Fourth and final in a series on where to find exceptional, handcrafted holiday gifts
When I walked into Show of Hands in Denver last week, the first thing I saw was the display you see at right. Bright colors, whimsy, folk art . . . immediately I caught the light-hearted mood developed by business partners Mandy Moscatelli and Katie Friedland, who purchased Show of Hands three years ago. I would soon learn that they want more than anything else to have Show of Hands be “a happy place,” where people of all ages and means can feel good and find handmade items they can afford.
It’s your turn to browse while I pass along what Katie shared about Show of Hands and the vision she and Mandy hold for the future of “handmade” wherever it’s found.
The World of a Young Gallery Owner
Katie, 42, feels like an anomaly in the world of private gallery owners. Her peers are older, she told me – and so are her customers, for that matter.
When it comes to running the business, Katie has ways of compensating for her relative youth. She cherishes the wisdom of Deb Kneal, who started Show of Hands in 1983 as an artisan co-op. Deb and 16 other artisans brought to Denver a sales concept similar to the one they knew at Boulder Arts and Crafts Gallery. Over the years, while Show of Hands was evolving toward private ownership, Deb was building its reputation nationally. At large trade shows, Katie and Mandy are awed when people come up to them and say in pleased voices, “Oh . . . You’re from Show of Hands!”
To have that kind of relationship, Katie realizes, you have to pay your bills on time and treat artisans, as well as customers, with respect. Sounds simple, but there has been nothing like facing the day-to-day challenges of gallery ownership to make it real to Katie in a way the rest of us might shrug off.
Deb still works at Show of Hands, and so do Rich McCanna and Jan Connell. Like Deb, Rich and Jan have been with Show of Hands for a long time. Deep respect for their experience resounds in Katie’s voice when she speaks of them; so does her gratitude for their continuing with her.
Grappling with the age demographics of her customers has been harder. Katie and Mandy appreciate and welcome their older customers. It’s noticing the lack of younger customers that’s the hard part.
The two partners have done everything they can to appeal to their generation and younger. That means carrying items that not only appeal visually to younger tastes but that also fit the budget of 20-somethings still getting on their feet financially. They have the right merchandise, Katie stated assuredly – it’s how to get younger customers to walk through the door that baffles them.
Branding may be the key, Katie believes, for a generation attached to name brands. She pointed out the logo that Denver artisan Sean Brown created and applied to his framed ceramic work, pictured above. The logo: a solidly colored, open-palmed hand above the word MADE. Katie and Mandy ponder possibilities: What if all handmade items could bear such a logo? And what would it take to make that happen?
As for herself, art is in her blood, Katie told me. Owning a gallery can be scary, she confided, but it’s what she loves. Nothing makes her happier than connecting with her customers and helping them connect with art that makes them happy.
The Door to a Fun World of Art
Show of Hands is located at 210 Clayton Street in Denver’s Cherry Creek North shopping district. I was delighted to find a small amount of private parking right outside. The gallery is open seven days a week and occasionally offers “trunk shows” on Saturdays, which give customers a chance to meet the featured artisan. Sometimes small classes in an artisan’s specialty are offered as well.
On the Show of Hands website, there’s a complete list of the gallery’s artisans, with links to information and photos of their art. You will find a nice mix of the whimsical (mostly Katie’s choices) and the practical (mostly Mandy’s). Scroll down on the “about” page to see a photo of Katie and Mandy — the picture of the spirit of fun.
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