Her young sons were getting older, spending more time at school and activities, and she longed for the next phase of what had already been a long, creative career.
“I’ve had ideas before that I couldn’t get out of my head, and for whatever reason, I didn’t see them through,” Watson says. “But I felt so passionate about this one – about the need for it and my desire to make it happen – that I just wouldn’t let it go.”
“This one” is The Makery, a new creative hub she’s opened in town, a “community handcrafting space” where people can gather around a community worktable and learn an array of creative pursuits, from sewing and floral arrangement to weaving, painting and calligraphy. They do so in small group classes, using high-quality materials and taught by local artists in a gorgeous, brick-laden spaces on the Sunnyside Ave. side of El Paseo Lane, which also includes El Paseo restaurant, Alexander’s Artisan Rugs and Bossa Nova Clothing.
“Anytime a class passed by my eyes, I’d say, ‘That sounds fun’ and sign up,” she says. “Whether it was the skills or the community element, I just gravitated to it. I never said no to a class. But it was in those classes where met some of the coolest women, made some great friends and learned a ton.”
Watson chuckles as she rattles off some of the classes she’s taken over the years. “I guess it’s not all for naught,” she says with a laugh.
Born and raised in Alexandria, Virginia, Watson grew up with a “Dad who tinkered in the wood shop and an artistic and creative Mom.” She attended the University of Virginia, did a “ski bum” stint year in Idaho after college and moved back to the Washington, D.C. area. An English major, Watson got “swept up into the world of project management” at a variety of young startups that blossomed during the first dot-com boom, helping firms develop their corporate websites and internal systems.
Watson quickly got a job at a consulting firm that worked with companies like Design Within Reach, ultimately landing a gig with the modern furniture, lighting and home accessories business. After a few years there, Watson needed to scratch her creative itch, and she enrolled at a textile design school in Berkeley at night and on weekends, eventually leaving Design Within Reach to start her own business centering on her handpainted decorative pillows.
“It was a lot of work, and it became a very expensive hobby,” she says with a laugh.
Watson returned to consulting, this time for Restoration Hardware in Corte Madera. By that time, around 2005, Watson and her husband Tim had moved to Mill Valley, and she eventually became full time at Restoration Hardware.
In 2009, when Watson gave birth to the first of two sons, she left the working world. Over the course of the seven years she’s raised her sons, Watson continued to take classes, almost always finding inspiration in them and longing for the next one. The idea for the Makery got stuck in Watson’s head when she realized, for the umpteenth time, that she had to go to the East Bay for a class, this time one on making a wreath in advance of the holiday season. “I don’t know if I wasn’t searching hard enough or what, but I couldn’t find one closer to home,” she says. “That was the ‘light bulb moment. And then it never went away from there.”
Fast forward to July 2016, and Watson called her husband, an entrepreneur who has created two start-ups, with the nervous excitement and a pitch for the Makery. “He’s the numbers guy, and he was supportive of the idea from the first minute,” she says.
The next several months were a tutorial of sorts for Watson as she toured Mill Valley and Marin, looking for spaces for lease and wrapping her head around the Makery’s business model. She briefly considered opening as a pop-up to get a sense of the appetite for the creative hub she envisioned.
“But I felt so strongly that I wanted a space where you walk in and immediately you just feel like you’re in a lovely, inspiring space,” she says. “That had to be a part of this experience. The physical space is a critical piece, and I wanted to be in control of the environment.”
She also decided that “if I’m going to do this right, it needs to be in Mill Valley,” she says. The search was a slog, but in March, she found her space at 2 El Paseo Lane, as Kelly Scott was relocating her popular housewares and accessories retail shop The Goods to 2 Miller Avenue, the former home of Mt. Tam Dog Co. adjacent to Equator Coffees. Watson worked on building out the space, and had a soft opening around the Memorial Day Parade. She eased into creating the class schedule, and has readied a full roster of classes starting in September.
The Makery also has a retail component, as Watson sells lines of DIY-centric, artisan branded “Take and Make” kits for projects like book-binding, designed by the artists themselves – “things you would find on Etsy,” she says. Watson plans to add other retail items as she identifies those that are perfect fits.
“I want this space to be community oriented,” says Watson, noting that she plans to have free monthly open house events where attendees “can come and have tea and just bring something they’re working on. This is a space for everyone. It’s warm and inviting for everyone from talented artists to people who are just like me and looking to learn something new.”