Cloth & Metal Boutique: Crafting Art and Consciousness

Photo by Eric Tadsen

After earning her degree in art metals from UW–Oshkosh, Lisa McGuire wanted to make her pieces matter in a space designed for others to appreciate the aesthetic and thought involved in making her crafts and choosing items for her boutique. Before opening Cloth & Metal Boutique, she did a lot of research and used her own closet to decide which brands she wanted. “I’ve always been into fashion and putting looks together, but I also have this artistic side,” says Lisa.

For her store, Lisa focuses on items made locally or in the United States, and if they’re not made here, they have to have sustainability associated with their company brand. “The brands need to be conscious of what they’re doing, like using plastic bottles to make the stitching in clothing. There have been brands that sold well in the store, but they didn’t fall in our core values. … It’s not about something looking cool or having a good price point, it has to be quality made or fall within our core values.”

Trying to get her name out there, Lisa would do art shows on the weekends while working full-time. She thought it was important to show her pieces because they have a niche; she also wanted to make sure people liked what she was creating. “I was getting good feedback, and people were coming to certain art shows because I was there. The goal was to someday open my own shop.”

Photograph by Eric Tadsen

In May 2019, Lisa opened her boutique on Parmenter Street then relocated to Hubbard Avenue in Middleton summer 2021 when the new space became available. Her recent move showcases the merchandise in an open, updated industrial space with plenty of room to browse. The boutique’s downtown location has advantages of being centrally located among local shops, restaurants, and attractions. It makes for a great day trip or day out to explore what’s in store at these businesses.

Lisa and her staff are attentive and ready to help customers when looking for a certain item or needing suggestions on how to style an outfit. They establish good rapport with customers not only to have repeat business, but because they care and are excited when they provide a new favorite piece to someone’s wardrobe.

During our interview, a customer approached and shared that she was window shopping and had to stop inside the boutique. She was impressed with the clothes and won over completely when she heard us talking about Lisa using recycled paper hangers because of the environmental impact. “Store hangers are made out of recycled paper and cardboard, so if they break, you can recycle them. And if they end up in the landfill, they will decompose, while other hangers put toxins into the earth.”

Photograph by Eric Tadsen

Of course, Lisa keeps in mind the fashion trends when she’s deciding what to buy for the shop. “I only buy a certain amount of each style, and when it sells out, then it’s gone. Depending on the item, if someone really wants it, I’ll reach out to my vendor to see if I can get it, but typically most of the vendors cut to order. So I’ll have to decide if it will be a really good seller and order more than I typically would to have enough in stock.”

The jewelry Lisa crafts herself can be classic, edgy, or clever depending on the repurposed items she’s using and her inspiration. “I’ll start with a design. Being earrings, bracelet, or a necklace, I’ll try to make a set if I can depending on the look. Then create another design off the first piece. If I get tired of making a certain piece, I’ll stop making it and make something new. I’ll see a weird shape, like outside on a billboard, and start messing with the metal. I should be sketching more, but that’s not really my thing either. I basically take the metal and I start forming it. If it looks good and is kind of what I was coming up with, then I just let it go.

“We’re really big on not just having my jewelry in the shop when it comes to small goods; it’s also about supporting other makers. I have a handful of other local makers, like handmade headbands; hats; luxury dog treats made in Madison, because we are a dog-friendly store; scarves.”

Photograph by Eric Tadsen

Lisa also pours and makes all the candles in the boutique at home in her basement art studio. “I use soy wax, eco wick, and the scents are eco-friendly and burns cleaner.” The candles are welcomed seasonal scents, and she also repurposes jars rather than ordering new ones. “Most of the jars were drinking glasses at some point; some might have stems on them, like a champagne flute, so when you put a bunch of them on a table with all the different heights and dimensions, it looks really fun and different.”

True to her philosophy on the pieces she carries, Lisa takes her enthusiasm for supporting local efforts and gives back to the community. “I have partnered with the women’s shelter in downtown Madison. We had an event where if ladies came in and donated feminine and hygiene products, they would get a percentage off their purchase that day, and a percentage of the sale went to the women’s shelter as well.”

Cloth & Metal Boutique also hosts private shopping and events. “I partnered with Grape Water Wine Bar to kick off fall, and she provided wines to sample while women were shopping. I like to partner with other local businesses to try and get their names out as well. I’m also thinking about doing a shared shopping night with Journeyman Co. because when women host events at my shop, the men go shopping next door.”

No detail is too small when it comes to Lisa highlighting her passion for buy-local lifestyles and sharing the message of conservation. “Making sure I’m conscious of the things I bring into the store, I think that makes a difference. Maybe it will attract other people to start being more conscious of what they are doing too.”

Krystle Engh Naab is a freelance writer and copy editor for Madison Essentials.

Photograph by Barbara Wilson