Crafty retailing

Making it by making stuff
By SHARON STEEL  |  April 3, 2008


Some people are born to be rockstars. Or Greenpeace activists. Or politicians. Keara Sexton was born to make stuff. “I went to a Waldorf school,” she says, “and I was knitting and crocheting and gluing things my entire childhood.” Now 20, Sexton is at the vanguard of an urban-craftster renaissance. But the current “handmade revolution,” as Sexton calls it, has nothing to do with your grandma’s musty rag-bag or Martha Stewart’s glossy, tight-lipped how-to’s.

A self-taught seamstress — “I’m always experimenting until I figure out how to make something work” — Sexton has a crafty background similar to many modern DIY-ers. The Nashua, New Hampshire, native has sold her own handmade quilts, pillows, and dresses on the popular crafty-commerce site And she’s displayed her wares at punk-rock flea markets like Mass Market and the Bazaar Bizarre. But there came a point where Sexton decided this wasn’t just a hobby. “It really took me a couple months to feel it out,” she says. “But I was like, I really think it could work if I opened up a store.” Her new handmade boutique is called Oak, which stands, roughly, for One of a Kind.

Oak, which opened April 1, offers handmade clothing sewn by Massachusetts-based designers and local art students, though the shop also carries jewelry, greeting cards, and furniture made by artisans from Spain and the Netherlands. Sexton is stocking a tiny selection of screen-printed T’s beloved to Threadless enthusiasts, but she prefers to keep that sort of style limited and to experiment, instead, with more sophisticated pieces: “Lots of dresses, lots of tunics . . . very well-made clothing that you wouldn’t think somebody was just sitting and making in their house.” Within the next few weeks, Sexton plans to complete a renovation that will turn Oak’s basement into a DIY schoolroom, where consigners and outside experts will teach classes in everything from soap-making to sewing to book-binding.

For months, chain stores like Urban Outfitters and Forever 21 have been mass-producing clothing and trinkets that look as if they were lovingly stitched by hand or refurbished from vintage heirlooms. But at Oak, they actually are. “When you buy something from someone that has handcrafted it, you’re helping that person buy food for their family,” says Sexton. “But I certainly don’t want to say anything bad about Urban Outfitters. I go there all the time. I have a bunch of their shelves in my store!”

Oak, 31 Gloucester Street, Boston, 857-362-7311. See to shop online.

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  Topics: Lifestyle Features , Greenpeace International, Martha Stewart
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