Sign up for our Newsletter

Sisters Tanya Willock and Temidra Willock Morsch. (Photo credit: Doug Young)

Photography by Doug Young

When sisters Temedra Willock Morsch and Tanya Willock were little kids growing up in Springs, their talented, crafty grandmother taught and encouraged them to make handmade crafts and sell them, lemonade-stand style, by the roadside in the summers. 

“I used to be a little embarrassed that she’d make us do it,” laughs Temedra, “but now I see: We’ve been doing this since we were kids.”

Hidden Gem (47B Jobs Lane, Southampton, 631-259-3494), their brick-and-mortar store of unique, one-of-a-kind, wondrous items for the home and beyond, launched in 2019 but it’s the culmination of lifetime of inspiration. Tucked away in a little brick courtyard just off Jobs Lane, it’s not just a feast of textures and colors in home décor, jewelry and other accoutrements and accents. It’s their very own incubator of creativity, be it their own hand-made items, those of the craftspeople from whom they source, the inspired one-of-a-kind tablescapes they build out for memorable celebrations or the super fun and surprise-filled kids’ parties they create. It’s a family affair, for sure, but one that, kind of like the formation of a precious stone, forms organically — and that’s just the way the sisters like it. 

Arts and Crafts

“We’ve always been artists,” says Tanya, who designs, among other things, Hidden Gem’s trademark bright epoxy resin coated wooden surfboards in myriad sizes that adorn the walls. But that’s pretty much where anything remotely expected ends. Even among those icons of East End water, the patterns and color change each and every time she makes one; no two are exactly alike. Inspiration is always the order of the day, be it in the things they create themselves or the wares they source from craftspeople near and far.  

“Crafting was always a part of our family and that’s where my love for designing came from,” says Temedra. “At five or six, I would sew with my mom and we would make American Girl doll clothes and my grandma crocheted and knit, and that’s where my love for designing came from.”

With the bright, bold influences of their Barbadian and Antiguan heritage enriching their eyes and imaginations, from a young age both women had that spark of wonder and creativity. It was ever encouraged, too, both by their family as well as the schools they each attended — Hay Ground for little sister Tanya, 30, and Ross for Temedra, 34. In college, that focus continued with a fine arts degree from SUNY/Purchase for the younger sibling and a fashion design degree from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles for big sister Temedra. 

The latter was drawn to the visual and textural allure of materials, eventually becoming a textile designer for a custom rug company. Tanya found her first post-college focus in art, managing a gallery back home in East Hampton for several years. 

But that little entrepreneurial spark taught to them by their grandmother was never really extinguished. In fact, it began to burn brighter and brighter. Tanya’s gallery stint ended in 2018, and she was contemplating her next move when her big sister proposed an intriguing idea.

“Temedra approached me with the idea of opening a store together. At that point, she’d started making her own rugs and had a lot of stock outside of the custom stuff she was doing, but she was having hard time finding stores to carry them,” says Tanya. “And me being out of job, I thought, okay, that’s a cool fun idea! But it’s going to take a long time to get that off the ground …”

Within six short months, they had their space on Jobs, signing the lease on Jan. 1, 2019, and sourcing their first items for the shop’s March opening. 

“[In school], you match with all these different people, all these different creatives, and what they make is so special. And I think that ultimately those connections that I made in school — and I’m sure it’s the same for Tanya —  that is what brought us to starting the store,” says Temedra.

Once discovered by Southampton strollers, the little shop with its beautiful, one-of-a-kind objects — whimsical, seaside themed pottery; impossibly soft alpaca blankets; hand-beaded animal faces; hand-woven coasters and hammocks among the dazzling assortment of beautiful, reasonably priced must-haves — did well; so well that the sisters began to imagine that by the following year, the business would be booming. But while March 2020 didn’t turn out exactly as they’d planned, it did lead them, quite naturally, to the next canvas for their artistic sensibilities. 

Designing a world

With the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown putting the kibosh on in-store experiences, they turned to e-commerce, using Instagram to create exciting, colorful, layered imagery to virtually display their wares. Tanya used her fine art eye and photography skills to conceive vignettes, similar to how they’d meaningfully display things in the store, with their items that would draw in customers. It worked, but it also fomented a new business entirely.

Requests started coming in for the sisters to create those beautiful visual experiences in real life: in people’s backyards, for beach picnics and all other number of small gatherings, where the travel-starved could, via the colorful, thoughtful tablescapes crafted by Tanya and Temedra, be transported to a dreamier world. 

“People would just come to us and they were like, ‘Hey, we want to a picnic on the beach, can you do that?’ And that’s kind of how that came about,” says Temedra.

That, too, was a creative impulse that started at home, encouraged by their mom and the monthly dinners she’d throw for her friends years ago when the sisters were growing up. They’d rifle through their mom’s things, pulling vintage linens, special glasses, fancy plates and lighting, and create a unique and beautiful atmosphere to the delight of mom Genevieve Willock’s friends. “We would set up the whole thing,” says Tanya. “It got to the point where we’d say, ‘hey mom, do you want to, like, invite some of your friends over and we’ll like set up a party for you?’ ” 

Temidra Willock Morsch tending to the details. (Photo credit: Doug Young)

The pretty party goes on

After five years in business, you’d think they might have, say, hired some staffers to give them a break at the shop, or perhaps dialed in their tablescape offerings to a select few of particular set designs that could be artfully assembled and recreated over and over again. But that’s not how it works.  

“We’re just so passionate, and we put in a lot of care and thought into each party or each event that we’re setting up,” says Temedra. Indeed, as no two people are exactly the same, neither are the events and décor they create for them. For a tablescape customer, they start by getting to know you — the colors you like, the things that make you smile and inspire you.

“If we hired someone, we’d need someone that would understand that and has that same level of care and understand the importance behind not just having a beautiful table but the people that you’re doing it for and the reason why we’re doing it. It’s more than just a job and a check.” 

And as Tanya likes to say: What they do? It’s a vibe. And you can’t replicate a vibe. “For the people that we’ve worked with so far, and the people who keep coming back, that’s what they really appreciate about coming here and working with us,” she says. “You can tell that we really care. Like, we really, really care!” 

They might not have seen it clearly, back at those little summer roadside craft stands, but that value in making something — putting yourself into it, collaborating with like-minded creatives and making something, be it objects, art or experiences, that have a story, a history and a meaning. Ask them about anything in the shop, and they can provide that. Ask them why they created a party a certain way, and they can tell you why and how that happened, too. 

“Everything here means something to us,” says Temedra. “It all has a story. And you know, it’s not just product that we buy and put on the wall or a table, at least not for us. Everything is special.”