Local designers move up and out into Island Craft complex

Seven years ago, Chelsea and James Minola were making shower curtains out of a residential garage on Wing Point Way. Today, they collaborate with architects, interior designers and high-profile brands all over the world. And they've got a new space to boot.

Seven years ago, Chelsea and James Minola were making shower curtains out of a residential garage on Wing Point Way.

“I think we invested $75 to buy the first roll of material,” Chelsea recalled.

As recent graduates of the Rhode Island School of Design, the husband-wife duo dreamed of creating green products for companies, “but we didn’t know how to go about a business that way,” Chelsea said.

By manufacturing the No. 2 plastic curtain — recyclable and PVC-free — they hoped to learn the ropes of e-commerce, trade shows and marketing. “The idea was, ‘How do we get a product to market quickly and test it right away?’” Chelsea explained.

Well, you might say they found their way.

Today, the Minolas collaborate with architects, interior designers and high-profile brands such as Design Within Reach and Anthropologie through Grain, their design consultancy and studio. Their shower curtains are still a bestseller, but over the last few years, they’ve also added made-to-order furniture, décor items and lighting to their line, which is carried in 100 stores around the globe.

More exposure and experience has enabled the Minolas to expand their offerings.

“Now, we know a little more about who our customers are, and we’re able to take more risks and do more over-the-top pieces,” Chelsea said.

Grain’s focus, however remains the same: they’re committed to creating products that reflect environmental and social responsibility. Most pieces use materials in their natural forms, like beeswax, wood and terra-cotta, “and they also have a warm feeling that will feel good in your home,” Chelsea said.

Nearly every product is made in-house by the team of three — Chelsea, James plus studio assistant, Robyn Luk — though the Minolas outsource when a piece requires highly technical work or expensive equipment.

“We try to find expert craftspeople to make the things we want to make,” Chelsea said. “We can’t be experts in all things.”

Utility cards with a word search puzzle featuring classic well wishes are printed on a letterpress in California. A glassblower in Seattle makes diffusers for their chandeliers. And local potter Terry Siebert forms their ceramics.

Grain’s only non-Pacific Northwest artisan partner is a fair trade collaboration in Guatemala that produces their textiles. It’s a special relationship stemming from their RISD days.

More recently, as the business has grown, the Minolas have realized their need for more space and work-life separation. They had a baby just over a year ago, and with packing crates and interns inundating the house, it was getting to be too much, Chelsea said.

After a lengthy search, they found a unit at the Island Craft development just west of the intersection of Day and Miller roads. It’s roomy – 1,400 square feet with a floor for each enterprise; woodwork, shipping, design.

But equally exciting to the Minolas is the accessibility.

“We’re thrilled to have our new home in this community of makers and look forward to finally being able to engage more actively with islanders now that we have a more public space,” said Chelsea.

The Minolas will host an open studio and holiday sale at Grain’s new base, 12935 Islandcraft Lane, Studio A3, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5. They’ll open up the woodshop for tours and have gift items, including candles, cards and textiles, available for purchase.

After Saturday’s sale, the new location will revert to functioning solely as a work space. “But if someone calls or wants to come by to pick up something directly, we’ll have that kind of capability,” Chelsea said.

View the collection at www.graindesign.com.