Wednesday, May 25, 2011

From one patch to another

I have something I want to admit. I've been seeing another blog. Please don't be upset with me. A patchwork world will always be my #1 spot to blabber my thoughts. It's just, the opportunity arose to be a part of a new local journalism endeavor and I jumped at it. I'm blogging for the Renton Patch. It's part of the Patch Network of hyper-local on-line journalism run by Arianna Huffington. So you could say I'm kinda sorta writing for the Huffington Post. (Ha, I wish). My posts don't deal with late-breaking hard-hitting news though, just notions of local interest that pop into my head. I've only written a few posts so far and already I've been recognized twice around town. I'm famous! Okay, not really, but it has helped me feel like less of a newbie and more connected to my new found town.

Sometimes, if I think my Patch posts would be of interest to my patchwork world readers, I'll repost them here. Here's my latest, entitled "Musings on happy delusions..."

When I first moved to Renton I was excited to see a downtown that wasn't dying. This is happening to so many smaller cities and towns these days – the businesses migrate to the suburban strip malls and once-active main streets and city centers become ghost towns. When I saw the Piazza, the Farmer's Market, several restaurants, antique and jewelry shops, clothing stores, galleries, and options for coffee on 3rd Street, I was relieved. But finding happy delusions is what really got me excited. I told my husband, “That means artists live here!” Any town can have a Wal-Mart or a Hallmark store, but a shop that showcases one-of-a-kind handcrafted items by local folk is a sign that a town values its artists.

I have to admit, I'm biased. As someone who makes a modest living off making one-of a kind kids clothes and home d├ęcor, I was excited to possibly have a venue for my items (Google “kokoleo” and you will find them). When you're an independent artist or craftsperson it's not like you can simply walk into any Wal-Mart or Hallmark store and show them your work in hopes that they might like to sell it. The idea of doing so is laughable; that's just not how things are done these days. Besides, handmade one-of-a-kinds would look out of place next to their mass produced factory-made (in China, most likely) items anyway. This is why independently owned businesses are so vital a town's unique identity and sense of community. Sure, the prices aren't comparable to what you would find at the Dollar Store, but thankfully, neither is the quality.

The first time I visited happy delusions, I knew I wanted to one day see kokoleo in the shop. When I spoke to the owner Mary Clymer, I casually mentioned that I made things and gave her my card. She looked at it and immediately said, “Kokoleo? I know kokoleo!” It turns out she had seen my booth at one of the first indie craft shows I did in Los Angeles years ago. At the time she was living in the city as well and working at Handmade Galleries in Sherman Oaks, a shop which later served as the model for happy delusions. Small world, indeed. I took this is a sign that Renton was going to be a good place for me. In fact, my first purchase was a screen printed I Heart Renton t-shirt.

Fast forward six months and I hear my neighbor say, “I saw kokoleo in the window at happy delusions!” This made my heart swell for so many reasons. First, because my stuff is in the window in the coolest store on the most popular street in downtown Renton, and second, because after years of living in a neighborhood where people kept to themselves and didn't so much as wave hello, I now have friends, not just causal neighbor acquaintances, but real friends who know a kokoleo when they see it and are happy to point it out to their friends and family. How often when you're shopping do you come across something and think, “I know who made that!” At happy delusions, you just might.

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