BY SOPHIE BIRD
When Athena, a long-time Bloomington establishment located on the downtown Square, closed in the spring, Talia Halliday was disappointed. But as the owner of Gather, a shop featuring the handmade work of more than 250 local and regional artists, Halliday also saw an opportunity. After two years inside Fountain Square Mall, Halliday was looking to expand, and Athena’s storefront seemed like a good fit. “The space chose me in a lot of ways,” says Halliday. “Athena was my first favorite store in Bloomington. When that space came up, for lots and lots of reasons, it just felt right.”
Gather’s new location at 116 N. Walnut opened on May 4, just four days after the physical move from Fountain Square Mall. Volunteers from the Arts Alliance of Greater Bloomington and from the Bloomington Handmade Market, where Halliday serves as board president, packed up the entire store in under three hours and moved the boxes to the new space in a pouring rain. “It was amazing,” says Halliday.
Gather will continue to offer a variety of handmade items, from photography and watercolor art to clothing (including T-shirts with cheeky sayings) and personal-care products such as soap, facemasks, and bath bombs. Halliday says the new store offers more space to show the merchandise and allows customers to browse more comfortably. She also sees Gather as a place for people to gather and hosts classes and monthly events, including craft nights, Gallery Walk receptions, and workshops on making and managing art.
Halliday is the sole decision-maker when it comes to what appears on Gather’s shelves, and says what’s important to her is finding artists who embody Gather’s aesthetic taste. An ability to understand that aesthetic was also a factor in how Halliday chose her five staff members. Not surprisingly, because Gather itself is based on the Handmade Market’s sense of artistry and style, she met several of them through the market. “The aesthetic is determined by a feeling,” she explains. “While there are other handmade stores in Bloomington, none of them has the aesthetic that the Bloomington Handmade Market has, which our store now has.”
For more information or to register for classes, visit gathershoppe.com.