St’artUp 317 is a competitive program that aims to match young brands, established businesses wanting to test a new market, startups and artists, with vacant and under-utilized first floor commercial space in downtown neighborhoods to create pop-up stores. Inspired by similar initiatives across the country St’artUp 317 is being coordinated by Downtown Indy, Inc in partnership with PATTERN in order to incubate viable retail businesses and long-term tenants, while supporting the creative class and improving the cultural profile of our city. The long-term goal of the program is to eliminate empty storefronts, increase local and visitor consumer spending and ensure that the Downtown neighborhoods continue thriving.
This series of stories highlights artists, entrepreneurs and businesses that were selected to participate in the pilot of St’ArtUp 317.
When Krista Bermeo agreed to bring her first order of glass jewelry into the Indianapolis Children’s Museum store in 2006, she had no idea that jewelry design would become her career. In fact, she had no idea how to make jewelry.
“The buyer there at the store wanted to see everybody who had local glass,” Bermeo says. “So I took my work in and she bought all of it. She wanted to know what else I had and without skipping a beat I went ahead and said, ‘I have jewelry that I can bring back for you.’ Well, I didn’t really have any jewelry to bring her. At least at the time I didn’t.”
Bermeo left the Museum and went straight to the library where she checked out some books on how to make jewelry. She’s been selling her work in the Museum store ever since.
“So many puzzle pieces had to come together at a really quick rate for me,” she says. “I mean it literally fell into my lap.”
Bermeo, who grew up in Abilene, Texas, graduated from Indiana University in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in English and Italian. Following her graduation, she signed a six-month contract with Eli Lilly and Company as a writer and consultant. That contract turned into 12 years of work with the company, writing and traveling to countries like Brazil, Ireland and Italy.
“After I finished this six-month contract with Lilly I was going to just take the money and go to Italy and start working on a masters and Ph.D. program,” Bermeo says. “I was going to go somewhere in academics with Italian literature and with the Lilly thing, it didn’t work out that way.”
While in Italy, Bermeo was exposed to glass-blowing and decided to take a class when she returned to Indianapolis. Her motivation for doing so was simple.
“I mean, why not?” She says. “It’s fascinating stuff to watch if you’ve never seen it. There’s an element of danger there that’s kind of fun and a little risky.”
Bermeo makes each and every piece of her jewelry by hand. She orders glass from all over the world to ensure the colors are perfect. She melts the glass and pounds out and solders the metal herself. At the end of the process, she’s left with something simple, wearable and timeless.
“I think I was in Washington D.C. and I was milling through some old antique stores,” Bermeo says. “I found my work and I was like, ‘Oh my god this is crazy.’ I actually made it for a very contemporary modern art exhibit so for it to be at an antique store it was just really cool because it’s like, ‘This stuff is going to be around for a while’ and I had never thought of that.”
In the 12 years since she sold her first pieces of jewelry at the Children’s Museum, Bermeo has had her work featured in over 70 museum stores, independent boutiques and galleries in 31 states, Washington D.C. and Toronto. Despite her success throughout the country, she says she remains relatively unknown in Indianapolis.
“I hope that I can build more of a client base here,” she says. “I think it’s so important that you have some kind of local roots. You know, I work here so it’s really important to me that I’m known as a local because I would like to continue to contribute as a local artisan.”
To check out Bermeo’s work, visit her St’Art Up 317 display at CityWay on South Delaware Street or visit her website.