Bourbonnais Studio Remains Asset to Community during Pandemic


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Prior to Northfield Square Mall closing for the pandemic, you may have done a walkthrough and noticed several different kinds of art businesses. From photography, a local art gallery, a scrapbooking shop, and a ceramics and yarn shop, the opportunities to get something handcrafted, or even the items to make something by yourself, are endless!

One such studio is Top Notch Knots and Pots. They are a ceramics and yarn shop located in suite 374 inside Northfield Square Mall. Inside this lovely space you will find beautiful artisan yarns, knitting and crocheting tools, a huge selection of ceramics to paint, and then a studio area! In the studio space you can sit and paint your ceramic, or learn how to knit or crochet. You can even visit with her pet rescue ferrets that she occasionally brings in to meet the customers!

After speaking with the owner, Kim Chellson, I learned that the current COVID-19 pandemic has had quite an effect on this unique business. We discussed what she has had to change, how things are going, and how we as a community can show our support.

What did you do before the pandemic?

I decided to open the store Top Notch Knots & Pots and had the Grand Opening on July 1, 2019. Here people can come to not only shop for unique and higher quality products, but they can sit and create with any instruction they would want/need from me. I have over 37 years’ experience with painting, ceramics, and crocheting. Following behind that is knitting and spinning yarn for the past 18 years. I have been teaching the art of ceramics with all the techniques you can possibly think of for over 20 years now. I offer classes to anyone wanting to come paint. I work closely with organizations for girl/boy scouts, 4H, special needs, and business events. I host birthday parties and other gatherings such as date nights and sip n paints. I started giving lessons on crochet and knitting over 10 years ago to all skill levels.

How did the sudden changes affect your business?

The sudden changes of this pandemic forced me to close the store and not have the capability to gain entry until May 1st as I am in the mall. I was able to take home fiber art and continue to knit for store display or commissioned pieces but did not have the capabilities to bring home the supplies needed to paint. I was and still no longer able to teach classes of ceramics, knitting, or crochet. Even though I was locked in at home, I found a way to still help the community in a creative way by sewing and donating over 300 masks and well over 500 ear saver headbands and straps. I reached out via my Facebook business page and asked for help from my customers. Many stepped up to volunteer their time to either knit/crochet headbands, sew buttons on or make some masks and I cannot thank them enough for helping me help the community in our time of need.

What have you changed to cope with the pandemic?

I can offer curbside for customers to purchase items to do at home but cannot assist them if they get stuck on a project as I had done before the store closure. I do my best by offering video chats to try and walk them through or for them to drop off their project for me to fix.

How are things going now?

It has affected the business in a way where I cannot teach them what went wrong, what to look for, or how to fix if the problem should arise again.

Being such a new business, it has hurt financially as I do not qualify for 90% of the government assistance out there. For the 2 months we had been closed it has caused over $8,000 in debt as the rent and utilities do not stop incurring with zero income to help offset this debt. Now being curbside, I have some sales, but not enough to even turn on my lights for a day.

What can the community do to help?

The community can help by supporting through Facebook as that is my main social media outlet. I have created albums and added the stores’ inventory the best I can so people can shop and pick up curbside this way. I also can resume doing commission pieces of not only knit/crochet but painting ceramics again.

Trenna Carriker-VanVleck
Trenna Carriker-VanVleck
Trenna Carriker-Vanvleck is a wife and mother to three boys, two of whom are twins with another on the way! She just graduated with her associates from Kankakee Community College and will be attending Olivet Nazarene University this fall to pursue a major in Art Education. When she’s not supporting the arts here in Kankakee County, she spends her time working at Little Me Studios in Bourbonnais.


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