation in actualizing a vision.
The challenge changes from day to day although always a sign in the road that points to happiness.
Q. Where can Sprout Chicago readers find your items offline?
A. UTR sells to three boutiques within Chicago and one in Toronto, two online original shops, and a roundtable of personal clients.  The count is growing as I write and a magnificent way to express more designs, to reach more people.
Q. What do you love most about Chicago?
A. Chicago is filled with deep, dark thoughts coupled with the lightheartedness of people in acceptance and laughter.
Q. What advice would you offer for others looking to live a greener lifestyle?
A. Begin with your diet, we see things differently when paying attention to the body function.
Q. What is your favorite Chicago performance group?
A. Red Moon Theater
Q. What’s your favorite local bookstore?
A. Armadillo’s Pillow
Q. If you could be any vegetable, what would you be and why?
A. I would be a turnip.  I love the colors and full bellies of this root vegetable.  A Turnip is a colloquial term for an old fashioned oversized pocket watch.  There are memories for me of dancing turnips, where that comes from, I have yet to find out.

by Lydia Krupinski

gray under the root

We all rush through our lives…living day by day within the chaos of our fair city. Between work, volunteering, events, errands, and other responsibilities, we often forget to stop, look, listen, and simply…breathe.

This reflection dawned on me while interviewing Jennifer Brown, dancer, writer, and eco-business owner. Creator of Under the Root, a whimsical line of mythically inspired undergarments, and Quark, an equally magical collection of eco clothing and accessories, Jennifer does it all while taking the time to muse with me about life, Chicago, and living sustainably. Read the rest of this entry »

ecoetsy

By Lydia Krupinski

Things have been booming for my eco-biz Pierogi Picnic. I am nearing my 100th sale, have merchandise in four stores throughout the country, have been featured on numerous sites, magazines and even in Chicago’s own New City. But nothing feels quite as satisfying as being accepted as a member of Team Eco Etsy.

memorial day 1Joining this active and blossoming Etsy group is like receiving LEED certification for a business or building. It opens the doors for personal and professional development while connecting me with an international community that is dedicated to sustainability and conscientious living.  

So it will come as no surprise if you notice a pattern in the upcoming interviews we have planned here on Sprout. Many of the individuals you will reading about will be local Eco Etsy members who have taken their personal passions and transformed them into financially and ecologically sustainable businesses. I hope these discoveries leave you feeling inspired! And as always, if there’s a green biz you would like us to feature, please e-mail us at SproutChicago@gmail.com

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