The Crafter’s Library opens in La Arcada Plaza
Former UCSB student Andrew Rawls made his wild idea a reality when he opened The Crafter’s Library Saturday at 9 E. Figueroa St. in downtown Santa Barbara.
The business solves a problem faced by crafters with tight budgets or small apartments by loaning them the machines, like sewing machines and Cricut cutters, and the space to create. There are also supplies available for purchase.
The concept began when Mr. Rawls ran a youth center as a military contractor on the Marshall Islands in 2019. He enjoyed teaching the teens how to sew and also loved providing a safe community space.
When he returned to Washington, D.C., COVID-19 made it nearly impossible for him to run his tourism company. He moved in with family in Colorado, looking for his next opportunity.
One day, he signed up for a sewing class where he had free time to sew on the machine. He liked the business model and began playing with the idea.
On a trip with a friend, he put his idea for a craft coworking space into words, and he signed up for mentorship through the Small Business Development Center in Ventura.
The program quickly launched him to action, and he moved to Santa Barbara (which he hadn’t called home since his college graduation in 2012).
“I hadn’t figured out how I was going to get back to Santa Barbara. But I realized this (business) was the perfect vehicle to get me here. Santa Barbara is such an incredibly talented city full of makers and artists, and the community response is amazing,” he told the News-Press.
Community is a key component of the business. He is building partnerships with local nonprofits, such as the Pacific Pride Foundation.
He wanted the space to serve as a gathering space in general but also a thriving space for the LGBT community.
For June, LGBT Pride Month, he decorated the storefront with rainbow colors.
“I was very intentional in making sure that people knew that this is an LGBT-owned business, and that this is a space that will not tolerate any kind of discrimination. And that you can be who you are,” Mr. Rawls said.
Part of that initiative is providing a space to make friends that doesn’t involve alcohol.
“I was trying really hard to make this an alternative to the bar scene for people to be social — without the pressure of food and drink,” he said. “I want to be able to help people have a fun, safe space for them to meet new people and do something fun and interesting and different.”
He can’t wait to see friendships form (hopefully for himself, too, as a Santa Barbara returnee).
He got emotional Saturday night, an open-mic event on the store’s opening, talking about his journey.
Although he opened his business quickly, it wasn’t without challenges.
He initially applied to lease a different storefront but was rejected by the landlord. He reached out to city officials for help, but found that most assistance came from community members.
A woman connected him with the landlord at La Arcada Plaza, who impressed him with her helpfulness and high expectations.
He enjoys the location and hopes to turn a small second story into a fabric supply center.
As the business grows, he wants to add more machines, like a laser cutter and an embroidery machine. He plans to expand based on member input.
Amateur and professional creatives alike can sign up for a membership for as little as a day, for $25, or as long as a year, for $75 per month. The fee allows them to use any of the machines and a table or spot in the lounge.
Those signed up for a year can sell their crafts in the shop’s retail section and receive 10% off supplies and classes.
Mr. Rawls teaches classes himself but also brings in local artists to teach skills such as wire wrapping and other creative talents.
For a list of upcoming courses and more information, go to thecrafterslibrary.com.