Thursday, August 20

In Interview: UNR's Nevada Sagebrush

Minus not putting our shop url ANYWHERE in the interview, I'd say it was one of the better plugs we've had. From our university's student-run newspaper, the Sagebrush


Under the name Argenta Collaborative, 20-year-old Charlene Gey and 19-year-old Gina Lee have transformed their lifelong interest in arts and crafts into a business. The Argenta Collaborative shop is run through, a Web site that enables patrons to easily buy and sell gifts.

The Argenta Collaborative specializes in handmade items, and offers a wide variety of artwork in many mediums: this includes traditional forms of art such as watercolor paintings or more contemporary art such as fusible plastic Perler bead creations, with many of their pieces centering around “geeky” themes.

“The geek and gamer themes exist because I am, and Charlene is too, a geeky gamer at times,” Lee, a psychology major, said. “But aren’t we all? The old-school Nintendo icons are with all of us because that’s what we remember playing with. There’s a certain nostalgia present with seeing them again.”
Although both artists have been creating work for many years, the idea to begin selling it came later.
“The art sales have been relatively recent, in the scheme of things,” Gey, a communications major, said. “I’ve had some formal art training under my belt, and I feel I’m to a point where my things don’t look too bad. I didn’t have anything to lose, anyway. It just seemed like the next logical step.”
Gey began filling requests and selling her pieces to friends through her MySpace account. As this endeavor progressed, she opted to expose her artwork to a larger audience by showing items at local shops.

“I had a decent number of requests; that was inspiring,” she said. “It helped me want to expand and keep going. You never really know how your work is going to be received until it’s out there.”
In search of more exposure for her pieces, Gey discovered the Etsy Web site by browsing the Internet and became interested.

“I became curious and started reading about it,” she said. “I read the site top to bottom before I even signed up. What sold me most were the low fees and the amount of people that could potentially view my shop. I was caught up in a rush of energy and dumped most of what I still had hanging around into the shop. I didn’t wait to make items that related to each other or had a certain theme.”

Lee similarly began selling her pieces to friends and family before joining with Gey to form the Argenta Collaborative.

“I never really thought about selling my stuff until friends and family kept urging me to do so, and so, I thought, ‘Why not?’” she said. “I originally sold to friends and family because they were the only ones to actually see and know about the felties (plush-like characters). Eventually, Charlene persuaded me to give it a go on Etsy with her.”

Since establishing their Etsy shop, the Argenta Collaborative has focussed heavily on homemade gifts revolving around classic video games and other “geeky” themes.

“The test round was a hodgepodge,” Gey said. “Now I put a little more thought into what I post in the shop. Geekery and arcade are the most fun for us to make and primarily what we stick to. These items hold great memories for a lot of people. We like the reaction to our products from people who’ve spent a great deal of their young lives with these characters. On Etsy forums, whenever someone sees our Donkey Kong cross-stitch, they always repeat the ‘It’s on like Donkey Kong!’ tagline.”

The Argenta Collaborative shop offers free shipping to customers in Nevada and California, and hand delivery to customers attending the University of Nevada, Reno. Their prices range anywhere from $3 to $20, depending on its size and complexity.

“I’d say that the UNR students who know what I make are drawn in by the cuteness,” Lee said. “I think my main sales are out of state—maybe even out of the country.”

While the shop is new for both artists, the creative process is not, as both have been making art for most of their lives.

“I started making art as soon as I could in life,” Gey said. “I think everyone starts out with some amount of artistic inclination as a child, but so many lose interest in it as they get older and it’s a shame. I never did. I had such a lucid imagination that it had to channel to something physical—I was never satisfied with anything less.”

Lee also works with a range of materials to create her pieces.

“Art has always been appealing to me,” she said. “There would always be something interesting to make. Most recently, I’ve been working mainly with felt, making small plushies and key chain-type things. It takes me a good few hours to complete a feltie set consisting of four to five little felt creations, just because they are so small and I hand stitch each one. And then there’s spray paint—I simply love it for all the different things you can do. It’s so much faster than a tube of paint and, at times, so much more messy.”

Although neither artist plans to pursue a career in the arts, both hope to continue creating and selling artwork as much as possible.

“The plans for the future are open,” Gey said. “I’d love to continue with the store and keep doing what I love. Bigger, better, geekier.”

Casey O’Lear can be reached at

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