Taline Farra Shoes: All shoes are made from natural leathers. I purchase small quantities of leather, giving each shoe a unique look and texture. The availability of such leathers ensures smaller quantities of each style is made, therefore creating a unique one-of-a-kind custom shoe experience. Growing up in California, I have always been environmentally conscious. I am proud to be able to incorporate my awareness into these shoes.
You’ve always liked art. In fact your favorite memories from summer camp are the arts and crafts classes. You’ve made dozens of friendship bracelets. You can latch hook a rug like nobody’s business. You still have that composition book with the black and white marble cover, from when you went through your poetry phase in junior high. You painted watercolor unicorns and action figures. You sculpted miniatures of the entire cast of “Saved By The Bell” out of clay. But, you grew up. You got a job. You became responsible. But it’s still there, somewhere inside of you. You wonder, what would my life be like right now if I’d pursued art?
Well, you’ll be happy to know you have some options. You could pay the $35,000 per year to go to a private art school, or, you could mosie on down to Gallery’s Choice in Downers Grove, Illinois and learn oil painting, stained glass, jewelry making, watercolor painting, mosaics, copper enameling, acrylic painting, lampworking, origami, or silk painting. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.
The owners, Rose and Bill Jarecki, along with their daughter, Katie, are living testaments to what life can be like when a person follows their dream. Having gotten an MBA and spent fifteen years in corporate marketing, Rose decided to leave that life behind and follow her dream of living an artistic life. She is a self-taught glasswork and silk-painting artist who has pieces displayed in the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago.
The shop has been open for five years in Downer’s Grove and in that time has gone through some radical changes. Giving up half their retail space, for one. I asked her what made her decide to partially turn her art gallery into a working art studio. “I noticed other artisans getting discouraged and not making the money selling their work as they’d hoped,” Rose explains. “Customers have changed their focus when it comes to the arts. More and more people are saying, ‘I don’t want to buy it, I’d rather experience it, make it myself’.
“And if they do want to buy something, they want it to be custom and unique. Not something that’s been sitting on a shelf somewhere. The most successful artists are the ones who respond to the customer’s wants. So we made the decision to dedicate 50 percent of our retail floor space to classroom and studio space.”
I asked how business has changed since going from being just a retailer, to a retailer and art learning center. “I really feel that we are giving back to the community,” she says. “We are very family oriented with a hands-on approach. We’re doing both chilldren’s and adult’s classes, but I especially love being able to give kids the support I always had as a kid. I was allowed to try anything. We’ve had over 5,000 Girl Scouts come through our doors. And we make sure that students have some success right away, in order to encourage them to not be afraid to try different, maybe more complicated techniques.”
It’s not just kids who keep the shop busy. Gallery’s Choice hosts “Girls’ Night Out” events, birthday parties, and couples’ stained glass classes. And, I have to mention that I was impressed and surprised at how much shelf space had been given to display beginning artists and art students. “People are more sensitive to keeping business local. So, the community seeks us out. I’ve noticed that it doesn’t really matter, as much as you might think, if a piece is made by a beginner versus a long-time professional. Customers are telling me, ‘I don’t want a print or a replica. I’m tired of going to the mall.’ I’m hearing that on a daily basis. If a piece speaks to a person, they buy it and the value is that it’s been made by hand.”
The response to Rose and Bill’s hands-on approach has been tremendous. I can’t help wondering if we can expect their model to be the new direction for art galleries and shops. But, Bill feels there’s room for different art experiences. “We like to make art more accessible for people, that’s true. But, there’s definitely room for our type of shop, as well as the high end galleries. In fact, people come into our place and learn to make and buy art, and then they are not afraid to go to the high end shows. If they take a stained glass class here, then they can attend a retrospective on Louis Comfort Tiffany and feel comfortable. They are now interested and not intimidated. They feel they understand the work better, they can speak with knowledge about the medium and the process, and can better appreciate the genius of the masters.”
Increasing their class offerings has certainly transformed the business, but Gallery’s Choice remains, very much, a gallery with dozens of local artists and artisans on display. “In the beginning it was just my work. I was kind of scared to let other artists show here,” Rose admits. “Coming from a business and not an art background, I struggled with wondering if I was good enough, but it was about getting over that. Artists just found us through word of mouth. I’m glad, now, that I had the confidence to let other artists show their work alongside mine. It’s been wonderful. We’ve found such a high quality of work. Jewelry, fiber arts, glass makers, etchings. And we get tons of referrals from customers as well.”
And now, Gallery’s Choice is using the social networking site Facebook in order to give the public a chance to see some classroom experiences, new artists and upcoming programs and events. I asked Rose if giving up half the sales floor has affected the number of artists they are able to show. “Oh, there’s always room for one more,” she replied. “We aim to keep our gallery accessible. We are a self made environment.”
Gallery’s Choice, 1014 Curtiss Street, Downer’s Grove, IL, 60515, USA.
Scouring etsy for locally made goods has enlightened me to all of the artists in my backyard. It is great fun, I suggest you try it. If you do you may be lucky enough to come across something as lovely as Awcombe’s Belts and Accessories. This is such a refreshing find, a new twist on a common item.
There is something so fun and lively about these belts. They are bold without the usual bling of commercial buckles. Though they are bold, they aren’t over-done. These buckles are just right.
The artist has a great sense of color and composition. She carefully selects the bright, cheerful parts of the pattern to create a design for her masterpieces. As she would say, “Finding ways to bring fabrics to life can make an otherwise hum-drum pair of jeans or a t-shirt have zing.” I want me some zing!
The belts and buckles come together to form a happy union. The bold patterns seem reminiscent of the sixties, especially those with flower patterns. The leather belts appear weathered giving the whole design a vintage look. But, this is better than vintage, it is handmade.
How would you choose to wear one of these creations? With jeans? Maybe a peasant dress paired with some cowboy boots? Or would you prefer to spice up a boring suit? A yes to any of these would be the correct answer, don’t you think?
There never seems to be too much or too little color. The artist always seems to choose the right amount of contrast and pattern. You can see her “love (of) fabric and all the exciting colors and designs that are available.” When an artist follows their love and passion it shows. The outcome is always beautiful. As a result, we usually covet their work and find reasons to buy it. So, please visit her shop and spread the love.
Bunnies, bunnies, bunnies! I can tell that we are getting close to Easter by the sudden explosion of the stuffed bunny population. It would seem, ahem, that they are multiplying like rabbits.
This week, I have assembled a herd (yes, a herd) of rabbits for your Easter cuddling pleasure. Some are cute, some are quirky, but all are quite clever and very eco-friendly. Enjoy!
Known for their prolific breeding and their propensity for giving birth to large (and in some cases multiple) litters in the spring, it’s no wonder that rabbits are symbols of fertility and of the season itself.
As far as its symbolic tie-in with Easter goes, mentions of the Easter Bunny begin to appear in publications from the 1600s; although it is safe to assume that the origins date back further than that – most likely to pre-Christian Pagans.
Legend has it that the Saxon goddess Oestra (from whom Easter is named) had a sacred rabbit companion and an association with another symbol of fertility, eggs. Considering that, it makes perfect sense that bunnies and eggs are so closely linked with each other at this time of year. (And now you know what to tell your children why bunnies bring Easter eggs, and not chickens. Or, perhaps it’s only my son who is bothered by this.)
Finally, if you will allow me to step up on my “Going Green” soapbox for just a moment, I do need to draw attention to the practice of giving live rabbits for Easter. Just like a dog or a cat, a rabbit is a house pet that requires plenty of care and attention over its 10+ life-span. Every year, once the post-Easter reality sets in, countless unwanted rabbits are set free or dropped at animal shelters. Unless you have given it very careful thought and are willing to make the commitment, I would strongly discourage giving a live bunny as an Easter gift. Instead, why not make someone’s day with a stuffed long-eared, puffy tailed friend from one of our featured sellers? Go on…hop to it!
Top photo: Beeper Bebe – recycled wool suiting & yarn
1. Beeper Bebe – recycled wool suiting & yarn
2. Blue Moon Rose – recycled cashmere & vintage dress
3. Buttercupbloom – cotton, velveteen & upcycled lambswool
4. Chunky Chooky – upcycled denim & batik
5. Second Seed in Stitches – upcycled sweaters & fabric
6. Freedom Rainbow – recycled merino wool
7. LuvKt – deconstructed/reconstructed merino sweater
8. Pouch – repurposed vintage fabric & chemical-free lavender
9. Sleepy King – recycled fabric
10. Woolcrazy – recycled angora wool
11. Protean’s Coffee Shop – felt & fleece
12. Sighfoo – recycled wool & bamboo fibre
Bottom photo: Canoo – recycled angora wool/cashmere
For more information on rabbits as house pets, visit The House Rabbit Society.
Vintage fork with hand-hammered message (above) by Wooden Hive.
My business contacts in the US are always surprised when I tell them that my office will be closed at the beginning of October in observance of Thanksgiving. “There’s a *Canadian* Thanksgiving?” they inevitably ask. Why, yes. Yes, there is.
Fall wreath with upcycled tin-can flowers (above) by Custom Created.
Thanksgiving north of the border differs a little from the holiday celebrated by our American friends, but along with the name, there are some traditions that we both share. The similarities include football, family and a propensity towards incredibly cute home and table decorations, as seen throughout this article. You won’t find any pilgrims up here, though; our holiday is an autumn festival to mark the end of the crop season and give thanks for the bountiful harvest.
Handpainted, upcycled record bowl (above) by Eye Pop Art.
While our native peoples have been giving thanks to the land for countless generations before our arrival, the anglo history of Canadian Thanksgiving is a little sketchy in places. The first accounts date back to 1578; when a European explorer held a ceremony to give thanks for surviving a long ocean journey (sound familiar?). In 1872, Thanksgiving was observed in Canada as a civic holiday; however, the date and theme was changed from year to year. Thanksgiving has been celebrated on the second Monday of October, since the passing of an act of Parliament in 1959.
Rustic cutting board/serving platter (above) made from sustainable black walnut by Grey Works Design .
As far as the food is concerned, the Canadian Thanksgiving feast is made up of many of the same foods as the American. Turkey is the traditional main course, although I have seen a few hams hit the table in my time. The roasted bird is, of course, accompanied by sage-spiked stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce. Usual side dishes are mashed potatoes, veggies, squash dishes, breads and salads.
Pumpkin made from vintage 1970s fabric (above) by Whoopsie Daisies
Visitors from the US sitting down at a Thanksgiving feast in Canada will probably notice one glaring omission – in 38 years of giving thanks, I have never had to “pass along” a casserole of cloyingly sweet, marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes. It’s not that we have anything against sweets; we’re just leaving room for pumpkin pie!
Pinecone and wire turkey place card holders (above) by Carrieveau Craft.
I shouldn’t diss the sweet potato casserole, though. I’m sure that Americans need all the energy they can get for Black Friday; an event that, to a casual observer, almost seems to trump Thanksgiving itself in the US. We do not have an equivalent to Black Friday up here, unless you count December 26th (aka Boxing Day), and usually spend the long weekend raking leaves and napping. Oh, the glory of tryptophan!
Cotton/wool acorns with real acorn “hats” (above) by Rose Cottage Boutique 2.
So, there. That’s Canadian Thanksgiving in a nutshell. I would love to hear from readers on both sides of the border – what are you thankful for?