Thursday, June 13, 2024

Studio at Garden Streets opened in November in the CambridgeSide mall. (Photo: Studio at Garden Streets)

Studio by Garden Streets, a craft boutique at the CambridgeSide mall that opened in November, presents as a bit of a puzzle.

There are stations for creating “moss art,” in which customers arrange different colors of moss in a frame with twigs and other pieces of nature. Or perhaps a “succulent terrarium” is more your speed, assembling cacti and small figurines in a glass container. The floral bar lets customers create arrangements with dried flowers. New options include decorating accessories such as hair ties or phone cases with craft materials, or pouring acrylic paints over items such as white rubber ducks to end with a psychedelic sheen.

The key to the puzzle: The studio was founded as an outlet for artistic urges in people who may not have a specific hobby. “We really want to be the place to go to for people when they’re feeling creative [and] wanting to explore,” owner Jen Gouldstone said.

The business is newly on-brand for CambridgeSide, which has been forced to rethink retail continuously since the advent of online shopping. It turned the entire top floor of emptying storefronts into office space, then won permitting to tear down and rebuild much of its East Cambridge footprint into a mixed-use mini-neighborhood with homes and labs.

Spaces are set up inside Studio at Garden Streets for various crafts.
(Photo: Studio at Garden Streets)

In the mall that remains, designer John Carter built a 13-room Go Pixel Yourself art installation in 2021 perfect for Instagram influencers and music video directors; now the mall has 3,000 square feet for Studio by Garden Streets, which it calls “an experiential retailer.”

“Everything’s laid out for you, and you can just go and make something,” Gouldstone said.

The current set of workshops cost from $35 to $75. Those who plan ahead and spend on the high side can leave with blankets made by their own hand, stationery sets, watercolor paintings or a variety of other bougie products. “It’s a little bit freeing to give yourself up for the process,” Gouldstone said. Groups also reserve the space for private events, including birthday parties and baby showers. If you don’t feel like going out, there are lavish take-home kits, including a premiere $72 “gingerbread chateau.”

As Garden Streets, launched in 2018, the company provided plant design and other services for businesses, including hosted events; it sold terrarium kits during the pandemic. Studio by Garden Streets is a chance to bring the group’s corporate product to the individual, Gouldstone said. (Since the launch of the flagship store in Cambridge, a location in Chicago also opened.)

“It’s a combination of what we were doing as Garden Streets and then mixing in where we think consumers would be especially interested in,” Gouldstone said.

And if CambridgeSide has rethought retail, Gouldstone has recast the idea of retail therapy: “Everyone is affected by mental health. Whether you’re paying to see a therapist or a doctor or painting something, to the extent that that could help you, I think we’re there for you,” she said.

Josh Martin, 27, attended a blanket-making workshop with his partner for an early Christmas present. He said it was a “much nicer gift experience to make something ourselves.” Martin said he was “surprised by how easy” the workshop was and appreciated how customers are welcomed regardless of their experience level.

Garden Streets claims to sell something for everyone, from 50-cent candies to handmade tables costing thousands of dollars, and there’s a benefit of just coming to look at pieces other people have made – a free way to enjoy the space, Gouldstone said.

Recruiting local artists is one way Garden Streets includes the Cambridge community and diversifies the studio’s inventory. While some artisan designers just use the space as a gallery, others work with the studio to “co-create some of the content and the workshops,” Gouldstone said. “It’s all about creativity and using that as a platform to connect people.”

Amherst Soaps is one of a handful of small-batch manufacturers partnering with Studio by Garden Streets. Owner Juliana Ramage, whose business began in the kitchen of a one-bedroom apartment in Amherst in 2018, said her soaps have been “flying off the shelves” at the studio. Gouldstone was both receptive to ideas and understanding of what it was like to run a small business, she said.

The stocked items are an adjunct to the DIY experience that’s really for sale at Garden Streets, Gouldstone said. “You can’t buy [those] from anywhere,” she said, “because you made it yourself.”