by NATHANIEL NELSON
On Third Street in downtown Winona, a new shop has opened up filled with eclectic goodies, art pieces, fine jewelry, and more greeting cards than there are holidays to match. Winona artist Jovy Rockey fulfilled her dream of opening up a downtown gallery this year, and two months later, business is booming.
“This business really came about by serendipity. I was originally only looking for a studio space, but the location lent itself perfect to retail,” Rockey said. “It’s something that I thought was lacking in Winona for a long time.”
Rockey’s gallery isn’t what one would consider a typical gallery by any means. Most galleries are more about exhibition than sales, with pieces well out of an average person’s price range. But Rockey said she wanted to focus more on working artists, showcasing pieces that are made for both display and consumption. “There’s everything from $400 rugs to $3 stickers in here,” she explained.
Over the past seven years, Rockey has created a name for herself across the country through her minimal and modern wire-bent jewelry. She started out working on beadwork jewelry before seeing another artist creating jewelry with steel wire and gems. “I liked the aesthetic, so I started working on stainless-steel jewelry and I just fell in love with it,” she said.
She began to cultivate her work and develop a trademark style, and now, the name “Jovy Rockey Jewelry” can be seen on displays in shops from Portland, Ore., to Denver, Col., and everywhere in between. In the past, she has toured across the country and shown her wares in fine arts festivals and craft fairs, slowly building a devoted fanbase.
It’s through that work that she began to think about opening a store of her own.
“I’m an avid shopper, and I travel a lot. It’s a huge attraction for me to find a place like this, and nine times out of 10 I’m going to buy something,” she said. “I wanted to bring stuff that I couldn’t find here.”
Rockey explained that her goal for the space is less of a place to sell her own wares, and more of a place to curate a niche set of items and art pieces for Winona residents and tourists to comb through. Unlike some other consignment stores, each of the artists in Rockey’s shop –– whether they sell handmade pocket cribbage boards or laser-cut 3D art –– produce art in which she herself is interested.
“I wanted to showcase a lot of different things that different people appreciate,” she said. “It’s more of an aesthetic that I am looking for than anything.”
The art that covers the gallery walls are more than just works for purchase, Rockey said. Each of the artists have their own stories to share, and they are each close friends of Rockey that were happy to work with her on the new project.
“They were excited. It’s really meaningful to me because the art that I’m sharing, I have a connection to it,” she said. When customers ask about a piece, she can easily rattle off details and stories behind each one.
Even with the store space, the gallery has another goal –– building a new community. Rockey said that over the years she has spent in the Winona area, she has watched the art scene grow and shift, even over just the last decade, and by creating a space for artists to interact with each other, the scene will grow. “There is a tribe that builds, and I want to see that in the community,” Rockey said.
Each month, Rockey hosts a Maker Meet-up at the gallery, where local artisans are invited to come and talk about their work, their wares, and their problems. Each session has a different topic and focus, but the goal of the program is simple.
“There is a definite need and desire for people to connect. When it comes to being a creative, sometimes you can feel a little introverted. It’s hard to be vulnerable and get yourself out there and put your work out there,” Rockey explained. “It’s hard doing it alone. I would like to see other people take their hobby and turn it into a business.”
Rockey said her next steps will be to focus on introducing new workshops and classes, facilitated by herself and other guest artists, to help continue to build up a new artisan community in town. Some may be more simple, like jewelry repair, while others may focus on printmaking, candle dipping and other niche processes. Through these programs and her constantly updated studio walls, Rockey hopes that her shop will continue to be a central art destination in town.
Jovy Rockey Jewelry Studio and Gallery is located at 78 East Third Street in Winona, and is open on Wednesday through Friday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., and on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit jovyrockeyjewelry.com.