The openness of the space – high ceilinged, contemporary track lights and smooth floor – is deceptive at the newly-opened Gallery Etcetera/Manouche shop, 7349 Madison St., because it has been designed to startle and delight the mind and senses everywhere you look. The shop is the long-awaited collaboration of artist Jeanine A. Guncheon and entrepreneur Kim Shimkus, who discussed working together for years before finally making it happen Aug. 1 of this year.
The pair go way back: “She was a good customer,” recalled Guncheon. Shimkus explained, laughing, “I used to shop more.” Describing themselves as “aesthetically very compatible”, the two nevertheless arrived at their partnership from very different backgrounds. Shimkus worked in retail, focusing on women’s specialty clothing and accessories, since college. Guncheon – who said “I have a checkered past” – has had a long career as a fine artist and still goes on the road about six times a year to show her work. In midlife Guncheon went back to school for a degree in interior design at Harrington College.
Shimkus’s previous shop in LaGrange, Utopia, existed for eight years, during which she built relationships with clients and vendors and sharpened the focus of her interest in eco-friendly, fair-trade and artistically designed pieces for discerning women. When the economy tanked and Shimkus closed the store, Guncheon – who says working with Shimkus was “always in the back of my mind” began to push harder than before for a partnership.
Asked if Guncheon often gets her way, both women laughed.
“She has good visions – and I’m flexible,” said Shimkus.
The Manouche vision, says Kim, is “for the wandering Bohemian” who wants to “wander, discover, adorn. I hope everyone who comes in can take away a little treasure.” The name “Manouche” is French for “gypsy”.
The front of the space is Kim’s domain. Featuring unusual vintage and architectural elements – stone carvings from an old church, antique iron fencing and old railroad signs – the space is open, yet full of alluring detail. “I fall in love with the romance of a piece, the story behind it,” she says. As an example, she cites the “Raw Earth” clothing line, pieces made of organically grown cotton, made in Los Angeles. There are locally-dyed vintage rayon slips used as soft-hued layers. There are necklaces of Tibetan silver and semiprecious stones for sale. Handmade glazed porcelain mixed with antique and tribal beads by local jewelry maker bebeka are featured in a glass case. A domestically-made range of handbags features several create from leather from vintage jackets – broken-in to perfection and redesigned for a classic, artistic look. A handmade line of linen/silk and linen/cotton scarves, “Slowcolor” colored with natural dyes like indigo and red madder, adds an elegant and conscious touch to an outfit. Another line features cloth spun, woven and dyed by H’Mong women, enabling them to work while caring for their children. Mishky bracelets are another fair-trade item.
Jeanine Guncheon’s Gallery Etcetera makes appearances here and there in Manouche, but the wanderer who follows a narrow hallway to the rear discovers a fascinating collection of items that work weirdly well together. Guncheon’s choices have an attractive, functional and often slightly macabre edge – numerous tintypes and daguerreotypes, old brass trumpet mouthpieces and sprinklers, or jewelry made of matched machine springs combined with granulated silver pendants – and she points with glee to some of her stranger treasures, including two wasp’s nests perched atop two displays, and dried shelf mushrooms adding their symmetrical folds to a case of charm-festooned chains. Antique chairs recovered in woven Kilim fabric, Bolivian textiles and hair-on cowhide go well with old iron pulleys (“I love old pulleys!” said Guncheon) and industrial calipers.
Describing her customers as ranging “from very sophisticated to very quirky and artistic”, Guncheon said she loves the idea of appreciating the subtle beauty of objects in decay. A display of heavy hotel silverplate sits on a zinc-topped table. Rather than scrape, paint and varnish the antique table, Guncheon simply sanded off the flaking parts of the paint and left the zinc with its natural patina – a choice that tells the table’s history but leaves its functional beauty undisguised. “People constantly ask to buy this piece, but I won’t sell it,” she said, satisfied with the result.
The array grows constantly, between Guncheon’s own artwork – jewelry, painted bowls and more – and objects that speak to her on her travels. Items in Gallery Etcetera and Manouche range from $3 to $3,000, and offer a piece of Guncheon and Shimkus’s vision to all.