Why Pike Place Market? A reflection by Leo Schmidt

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There is incredible diversity behind the vendors at Pike Place Market. Some have been around the market since they were children, others are escapees from the corporate world, lifelong artists, or retirees looking for a way to express their creativity. What they all have in common is the market itself, one of the few places in the country where artists and artisans can truly make a living for themselves. Each make their own products, plan their own time, manage their own business, and take on for themselves the risks and rewards of being an entrepreneur.

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My story begins with a bicycle, a beat up 15 year old mountain bike I used to commute to my corporate engineering position. A day came when it was tired, worn down, and needed replaced. But I just couldn’t bring myself to throw it away. It sat on my porch looking sad and lonely and unwanted. Every day I walked past that bike, observing the interesting shapes and beautifully machined parts that had gone into its construction. As time passed I became obsessed with turning it into functional art, and after 6 months, I built my first bicycle fork based lamp. It wasn’t my first piece of art, or even my first lamp, but it was this lamp that would change the course of my life and lead me to Pike Place Market.

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Within days of making that first lamp, one of my friends offered to buy it. Then others begin requesting lamps. Eventually an online green products magazine mentioned my work and I began getting emails from people wanting bicycle based lamps and art. At the time I was a corporate mechanical engineer, a cubical dweller that hated his cubical. But all my free time was spent looking for bike parts and creating bicycle based art. I bought a house near the airport where I could run tools at night without complaints from my neighbors, started Lampcycle the business, and began selling at weekend markets and online. I quickly realized that I would be much happier as an artist and entrepreneur than I could ever be as a corporate engineer. But could I turn my bicycle art into a full time occupation? Could I really support myself?

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A friend who worked as an agent at Pike Place Market  convinced me that I should apply to be a vendor there. At the time I knew almost nothing about the Market and shared many of the misconceptions that the general public seem to have. I thought the vendors were mostly hobbyists and had no idea how impressive and unique the items sold there really are. Now I know that Pike Place Market is perhaps Seattle’s best business incubator! It allows artists and artisans a unique opportunity to be personally introduced to millions of potential customers. Your first year as a full time vendor, as a full time small business person, is difficult and intense. You have to learn the rules and rhythm of the market, how to make your product in volume and display it, how to interact with customers and other vendors, and how to turn a profit. And if you want to survive and grow, you have to do all this without losing your optimism and artistic integrity. Pike Place Market is a thriving microcosm of small businesses and entrepreneurial thought. It is no surprise that Starbucks started here.

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After three years at the market, I have to consider my business a success. During an economic downturn I was able to successfully leave my confining corporate cubical, finding a place where I can express my creativity and control my own destiny. None of this would have been possible without the unique opportunity Pike Place Market provides. Although I still use the name Lampcycle, I mostly make and sell bicycle based clocks. I recycle for various bike shops and the city, and do all my own design work, painting, and welding. Each clock is completely unique and I do my best to maintain the lovely patinas that time and use give the parts. I can be found selling my work at Pike Place Market Friday through Monday, and can be contacted through my website www.Lampcycle.com or the Lampcycle Facebook page.

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Natural Collections – Professional Artisans who collaborate with nature.

It is a rainy February afternoon on Alki Beach in West Seattle. I find myself carefully walking the rocky shore looking for treasures in the form of sea glass, shells, interesting rocks, driftwood, and whatever else catches my eye. There is an exceptionally low tide that has uncovered a much larger selection than usual, making it worthwhile to put up with the rain, wind, cold, and strange glances from the occasional jogger.

My harvest for the day is coming to an end, and I look around at the many tall clear plastic containers that I have filled with deliberate collections. As I attempt to fit the final lid on an already overstuffed container, a friendly couple and their dog approach to strike up a conversation. “What are you planning to do with all of that?” they ask me in a very curious tone. I explain to them that I am an artisan at the Pike Place Market and I make stained glass pyramids filled with local Northwest sand and shells. “What a fun hobby!” they reply with excitement and wonder, wish me luck, and run off to continue their afternoon.

I sat for a moment, finally succeeding in closing my last container, and thought to myself that perhaps I should have been more clear that I am a professional artisan, not just a hobbyist? I realized that it is probably a very common misconception that beachcombing and collecting are confined to hobby status, yet there are some of us out there who professionally engage in such activities. It is the rare path of the professional artisan collector of nature that I have chosen to illuminate through this post. To help illustrate what this looks like, I have had the pleasure of interviewing some local professional artisan collectors who use nature in their pieces at Seattle’s famous and historic Pike Place Market!

My first interview is with Angela Glass, owner and creator of Aina Kai Lani, handcrafted jewelry www.ainakailani.com. The name, Aina Kai Lani (eye-na kigh la-nee), means land, sea, and sky in the Hawaiian language. Angela has been an artisan at the Pike Place Market for the past nine years.

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Angela has created a line of beautifully unique jewelry pieces, combining found objects with gemstones. Using bamboo as well as locally collected river rocks and sea glass, her work is handcrafted with impeccable skill and attention to detail.

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Angela has always been a collector of nature and currently looks for “very round flat shapes or anything special like a rare color or pattern in the rock or beach glass.” She prefers to collect with friends because “it’s already more fun to collect with others and getting excited together over good finds.”

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I asked Angela what appealed to her most about using nature to make art:

“Nature has been my favorite artist to collaborate with so far. I’ve always been inspired most when I’m out on a hike through the woods or along the beach. It’s great to get use out of my inspiration in my work.”

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Thanks again Angela, you and nature collaborate beautifully together!

To hear more about Angela’s story and see more of her lovely work, please visit www.ainakailani.com.

My next interview is with Charles Saul, owner and creator of Charlie’s Flying Fish, Handcrafted Mobiles, Sea Stone Spiral Pendants, and Cascade Medallions www.charlessaul.com. Charles has been an artisan at the Pike Place Market for the past ten years.

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Charles not only makes wonderfully handcrafted jewelry, he also creates perfectly balanced kinetic mobiles from aluminum that he hand cuts and grinds into one of a kind pieces. Whenever I pass by Charles’ stand, my eye is attracted to the softly moving fish swimming gently through the air. Equally stunning are the extensive collections of northwest sea stones, adorned with brightly colored intricate wire wrappings. Charles exhibits both a mastery of materials and levity of spirit that make his works truly unique.

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I asked Charles if he has always been a collector and what he looks for when he collects. “I’ve always loved collecting stones and bits n pieces I find out wandering around or beach combing. It used to be whatever caught my eye. Now that I use it as part of my art I’m a bit more specific.”

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“Driftwood, small flat beach stones, shells and beach glass are my main focus….but if it catches my eye, I still pick it up whatever it is 🙂 I love to have friends along for the “hunt”. They can be good for seeing cool stuff I miss or maybe wouldn’t think of using myself.”

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I also asked Charles what he liked most about using nature to make art:

“Nature makes the coolest art…plants, trees, flowers, birds, fish, gemstones, us…..an endless list. To incorporate some small part of that in my work ties it to all the beauty surrounding us. It also provides a nice balance to the mechanical feel of my metal work.”

Thanks so much Charles for sharing your amazing collections with us!

To hear more about Charles’ story and to see more of his wonderful work, please visit www.charlessaul.com.

My last interview of professional artisan collectors of nature is with myself, Dionea Nadir, owner and creator of Emerald City Glass, home of the Pike Place Pyramids. I recently celebrated my one-year anniversary of becoming an artisan at the Pike Place Market and feel that this has been one of the best, and definitely most creative years of my life. I feel truly fortunate coming to work each day to a place that surrounds me with other like-minded individuals. The market has been a great place to continuously explore the limits of my creative spirit, and pursue them with wild abandon!

Much like Angela and Charlie, I have also been a lifelong collector of nature. My collecting has always been a social experience, starting during childhood with my mom and I going to the park or the beach. We would always return home, pockets filled with natural treasures we would find along the way. I still prefer collecting with friends as it is much more fun to share the excitement! Some of my favorite finds have been from other people seeing different things that provide fresh sources of inspiration.

I currently look for a variety of objects when I’m out collecting, both from land and sea. From the land, I seek interesting mosses, lichens, acorns, pinecones, wood, tiny shelf mushrooms, and miniature plants to put inside my Pacific Northwest Terrarium Pyramids.

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From the sea, I look for shells, sea glass, agates, interesting rocks, driftwood, and sand to fill my Puget Sound Pyramids.

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Each Puget Sound Pyramid is one of a kind, and the contents can be gently shaken so that you can create your favorite scene within. I hand cut pieces of colored glass for the backs of the pyramids, and when the sun shines through them they possess magical qualities of light refraction!

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The pyramids are made by hand using the traditional Tiffany method of stained glass construction. I carefully choose the color of the pyramid to harmoniously coordinate with the contents. I also make some that are entirely clear for a minimalist aesthetic. Seeing them come together is really exciting and I often don’t fully know how they will look until they are finished! It is always a fun surprise and keeps me looking forward to every new pyramid.

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I enjoy using nature in my art because it feels right to do so. We live in a very fast-paced world and it is nice to be able to take the time to slow down a bit every now and then. I find it very rewarding to walk along a beach or through a forest looking for beautiful things. I never know where inspiration will be found, but embracing the mystery of the journey is part of my creative process. For everyone out there who may not have the time to commune with nature but still want to, I make these pyramids for you!

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To hear more about my story and to see more of my work, please visit Pike Place Pyramids on Facebook!

What Does Daffodil Day Mean To You?

my daffodilsA question posed to a friend who used to “throw fish”. His answer? “It usually took me half the day to figure out why everyone walking around downtown was carrying a daffodil.”

Wednesday, March 20, marks the 16th year of this market tradition. The passing out of 10,000 locally grown daffodils will have people all over Seattle walking around with a stem of sunshine. You might see them “clinking” them together as if toasting the first day of spring.  How can you not smile? Children using them as swords. Of course. Or fairy wands. Grown ups using them as pointers to direct a gaze to something wonderful that they want noticed.

“What does Daffodil Day mean to me?” It is the first day of Spring! That we have made it through winter. That the days may still have a bit of a chill to them. The wind off the water, brisk. That flowers make even a cloudy day shinephoto[7]

Thank you to the Preservation Development Authority (our PDA) for this continuing gift to the people of Seattle. To the farmers who work to provide the market and this day with a gallery of color and gaiety and to the volunteers who will stand on street corners with arms full of daffodils passing out flowers and a smile.

Looking for a sliver of sunshine? On Wednesday, March 20, students from the Pike Market Child Care and Preschool will hand out flowers from 11:30 am – 12 pm at the corner of 4th and Pine St. at Westlake Park.

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Photo by Art Kuniyuki
Mark the first day of spring – Receive a free daffodil at the following locations:

  • 4th Ave & Pine St. – Westlake Park
  • 6th Ave & Pine St. – Pacific Place
  • 3rd Ave & Union – Post Office/Benaroya Hall
  • 4th Ave & Cherry St. – City Hall
  • 4th Ave & Madison St. – Seattle Public Library
  • 5th Ave & Olive Way – Westlake Tower/Medical Dental Building
  • 5th Ave & Pike St. – City Centre
We're more than Daffodils in the spring
We’re more than Daffodils in the spring

It’s a great time to visit the Pike Place Market – See you there!

Kat
Symbols in Art – Handcrafted display art tiles of inspiration and awareness.

From Italy With Love

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Hello, my name is Leonardo Lanzolla.  I started at the Pike Place Market in 2012. I am an artist from Italy and I moved to the United States in 1986, living in Seattle for the last 25 years. I bring with me a strong accent and the cheerfulness of my country.   My business is called Leonarte Designs and I produce stone art tiles which are both decorative and functional.

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The idea behind this product is to make my images more accessible and affordable, with the opportunity to enjoy its functionality and beauty in everyday life.   For me, the stone symbolizes my heritage, a sense of nostalgia, and a timeless consumed beauty.    I am very pleased to be a new member of Pike Place Producers.

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Leonarte Designs

Cigar Box Guitars Are the Soul Cat’s Meow

Hi!  My name is Dean Moller of Soul Cat Guitar, Uke and Amp and I’m a new member of the Pike Place Producers.

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I’m fairly new at the market but I feel as though I’ve found a home here along with a new family of artisan vendors.

The Market is unique, as where else can a business find itself in a location that brings it droves of customers from all around the country and the world every day?

Before Soul Cat, I was a woodworker for over 35 years, along with being a musician and performer for over 35 years.

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I think it’s the synergy of these two parts of my life that have made Soul Cat a success.  I spend a lot of time making sure every single instrument sounds “right,” and I joke that my instruments “sound much better than they deserve to,” but there is a lot of truth to it. I never thought I could get the sound out of my guitars and ukes that I do. I always add that my guitars, “Make you feel like you’re sitting on the porch in the Delta.” And, that’s what musical instruments should be about anyway – they should take you to a place you can’t get to without them.

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I also believe that the Pike Place Market artisans I meet and sell next to help me raise my standards and my wish to do better. I see so much great art at the Market and I’m really proud to be a part of a group like this. I know that the Market is thought of as a craft market (and one can purchase many quality crafts there) but I see the Market as more of a fine art gallery, as the level of skill and creativity required to produce the pieces I see offered is amazing.

And that’s why I’m part of the Pike Place Producers: to help raise the profile of Market vendors and show the reality of our artistry to the world.

So take a second look next time you’re at the Market and see the artist and artisan in the vendor. Then come find me and check out my cigar box guitars and hear a bit of the Delta….

SoulCat3Dean Moller

Soul Cat Guitars