For about eight years now, local artist Julie Wall has owned and operated a gallery-like shop and workspace called The Hedge at 1016 Broadway.
She started her printmaking and design business a few years prior in the 46805, but wanted to find a space Downtown where she could live above her shop and studio. The historic Canton Laundry building, dating back to 1890, proved to be the perfect fit.
After living in a loft apartment there for about six years, Wall now rents the living space to guests on Airbnb or to locals, hosting small events, like photoshoots and parties. Its unique features, like a lofted second bed and a second story patio make it special, along with whimsical touches, like murals by the artist herself.
In addition to Wall’s retail shop below, where she sells her art and creative services, she also offers all-ages art workshops, ranging from linoleum and letterpress printing to “naughty needlepoint” embroidery and bookbinding.
We sat down with Wall for five questions about her creative business Downtown, and what she believes would take Fort Wayne’s local culture to the next level.
1. Tell us a little bit about you and The Hedge.
I grew up in Fort Wayne, and my family has owned two businesses around town: a trophy and awards shop Downtown called La Hartz (which has since closed) and the Roller Dome North (going on 73 years).
Even though my family has been involved in the community for a long time, I remember thinking when I was 18: Gosh, what is there to do in Fort Wayne? Now, I think we’re finally tapping into our city’s potential. There are so many cool small businesses, artists, restaurants and projects moving us in the right direction, creatively and economically. It feels like we’re finally really building our own culture here, which is exciting.
My way of contributing to that is primarily through my business The Hedge, where I use my background in printmaking and metals to design, create, and assemble uniquely personal pieces, ranging from stationery to jewelry, to candles poured into vintage vessels and quirky gifts, like trophies with snarky sayings for special occasions.
When my family’s trophy shop closed just before the COVID-19 pandemic, I inherited all of these weird antique trophy figures and bases, so I started repurposing them into fun gifts, like taking a horse show trophy and engraving it with “stud” or “You’re my No. 1 stallion.” There are a lot of animal trophies with funny sayings, and I have fun drinking wine with friends, looking at trophy tops and seeing what we can come up with.
2. In addition to your art for sale, you also host art workshops at The Hedge. Tell us about those and what customers can expect?
All of my workshops are family-friendly and all inclusive. They’re finished for 2023, but I’ll have a new lineup coming for 2024. In the meantime, you can schedule private workshops for special events, or order at-home workshop kits on my website, and just like when you show up for one of the in-person workshops, all of the materials are provided for you. Overall, my workshops are just a good opportunity to learn something new or to try something you’ve done before in a new setting. They also reinvigorate me for why I’m doing what I’m doing, and I think they give people a deeper appreciation for handmade things — not only in my shop, but at other boutiques and small businesses, too.
3. Tell us more about your retail shop and handmade products.
My shop is open to the public once a week on Saturdays, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., and sometimes I host pop-ups with other artists, but most of the time, this space is like my makeshift art gallery where I’ve made everything you’ll find here. I sell a lot of handmade jewelry in the shop and stationery made on my printing presses, which date back to the 1800s, so they’re as old as the building itself. Some of them are actually from the Fort Wayne area, too, where they would have been used in the basements of churches or businesses to print their own flyers.
Today, I primarily use the presses to make stationery for businesses and events. One of the things that sets printing press work apart from digital prints is that the presses deboss the type or images into the paper or whatever material you’re printing on. So it’s a very tactical art, which can be felt, whereas a digital print is more flat and streamlined. I print on all cotton papers, and sometimes fabric or wood, too, so my work really does have a handmade quality to it.
Whether you visit The Hedge to shop what I’ve made, order something custom, or talk about a project you want someone to help you to bring to life, I really want people to take away that this is a highly catered and customized experience. I pour myself into this work, and I want customers to feel included in the creative process.
4. In your mind, what would take Fort Wayne’s creative culture to the next level?
The holiday season and Shop Local Saturday are great times to remember to buy local from artists and makers Downtown or across the city. But I’d love to see more people in Fort Wayne shopping from local makers and small businesses throughout the year. The Broadway Corridor, where my business is located, is a haven of local artists and makers of all kinds. We have locally made cupcakes, bagels, glass shops, painters, galleries, cool little gift shops, toy shops, and rug shops — all within walking distance here. Now that Electric Works is open, too, we’re close enough that we can tell people, they can park once and really make a day of it.
I think we’re getting to the point where people in Fort Wayne are keeping their eyes out for more things made local or made by an artist they recognize from a mural Downtown or an art event. But we still have a lot of potential to continue growing in that direction. We have so many people who talk about loving the local economy and loving that people have decided to stay in Fort Wayne and build small, creative businesses here, but we need people to come out and support what our small businesses and artists are doing so they can survive. We need you to shop and to visit local restaurants, even if they cost a little more than the big box store or chain options. Consistent, year-round support for small business would help our community get to the next level creatively.
5. Looking to the future, what’s next for you and your businesses?
I love helping people find their niche in design and what makes them feel unique, so I’d love to get more into artistic interiors. As part of this service, I work with business clients and individuals in their homes, helping them take things they have and display them in new ways or add new pieces to freshen up their space. This work really sprung from an opportunity I had to do artistic interiors at The Bradley hotel’s guest rooms when it opened Downtown. I loved that, and I’d like to keep growing that part of my business, while I keep doing my art and workshops, too.