With your support, Art Gecko has become a local travel destination to visit in Madison, WI, for gifts, jewelry, clothing, textiles, housewares and unexpected treasures.
You walk into one of our stores and you can feel the unique artsy energy and funky character that is Art Gecko. When we opened on State St almost 25 years ago, we were endearingly embraced as a quirky "hippie" shop. We still emanate those open-minded and positive vibes. And, we are so much more…
HOW OUR STORY BEGAN IN 1993
30 years ago, Nosheen Ajmal + Marcel Colbert were open-hearted explorers in their 20's, seeking a different way. Their journey started in Ecuador and led them to South East Asia.
Nosheen and Marcel absorbed themselves in the local cultures, taking long night buses and hopping on motorbikes to get around. They explored markets, looking for traditional handicrafts of each region's age-old specialties (like Batik printing techniques in Bali, Indonesia or vibrant textiles in Rajasthan, India). Every once in a while, they'd find quirky items, beyond time and place, with curious backstories (like fun animal figurines you can still find in the stores!). These visits to markets, villages and shops were fueled by their spirit of curiosity, appreciation and relationship building.
Local artisans, carrying on generations-old handicrafts, welcomed Nosheen and Marcel into their communities. Connections deepened, friendships were solidified and a business was born. Art Gecko was officially founded in 1993, followed by the opening of State St in 1998 and Monroe St in 2003.
OUR RELATIONSHIPS +
Nosheen and Marcel have spent time abroad with artisans in Bali, India + beyond, every year since that first visit (with a pause during the pandemic). Their long-term relationships with artisans have supported the preservation and celebration of many generations-old traditions. It’s created a collaborative dynamic to design new forms of jewelry, clothing and housewares. Most significantly, they've built trust and respect to learn about each other's cultures, families and changing situations over time. In the last few decades, it’s clear the world has changed and the impact on the earth and its people has been significant.
Art Gecko recognizes the delicate balance of our choices, and the ripple effects on the planet and its people. We believe sustainable and mindful choices are the only way forward. We revisit and strengthen our business practices often, to better support our artisans and proactively adapt with the changing world.
Many of Art Gecko's original practices continue: directly working with and paying artisans (no middle people), building relationships with artisans and their families, listening to the struggles in their personal lives and in their local communities. Other practices have solidified over time: choosing 100% zero-waste clothing practices, making gift bags of recycled paper, repurposing unsold fabrics into totes and scrunchies, committing to shipping materials that are only repurposed or recycled, and more.
THE JOURNEY CONTINUES
Nosheen + Marcel are still open-hearted explorers looking to do things in a different way. And, their lives have shifted. Instead of nomadic journeys abroad, they schedule yearly sourcing trips, to both minimize their carbon footprint and to stay firmly rooted in the community of Madison as they each raise their families. Find Marcel at our Monroe Street location and Nosheen here at Art Gecko State Street.
We've come a long way. We continue our commitment to transform + we couldn’t do it without your support. THANK YOU to our community! Thank you to those of you we've seen for decades, thank you to the new faces who follow their curiosity here for the first time + thank you to everyone in between.
Wherever you are on your journey, we invite you to be more of the you that you’re becoming. We look forward to growing, together!