Local artisans flourish through Smith + Trade Collaborative.
Minnesota made. Minnesota loved. Promoting local craftsmanship from Minnesotan artisans and creatives is the value behind Smith + Trade Collaborative.
Kelli Kaufer, co-founder of Smith + Trade Collaborative, who is also the co-founder of Smith + Trade Mercantile alongside her husband, Paul, says the new showroom is the first of its kind, as it features only Minnesota-made products. The mercantile is used as a retail store for artisans to kickstart their careers and provide their goods and services, whereas the collaborative is a showroom where artisans come together to collaborate with clients to create their dream room.
“[Artisans] don’t have a place to showcase their goods and what they do and what they create, so that’s originally why we started the mercantile,” Kaufer says. “And then I thought, ‘Oh, boy, I have my own line of wallpaper, and I have my own line of tiles and there is no showroom that showcases just Minnesota makers.’”
At the collaborative, the founders wanted it to feel as if the client was walking into an actual home. “We have a bedroom area with nightstands, linens, pillows and light fixtures. We also have an office area and a kitchen area,” says Kaufer. “Everything is Minnesota-made, and we collaborate with the artisans to create the pieces, hence the name Smith + Trade Collaborative.”
“I’ll literally ask my artisans, ‘Hey, can you make this style of whatever product I need?’ and they’re like ‘Sure!’” says Kaufer. The variety of artisan styles and creativity is astonishing, and Kaufer exclaims how talented her artisans are in the designs and turn-around of their products. “It’s nice because even big projects can take two to four weeks, whereas in most places, you are waiting for it to ship from overseas, and it can take months,” she says.
At the collaborative, the pieces are customizable to the clients’ desires, and that can include everything from the kitchen counters and cabinets down to wallpaper. “We can do any color … Typically, you’d go to the tile shop or you’d go to a high-end tile showroom, and then you’d have to design your home around their tiles. At the collaborative, we can take a Sherwin-Williams color and we can create your own design and color palette for tiles and wallpaper. So, it is unlimited, and it’s super fun,” Kaufer says.
Smith + Trade Collaborative only allows two artisans per medium, including kitchen cabinets, beds or chairs, so the pieces are never oversaturated and can flow together cohesively within an aesthetic.
“We can cater to our client’s style. Our overall aesthetic and designs are a mix because I want to show the different types of styles that we can do. For example, some of our modern pieces are our gold leg tables with an epoxy and wood top,” Kaufer says. “So we’re always mixing it up and doing different looks to keep up with trends and also to show people the different looks by also mixing different styles together.”
Kaufer and co-owner Mina Carlson are thrilled to watch their artisans grow within the collaborative and watch as their clients’ dreams come true. “The thing that just makes me so happy is that we get to showcase their talent [that] is not being done anywhere else, and it just really excites me,” Kaufer says. I get very emotional sometimes, too, because they get emotional. We love showcasing Minnesota artisans. It’s truly one of a kind.”