Pike Place Producers, Live!

Early this morning, six small business owners met with Seattle Wave Radio host Lori Ness for coffee and a chat about art, work, and making a life as an artisan craftsperson at the Pike Place Market.

Listen here:

*LIVE* From PIKE PLACE MARKET, SEATTLE 08/01 by NorthwestPrime .

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Meet the Pike Place Market artists on today’s show:

Kat Allen, Silken Path

Dan Gregory, 1976 It’s Just Art

Leo Schmidt, Lampcycle

Kim Strang, Imstrang Knitwear Designs

Charles Saul, Charlie’s Flying Fish

and Mercedes Carrabba, Market Ghost Tours/ Ghost Alley Espresso

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Playing “Market”

Pen and ink drawings made by my parents for sale in Spain in 1974.
Pen and ink drawings made by my parents for sale in Spain in 1974.

I am no stranger to markets. I have grown up in them. Starting in Spain, where I was born, my parents sold paintings in the markets along the coast. When they were leaving Spain they set their eyes on Seattle because it had a world famous market. They came to this city with the hope of remaining independent artists. They started in 1979 by making and selling handmade wooden puzzles in Pike Place Market. I have now followed in their footsteps and have opened my own shop in Post Alley.

My brother and I selling at the Fremont Fair in 1979.
My brother and I selling at the Fremont Fair in 1979.

The experience of being in markets influenced my childhood games. I would invite my friends to our house at age eight and we would play “Market.” Each of us would run a table. We had a large piece of cardboard with tables drawn on it. We spent hours cutting out little T-shirts, bags, necklaces and making drawings out of construction paper. Monopoly money and construction paper check books were our currency. Each check was individually drawn with lines for filling them out, our names in the top corner. Once we had prepared all of our wares we set them in piles on our designated tables and proceeded to buy things from each other. The true creativity was in our selling abilities. For example,  an orange cut out in the shape of a T became a hand woven silk screened shirt.

It wasn’t a game of who made the most money or who made the best product, it was a game of commerce. Our rules were simple: No bargaining for a better price, each person had to respect the artistic abilities of the other, once we were out of monopoly money we could write a check for any amount. Checks were far more fun to write anyway.

High school Saturdays selling at Studio Solstone.
High school Saturdays selling at Studio Solstone.

In high school and college I worked at my parents shop now in the Atrium of the Market, Studio Solstone. There I experienced the excitement of meeting different people  from around the world, the pride of representing my family, and being a part of real commerce. Now that I have opened my own shop I understand all of the challenges running an owner operated business can present. I think that the same rules from my childhood game still apply: Do not bargain for a better price. The work you are seeing has taken someone tremendous time, energy and creativity. Have respect for the artistic abilities of others. Even if it is not to your taste. And when you run out of a cash, we most likely accept credit.

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Me at my shop, 1499 Post Alley in Pike Place Market.

I can be found just under my parents shop in Lower Post Alley next to the gum wall. I sell espresso, retail items and conduct tours in the area at night.  – Mercedes Carrabba

Questions and Answers

Who, what, where, when and why?? These questions come naturally to visitors at the market. At my table in particular, the Who? comes up often as we have art tiles deeply etched with complex and beautiful Arabic calligraphy. “Who does this work?”  While we work on the art together, “my husband does all of the calligraphy. It is all hand copied, as is the tradition, and he has been doing it for 20 years” is my answer. “Do you know what they say?” is a natural second question. “Yes, I do. We put a label on the back with that information.” I love speaking my not-so-perfect Arabic aloud as it always seems to delight the person asking the question. Each one of our art tiles has an explanation on the back. It is the added value that we offer ourselves and to our customers. The added personal interest to our process.

Islamic Art Tiles
Bismillah (shown at the bottom of picture)
The first and foremost characteristic of Islamic art is the universal usage of Arabic script. A beautiful artistic expression of faith in Islam is the scripted Bismillah :
Bismillah-er-Rahman-er-Rahim
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Most Merciful

“What is this design?” Whether it is an Arabic sura, a Sanskrit mantra or the Greek word ICHTHUS, a Lamb or an IHS on a Christian piece – the What? question is another that I am always happy to answer. The first “What?” though, is quite often directed to the art itself. “What are they?” They – are art. To put on your wall. On a stand. To simply enjoy. Our designs are inspired by the ancients. Spiritual. Deeply personal. Each line and space between the lines, thoughtfully considered. But in the end – just art.

The Fish Symbol (Ichthus) This symbol represents the oldest Christian symbol of Christ.  The Greek word for FISH-pronounced ICHTHUS - is formed by using the first letter or each of the words in Greek - Iesous, Christos, Theou, Hyos, Soter - 
which stand for Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior
The Fish Symbol (Ichthus)
This symbol represents the oldest Christian symbol of Christ. The Greek word for FISH-pronounced ICHTHUS – is formed by using the first letter or each of the words in Greek – Iesous, Christos, Theou, Hyos, Soter – 
which stand for Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior
The Gayatri Mantra 
(Rigveda 3.62.10)
 The Gayatri Mantra invoking the Deva Savitr is considered 
the highest and most important of all Hindu mantras. 

Translation by Swami Vivekananda reads:
“We meditate on the glory of that Being who has produced this universe, may He enlighten our minds.”
The Gayatri Mantra 
(Rigveda 3.62.10)

The Gayatri Mantra invoking the Deva Savitr is considered 
the highest and most important of all Hindu mantras. 

Translation by Swami Vivekananda reads:
“We meditate on the glory of that Being who has produced this universe, may He enlighten our minds.”

“Where?” In Maple Valley. Just over an hour south east of Seattle. Within 25 minutes of leaving the market I am on my tree lined country road homeward bound. Our studio is part of our home and while private we do also meet up at the local QFC or Starbucks with our “close to home” customers. Nothing like sitting down for a cup of coffee, transacting a sale, then doing my errands. Making the best of our chosen life style.

“When?” Is often asked as “when did you start doing this?” About 20 years ago.

“Why?” as in “How did you come to do this art?” There is a long story that could be inserted here. Let’s just say that “We lived the corporate life. Now this one. We like this one better”

So…What have you discovered?

Who? My husband Jeff and I. What? Handcraft decorative, display art tiles of inspiration and awareness. Where? In Maple Valley. When? We started nearly 20 years ago. (While we do have a website that you may access at any time,  we are at the market 4-5 days a week). Why? Because we love what we do.

Kat Allen
Symbols in Art

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Thinking Pig for the Market Foundation

You may have noticed how popular pigs are at Pike Place Market and wondered why that is.  Or noted how well-loved the big bronze piggy bank (and popular photo op) is near the fish throwers. Pigs at Pike Place are about more than just cute curly tails and turned up noses. That big bronze piggy bank is Rachel, the mascot of Pike Place and of the Market Foundation, and all coins “fed” to her help support their vital work. So many in the Pike Place Market community rely on the Foundation from the little ones who attend the Pike Market Preschool to the elders who rely on the Senior Center or the Heritage House for access to services, housing and assisted living. They are also responsible for the Pike Market Food Bank who annually provide more than 269 tons of groceries to people in need and the Pike Market Medical Clinic which provides health care to over 4,300 homeless, low-income and elderly patients. We at Pike Place Producers think the Market Foundation is kind of a big, sorry, PIG deal!

This Wednesday, May 15, is an important day for the Market Foundation. It’s the GiveBIG event where all your donations to the Market Foundation’s virtual piggy bank (CyberRachel, if you will) are matched in part by the Seattle Foundation.  And, if you’re planning a visit to the Market on that day, you can also put your pennies into the real Rachel in person. More information on how to donate can be found at the Market Foundation’s website.

To further inspire you to dig deep and give some pennies (or dollars, dollars are really good too!) to the Market Foundation, here’s a little slideshow of some porcine pals you might meet at the Market, including the lovely Rachel herself.

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Photos by Stephanie Shull of Pike Place Pigs

Text by Lynn Rosskamp of PingiHats and Artdork

Summer Cacophony

Soooo – I was sitting under my umbrella. Set up outside. Across the street from Victor Steinbrueck Park on Saturday and recalled a ditty I wrote several years ago. “I’ve been here before.” I said to myself. The drums had started beating, the juggler across the street was tossing a bowling ball, power saw and … well, i don’t know what the third thing was, perhaps a sword. Visitors were stopping at my table to ask if I could help them find their way…well…anywhere. A woman gasped in surprise as I explained that “We have quite a few coffee choices here. Where are you from?”  Sirens, saxophones, a children’s choir, runners with flapping capes and numbers on their chests so they must have known their purpose. In the midst of it all – a bride and her groom. “What is going on here today?” a visitor asked me.  “The sun’s out.” I said. “We’re warm.”

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Cacophony – Redux

Head down, nose to the grind stone, make and sell as much as you can, while you can. Ships in, sun shining, days warm, crowds crushing, children screeching, dogs in strollers, babies on leashes, thieves running, ocarinas whistling, duck tours quacking, fire engines wailing, buskers singing; playing saws; unidentified instruments; mumbled lyrics. Where’s the 1st Starbucks? How far is it to the Space Needle? How do I get to the aquarium? SECURITY! How much is this? What is this? How do you make this? Can you take our picture? Where do they throw the fish? The weather is so much nicer here than what we expected. Is that Mount St. Helen’s? Mount Rainier? Is that the ocean? Where is there an ATM; Bank; Drug Store; Real Store; Mall? Do you take cards? American Express? Where’s the guy that was here last week? Will you be here tomorrow; next week; next month? Is this market here every day? What do you do when it rains? You got a cigarette? Light? Do you have to set up and tear down every day? Where’s there a good place to eat? clam chowder; seafood? Where’s Cutter’s; Ivars; The Crabpot? Wanna buy some batteries cheap? Police horse clip clops; drops a load or a river.  Bride’s white satin swishes. Exuberance. Joy. Ice cold water 50 cents! Please Lord. I don’t wish him ill but perhaps the screaming water man could, well….  Child drops a cookie, no three second rule here. Mirror Man, Bronze Woman. Gold Man. Parrot. Tips for photos please. Hula hoops, ukes and digeridoos. Tips for listening please. They’re all handmade. My name is … I make these all myself. Real Change! They’re made out of deer antler. What’s with the pig? We make your name for you right here right now. My friend makes these. Do you make a living doing this? Where is the closest bathroom? Where’s Pike Place Market? You are here.

Kat Allen
Symbols in Art
Handcrafted Display Art Tiles of Inspiration and Awareness