Chronic pain, divorce, postpartum depression, community trauma: These are a few of the struggles that propelled the women and nonbinary makers of the Minneapolis-based Primitiva Collective to create, connect, and focus on healing.
On May 22, they’ll come together to launch their boutique in Uptown, where they’ll share their creations – and, they hope, foster more connection and healing for others. The boutique is located in Seven Points Square at 3001 Hennepin Ave. S.
Primitiva Collective is the brainchild of Laura Merino, a Colombia-born jewelry artist in Minneapolis. Merino, owner of Primitiva Jewelry, creates filigree amulets and earrings in partnership with women artisans in rural Mompox, Colombia.
“It’s an ancient way of making jewelry, and it’s a very lengthy and complex process. We’re [essentially] taking very long, thin silver wire threads and we’re twisting them into different tiny shapes. I work with master artisans in Colombia who’ve been doing this for generations,” Merino says. She designs the pieces and sources the stones, then works with the artisans to bring each piece to life. “For me it’s a way to symbolically unite my two identities; to unite roots and my culture with my current home.”
Merino’s passion project -- which helps sustain the art of filigree and the artists who practice it – also aims to connect each buyer with her “divine self.” She designs pieces to be “tangible reminders to live purposefully.” Underscoring that sense of purpose is her commitment to planting a tree with every sale.
As Merino’s business grew, so did her desire to connect with likeminded entrepreneurs. So she began reaching out to other Twin Cities artists and artisans to explore the idea of a permanent, physical retail space. The process involved lots of cold-calling and door-knocking.
Today there are 27 members, with a few more expected to join by opening day. Their handmade offerings include candles, body care products, pottery, clothing, and more. Their retail space opens at 9 a.m. Sunday in Seven Points (formerly Calhoun Square).
“This group is specifically focused on women and nonbinary makers in Minnesota,” Merino says. “At least half of us identify as BIPOC individuals, and many are immigrants like myself. The fact that this is a collective means we’ll all work in the business. The idea is to offer support to one another, and to be able to come together often – for networking opportunities, but also just for knowing that you’re not alone in this journey. Being an entrepreneur can be lonely; you can feel isolated.”
One of the collective’s goals is to offer classes, workshops, and space for private events; many of the makers are interested in sharing their knowledge with the community. “This goes beyond ‘this is just a shop.’ It’s truly meant to elevate these makers and to strengthen community connections at the same time.”
Merino believes she’s in the right time and place to help “give birth” to Primitiva Collective. “As a community, Minneapolis has been through a lot in the past couple of years and is evolving maybe a little bit quicker than the rest of the country,” she says. “And we’re moving more towards this shop local, support women, support communities of color. Getting away from big corporations and going back to the roots, back to what really matters.”
MEET some of THE PRIMITIVA MAKERS
Veronika Alfaro, Mi Sota Essence
Chronic pain from spinal stenosis was gradually shrinking Veronika Alfaro’s world. Her mobility was limited, she was gaining weight, and she was drinking more and more. “I was on a lot of different medications, and I was depressed.” Doctors suggested surgery as a possible solution, but Alfaro wanted to try other options first. “In fall of 2019, I decided to change my life – drastically,” she says.
Alfaro began exploring CBD products, including topicals. “I started experimenting and making my own oil, because [CBD topicals] can be really expensive. And it just changed everything for me; I really realized the power of CBD as an anti-inflammatory. I was able to move, I was able to work out. I was able to show up more in different areas of my life, be a better mother, a better wife.”
Soon her mother – and then other family members, and friends as well – were asking Alfaro to create ointments for them, too. She started working with Minnesota hemp growers, and she procured the license needed to make and sell CBD topicals in Minnesota.
“I experienced years and years of suffering” before discovering the potential of CBD for pain management, Alfaro says. “And I’m no exception. This is something I want to keep sharing. And this sisterhood of makers – it’s so exciting. We’re all learning from each other.”
Noelle Webster, Lexurious Skincare
Noelle Webster’s postpartum depression crept up on her after the birth of her son in 2019. Her husband encouraged her to seek therapy, but she had difficulty connecting with the therapist. Friends suggested self-care, which to Webster sounded like spas and salons – not affordable to a one-income family.
“I’m a DIY girl; I love making things,” Webster says. What if she could create her own self-care products?
So in 2020, “I started diving into this rabbit hole of natural skin care products, natural ingredients. I realized, ‘OK, I think I can do this myself.’ I started playing around with different butters,’” paying special attention to formulations that would moisturize her “combination skin” without making her feel greasy. That’s how Lexurious Skincase (the “Lexurious” spelling is a play on her daughter’s name, Alexandria) was born.
The enterprise has evolved rapidly in the past two years; Webster’s most recent focus has been experimenting with herbal, floral, and food-based oils to develop unique scents for her moisturizers. She hopes to serve other women “who are stuck. I want women to know that it doesn’t take a million dollars to feel good – just taking 20 minutes for yourself every day or every other day can do so much.
“This isn’t a cure for depression,” she emphasizes. “I don’t recommend it in place of therapy. But I absolutely recommend women doing something good for themselves.”'
Wafa Qureshi, Onyx Candles
Wafa Qureshi has a candle fetish. She’s had it for years. She specifically loves soy candles, which last longer and burn cleaner than paraffin-based ones and don’t come from petroleum byproducts. Unfortunately, Qureshi notes, they can be expensive.
In the summer of 2020, as the Covid pandemic raged and Minneapolis grappled with George Floyd’s murder and the uprising that ensued, Qureshi yearned for more candles – and a creative outlet. Her day job in health care was more stressful than ever, and she also felt called to do something about the racial and economic injustice around her.
Making candles seemed like a natural response. Candles induce calm and contemplation, which most people need more than ever. And if she could sell them, she could use some of the proceeds to advance justice.
“Candles are self care: You have to slow down when you burn a candle, and it has an impact on the ambiance and your mood,” Qureshi says. “And the bigger thing is, the unhoused population needs our attention and support.” She donates 10 percent of the profits from Onyx Candles to two organizations dear to her heart: ZACAH (Zakat, Aid, and Charity Assisting Humanity) and Sakan Community Resource, both of which fight homelessness and foster housing stability in Minnesota.
Building Onyx has helped Qureshi “change how I buy and consume and support,” she says. She hopes Primitiva helps do the same for others. “This is a very, very personal venture for those of us who are doing it.”
Sarah Dutton, I Am Illuminating
A longtime passion for helping heal others – along with a painful divorce, financial difficulties, and pandemic stress – led Sarah Dutton to launch her business I Am Illuminating. Dutton, is a trauma-informed yoga teacher, certified health coach, mental healthcare practitioner, and self-described “wellness maven.” Her shop sells aromatherapy lotions, roller balls, and lip balms, plus eye pillows designed by a local textile artists.
Dutton traces her interest in healing to her late mother’s rheumatoid arthritis and heart ailments. As a child, she helped take care of her mom. “She had days where she couldn’t get out of bed. I remember thinking, ‘I just really don’t want see anybody feel this way.’ I’ve always wanted to help people feel good.”
Working in the mental health units at two Twin Cities hospitals, Dutton has seen aromatherapy bring relaxation and momentary peace to patients who don’t want to take part in yoga, art therapy, or other activities. “People will say, ‘I don’t do yoga, that’s not my jam, I can’t do it;’ they’ll come up with these roadblocks as to why they don’t participate.” But in many cases, group participation is mandated.
“You wanna get out of here? You have to participate.” Dutton began spritizing cloths with different essential oils for patients to smell. “They would pick up that cloth, and I’d see their faces change – they’d get this look of relief, of contentment. And I thought, if I can give this to people when they’re stuck in a [crummy] situation and it makes them smile, even just for a second? That’s a win.”
Dutton’s product line seeks to bring those feelings of relief and contentment to other people in need of soothing. “When you can relax your mind and your body and your muscles, it makes healing that much easier.”
Primivita is located at 3001 Hennepin Ave. S. and open Thursday-Sunday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.