By Sarah Kirby
The Norman Transcript, Okla.
It’s a good thing Amy Baldwin and Karen Byrd get along so well.
The two women are health care providers by day and business owners in the house in between. They’re also mother and daughter.
Baldwin and Byrd share more than a business and a bloodline. They both posses an inherent ability to create — often turning old, discarded objects into something new and beautiful.
“We are like best friends and we’ve always been close,” Byrd said of her relationship with her daughter. “We go on shopping trips together and we live three houses away from each other — which is a little bit nuts, but that’s why this has worked so well. At the end of the day, we have the same vision.”
Their vision was a shop paired with a studio where people could purchase and produce things that reflected their personal aesthetic.
Artifactory has a collection of rare and kitschy finds — think retro soda bottles, giant wagon wheels and dismembered mannequin limbs.
Artifactory also offers classes that allow customers to create their own master pieces from start to finish, as well as a collection of rare and kitschy finds — think retro soda bottles, giant wagon wheels and dismembered mannequin limbs.
Baldwin leads most of the craft sessions and sometimes invites others instructors to take a turn.
“Some of them are very timid, they’ll come in and say ‘I can’t do that.'” But they actually leave with a really good looking product,” Byrd said. “She (Baldwin) works with them and she really knows who to capture the skills people don’t even know they had.”
The business concept is by design. Baldwin graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1994 with a visual communications degree.
She took an accounting position with Sonic Corporate Headquarters in Oklahoma City and later transitioned into marketing, a position that enabled her to use the skills she had cultivated.
The need to flex her creativity had manifested elsewhere in her life, Baldwin said, and she began making mosaics. She enjoyed
making art again, and her husband took notice.
“Mosaics were really popular at the time, and he (her husband) said, ‘Why don’t you book a few shows and try making a few mosaics to see if people buy your work?'” Baldwin said. “I did that and it allowed me to stay home and follow my passion.”
Demand for her work, now displayed online at curlyqmosaics.com, was immediate, and was further fueled by booths at craft shows for the next decade.
Her work was also featured on the HGTV television show “That’s Clever.”
Whereas Baldwin made mosiacs, Baldwin crafted floral arrangements and refinished furniture to her own liking.
“I’ve always been obsessed with old vintage junk, and she has too,” Baldwin said of her mother. “She’s very creative and artsy in her own way.”
It wasn’t too long before Byrd joined her daughter on the craft show circuit — but that didn’t go accordingly to plan.
“It was a complete disaster,” Baldwin said. “We knew that wasn’t for us because we were confined to an 8″ by 8″ space. I need a place to work on my mosaics. She needs a place to do furniture — whatever we were working on, we needed a studio.”
They found all that and more at 311 E. Main St., during a drive in downtown Norman.
“There was the sign we were signing the lease literally the next day because it’s so hard to get a spot down here,” Baldwin said.
The location has been perfect spot, Baldwin said, because it is the heart of the Second Friday Art Walks. The owners said they have also enjoyed meeting their neighbors at Vintiques Market, 219 W. Main St., and Robinson’s Repurposed, 325 E. Main St..
“We want people to find us walking by but also because it’s one stop shopping. People come down here from all over and they hop to these different shops, and that’s what makes it nice for us,” Baldwin said.
All they needed was a name. The one they chose reflects the function of the shop and what customers will find inside: you can’t spell ‘artifactory’ without ‘artifact,’ and you can’t spell ‘artifact’ without ‘art.”
“We kept trying and trying to come up with a name, and it was actually my brother who came up with it,” Baldwin said. “We probably had 200 goofy names that we had, and when we all heard his name all said, ‘That’s the perfect name.’ I get so excited
to tell people the name. It’s just cool.”
The business, too, became another work of art — one that continues to flourish.
“We’ve not done this for a year yet, and of course there’s been struggles,” Byrd said, “but we have put so much elbow grease into this place. If you saw the way this place looked before we moved in, you wouldn’t recognize it. It’s growing. Each month we’re seeing more and more people,” Byrd said.