RED WING -- One road led to another until it seemed like Michelle Tracy was destined to own a business. That became reality when she opened The Creative Hand on Nov. 11.

“I have been an artist and crafter my whole life,” she said. “As an artist, it is hard to know what direction to go.”

That direction became clearer for her five years ago when she took a part-time job with Backwoods Framing and Engraving in Red Wing. Tracy took charge of most of the engraving, but as time went on, her role expanded from framing and engraving to everything involved in the business.

The Creative Hand offers customers engraving on wood, glass, and other mediums for all types of occasions. The new shop is in Red Wing's creative district -- near the Sheldon Theatre and ArtReach. Steve Gardiner / Rivertown Multimedia
The Creative Hand offers customers engraving on wood, glass, and other mediums for all types of occasions. The new shop is in Red Wing's creative district -- near the Sheldon Theatre and ArtReach. Steve Gardiner / Rivertown Multimedia

When Backwoods Framing and Engraving closed its doors downtown three months ago, Tracy wanted to keep her engraving work going. She thought she might try a business in her home, but then the building at 427 W. Third St. came open. She and her husband, Rob Tracy, knew it was the perfect space, the place where the roads had been leading her.

Her work in engraving and management with Backwoods gave her confidence.

“I learned so much in those years of retail and without that, I would not have been able to do this,” said Tracy, who has lived in Red Wing for 18 years.

She also realized that she had many loyal customers who returned to her for their engraving and gift needs. She said several times she got discouraged during the process of setting up The Creative Hand, but it seemed like each time things got difficult, a customer would call and ask when her business was going to open. That encouraged her to push ahead.

With her years of experience in engraving, Tracy said she can provide customers with an unlimited selection of designs and possibilities.

“If I can imagine it or figure out how to do it, we can make it happen,” Tracy said. “All of my designs are interchangeable. People can bring in their own designs. I can think up something for them. If you see something on the internet and think that is really cool, but would like to shop locally, here is the place to come.”

Tracy has engraved awards, plaques, trophies, and all sorts of gifts in wood, glass, metal, and other mediums.

“The gifts are my main thing,” she said, “but I can do just about anything that incorporates engraving.”

Michelle Tracy designed her shop in a simple Scandinavian style, and brother-in-law Kris Lau built the fixtures. Steve Gardiner / Rivertown Multimedia
Michelle Tracy designed her shop in a simple Scandinavian style, and brother-in-law Kris Lau built the fixtures. Steve Gardiner / Rivertown Multimedia

Tracy works alone and designed her store in what she called a simple Scandinavian style. Her brother-in-law Kris Lau built the fixtures for her, and she stocked them with the items she thought people would most like to give or receive as gifts. She noted that the items she has available are far more than she could display in the store.

Customers have asked her to create designs for weddings, births, funerals, and other significant events in their lives.

“It’s important to me to have a personal relationship with each of my customers,” Tracy said. “I want to do the best I can and be kind and considerate and open to whatever situation they are in. To be part of people’s lives and give them what they need at a cost they can afford is amazing.”