GALESBURG, Ill. (AP) — Luis Villa began working with handcrafted art in the country of Peru, crafting jewelry and weaving clothing to create his own forms of art. Though he had experience selling it in Peru, his new store, Asiri Handcrafted, is his first attempt at owning and operating an official store space.
Villa came to the United States in 2015 and met his wife, Jennifer McKenna, in Alexis. The two worked together to sell their goods at art shows and markets, and eventually decided it was time to open a store.
Villa now works with groups in Peru to bring their designs to his shop. The majority of the wares in his store are handcrafted at his home workshop, though he explains that even if he didn't physically stitch them together, the designs are also his. Collaboration is a big part of his process.
A key reason Villa opened the store now was the effect it will have on his family. With two kids, he felt it was time to move away from the traveling circuit of shows and find some stability and permanence in Galesburg.
"I have two kids now; it's made things different," Villa said. "I want to be able to provide for them and the family in Alexis, too."
Villa recalls the effort put into making the materials he sells in his store — he took a boat through the Amazon River to fetch some of the items, for example.
A few of the blankets in the store were handmade, painted and stitched in Peru. Villa sees the quality and authenticity of his products as a large selling point and what sets his store apart.
"Those things are special to us and have a special story," McKenna said. "But I'll admit, it's still hard to see some of the bigger pieces go."
Even though the items in stock are of such a significant origin to Villa, he says he has no problem letting them go. Instead, he sees them as waiting for the right person to come into the store. He remembers many times when a customer would come through, try on an item and know immediately that a connection was formed. That, for Villa, is the goal of his art.
"My art is for the people," Villa said. "That's what I do all of this for."
Moving forward, Villa's only immediate goal is to continue growing. He is excited about the space and location the store was able to secure in downtown Galesburg, and he hopes it is a good first step to growing larger over time. If the store expands in the future, he says it will be a way to bring in even more pieces of art for the town to see.
"I think people are really going to like what they see," Villa said. "This art is art of the spirit. It's not made quickly; it's made with heart."