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Bucktown Crafts Shop Helps Chicago Area Artists Turn Pandemic Hobbies Into New Careers

CHICAGO (CBS) -- From hobby to hawkin' it. Several Chicago area artists turned their pandemic-inspired creations into cash.

Morning Insider Lauren Victory takes us inside a venue that's helped some vendors find success.

With precision and patience, Erin Cottingham fills upcoming orders for her business "Stacking It Up" in the free time she finds while juggling a full-time job and raising two kids with her husband.

Her beaded bracelets sell in more than 15 stores, including one in Canada. "Stacking It Up" grew out of boredom in the pandemic.

"I thought it'd be a fun activity to do with the kids," Cottingham said, laughing because her children soon grew bored of mom's idea. She began gifting her creations to friends and sharing photos on social media.

"I would post on my personal Instagram and people would be like, 'Oh, Can I buy that?' said Cottingham.

Morgan Jones, owner of "Chestnut Creations by MJ" showed CBS 2 an embroidery hoop DIY kit given to her by her stepmom a few weeks into quarantine.

"I realized how much fun it was, and how much I enjoyed it, so I just kind of kept doing it," Jones said. "I started giving them away as gifts, and I was like, 'Wait. Maybe I can make a little profit from this."

And she has.

"Chestnut Creations by MJ" is part of a growing crafts community in Bucktown at the "Chicago Makers Pop Up Shop" owned by Anna Romo and Monica Little.

The storefront on Damen Avenue houses items created by dozens of Illinois artists.

"We've got bath products, jewelry, woodwork," Romo said, naming a few.

The idea for the shop blossomed after COVID crashed Romo's massage therapy career and ignited an interest in candle-making. Her business, Virtue Alchemy Candle Co, joined forces with Little's Plant Based Beauty.

"We've been getting to know retail. We've been getting to know artist management, media, marketing. Everything we've been learning along the way," said Romo of the past 11 months.

The multi-vendor concept is so successful, it's on the move.

"So, our big news coming up is we are actually opening two more stores this year!" Romo said.

The additional locations will give 60 more Illinois artists the chance to market their creations, like Cottingham, whose bracelets will be on display in West Town starting on October 6.

The new Wicker Park shop will open in November near Division and Milwaukee.

Romo and Little will be very busy but are also very proud that their pop-up model makes time to host workshops and networking events for small business owners.

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