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Local artists find new places to show, sell

The closing of Finders gift shop has left several local artists scrambling to find another venue to show their art or crafts. It’s tough enough being an artist, but in this economy the term “starving artist” takes on new meaning.

But fear not, for some of the artists have found other outlets for their wares.

Adah Edwards, a resident of Island House, has shown her folk-art painted bowls, boxes and note cards at Finders for 25 years. Her pieces depict scenery and familiar sights on Mercer Island. Carole Murphy, who has done well at Finders with her “Pop-tops,” or necklaces made from bottle caps, said Finders was the first retailer to show her necklaces. Murphy had been there since 2007.

Both Edwards and Murphy’s creations can now be found at Island Books. Murphy also plans to participate in Summer Celebration.

Charlie Russell found Finders because her daughter lives on Mercer Island. Russell makes elegant writing pens from wood or acrylic using a lathe. She said she had consigned at Finders for two years. Fortunately, she has a gift shop in Kent that carries her pens, and craft shows to fall back on.

Carol and Al Chance had been selling their handmade lamps and shades at Finders for 25 years, like Edwards — since the doors first opened. Carol still vividly recalls her first meeting with Judy Olson, Finder’s owner.

Carol Chance said in the ’80s and ’90s, their lamps had the then-popular country look.

“I couldn’t build them fast enough,” she said.

When her husband Al retired, he was able to do more exotic wiring, and soon they were making chandeliers and lamps made with vintage fabrics. They plan to continue making their lamps, showing them in various antique stores and Sisters in Issaquah.

“It’s a useful craft,” Carol Chance said. “People need lamps.”

Geri Alhadeff, a 30-year Mercer Island resident, used to make jewelry, but for the past three years she has made handmade cards that Finders took in. Her cards are embellished with knitting, ribbon, papers or embossing to create a unique presence.

“I was a little bit leery going in with my cards,” Alhadeff said. “I didn’t know if they were good enough, but there is nobody like Judy; she was the most supportive of the local artists.”

Alhadeff still has cards at Island Books, and has had them at Mercer Island Florist.

Katie Drake has a day job, but she enjoyed showing and selling her 100 percent wool, hand-hooked rugs and pillows at Finders.

“It’s an old traditional craft,” she said. “It’s made from wool about the consistency of a Pendleton shirt. I can’t tell you how much fun it was to get the checks in the mail.”

Drake’s rugs and pillows can be found on the Web at www.etsy.com/shop/kjehd.

Also making rugs is Jan Paul, who creates rag rugs. Paul, like the Chances and Edwards, had been at Finders since it opened.

“Finders was my only store,” Paul said.

She plans to participate in the Weaver’s Guild Sale, which starts the fourth Thursday in October and lasts for three days. The sale is held at St. Mark’s Catholic Church in Seattle.

“There was one time I was in six or so stores, but they are all closing,” Paul said. “I’ve sort of been in shock since I heard from Judy.”

Paul said things seem to have picked up for her last year, and so far this year.

Lisa Michele, a three-year consigner at Finders, with her hand-stamped silver jewelry, said at one time she was showing her jewelry in five stores. They, too, have all closed. Like Drake, she is on the Web at www.etsy.com.shop/lisamicheleproducts.

Unlike Drake, Michele is a stay-at-home mom, and this is her livelihood as well as a creative outlet.

“Judy really did help out the local artists,” said Sheryl Human, who makes wine glass charms.

Finders was the first business to take her charms in on consignment. Human said a few other gift shops that she talked to have also closed due to the recession.

Mercer Island resident Byron Ives had his hand-carved shore bird decoys at Finders for 15 years. He calls his birds “a hobby that got out of control.” His birds can now be found at Millstream in Pioneer Square as well as in shops in the San Juan Islands, Port Townsend and La Conner.

“We need another store like [Finders] on the Island,” Ives reminisced.

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