SAVVY SHOPPERS know that local is the way to go this holiday season, and the Starland District’s newest boutique wants to help stuff every stocking with something special.
Operating from the newly sectioned-off storefront at Sulfur Studios, The Hidden Hand Society presents a curated selection of handmade, crafty items from over a dozen local and regional makers, from $2 stickers and comics to $200 rare metal necklaces. Baby wear, books, bones in jars, kitchen kitsch, framed Wes Anderson movie prints and other whimsical bibelots line the shelves, every corner catching the eye.
“I call it the world’s tiniest department store,” laughs proprietor Holly L’Oiseau, who opened the moveable breakfronts the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
“We have quite an amazing selection of stuff for such a small space.”
The Hidden Hand Society first set up shop a few weeks before around the corner on Desoto Row, but that location was, well, a little too hidden. Realizing that exposure was key, L’Oiseau approached Sulfur Studios co-founder Jennifer Moss about partnering with the thriving creative community hub.
“I’d wanted there to be retail in the front lobby since we opened, but there just hasn’t been time with all the projects we’ve been doing,” says Moss, who helps manage Sulfur’s 14 artist studios and central gallery as well as handles short-term art shows for venues around the city.
Many of Sulfur’s artists vend their wares at the First Friday Art March and other open studio events, and now both studio denizens and The Hidden Hand Society benefit from the Bull Street’s steady foot traffic.
“It’s another outlet for our artists to be seen,” continues Moss of the alliance.
L’Oiseau is also enjoying the revealing new digs, which can be cleverly locked away after business hours or during Sulfur’s many events.
“In most retail situations, you’d be behind a counter all day,” muses the Knoxville native who “got caught up in the Savannah mystique” after several vacations to the Hostess City with family.
“Here, we’re always part of something.”
The prime location is also helping expanding the Hidden Hand Society’s ever-growing network of local artists and crafters. Gianina Gabriel’s line of lemon-shaped leather coin purses occupy a shelf; across the room, Gabriel’s Craft Scout co-conspirator Jessica Duthu displays her playful pennants and kidswear under the brand Strawberry Moth.
Vintage-style potholders, oven mitts and children’s aprons from Alice and Pearl hang near Lavender Bee’s “macramé babies,” small wall hangings suitable for small spaces. Cases full of jewelry by Hannah Dempsey and Tatiana Cabral Smith share a shelf with Free Spirit Jenny’s felt flower crowns and embroidered hoops. Hope Farms’ inspiring signs look lovely arranged in a drawer, though perhaps even better on a Christmas tree.
A small section of the shop is dedicated to L’Oiseau’s own line of cards and stationary, marketed under the name Holly Oddly. L’Oiseau started the company a couple of years ago after her stay-at-home mom duties began to wane, toying with cheeky slogans and her love for Savannah.
Greeting cards offer hyperlocal messages like “You’re Hotter than a Slice from Vinnie Van Go-Go’s” and “Our Love is Rarer than an Open Table at Foxy Loxy” in cheerful, looping script.
“I wanted to make something that you had to be local to get it,” she says with a sly grin.
As if there wasn’t enough packed into the wee shop, The Hidden Hand Society also hosts Quarter Press, a line of tiny (of course!) graphic books overseen by L’Oiseau’s husband, Chris Smith. A writing professor at Georgia Southern, Smith has also developed a line of $3 vinyl stickers for sale called “Lit Pills” that depict more than 70 different literary personalities, from Flannery O’Connor to George R.R. Martin.
L’Oiseau meets artists in person and on social media and expects her inventory to evolve throughout the season.
The Hidden Hand Society is eclectic on purpose and quirky by design, its delightful miscellany revolving around the themes of local, affordable and fun.
“I’m looking for anyone who fits my vibe,” says L’Oiseau of both her target customer and collection of vendors.
“I feel like it’s about bringing the hidden hands forward so people can see who they are.”