After retiring, Gary and Marsha Wolff found themselves making so much jewelry, mosaic and pottery, that they needed an outlet. So five years ago they opened up WolffWorks Artisan Shop on Paul Bunyan Drive, the only gift shop in this small Minnesota town of Nevis. Thanks for entering this giveaway! We emailed the winner…
While other stores in Nevis sell gift items in addition to food, WolffWorks Artisan Shop specializes in hand-crafted gifts made by local artisans. If you’re looking for inexpensive gift ideas that are Made in Minnesota, WolffWorks offers many one-of-a-kind items and is a good place to support local artists.
Gary, a former art teacher, makes a lot of the pottery sold here and Marsha, who was an English teacher, makes mosaics and jewelry. In fact, Marsha is the artist that made the mosaic of the Tiger Muskie fish outside the Nevis Post Office as well as inside Nevis Public School.
“I was into making big mosaics and it was the Nevis Centennial and I thought it would be a fun thing to give back to the community, and of course we’re known for the Tiger Muskie,” Marsha said. “I asked the postmaster and she got permission and it was fun to do. I had different members of the community at different times come and help me do it because it was a pretty big undertaking. There’s so many small pieces and it’s a large mosaic, it took an entire summer.”
While they make most of what’s in the store, they also sell items handcrafted by up to 20 local artisans. You can find lots of one-of-a-kind pieces here that include jewelry, mosaics, paintings, pottery.
“What’s interesting is we have some young children making things and the oldest lady is in her 90’s, she knits and crochets really cool baby hats,” Marsha said. “So we have a quite a variety of people who make things for us. Everything is handmade, everything is locally-made. We keep the prices as low as possible because we want to turn over our product and keep things moving.”
Prices for one-of-a-kind handcrafted jewelry are under $25 so they make great gift ideas for the holiday, birthdays, or anytime. The store is only open in the summer, but the Wolffs give art classes year round. Marsha teaches how to make mosaics and Gary teaches pottery.
“I’ve been making mosaics since high school when I broke my dad’s beer bottles and Noxema jars and put them together,” Marsha says. “I really enjoy that process. It’s all self taught I’ve never taken any classes. I just love the look of it, I love the permanence of it, that it will last forever. It will last far beyond my lifetime.”
Marsha has also created mosaics for churches in the area as well as floors for homes, and her passion for making mosaics is apparent all over their home, too. “In our house I’ve done the floors, the walls, the furniture,” she says. “I’ve covered everything. Anything that’s not moving probably has a mosaic on it. I just did the back splash of the kitchen. I did it with broken stain glass and then I grouted it.”
This store is an extension of what is their abundant creativity. “We found that we just love creating,” Marsha said. “We just so enjoyed making things and pretty soon we had to have an outlet. We had another store for a couple years in Dorset and then we moved here.”
Wolff Works sells a lot of as the pottery they make, functional items like cups and plates. But among pottery, the best seller are the fish-shaped plates, which range from $25 to $40. “They’re unique and every one is made differently,” Marsha said.
The earrings she makes also sells well. “I hand make my own wires and then I usually string together a few beads and then add a drop to it,” she said. “They’re one of a kind. I use a lot of vintage jewelry that I take apart and put back together so a lot of mine is repurposed, reassembled jewelry and it evolves every year. I never make the same jewelry.”
Lately, they haven’t been able to keep the solar lights Marsha makes in stock. “I buy second chandeliers and sconces and I take them all apart and I spray paint them bright colors and I put solar lights in them and you can just hang them outside or hang them on a tree branch or on a picnic table and you have nice solar lighting,” she said. The solar lights range from $10 to $59, which are the larger chandelier solar lights.
WolffWorks also sells wooden benches so “people can make an outdoor room,” Marsha said. “We have a man who makes benches and it’s really cool, he even knows what trees he cut down and where it was located. It’s just his passion.”