Classroom 101: Branding, Pulling It All Together

I’ve been talking a lot over the last couple of months about branding, looking at what it is, and why I think it’s important. It’s a subject that sounds so simple, but which has turned out to be very complex and varied. Exploring it with you has given me a lot to think about with my own branding, and I hope that some of it has been helpful to you too! Today, we’ll be wrapping things up by talking a little bit about Fusion’s story and the thoughts behind it’s concept, beginning, and of course it’s branding. First though, I’d like to thank Jessi, Melissa and Winnie for taking a minute out of their busy schedules to answer my questions. With out them, this shop, and probably this article wouldn’t exist.  Thanks ladies!

In an effort to breathe new life into the property, Crestwood Court launched its ArtSpace initiative in November 2008.  The mall filled almost half its existing retail space  with outlets for culture and creativity such as art galleries, dance studios, and sculpture and pottery work space. While we’re now located in Chesterfield, the seeds for Fusion were planted in the ArtSpace in Crestwood. The original group knew each other from the local Etsy team, ShowMe Etsy. Since Crestwood was offering discounted rental rates for artist spaces, they felt that the time was right to move forward and created a handmade shop, ShowMe Handmade.

When asked why they decided to open as an artist Co-Op, the answer was quick and underlined the community aspects that are so important to us. Everyone worked full time on top of running their craft business, and knew that there was no way they would be able to take on such a huge task on their own. Combining their creativity, talents and time seemed like the best way to go.  The handmade goods at ShowMe Handmade were split between working artists who all had a say in the day-to-day operations of the shop, and consignment vendors who were included to fill a niche in the shop.  While everyone seemed to love the idea of all local work from all different artists, mediums and price points, ten different ideas about how displays, marketing and policies should be handled made it difficult to form a chohesive brand. “We’re all so different in terms of style and tastes”, says Melissa Villadiego.
In early 2010, the group decided to close up shop in Crestwood Court, and move to Chesterfield Mall. The move to a new, bigger space with new artists after a little over a year of experience under their belt was a perfect opportunity  to rethink some ideas about what they wanted the shop to be, add some new ideas about what it could do, and what could be included. Adding local musicians to the mix, and becoming more of a fine art gallery were things that now seemed possible. These new ideas and a need to represent the co-op idea better prompted a name change. So how did they come up with the name, Fusion? Melissa Villadiego had this to say:

  We wanted a place that incorporated the arts, music and educational classes. I remember we tossed around the name “Muse” since the name had a thespian bent. Artist muse, music muse… etc. We decided on Fusion, because we were blending together art, music, and classes in one shop.

I remember the question being thrown out to the community on facebook as well, using “the mob” as a sort of sounding board. The consensus was that Fusion was that while Muse was definitely classic, it conjured images of people in togas, playing the lyre, while Fusion sounded more modern, sleek and classy. The original logo was designed with the tagline “Art + Music + Life” so that was pulled into the logo with 3 leaves representing these important elements of our lives. The leaves were also a good symbolic fit as we are growing and building a community.

Moving into the new retail space in Chesterfield Mall, the group were presented with a blank canvas and decisions needed to be made to make it feel like a cohesive store, as opposed to a group of vendors sharing a space. The shop was huge and quite overwhelming.  On top of that, there wasn’t much money in the budget to improve the space and pull it all together, so ideas had to be simple, cheap and necessary.   “The biggest way we tried to tie it all together was to get artists that looked like they were of the same caliber and then we also tried to merchandise by department,” says Winnie. The original mission was to support the local art community while helping each other grow. The shop itself was never meant to make a profit but was intended for the individual artists to interact and succeed. Keeping these ideals intact as the concept and brand has evolved into a carefully curated mix of indie-crafts and fine art, has been the focus as we meet new artists and continue to refine the internal brand through displays, marketing materials and online presence.

Be honest with yourself about what you want to create as well as what story you want to tell, and be friendly and reliable to your customers. Branding is about telling a story, your story, and drawing people into it. One of the great things about being in a mall is that I can walk around and look at all of the shops, asking myself what story they are trying to tell. This gives us a great springboard when sitting down to figure out our own.  Have you found your voice or story, or are  you still looking? Leave us a comment, we’d love to hear them!


Writer Jeffrey Johnson

Stay-At-Home Dad and freelance Illustrator, comiker, crafter and urban homesteader. Jeffrey  and his wife Amy work together at Fusion as Handmade Family, making back to basics toys, gifts and decor for growing families. You can find his work and personal blog at or around the web as redherringjeff.


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