Patty: We were in the Pearl for 17 years. We were there before there was a streetcar, when you could park for free. There was a crazy arcade next to us. Our lease was coming due and we were getting priced out. And I’ve always wanted to buy a building.

From left: Brigid Blackburn and Patty Merrill

The world we’re selling to has changed, too. You see West Elm promoting handmade pieces. Pottery Barn, Anthropologie—we get shopped by those guys now, looking for inspiration. We just saw a line of heads that are just knockoffs of work by a Filipino woman we’ve worked with for years.

Bridgid: We’re buying from more countries. There didn’t used to be a Chinese consumer who was interested in old Chinese stuff. But as the country becomes wealthier, a market has developed. And China is changing so rapidly that the places Patty used to go to—the markets and workshops—almost don’t exist.

Patty: India is the new China. India is very handmade. Indonesian design is really evolving. I still go to Japan for the old stuff. I want things that people don’t make for export—I want the products they make for themselves. Give me a good scrub brush.

Bridgid: Each one of the vendors we deal with supports many people. That’s our version of fair trade—dealing one on one with small vendors, operations that could never be big enough to be certified “fair trade.” Patty has had these relationships for years.

Patty: When people come here from New York and LA, they’re blown away by the square footage, and the randomness. No one in those cities does randomness. And that’s all that we do.=

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