Monthly Archives: October 2014

Rabbask Designs: Where Art Is Always in Fashion

Rabbask Designs in Loveland, Colorado

Show windows filled with artisans’ jewelry and other handmade art draw shoppers into Rabbask Designs in Loveland, Colorado.

You can’t miss Rabbask Designs on a fall afternoon when you’re walking along Fourth Street in Loveland between Cleveland and Lincoln Avenues. Just outside the door, angled slightly into the sidewalk, sits a large red heart announcing “Open.” Beside it, on the front window, are the words “Wearable art and more.”

Owner Jacki Marsh is a passionate supporter of activities and policies that bring vitality to Loveland. No surprise that she chose a heart , the symbol that residents embrace with pride, to sit outside her door.

To me, now that I know some of Jacki’s story, the heart has multiple levels of meanings. There’s her love of dogs and horses. Two elderly rescue dogs lumber from resting spot to resting spot at the back of the store, where photographs of beloved horses decorate the walls. There’s her love of art . . . her desire to share it and to help other artisans longing to share their passion. Finally, there’s the true story of her heart that almost gave out on her and in doing so put her on the path to Rabbask Designs.

Rabbask. A’s are pronounced ah, accent is on the last syllable.

Today at Rabbask Designs

Let’s follow Jacki’s story backwards, starting with today at Rabbask Designs, which celebrated its first anniversary on October 25. The window sign “Wearable art and more” means what it says. Local artisans and artists have dropped by with their work during the past year, and Jacki has taken it in, mixing a variety of art forms in with the wearable art that had been her original plan for the shop. In the show windows, art glass and bronze sculptures intermingle with an array of unique necklaces.

Inside Rabbask Designs in Loveland, Colorado

At Rabbask Designs in Loveland, Colorado, wearable art takes center stage; but fine art and handcrafted items of all sorts are on display.

Inside, a long rack of women’s clothing splits the store in half front to back. Some pieces are handmade, including a section by Roxanne Storlie; all are unusual and appeal to a woman’s artistic sensibility. Visible above the rack, high above the back counter, silk scarves by artisans Abbie R. Powers and Sheron Rowland float in the light breeze of a fan.

Creative purses and other bags made by Heather Rubald from fused layers of plastic sacks currently occupy the left front corner of the store. Beyond them, felted wool hats by Mickey Ramirez, who raises the sheep the wool comes from, hang on a free-standing rack. Scarves, more clothing, and colorful Rock Spring shoes (handmade abroad) line the wall beyond.

Wool hats by Mickey Ramirez displayed at Rabbask Designs, Loveland, Colorado

Felted wool hats by Mickey Ramirez foretell the winter season at Rabbask Designs in Loveland.

Handmade wooden instruments and more art glass occupy shelves above them. And higher yet hang a variety of paintings and photography. Islands with multiple shelves of necklaces fill the floor space at the back. More jewelry lines the east wall on shelves and in show cases, including pieces by Gary Hixon. Rabbask Designs has a necklace for every shopper’s price range, from $15 into the $1,000s.

Altogether, the store carries the work of more than 60 artisans and artists along the Front Range. That includes Jacki herself, who makes extraordinary necklaces with beads of hill tribe silver from Thailand, prayer boxes from Afghanistan, 100-year-old beads by Yemen silversmiths, and numerous other beads, metals, and stones with interesting histories.

One Year Ago . . . A Decade Ago

Jewelry by Jacki Marsh of Rabbask Designs in Loveland, Colorado

Necklaces by Jacki Marsh of Rabbask Designs include beads, stones, and pendants from around the world — and from artisans on the Front Range of Colorado.

When Rabbask Designs opened a year ago, necklaces created by Jacki  made up most of the merchandise. She had been making jewelry for a decade, placing it successfully in galleries around the country. But she had become disenchanted with that sales mechanism for several reasons and wanted a place where she could sell her jewelry herself.

Early in 2013 she spotted the building at 243 East Fourth Street in Loveland. It was neglected and in disrepair, but Jacki knew right away that this was the place to take a new turn in life. She eventually purchased the building, where she established a store at street level and a home above.

In 2002, making jewelry and selling “wearable art and more” was far from her dreams. What Jacki loved was running competitively. Thirty years earlier, she had won the first Crazy Legs Half Marathon, the only six-mile race for women at the time. (The annual race now draws 6,000 competitors internationally.) Jacki had run whenever she could. However, a degenerative heart disease gradually sapped her energy and for a while left her waiting to die. In 2003 she was evaluated for a heart transplant, but she was ruled ineligible because she had more than six months to live.

Necklace by Jacki Marsh of Rabbask Designs in Loveland, Colorado

Silversmiths in Yemen made and signed the beads in this necklace over 100 years ago. The pendant is an antique bracelet also from Yemen. Amber stones worn a century ago in Morocco complete the look of this piece by Jacki Marsh of Rabbask Designs.

That year she dropped in on a friend in California who had suddenly found herself in an extreme financial crisis. A successful jewelry maker and shop owner, the friend needed money – plenty of money – fast. Though she had little personal interest in jewelry, to help out,  Jacki bought her friend’s entire collection of rare and exotic beads at a well-discounted price.

Languishing at her California home with little she could do, Jacki began to toy with arranging the beads and making necklaces for the first time. Friends were impressed with the results and encouraged her to place her work in galleries. Jacki had rolled her eyes in disbelief, but before long, the prestigious Conway of Asia accepted her work. She learned about the history of her beads from experts she met and fell in love with the culture and origins behind them.

Jacki had found a new direction, and her heart got a second chance too. A new pacemaker that synchronized the action between the two sides of her heart gave Jacki energy she hadn’t enjoyed in years. Meeting her today, vibrant and full of laughter, you would never know she had spent years struggling to live, sometimes waiting to die.

Looking Ahead

Jacki Marsh amid her handcrafted necklaces at Rabbask Designs

At her shop Rabbask Designs, Jacki Marsh offers a wide variety of necklaces made by herself and other artisans.

You can meet Jacki yourself during store hours almost every Monday through Saturday. Rabbask Designs has generous weekday evening hours for those who want to come by after work. Check its “about” page on Facebook for exact times. It’s open Sunday, too; Heather Rubald, who makes recycled handbags, usually minds the shop for Jacki that day.

Jacki likes to keep the shop lively by offering live music frequently; and she periodically schedules demonstrations by artisans whose work is for sale there. Follow Rabbask Designs on Facebook to stay abreast of activities and new things for sale.

Before the holidays distract you and you forget how much you enjoy “Handmade on the Front Range,” be sure to sign up for e-mail reminders of new posts. Scroll through the right sidebar, and you’ll find the place.

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Trimble Court Artisans Offers Convenient Holiday Shopping in Old Town Fort Collins

Trimble Court Artisans, just north of Old Town Square in Fort Collins

Trimble Court Artisans lies just north of Old Town Square in Fort Collins, along an inviting walkway accessed from the Square or from College Avenue.

The holiday rush is on for several artisans I’ve talked to recently. They’re scrambling to meet demand from retail and wholesale customers or to be ready for the next art festival. During the next few weeks, amid a surge of holiday gift buying, you’ll see numerous arts and crafts festivals listed under “What’s Happening,” in the right sidebar of this website, with links to more information.

This week, though, while there’s an unusual lull in large festivals, let’s explore the closest thing to a permanent art festival I know of: Trimble Court Artisans off of Old Town Square in Fort Collins. Here you can buy a gift handcrafted by a local artisan right up to the last minute.

What to Expect When You Visit

Glassware by Dottie Boscamp in the window of Trimble Court Artisans

Glassware by Dottie Boscamp sits in the window of Trimble Court Artisans. Her business Glass Rocks was featured in a post on September 17.

Anytime that you walk into Trimble Court (as the store is called locally) you can meet at least one of the artisans whose work is for sale there. This is an artisans’ co-operative; members take at least one turn a month behind the sales counter. Just ask, and the artisan at the counter will point you or even take you to his or her section of the store.

You may run into other artisans as well. All members of the co-op are responsible for keeping up their own space – cleaning and dusting it, organizing it, and keeping it stocked. That probably explains why all of the current members live along the Front Range of Northern Colorado, although membership only requires that they live somewhere in Colorado.

Ceramic mugs by Trimble Court Artisans

Mugs made by several members of Trimble Court Artisans Co-operative share shelves near the front of the store.

Directly in front of you when you enter the store, a sizable display features work by the artisan of the month. Right now it holds jewelry made by Sarah Blessing; next month Christina Hellyer will set her cottages sculpted from clay in the honored spot. For December, Trimble Court plans a special display – holiday ornaments by any of the artisans who wish to contribute.

Mixing artisans’ work isn’t the norm at Trimble Court; its ongoing display of ceramic mugs by the co-operative’s potters is an exception. Against a wall just to the left of the month’s special showcase stands a set of shelves displaying mugs by several artisans. Trimble Court manager Jill Popplewell told me she enjoys watching customers pick up each one to try it out for weight and feel. The mugs are works of art, but they’re practical too; modern glazes have made them microwave-safe in most cases.

What’s New at Trimble Court Artisans

I have to admit I was surprised when I spent a long time browsing at Trimble Court earlier this month. There’s so much to see that I hadn’t realized on my brief visits during the past year or two just how many new types of merchandise were awaiting discovery.

River rocks decorated by fiber artist Becky Margenau

Inspired by Temari, Becky Margenau covered these river rocks with felt and added elaborate designs with thread. They sell at Trimble Court Artisans for an unbelievably low price.

There are now 58 members of the artisans’ co-operative, more than ever before, including artisans and fine artists. Four times a year, the board considers the work of potential members. It looks for quality work that’s fun, exciting, saleable . . . and unique. Let me show you some things I hadn’t seen the last time I took a really good look around the store.

Fiber art by Becky Margenau sits directly behind the featured showcase. Inspired by the ancient Japanese craft Temari, Becky wraps river rocks tightly with felt and adds intricate designs with shiny thread. Similar designs appear on her ornaments and fanciful pincushions. I’ve done enough stitchery myself to shake my head in disbelief and wonder, “How does she do that?

Felted wool figures by Fran Bowen at Trimble Court Artisans in Fort Collins

Whimsical figures of felted wool by fiber artist Fran Bowen await holiday shoppers at Trimble Court Artisans in Fort Collins.

Around the corner from Becky Margenau’s display I discovered the work of another fiber artist, Fran Bowen. Fran makes whimsical figures by felting wool — a process that tangles wool fibers as the artisan builds three-dimensional shapes.

On the wall nearby hangs fiber art by Diana Zweygardt. Throughout the store, more fine art fills the walls than I had previously seen in Trimble Court. There’s more pottery than ever, too – the work of nearly 20 ceramic artists.

What didn’t surprise me was a fine display of ceramics by Chris Wolff, who was featured in a post on August 24. Kathi Dougherty, featured on September 3, has an eye-catching display of fused glass. In the window is the work of glassblower Dottie Boscamp, whose work appeared in a post on September 17.

Finding the Gift You Want to Give

Trimble Court is open seven days a week, almost every day of the year. By December it will extend its evening hours to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday until December 24, when it will close at 4:00 p.m. More information on hours is on its home page.

Trimble Court Artisans in Fort Collins

Trimble Court Artisans offers a wide variety of handmade items almost every day of the year. Prices are generally as low or lower as you will find at art festivals.

Customers who love an artisan’s work are welcome to contact him or her directly for special requests.  If business cards are missing at an artisan’s display, there are usually extras on a rack below the sales counter. For the convenience of both customer and artisan, a special order placed directly with a member of the co-operative can be picked up at the store.

Trimble Court Artisans has a wonderful website for browsing. Artisans are listed by category, which includes all of those you see on this blog plus items for the home, greeting cards, painting, and photography. In many cases, you can click on artisans’ icons and see more of their work.

I find there’s nothing like seeing something handmade in person, though, to appreciate how beautiful the work is. In case you’ve never been to Trimble Court before, here are some directions to help you find this tucked-away treasure. Walk into the heart of Fort Collins’ Old Town Square, northeast of the intersection of College and Mountain Avenues. When you reach the fountain topped by a sculpture of wild geese, walk through the break in the buildings across from it. You found it — Trimble Court Artisans!

Before the holidays distract you and you forget how much you enjoy “Handmade on the Front Range,” be sure to sign up for e-mail reminders of new posts. Scroll through the right sidebar, and you’ll find the place.

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A Summer Afternoon in Fort Collins Means Fun for Children across the Country

Natural wood toys from A Summer Afternoon

Natural wood toys from A Summer Afternoon offer hours of imaginative play. The school bus at left has been the top selling toy according to owner Aaron Nuland.

Aaron Nuland enjoyed playing with the wooden toys his father made for him when he was a boy. Now that he has sons of his own, Aaron makes wooden toys not only for his sons but also for thousands of children across the country through his business A Summer Afternoon.

Making toys wasn’t Aaron’s original life plan. Five years ago, Aaron supervised multi-million dollar construction projects that kept him away from home for extended periods. When he and his wife Erin were starting a family, Erin kept suggesting alternative careers that would give Aaron more time at home. The toys he made for his first son received such acclaim from family and friends that she finally convinced him to make a business of it. Continue reading

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Kristin’s Clothes Line and The Pink Moose: Stories from Severance, Colorado

Kristin’s Clothes Line and the Pink Moose sounds like the title of an imaginative story for children. However, it’s really two stories of two resourceful young women in Severance, Colorado, whose businesses provide children and families with exceptional items made from upcycled materials.

Hanging Around Kristin’s Clothes Line

Heirloom linen upcycled to little girl dresses by Kristin McMahan

Kristin McMahan upcycles heirloom linen to create one-of-a-kind dresses for little girls

I met Kristin McMahan at The French Nest Market in Fort Collins this past summer. Handmade dresses for little girls hung from clothes lines strung around her booth. Embroidered flowers and birds adorned their skirts, which were frequently edged with crocheted scallops. Occasionally a small embroidered apron had been sewn into a dress’s waistline. The dresses epitomized the sweetness of little girls, so I couldn’t help stopping to admire them and to chat with Kristin. Continue reading

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Animals from HollysMeadow Help Imagination Run Free

A Polish chicken at HollysMeadow, made of wool felt and stitched by hand, stands just over 2 inches high.

A Polish chicken at HollysMeadow, made of wool felt and stitched by hand, stands just over 2 inches high.

So many little animals — so many little stitches!

That was my reaction when I stepped into HollysMeadow this summer during the Firefly Market in Boulder. There were horses and cows, billy goats and sheep . . . peacocks and ducks and geese . . . turkeys and various chickens . . . nearly every animal a child might want for one fine farm   . . . and more.

If anything is missing that would suit a child’s fancy, Holly Myers can design and make it. (HollysMeadow is her special spelling for her new business.)

That’s how Polish chickens joined the brood at HollysMeadow. A mother contacted Holly after the family’s Polish chickens had an unfortunate encounter with an animal hungry for a chicken dinner. To soothe her upset young daughter, she wanted to buy three toy chickens that the little girl could play with.

Holly offered to make the Polish variety especially for her. She researched the chickens online and incorporated their lush upright tails and tall topknots into her design. The little girl named the three toy chickens after the three animals the family had lost. The Polish chickens had so much appeal that Holly kept on making them, and adults have bought them for their own inner child. Continue reading

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