More than ever this year, people are making a commitment to supporting small businesses with their holiday shopping. A new store in Clinton is dedicated to showcasing the hyperlocal, with products from Whidbey artists.
The Whidbey Artists Collective, located at Ken’s Korner, has become the perfect place for crafty artists to display their wares without the intimidation of a highbrow art gallery.
When Whidbey Wonders closed permanently this spring because of the pandemic, Jamie Farage, who had been displaying her photography and embroidery in the store, stepped up to create another space for artists to display work in its place.
The new business, which operates similarly to Whidbey Wonders but has different products made by different artists, opened in September.
Farage said that it has been difficult to retain many of the original artists who were displaying in the space when it was Whidbey Wonders.
“We lost a lot of people,” she said. “Most of the artists needed to take care of family, or they themselves were at risk.
“A lot of them had to leave the state, a lot of them lost their jobs.”
But because of community outreach, the new Whidbey Artists Collective currently has 27 artists represented, many of whom are new to the space. Farage is hoping to have 44, so there is still capacity if artists are interested. Monthly rent ranges from $30-$50 and is based on how much inventory is displayed.
Connie Lovell, who has her “monster dolls” displayed, said the store has been a good thing for smaller artists who may not be as widely known as others.
“Jamie’s great,” Lovell said. “She’s trying to make a go of it.”
Lovell’s dolls are made of painted fabrics and have quirky names such as “Miss Merlot” and “Honey-Do Hubby.”
Laurie Sullivan, who repurposes vintage wool hats and adds Native American style beadwork to them, agreed with Farage’s management.
“She’s got great ideas,” Sullivan said. “Her communication level is lovely with the artists.”
Sullivan added about the store, “It’s getting more and more popular, every time I go to drop something off.”
Denise Perkins, who was a shopper at Whidbey Wonders, met Farage and was inspired to join the represented artists at the Whidbey Artists Collective.
“I said, ‘I used to be crafty,’” Perkins recalled about their meeting. “She said, ‘Go do it.’”
Perkins makes coasters out of Scrabble letters, as well as beeswax candles and crystal “suncatchers.” She admires the new store for being extremely organized. Farage said she rotates the products around at least once a week.
Also currently on display in the store are several holiday items, from stockings to ornaments to COVID-era items, including a plethora of masks and an embroidered print that humorously warns “Six feet back or six feet under.”
Before the governor’s most recent round of restrictions was issued, Farage was teaching embroidery, elementary arts and photography to small, distanced classes, which she would like to resume someday.
To-go craft kits made by Farage can be purchased for $5 each and include either kites to be built, beadwork to be beaded or bookmarks to be colored. She said they are just as popular with adults as they are with children.
The space is no longer accompanied by the Knead Bakery, which she acknowledged has been a disappointment to some customers. But what it does have is a wide variety of crafty Whidbey-made items, and Farage’s own personal touch — a photo booth.
Much like the photo booths that are prevalent in mall corridors, Farage’s photo booth snaps a strip of pictures that can be printed in store for $5.
Farage envisions the store as a place where artists can one day gather and teach classes, when COVID is no longer a concern.
“I’d like it to sort of become a school,” she said. “It’s a collective where people just collect and work and make art and promote each other.”