Museum Store

Milwaukee Studio Visit: Heather Hambrecht’s Studio (h(om)e)

Win this (h(om)e) handbag! Photo by Donele Pettit-Mieding
Win this (h(om)e) handbag! Photo by Donele Pettit-Mieding
On a searingly sun-filled afternoon, I set out on an adventure with my intrepid photographer friend, Meg, seeking the Milwaukee studio where Heather Hambrecht creates her fantastic organic leather handbag line, (h(om)e).  We were armed with an address, detailed directions and a GPS—so we weren’t really expecting a grand adventure requiring a one-woman rescue mission to get us through the final blocks to our urban destination.

I elegantly hauled myself up a step as high as my waist to get into the building and stepped into the freight elevator (a fellow rider told me: “Darlin’, you don’t look like you know what the h*** you’re doin’.”). As we made our way upstairs, Heather shared the story of how this extraordinary building came to house every sort of creative artist, from fine art photographers to painters to sound and video artists to everyone between and beyond.

(Be sure to click “Continue reading”–there’s a giveaway at the end of this post.)

Behind the Scenes Education Museum Store

Museum Staff Coloring Contest with Reginald Baylor

Lineup of contest entries in the hallway. Photo by Donele Pettit
Lineup of contest entries in the offices hallway. Photo by Donele Pettit-Mieding.

Want to know what energizes an art museum staff, beyond knowing that we share a world-class art collection with almost 400,000 people a year?

Believe it or not, for the Milwaukee Art Museum staff it was a coloring contest.

Of course, it helps when that coloring contest is both inspired by and judged by Wisconsin artist Reginald Baylor. (And also, when the prize involves a free lunch with the artist.)

Behind the Scenes Museum Store

Local Designer Profile: Renotta Thompson

I was first introduced to local designer Renotta Thompson‘s work the weekend of the Art of the Table event at the Museum in November 2010.

The Museum Store featured her work in the Art of the Table “satellite store” that weekend, and even in the company of great international design houses, her RRT Designs pewter jewelry line (crafted by her own hand right here in Southeastern Wisconsin) stood out.

Doing my research for her biographical card on display in the Store (we call it an “Artist Provenance”), I came across Renotta’s blog, 365 Days of Design. It remains one of my favorite blogs for many reasons: the simple concept (one design a day, alternating media, but usually featuring fiber), the showcase of the breadth of her talent, her focus on lovely photography, and letting the designs speak for themselves in natural settings.  In her jewelry designs, like this cuff, you can see the techniques she has perfected in textile design are being uniquely translated in the medium of pewter.

Art Behind the Scenes Education Museum Store

It’s Always a “Sunny” Day at the Museum!

Sunny in Baumgartner Galleria
Sunny in Baumgartner Galleria
Written by “Sunny” the Dog

You know how sometimes you just need to become a tourist in your own hometown in order to truly appreciate all the wonderful places to go and things to do?  Although the Milwaukee Art Museum is my permanent home, I recently decided to spend the day like I was visiting for the very first time.

Behind the Scenes Exhibitions Museum Store

The Making of an Exhibition Store

The potters in place
Ceramics in place

If you’ve read curator Mel Buchanan’s posts Painting the Gallery Walls or Layers of Exhibition Paint, you already have a general sense of how an exhibition physically comes together.  A lot of those same processes apply to the execution of an exhibition store, as well.

While Impressionism: Masterworks on Paper was still in full swing, Director of Retail Operations Karen McNeely and Store Manager Jeanne Tripi met with the Museum’s Exhibition Designer John Irion to discuss the dimensions and the colors of the Accidental Genius: Art from the Anthony Petullo Collection exhibition store.  In fact, the Impressionism store and the Accidental Genius store are located in the exact same space–just the configuration of the walls has shifted.

Art Behind the Scenes Museum Store

A Simple Translation from Museum Artwork to Museum Keepsake

The Museum Store has a dedicated staff person whose primary responsibility is “Product Development.”

Julia Jackson is the Museum Store’s creative brain-power and organizational manager behind items like the Roy Lichtenstein Crying Girl V-neck T-shirt shown at left (I get so many complements when I wear mine and it’s really soft, too!) and the Calatrava-inspired “Wings” earrings that I love.

Every time you pour coffee into your Edmund Tarbell’s Three Sisters mug or admire Bastien-LePage’s Woodgatherer on a poster on your wall, you can thank Julia!

Here is a simplified breakdown of Julia’s design and organization process:

Art Museum Store

Say it on a T-shirt: What does the Art Museum Mean to You?

Painterly T-shirt Contest Winner
Shirt with "painterly" view of the Milwaukee Art Museum submitted by T-shirt design contest winner McKenna Schoonover. Available at the Museum Store.

This spring, the Milwaukee Art Museum partnered with The A.V. Club Milwaukee to sponsor a design contest for a new line of T-shirts to be sold in the Museum Store.

The contest prompted the designers with the question “What does the Art Museum mean to you?”

Clearly, this question was a launching pad for a variety of interpretations.

Milwaukee’s creative community was inspired and the Museum received dozens of submissions which were voted on by friends “liking” the individual designs on The A.V. Club’s Facebook page. There were too many fantastic ideas to pick just one, so in the end I’m thrilled that the Art Museum has two fresh new designs to offer in the Museum Store!

Behind the Scenes Museum Store

Thinking Globally, Shopping Artfully

Museum Store's Eco-Friendly Logo
Museum Store's Eco-Friendly Logo

In the Museum Store, we are always looking to highlight the artists and vendors that make commitments to ecologically and socially sustainable business practices.  Throughout the store, this logo (left) will tell you that a company uses recycled, repurposed, or sustainable materials and is conscientious about their shipping and packaging.  I recently gave a Cate & Levi repurposed wool hand puppet to a dear friend for her baby shower, and it was the perfect gift!  See how cute (below)!  And each is totally one-of-a-kind because of the material.

Behind the Scenes Museum Store

Art that You Wear


Santiago Calatrava-designed cases in the Milwaukee Art Museum Store


I’ll admit truly: one of my favorite pastimes is helping people pick out jewelry.  I’ll watch a person walking casually along the outside rim of the cases Santiago Calatrava designed for the Museum Store, and then I’ll see the double-take and the excitement in their eyes as they hold that special item in their view.  

Events Exhibitions Museum Store

Quilt History in the Making

Bruce Seeds, Garden Quilt
Bruce Seeds, Garden Quilt (detail)

The thing I find particularly thrilling about the American Quilts Exhibition Store is that because quilts are such a living medium, a part of everyday lives, they often inspire very personal dialogues as visitors pass into the exhibition store. Every day we meet visitors who are eager to share their sewing stories—they admire the works in the exhibition in a profound way because of a shared experience with those artists. We learn about still-vibrant family traditions of sewing, memories of people’s mothers hand-stitching their clothing when they were children, the various techniques seamstresses develop over time, and the agony and the ecstasy of piecing those wee slippery scraps of fine fabric together.