A Place to Blossom

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Sometimes an idea just grows on you. When Yvonne Toney-Thompson was brainstorming names for her new Aurora storefront, she settled on Cotton Seed Creative Exchange because of the symbolism of the word “seed” and its “representation of growth and bringing something new to existence,” she explains. The result is an urban twist on a boutique, giving local artists and makers a collaborative venue to connect, be creative, and sell their wares.

The shop’s variety of vendors represent inspired and imaginative notions brought to fruition—a fact that’s not lost on her. “It means a lot to not only present my own ideas and creativity but also to give others the opportunity to showcase their work,” she says.

You’ll find an eclectic mix of local products ranging from self-care items to jewelry, many with cultural significance. Currently, that includes artworks, photographic prints, vinyl records, candles, clothing, necklaces, earrings, books for adults and kids, coffee, seasonings, cookies, plants, smudge sticks, plus a selection of Aurora- and Chicago-themed gifts.

Can’t-Miss mural

The vibe-setting focal point of the space is a mural Toney-Thompson commissioned from Hailey Marie Losselyoung of Pilsen-based HML Art & Design. Losselyoung paints vibrant murals that radiate women’s empowerment. “I gave Hailey complete control, let her run with her own ideas because I trust her vision,” Toney-Thompson says. “The only direction I gave is I wanted it to include the color blue.” 

The swirls of blues, greens, blacks, and whites are bold and powerful, and the three women featured exude a confidence, yet maintain a peaceful allure. The mural contributes to the shop’s inviting vibe. “I want to create an experience that encourages the younger generation to shop with friends, give them a space that feels good to linger,” Toney-Thompson says.

Class act

Hailey’s mural dresses a wall facing two large wooden tables where Cotton Seed artisans periodically schedule classes to deepen the connection with their customers. A calendar of offerings can be found at thecottonseedex.com. Community members also may use the space to host their own classes.

Products with a purpose

After her 6-year-old daughter, Sadie, was born with cerebral palsy, Toney-Thompson launched a line of products called Miss Sadie’s, now available at Cotton Seed. Proceeds from the sale of the scented soaps, room sprays, and colorful bath bombs help pay for Sadie’s alternative treatments, such as stem cells and intensive therapy. “The hope is to not only help Sadie raise funds for her treatments but one day help other children with special needs,” she says. 

Photos by Maria Chambers