Creating a Community of Artists

Manufacturing is coming back to West Michigan. Not in mass-production factories, but in small-scale local artists seeking like-minded, supportive community and consumers. The big cities are becoming less attractive to creatives as the price of living and extreme competition forces them into a rat race-type lifestyle, working hard at a corporate job with little time or energy left for artistic endeavors. Such was the case for Elyse Marie Welcher, designer and co-founder of Parliament the Boutique, a studio and storefront where local artists collaborate and sell their goods. She began working as a clothing designer in Philadelphia at the Anthropologie Headquarters, where her job consisted of rapidly creating mass amounts of designs, specifically aimed for teenage girls to wear for a few months, then throw away when the next trend hit. Working hard to barely cover rent meant she couldn't focus on her own creative projects, so she moved back home to Grand Rapids to get away from that disposable culture and find time to really enjoy her work.

Parliament the Boutique began as a collaboration of three local craftworkers: Elyse Marie Welcher of Little Wings Designs, a line of hand-crafted accessories, Jake Vroon of Harbinger Leather, specializing in leather accessories and bags, and Megan Roach of Adventure Textiles, a fiber company using natural dyeing techniques. Their individual businesses began outgrowing their spaces, so they partnered together to create Parliament. They now work together in the same studio space and sell their creations in the storefront below. They also collaborate with other local artists, providing shop space as well as consulting and sourcing assistance if needed. The goal is to create success, not only for themselves and each other, but for the larger artistic community, advancing the artistic renaissance in Grand Rapids. They are currently hosting a wide range of artists, including Lief Designs, Ashley Lieber, Kate Lewis Ceramics, Forest Emporium, Alice Argyros, Bramble Woodworks, and Charis Moblo.

Read more on the Parliament website.