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Local talents on display at Artisans

Nov 5th, 2011 | Category: Crafts

by Jessica Harbert

Artisans Northwest Arts, Crafts and Eats in downtown Bellingham provides an avenue to showcase and sell local artwork, from hand-drawn greeting cards to jewelry to pottery and everything in between. The store also offers local coffee and fine chocolate, and sells fresh local produce.

“My vision of this place was to have an outlet for artists to show their talents,” said Artisans owner Rick Alcantara, who opened the shop last summer. “The greatest thing is to see and recognize how local artists take pride in what they provide. You can see it in their workmanship.”

Browsing handmade greeting cards at Artisans. PHOTO BY RICK ALCANTARA

As the Site Manager for the Bellingham Farmers Market for six years now, Alcantara has seen his fair share of talented artists every Saturday.

“They have taught me a lot,” Alcantara said. “I thank them for that and being a part of it (the market). I am very fortunate to be a part of Bellingham.”

The 3,000 square-foot Artisans store has much to offer for any audience, and a large space and layout to do so.

“Everyone has different taste,” Alcantara said. “It doesn’t matter how many potters or glasswares we offer, everyone has their own design which appeals to different people.”

The space in the store is leased to the artists, who in turn also help run the front desk. In concept it effectively runs like a co-operative, he said. Also, artists often work on their creations while in the store, allowing customers and the community to see their craft in action. Eventually, Alcantara said, they hope to offer classes in the loft of the store, all taught by artists.

Currently, 45 artists have their work in Artisans, but Alcantara said there is always space available for new artists.

“It is a great venue for them to show their talents and art,” he said. “That’s what brings a good positive community here. It’s all about helping the artists.”

With the holiday season fast approaching, Alcantara said he is excited to see how the store does in the next few months and in the spirit of community, he said he will donate his percentage of sales to local non-profits of his choice.

Artist Sarah Bolerjack, who owns Bolerjack Works Gallery, also shows her work at Artisans. She specializes in hand-pulled etchings and Intaglio printmaking focusing on working class women and children. The community, she said, is lucky to have an abundance of high-end galleries, but it is also great to have a space like Artisans. “It is the only place that has a large selection of wonderful, inexpensive art,” she said.

Mike McDowell, a local potter who has been practicing his work full-time for more than 40 years, while pursuing other work to fuel his craft, became a part of Artisans when the store opened. He sells his work at Good Earth Pottery, the Bellingham Farmers Market, from his home and online, and now at Artisans.

Inside Artisans. PHOTO BY RICK ALCANTARA

Local artwork does not always prosper in touch economic times, McDowell said. “Handmade craft and art is economically disadvantaged in the market place. Because we are making things one at a time, it’s horribly inefficient. But there is something special about something created by an individual, a fellow human, a fellow Washingtonian. And that touches a person. That is something factories can never reproduce,” he said.

Other local artists featured at Artisans include: Ali’s Glass Design, local hand-blown glass; Project Pendant, hand-crafted pendants and necklaces; Andy Leffler, wood worker using turned woods from Hawaii; Nathan and Jack, two young brothers who draw greeting cards; Brianna Graff, local sketcher of comics; Bellingham Bay Coffee Roasters; Jean Calhoun, creating fine custom jewelry; and Forte Artisan Chocolates.

On Thursday, Nov. 17 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., Forte Chocolates will throw an exclusive chocolate premiere of their Fortunato No. 4 chocolate.

The store is located at 1215 Cornwall Avenue in Bellingham and can be reached at (360) 733-1805. Hours are Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit artisansbellingham.com/

–Article published in the Nov/Dec 2011 issue of Grow Northwest

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