This past weekend, droves of artists and appreciators of artisan crafts made their way to Oak Cliff for the third installment of the Wigwam pop-up shop. Named for the domed dwellings of certain Native Americans, the significance of the moniker is two-fold: it is a handmade structure, and it is built to house and comfort its inhabitants and visitors, creating a community.
In 2010, Malina Pearson (pictured above), a local prop stylist for retailers including Neiman Marcus, West Elm, and Crate & Barrel, created the first Wigwam pop-up. Sparked by her involvement with the Better Block Project in Oak Cliff and her love for vintage goods, she located her fledgling market in an empty space neighboring the Oil and Cotton Exchange.
Since that time, Oak Cliff has become a hot spot for all Dallasites, thanks to delicious restaurants and independent boutiques, all with a quaint neighborhood feel and artistic vibe. Events such as Wigwam have brought to light the burgeoning creative talent in this city, and have added another layer to Dallas’ cultural landscape.
Today, we’ll chat with Pearson about the genesis of Wigwam, Oak Cliff’s growing popularity, and a few of her favorite local artisans.
DFW Style Daily: Tell us how the concept for Wigwam originated.
Malina Pearson: “Wigwam was created in 2010 as a pop-up flower and gift shop for the first Better Block Project in Oak Cliff. Technically, I was in charge of the project, but it was a true team effort. I, along with six girlfriends, transformed an empty storefront from a dark black cave to a bright and lively shop, filled with a mix of things vintage and handmade.
“Wigwam happened two other times, once again in 2010 and once in 2011. Each time, I saw fewer of my friends involved, until the last one, which I did alone. I had pretty much given up on doing another Wigwam when [jewelry designer] Ariel Saldivar approached me. I’m so glad she worked her special ‘Ariel magic’ on me! This wigwam was by far the most successful.”
Tell us about a few notable local artisans who were featured at the latest Wigwam.
“Tony Barsotti is a woodworker from east Dallas. He does everything from elegant modern furniture (pictured above) to tongue-in-cheek walnut rats. He is self-taught for the most part, and is truly unique.
“Lizzy Wetzel is an amazingly gifted local artist. Her work in felt, painting, and sculpture has an otherworldly thread tying it together.
“Another is Randell Morgan, a local sculptor. Randell made beautiful multi-sided stools for Wigwam (pictured below). He used to be my neighbor, and would have these gigantic geometric structures in the yard. I thought he was making them as some type of meditation power pyramids. Turns out, they were meant to be art, although he wouldn’t confirm whether or not they had power.”
Over the years, Oak Cliff has become the ‘hip, artsy’ place to go in Dallas. Aside from the great dining and occasional festivals, what do people need to know about what is happening in Oak Cliff? How is this community of artists changing the landscape of Dallas in general?
“Oak Cliff is a special place, not simply because it exists in Dallas, a town known for sprawl and bureaucratic quicksand, but because of the community spirit found here. I’m not sure if it was luck or timing or simply magic, but the energy and determination of a few people caught on like wildfire here. Folks like me, who were looking for ways to pitch in and become involved in making our neighborhood more cohesive and more fun.
“I wouldn’t say that the people that are changing the face of Dallas are artists, but I would definitely call them creative. [They are] creatively finding ways to get around the barriers that have kept this town from being all that its citizens need it to be.”
Finally, there is an emerging trend towards the handmade. Why do you think these goods are so popular, and where should we go in Dallas to support local artisans?
“I feel that the handmade/craft/local trend really took hold after 9-11. The nation as a whole went into full-on nesting mode, as travel was not on the forefront of our minds. As a prop stylist [at that time], the trend was to make things look more lived-in, homey, and personal.
“Locally, I like to shop at Oil & Cotton. In addition to offering an amazing roster of classes, they carry local and handmade gifts. We Are 1976 is also a great place to find unique artisan items. I also enjoy visiting The Dallas Flea.”
(Lead image, credit Elliot Munoz. Inset image credits, from top: 1. Ricky Pearson, 2. Facebook.com, 3. TonyBarsotti.com, 4. RandellMorgan.com)