Life in the key of Pike

Across from my booth - An impromptu singing of "Arirang" by a visiting Korean Choral Group.

Many of us have a soundtrack playing in the back of our mind as we go through the day. My summer soundtrack at Pike Place Market is often the chaotic hum of the market itself. I set my business up on the sidewalk in close proximity to cars, motorcycles, ambulances, duck tours quacking, dogs whining, balloons popping, babies crying, the back end of buses grating on the cobblestones of the steep hill behind me. The indigent hawk newspapers – “REAL CHANGE to help the homeless.” Buskers play accordions. Firetruck closes in. Siren wails. Horn blasts until your head hurts. I don’t even lift my eyes to watch as it careens through the intersection never slowing, racing through people who grab children, pets and parcels as they scatter in its wake.

So, while setting up my booth the other day I was pleasantly surprised to have “Abraham, Martin and John” pop into my head.  Something peaceful, smooth. Now, how does it go?

Has anybody seen my old friend Abraham? Can you tell me…

“How far is it to the Space Needle? Monorail? Waterfront? Where’s the statue of Jimi Hendrix? What’s good to eat around here?” Oooh. That last question is always difficult to answer with so many choices.

He freed a lot of people but it seems the good they die young.  I look around…

Pink Umbrella Girl marches by with a tour group speaking loudly in a language I don’t recognize. Making a sweeping motion with one arm like an American football player making a pass and pointing southward into the market, I surmise her wish to convey “that is where they throw the fish”.

Has anybody here seen my old friend John? Can you tell me where he’s…

Husband “Geez, these are beautiful !” Wife “If you get something you need to know where you’re going to put it.” They turn and walk down the sidewalk, husband promising over his shoulder “I’ll be back”.

Anybody here seen my old friend Martin? Can you tell me where he’s gone. He freed a lot of people but the good they seem to…

“How much for the teepee?” $45. My friend Sharon makes them. She went to get some coffee. I’m happy to help you. We set up next to each other all of the time. It takes a village. She sells an art tile for me. I sell a teepee for her.

Didn’t they try to find some good for you and me? And soon we’ll be…

“I’ll take this Hamsa.” Perfect. Let me wrap that up for you.

Someday soon and it’s gonna be some day…

A mob of uniformed Japanese schoolgirls surrounds a mounted police officer. Chattering, squealing, giggling pictures with his horse. Iguanas on shoulders, ducks in arms, dogs in strollers, babies on leashes. Gold-man on a box. Mirror-man clanking, Wedding parties swishing. “Where’s the first Starbucks? What’s with the pig? I thought it always rained in Seattle? Where can I buy a sweatshirt?” Old man plays a sitar in the park.

I sit under my sunflower umbrella and hum along.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Kat Allen, Symbols in Art

Modified from original blog posts in “What Comes Down Pike and Pine”

Where are you from?

If you are shopping at my booth at the Pike Place Market and I ask, “Where are you from?” I am not just making small talk, I would really love to know!

I am not asking because I can hear that you have an accent, or speak very little English at all, I ask the same question of everyone who buys a handmade hat from me! The Market gets over six million visitors a year from all over the world, and I love to know where my creations travel after they pass from my hands to yours.

I grew up in the Puget Sound area, graduating high school on the Kitsap Peninsula. When I am setting up my booth in the morning on the Joe Desimone Bridge, I can look out the windows and see the ferry boats heading from Elliot Bay to Bainbridge Island. I had that entire island and mapped out by the time I was 10, I rode every rural route and explored every dirt road on my black Schwinn 3-speed bike. My mom would say “Go outside and play!” which meant hours of bushwhacking trails through bracken fern and nettles to find the perfect spot to build a fort, or turning over barnicle covered rocks at the beach and trying to capture the tiny crabs as they scrambled to escape from the sun. The whitecapped water was always too cold to swim for very long, though.

My childhood memories are infused with the natural beauty of this place, the evergreen forests, the cold rocky beaches and the bluest skies you’ve ever seen (it’s really true!). I’ve grown up and moved on and I live in the city now, I am raising my own child among the bricks and terra cotta of Seattle’s historic Pioneer Square. The lasting influence of my childhood world is still reflected in my work, though, and can be seen in my use of color and texture and in the natural, sustainable materials I source locally to create crocheted accessories with a distinctive Northwest design sensibility.

When I ask, “Where are you from?” and I nod approvingly at the thought of one of my wool berets being worn on a journey up the inside passage to Alaska, or heading out to the Boston College campus in the fall, I am hoping my customers feel they are taking something special with them when they leave, something different than the mass produced hats you can find at any department store – after all, every city in the country has a mall! At Pike Place Market can you find something truly unique, handmade with care. At the Market you can take home a designer original that you bought directly from the designer herself!

Croshay hats at Pike Place Market

My hats have gone home with visitors from Chicago, New York, DC, LA and San Francisco. They have travelled to London, Moscow, Tokyo, Melbourne and Rio! What I love to hear most, though, is that a hat is going home with a local, someone from Seattle or a smaller surrounding city, maybe Bremerton, Bellevue, Tacoma or Olympia.

Locals might not think of Pike Place Market first as a destination for art, handmade gifts or boutique fashion from local designers, they might only think of the Market as “the place where they throw the fish”. That is, until they find themselves here while showing visitors from out of town all the usual tourist spots. They look around the Joe Desimone Bridge in the North Arcade with its huge windows overlooking the Puget Sound, showcasing the work of hundreds of local artists and they realize, “Wow, I forgot how cool the Market is – we should come down more often!”

Laura Killoran,