Alice Laskey-Castle and Michael Andrews’ Five-in-One Social Club takes a broad approach to local craftsmanship
FEATURE | August 2014
Interview and Photos by: Casey Hilder
Arts and crafts are a way of life for Alice Laskey-Castle and Michael Andrews. As the owners and innovators behind Memphis’ Five-in-One retail shop and “crafty clubhouse” on Broad Avenue, the pair welcomes scores of eager amateur artists for twice-weekly courses in various projects like sculpture, engraving, woodworking, glass blasting and sewing. Five-in-One also doubles as the widest selection of MidSouth-made artisanal products on Broad Avenue, with T-shirts, posters and other assorted local goods.
Click magazine: How did you guys get started?
Alice Laskey-Castle: Well, we moved to Memphis about seven years ago and opened up an art installation gallery. I’m from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Michael, my husband and partner, is from Houston, Texas. We heard about the MemShop program for small businesses down here about a year and a half ago and decided to apply. At the time, we were already making T-shirts, jewelry, stuffed animals and other local goods so we decided to open up a little store. We were already doing the second part of Five-in-One, which is teaching other people how to make things, so we kind of combined the ideas under one roof. The hardest part of getting started was just learning how to do all the paperwork associated with a business. Michael and I are artists and aren’t very business-minded. So we ended up learning a lot about negotiating and how sales tax works
CM: What are some of your favorite projects from the last few months?
Michael Andrews: A big one that we’re hyping up right now is the steamroller printing. Basically, we get a steamroller and do these giant block prints on the street. People come in about a month before the event and work on their blocks in these events we call “woodcutting parties.” So you’ll have anywhere from two to six people working on these giant blocks of wood every Sunday night for a few weeks. It’s a lot of fun.
ALC: We also do different kinds of makeup and it’s really a blast. We did kind of a primer course for the Memphis Zombie Walk a while back. It’s theater-grade, so it doesn’t run even if you jump in a pool. We’ll probably do that again towards Halloween with fake scars and things of that nature. It’s really fascinating to me because I’m not a makeup person, so I’m learning, too.
CM: Where does the store’s name come from?
ALC: I was really inspired by Earnestine and Hazel’s Sundries Store. I love the name, I think it’s a really awesome place. Five-in-one is actually a tool used for painting: it opens paint cans, mixes and spreads, opens cracks and scrapes rollers. But also, when we first moved here and opened up an art installation space, we did five things in that one space. So now, we like to say that we’re a tool for your creativity. It kind of transitioned.
CM: What was the store like when you opened up in Spring of 2013?
ALC: We didn’t have all the vendors we do now when we first opened. It was just a selection of our stuff, a ton of T-shirts and posters and other things that my husband and I made. Now, we’re proud to say that we carry works from 16 local artists. We opened the shop with a big stone soup barbecue and the first social club project was buttons, something simple to kick things off. We eventually moved on to more complicated projects like rubber stamps, stained glass, etching, chocolate molds and screen printing. Our newest thing is a woodblock press, which is great for making really unique poster designs.
CM: How do you ease in the newbies with no artistic experience?
ALC: We try to make things accessible to everybody, whether you believe you’re a creative person or not, which is why we’re so big on the “kindergarten for grown folks” tagline. We get a lot of artists, some people who are interested in making specific things, as well as a good selection of random folks: young people who come out just looking to have a good time and learn something neat.
CM: How big is the average class?
ALC: It depends on so many things! You never know with the weather, Grizzlies games or whatever may come up. But we have been known to host small, cozy affairs with five or six people all the way up to a room full of around 20, that’s usually where I cap the class.
CM: What kind of workspace does the social club Five-in-One offer?
ALC: Our workspace has sewing machines, a sandblaster, photocopier and a woodblock press, with working space for 25. But we focus mainly on smaller tools and materials. We don’t have a lot of big tools here because the emphasis is less on technology-based crafts and more on using your hands.
CM: What’s the best way to stay up-to-date on the upcoming projects at Five-in-One?
ALC: This month, we will host a soldering class with a guest artist, as well as mobiles, beeswax candles, luchador masks, and I’ll probably reintroduce stained glass. We have a pretty solid email list right now. We also try to do a lot of word-of-mouth, grassroots type advertising. Michael just finished an awesome poster design using our wood press that we’re going to hang around town. “It’s only scary the first time.” That’s one thing that’s really great about Broad Avenue, a lot of businesses will help you get the word out.