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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.
Meet the Pike Place Market artists on today’s show:
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
“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.
“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.
Symbols in Art
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.
Photos by Stephanie Shull of Pike Place Pigs
Meet Charles Saul, Pike Place artist, who works with wood, metal, beach glass and photography to create a range of whimsical, colorful art with a real Northwestern feel. Charlie and his artwork can be found online at www.charlessaul.com or on his Google + page or his YouTube page.
Video by Scott Alberts
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.”
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.
Symbols in Art
Handcrafted Display Art Tiles of Inspiration and Awareness
Pike Place Market is a community with vibrant and unique sub-communities. My business and sub-community as a Daystaller/Artist keeps me on the street level and North Arcade for most of my market day. I often walk from my table, south down Pike Place, to grab lunch or my produce for dinner. My walks also take me “Down Under” where I discover a treasured tumble of shops and personalities. Oh yes, and heat. It is warm there. And on a brusque northwest day a lovely way to relax your muscles and see all manner of opportunities to find a special something from around the world, around the block or from back in time. Darryl Beckmann from the Market Magic and Novelty Shop introduces us to the “Down Under” of Pike Place Market.
“The Down Under has been an important part of the Pike Place Market since it first opened in 1907. Originally farmers brought their produce by horse drawn cart which they stabled in an area directly beneath the market, hence “down under”. After a series of renovations over the market’s 100+ year history, the Down Under is accessible by a veritable labyrinth of ramps and stairs, all of them highways and byways leading to unique and interesting shops, among them, “The Giant Shoe Museum” attached to Old Seattle Paperworks, world famous comic book store Golden Age Collectables, and handcrafted artworks from all over the globe at Hands Of The World. There are shops for collectors of coins, gems, books, records, beads, clothes, and knick-knacks of all sorts, not to mention Chinese food. In the middle of it all is Market Magic & Novelty, one of the longest running magic shops in the U.S. For almost forty years it has attracted four generations of pranksters, amateur and professional magicians, and visitors from every discipline of the performing arts, including singer Kurt Elling, magician David Blaine, Princess Bubble Gum (a costumed visitor to Seattle’s annual anime convention SakuraCon) and, most recently, Oscar-winning high-wire artist Philippe Petit, the man who walked a wire stretched between the twin towers of the World Trade Center. These and many others make the Down Under one the most lively parts of the Pike Place Market.”
To view Magic Shop comings and goings-on, check out their blog at marketmagicshop.com/blog/ and to learn more about the Magic Shop, contact:
I’ve heard the phrase “evolve or stagnate and perish” over the years. As I mature, both mentally and physically, I have to agree. Change really is the only constant in our lives.
Thirty-five years ago I began my career at the Pike Place Market. That was 1978. I joined the market community as a photographer. Over those many years I made and sold photographs of flying fish, Seattle skylines, mountains, rainbows, sunsets, fishing and ferryboats, and all manner of other images.
Light and shadow, form, color, texture, and gesture were all translated from the three-dimensional world into my two-dimensional art prints.
One of the things I loved in my early days making my living at the market was working with my hands making wooden frames for my photos. Oak was my wood of choice, but over the years my customers began to prefer the more austere look of metal frames. So, my product evolved. Change. Adaptation.
My growth, change, adaptation and personal interests have also morphed over the last 35 years. The colorful laundry photo above is a good example of these changes, combining all those elements of light, shadow, form, color, texture and gesture. Geographical change was also part of my personal experience, as the photo above was made on the island of Burano near Venice, Italy, and lead indirectly to a major change for me.
A little over two years ago I decided to explore my long-time interest in glass and enrolled in a lamp work bead-making class at Pratt Art Center here in Seattle. I honestly didn’t know if I had the physical dexterity to work with molten glass. However, I soon discovered that, like learning to play a musical instrument with lots of practice, I could make respectably roundish glass beads.
Today, because I was willing to welcome change and learn new skills, I’ve re-invented and re-invigorated myself. Glass is an amazing medium!
Embracing change has allowed me to once again work with my hands creating one-of-a-kind original art. I’m still working with light, shadow, form, color, texture, symmetry, and gesture in my art. And I’m still at the Pike Place Market!
You can find me in the North Arcade of the Pike Place Market a few days each week.
If you can’t get to the market, you can also find my glass art online at www.etsy.com/shop/CPArtistic .
I have set up next to Carol Chen Lord – Artist – many times here at Pike Place Market. I listened to her enthusiastically explain her process to visitors who don’t quite know what the medium is that they are looking at. They do know that the colors flow, flocks of birds fly, flowers and grass bend in a soft breeze, dark clouds build up over the mountains, fog lingers over a marsh, sun glimmers on water and bursts into flame as it sets. “I tear paper” she says. “I create a collage.” I wanted to know more about her heart as an artist and introduce her to you through this blog post.
I asked her one question – What is the one thing that you want people to know about you and your art?
“I am here (at Pike Place Market) to be an artist. I mean a real artist. Making art for myself. Not for money. Not for anybody else. And I am glad some people like it enough to pay for it because I don’t like to go hungry.”
Ahh. The simple business plan of many of us here at the market. I also found that Carol has a wonderful sense of humor.
“My art is a way to express myself, my feelings, my philosophy, my religions, my soul, my everything – instead of language. I use colors, shapes and images.”
On my Google trail of Carol I discovered that she also eloquently expresses the poetry within each of her “paper paintings”. From an early work titled “Longing” a snowman carrying a suitcase stands on a hill and looks back at a warmly lit house. That she can achieve this depth of expression with paper torn from magazines is a wonder and a delight.
When the question is asked “Who are you?” most of us rattle off a list of jobs, accomplishments, relationships. When this question is asked of most artists it is the time shared with their craft that will reveal at least a part of the answer.
“My tears as a mother, my sentiments about the changing seasons, my humor for life, my love for living, my longing for peace, all this, I hope comes out freely for viewers to respond to.”
Carol speaks of a recent encounter with Robyn Chance, painter and published author of “C is for China”. Ms. Chance stopped by Carol’s table at the market and after some conversation, purchased several of the prints. A connection was made.
“The biggest compliment I have received is when people tell me they feel that they know me after looking through my work. And when they feel the connection, they invite me into their homes (through their purchase of my art). So it is not about something “beautiful”. It is about myself, my true self.”
I went in search of Carol and I found her in her art. My favorite picture is this next one. A playground full of children. A little girl with long black hair streaming behind, swinging as high as she can, legs pumped out as far and straight as she can get them, her face turned up to the sky and laughing in sheer delight.
All images are Copyright Carol Chen Lord
Symbols in Art
Handcrafted display art tiles of awareness and inspiration