Pittsburgh maker Ashley Cecil.

It’s a long way from Dallas Avenue to the West Side of Manhattan, but that’s the point. MONMADE, a network that provides local producers — craft businesses, design-and-build shops and entrepreneurial artists — with tools they need to grow, is taking five local producers to the country’s biggest interior design trade show. The goal: to help these five, of course, and in doing so, create a craft manufacturing sector that will connect Pittsburgh producers with people interested in buying and/or distributing their products.

“There’s a lot of hope for the next generation of vibrant craft manufacturing in Pittsburgh” offers MONMADE’s Ben Utter. “We’re here to help.”

Fifty-plus strong and growing daily, the MONMADE producers, working in nooks and crannies all around Pittsburgh, come together to network, share ideas, offer support. “They need to be collaborative, Utter says. “They work together well. People help each other out.”

MONMADE Summer 2017 Showcase at Ace Hotel. Photo by Njaimeh Njie

One of the many helping hands belongs to Ashley Cecil, who, from her re-made Homewood mechanic shop, creates museum-quality fine art and fabrics. Here, the Sotheby’s-trained artist draws, cuts, pastes and sews images of flora and fauna illustrating the interconnectedness of the natural world and its inhabitants. To grow her business, Cecil felt that MONMADE was “a good fit,” she says.

Especially as it was time to move from fine art commissions into products–scarves, pillows, textiles, prints, wallpaper.

“This,” Utter adds, “is precisely what MONMADE is looking for.”

And so Utter will be taking Cecil’s work, and that of four others, to NY NOW, the country’s premier wholesale market for home furnishings, interior design and lifestyle products. At the massive Javits Center–with 25,000 buyers swarming over more than 800,000 square feet of exhibition space–Utter will man Booth 3075, August 20-23.

“There’s a surge of momentum around bringing Pittsburgh products to national audiences,” he says, “and our arrival at NY NOW is a pivotal moment not only for that, but also for our city’s transformation, for how Pittsburgh is perceived around the country.”

These first five, Utter adds, “are a nice fit.”

Ashley Cecil’s work will be joined by:

Myles and Heather Geyman’s Stak Ceramics featuring dinnerware, lamps, and more.

Savannah Hayes‘ metal and stone products for living and dining rooms–and accessories.

Shannon Pultz’ BLAK RUST textiles, which focus on high-quality, fine art stoles and scarves, textiles for apparel, upholstery, and wallcoverings.

Jason Forck’s Penn + Fairmount Glassworks, including tabletop glassware.

“We had two criteria for this show,” Utter says. “Were these producers the right for these buyers? And are they prepared if they get a big order? We certainly think so.”

At NY NOW, Utter will be looking for re-occurring wholesale accounts–museum stores, design shops and the like, which conduct highly visible, high-level ongoing business.

Display at MONMADE’s Summer Showcase at Ace Hotel. Photo by Njaimeh Njie
Display at MONMADE’s Summer Showcase at Ace Hotel. Photo by Njaimeh Njie

That kind of impact would certainly help, Cecil says. “Selling more to larger accounts would give me more time to do artwork. Which is what I should be doing.”

Sponsoring more networking opportunities and looking for more trade shows, MONMADE will continue “to develop more ways to support producers,” Utter says. “We began only last May, and already we’ve picked up a lot of momentum.”

Why do this? he’s asked. Well, Utter says, what’s good for Ashley Cecil–and her four MONMADE colleagues–is good for Pittsburgh. He gestures at her remade space in Homewood. “This is a vital economic development engine.”

Abby Mendelson

Abby Mendelson is a veteran Pittsburgh writer and reporter. A novelist and short-story writer, he is also the author of numerous Pittsburgh-related books, including Arena: Remembering the Igloo, Pittsburgh: A Place in Time, Pittsburgh Prays: Thirty-Six Houses of Worship, Pittsburgh Born, Pittsburgh Bred, and The Pittsburgh Steelers Official History. As a journalist, he has written on countless subjects in a wide variety of publications, local and national, print as well as electronic.