Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Lawrenceville Artist Broadens Meaning of Modern Retailing

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Lawrenceville Artist Broadens Meaning of Modern Retailing

Article excerpt

On a recent visit to Butler Street in Lawrenceville, I stepped into a shop called Werk. It opened three weeks ago. After greeting me, proprietor Jenn Gooch excused herself for a minute.

I checked out the fitting room curtain. It was a patchwork of T- shirt pieces, some with printed logos and messages. She had arranged them so the top of the curtain is mostly white and the bottom is a winsome design of color.

Werk, at 3627 Butler, is a clothing design and alterations shop, but it's more than that. It is a niche of 21st-century retail in which a make-it-yourself sensibility makes more things possible. In this case, the possibilities start with Ms. Gooch, a 35-year-old Texas native who came to Pittsburgh in 2006 to attend graduate school. She received a master's in fine arts at Carnegie Mellon University, where she also taught welding and sculpture.

If you have a sewing machine and a hankering to learn how to use it, Ms. Gooch is holding a free learn-to-sew workshop from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday. She is promoting it as gender-neutral because she knows boys and men are out there wanting to learn to sew. The catch is, you have to bring a sewing machine to the shop.

For subsequent workshops, Ms. Gooch hopes to find a funding source to buy a few sewing machines. She would also like to train apprentices.

Ms. Gooch grew up near Dallas in a household where she "learned how to make things" in the home economics tradition. "I sewed my dolls' clothes as a kid. I'm short, so I had to learn how to hem my pants or step on them.

"The American frontier separated skills [by gender], but in Europe for thousands of years, sewing was a guilded trade," she said. "I know a lot of guys who are interested" in fabric, textiles and sewing. "Plus, if you wear something that has buttons, you should know how to sew on a button."

It was Ms. Gooch who initiated the local One Cold Hand project in 2007-08. With a small grant from the Sprout Fund, she encouraged people to help her gather orphan gloves and mittens, hoping to find matches and even the people who had lost them. One Cold Hand collected 400 gloves, made 30 matches and reunited a few pairs with their owners. …

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