Baraboo business offers hands-on creativite experience

Ya Ya Bear held a soft opening Thursday night.

Jill Solomon Photography/Contributed

Sheri Kujak was a comforting presence, not just to the people she helped as a Baraboo nurse, but to her friends and family as well.

When she wasn’t on the clock, she enjoyed artistic endeavors, such as making jewelry. And although Sheri's workplace first aid kit may have been filled with bandages and gauze, her personal one consisted of hand-made gifts that left smiles on the faces of their recipients.

When Sheri passed away in July at age 59, following a short and unexpected battle with cancer, her daughter-in-law, Angie Kujak, wanted to find a way to keep her traditions alive. However, Angie’s career as a family attorney didn’t translate well to the arts.

“I realized very quickly that I didn’t have the patience for crocheting,” she said.

In September, while traveling in Oklahoma, Angie came across a business called Hippie Heart Designs, which allows people to design their own scarves through a process called water marbling.

The ancient Japanese technique involves a long tray, into which a clear liquid is poured. The designer then chooses the colors of dye they wish to drop into the liquid. Utensils are used to move the dye around and make a pattern before material is soaked in the liquid.

Angie was hooked. She immediately knew she wanted to start a similar business. So when a second-floor suite opened up across the hall from her Baraboo law office, she seized the opportunity.

On Thursday night, Angie hosted a soft opening for her new business, Ya Ya Bear, a scarf-making boutique and retail shop located right on the downtown square.

She plans to keep regular weekend hours for those who want to try their hand at water marbling, or shop for hand-made crafts, including everything from T-shirts to home décor.

“The idea is to keep it unique,” Angie said. “You never know what will be here the next time you stop in.”

The boutique is licensed to sell beer and can be rented out for special occasions, such as bachelorette parties, bridal showers and birthdays. Mothers and daughters looking to share a creative experience together can stop in during open hours.

Ya Ya Bear will be more than a profit-making venture for Angie, a passionate supporter of breast cancer awareness. She has reached out to local advocacy groups to donate free sessions, and says scarves can make ideal headwear for someone dealing with hair loss due to chemotherapy.

In fact, that’s how Angie’s mentor, Hippy Heart Designs owner Jill Solomon, got the idea for her business.

She initially took up marble marbling to add some pizzazz to her photography storefront, and was drawn to it. "It sort of took over my life," she said.

Her mother, who was undergoing chemotherapy at the time, did not like to wear wigs. One day, she told Jill she wanted to wear scarves instead. Before long, Jill was hosting scarf showers for women battling cancer and their friends. She said the process of water marbling is therapeutic.

“It’s a lot like going through treatment,” said Jill, who traveled to Baraboo this week to help with Ya Ya Bear’s soft opening. “At some point, you have to give yourself over to whatever the outcome is going to be.”

Ya Ya Bear will be open to the public for the first time from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. today. Angie encouraged Christmas shoppers to stop in and take a look around.

Follow Tim Damos on Twitter @timdamos

Reporter for the Baraboo News Republic.