The “maker” movement has arrived in Minnesota. A new crop of small-scale manufacturers, dubbed makers, are putting a modern spin on time-honored DIY crafts.

This Saturday, the American Swedish Institute in south Minneapolis hosts its inaugural Great Makers Exchange. Modeled after the museum’s holiday Julmarknad craft market, the event includes craft activities, tours, demonstrations, workshops and crafts for sale from 16 local vendors. We talked to three of the participating makers.


Nora Schaper had a revelation during a trip to France in the late ’90s.

“They use a lot of food for beauty in France,” she said. “They would put avocado and honey on their skin — and I realized it’s the same concept as eating healthily.”

She began crafting essential oils and soap out of natural ingredients for her own use, until her husband, Jay, an MBA entrepreneur, encouraged her to think bigger. So in 1999, she opened a kiosk at Southdale Center in Edina. Her Bodylish product line has since expanded to include shampoo and lotion bars, face creams and serums, shaving products, bath bombs, bath soaks and even bug repellent. The line has found its way into Lunds & Byerlys stores, Twin Cities farmers markets, co-ops and online. But these aren’t your typical co-op products — not only are they good for the environment, they’re wrapped in quirky, irreverent packaging and scented with pleasing notes of lavender, vanilla bean and grapefruit.

All Bodylish products are made from natural, organic, fair-trade and Earth-friendly ingredients, including aloe vera, avocado oil, black pepper, citric acid and a soy-derived vegetable glycerin. For Schaper, what you put on your body is as important as what you put in it.

After all, she said, the skin is “your body’s biggest organ.”

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Steller Handcrafted Goods

It all began with a pair of mittens. In 2009, Julie Steller bought a pair of handmade mittens that were made out of wool sweaters. She was hooked.

So she scoured thrift stores for quality sweaters made from 100 percent wool and cashmere to craft her own line of mittens, Steller Handcrafted Goods. Although she’s not of Scandinavian descent herself, the Minneapolis-based Steller’s mittens and purses, derived from Nordic sweaters, are a hit among American Swedish Institute patrons. Her product line now includes fingerless gloves, infinity scarves, coats, vests, tunics, baby “elf” hats and plush Dala horses (a modern twist on the traditional Swedish wooden toy), all crafted from upcycled materials.

“These sweaters just end up in landfills, so it’s a great way to make something beautiful and useful out of them,” she said. “I love the idea of giving something a new life.”

For those interested in donning a memento of the old Metrodome, Steller also has created a line of fleece mittens — in the team colors of the Vikings, Twins and Gophers — and leather key fobs, manufactured by Leatherworks Minnesota, that come embroidered with a piece of the Metrodome roof.

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Moe Sew Co. Millinery

Dubbed “fine millinery for the discriminating weirdo,” the hat designs of Duluth milliner Emily Moe are designed with a modern eye and a nod to the past.

Moe began selling her hats in 2007 as Moe Sew Co. Millinery after studying hatmaking in Chicago.

“I have this problem,” she joked. “Whatever it is, I need to know how to make it.”

Her women’s hats incorporate interesting textures and updated takes on classic styles, such as a turban-inspired hat made from overlapping folds of houndstooth wool, or a fascinator rendered in black and green buffalo plaid. She said her men’s designs — riffing on classic silhouettes such as the fedora, the porkpie, the top hat and the derby — are her most popular.

A piano teacher for 22 years, Moe has always dabbled in different types of crafts — including spinning yarn, crocheting and embroidery.

“I can get excited about crochet and make a different kind of band, or I can get excited about the embroidery and make a fascinator with beaded embroidery,” she said. “So all of the things that I love to do, I can put back into my hats.”

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