September 24, 2011

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.

Laura's blog post pic

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!

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!”

I originally wrote this for the Pike Place Producers blog - "Like" us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter if you are interested in knowing more about what it's really like to be a crafts business owner.


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