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Step Inside Magpie

Christine Liu, decor8 contributor, is back with a review of Magpie. This post contains so many great links, you won’t want to miss it. Drum roll please…here’s Christine!

As Holly has already confessed her love for their paper goods, I went on task to do a thorough look-see of Davis Square gem Magpie, shiny things for your nest. I’ve visited this haven of hip crafts, local art, and vintage collectibles’ only once before, but one visit is clearly not enough. Not only would it be impossible to absorb all the featured items at once, but also the in-stock items constantly change as the roster of artists evolve and as one-of-a-kind originals are sold and replenished. Part quirky boutique and part curated gallery, Magpie is a charming art spot that exudes with creative style and handcrafted energy.

The store, located at 378A Highland Ave in Somerville (just over the Charles from Boston), is a quick walk from the T subway station, and welcomes you from the sidewalk with a flock of friendly (what else?) handdrawn magpies. They encouragingly beckon.

Look for it carefully, as the space is carefully tucked away in a nondescript stretch of neighborhood. However, the moment you enter you find yourself enveloped in a warmly inviting room with all things cute, cozy, and colorful. Everything from retrofitted wall-hangings to painted bread plates happily coexist in this handmade heaven.

One of the five owners of Magpie, Dave McMahon, was running the place on Sunday afternoon and couldn’t have been more passionate about featuring the works of independent artists and fostering a strong local community. He and his wife Leah Kramer (the founder of Craftster) and fellow Magpies Simone Alpen, Emily Arkin and Dave Sakowski are also the core that run the Bazaar Bizarre, a modern craft fair that began in 2001 in the Boston-area but has since spread out to include LA, Cleveland, and San Francisco (next event April 22 + 23′ 06). Dave eagerly showed me around (the room is small but holds a lot!) and pointed me towards some interesting works.


First stop: paper goods! Handmade cards are conveniently located right in the front of the store and are coo-worthy spectacular. Dave mentions that the store gets new paper goods almost on a continuous basis, and I find the designs as perfect and delectable as cupcakes. Just a handful of the featured stationery include designs by 1201AM, sugarlily, poppycock, sewing stars, boygirlparty, scraps of paper, and the paper princess. There’s everything from colorful illustration to quirky gocco prints to cards packaged with pages from real vintage recipe books. (My personal favorites are from Susie Ghahremani at boygirlparty, and the pudgy bunnies of sewing stars.) If you’re looking for unique, well-made, and head-turning stationery, Magpie is the place to be.


I’m already tickled pink at the paper goods, though there’s plenty more to see. Moving toward the rear of the store, I espy some cleverly designed dinnerware and ceramics.

I’m completely smitten with these dining accessories by neutrino designs. (If you’re not proximate to Magpie, you can also purchase them online at Art Star.) The clean white lines and simple silhouettes of the pieces are adorned with sporadic geometric details, bold and delicate in fine-tipped orange. At once mod, scientific, and abstract, the design of the series wins on so many levels. I love how the butter dish is constructed so that at first it appears to be a normal white holder. Only until you consume enough butter do you uncover the bright orange designs. A gradual and satisfying reward that makes eating that much more fun.


I still remember these hand-etched glasses from my first visit. Each set hosts an amusingly complementary pair of messages, such as Beauty/Brains, Wild Turkey/Cold Duck, and RBG/CMYK (my pick). They’re beautifully minimalist, with the clear frosted glass and bold, sans serif lettering. Designed by Cambridge-based artist Sandra Salamone, I could definitely see them as a fancy vintage cocktail vessel, or for housing a colorful votive candle. I wouldn’t be surprised if the artist took requests for custom messages… now who’s the creative one? :)


Here’s Dave, looking super happy and modeling one of the hand-painted sushi-themed ceramics by Suzaluna. (How delish to eat sushi atop of sushi!) By the way, he was a great sport and let me take all these pictures for decor8!


When encouraged to pick a personal favorite, Dave was excited to feature the hand painted birdhouses by Ryan O’Rourke. The birdhouses are constructed by Ryan’s grandfather, and then painstakingly designed and decorated by Ryan. Dave adds, “I’m a painter, so I really admire his work. The details…the colors…” The designs are intricate and layered, filled with small illustrative narratives all over the tiny wooden structure. “I love these for so many reasons, but there’s something about the fact that he paints these things that are made by his grandfather. The familial connection, and the handmade process. They’re great!” The birdhouses are fantastically designed, and other than sprucing up your pad in style, they may also become a super-luxe bird loft for your favorite feathered friend if you choose for it to be. Here’s one, smiling back at you.


Perhaps coincidentally, though cheerfully appropriate, there are plenty of bird-themed goods within Magpie. I found the metal rooster sculpture striking in its modern interpretation and recycled materiality. It comes from the hands of Anna Johansson of Anna Built, also active with an indie rock band, the Pee Wee Fist. Anna also creates beautiful jewelry recycled from bits of beer can metals and stunning stained glass. It’s impressive to witness her strength of inspiration from everyday objects.

If you’re in Boston, be sure to drop into Magpie! As I told Dave, one of the best reasons of mine to support local and independent artists is that I feel it’s better to acquire a small number of objects that are meaningfully precious than a large number of generics that are facelessly mass-manufactured. You can definitely sense that philosophy in Magpie, where every object can be traced back to a creative human being. And in a modern world, that’s a beautiful thing.

:::note from holly:::
If you see anything in the photos that you’d like to inquire about, please contact Magpie directly. They are happy to accept orders over the phone with a major credit card.

Magpie also sells my favorite soap dishes in the world by Ambrosia Porcelain. Read what decor8 had to say about them here.

A special thanks to Dave at Magpie!

(photos + text from Christine Liu. Great job, Miss Liu!)

****

Posted by decor8 in Arts + Crafts, guest bloggers, Shop Tours, shopping, travel on March 30, 2006

Your comments...

  1. DesignGal commented
    March 30th, 2006 at 5:08pm

    AWESOME article!

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  2. joy commented
    March 30th, 2006 at 6:12pm

    GREAT tour! seems like a wonderful shop!

      (Quote)  (Reply)

  3. maryam commented
    April 1st, 2006 at 9:23am

    I really appreciate all the time that you took, Christine, to put this story together. Merci!

      (Quote)  (Reply)

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