New Clinton store serves as a collective for island’s creatives

The Whidbey Artists Collective showcases artists and artisans’ wares from all over the island.

Laurie Sullivan repurposes vintage wool hats and adds Native American style beadwork to them. (Farage Photography)

Laurie Sullivan repurposes vintage wool hats and adds Native American style beadwork to them. (Farage Photography)

CLINTON — When Whidbey Wonders at Ken’s Korner shuttered because of the pandemic, an artist stepped up to save the store.

Now called Whidbey Artists Collective, the shop continues Whidbey Wonders’ mission of showcasing a collective of artists and artisans from all over the island.

Owner Carie Elder put out a call for one of her members to take over Whidbey Wonders in May. Elder opened the store in 2018 in a 2,000-square-foot space at Ken’s Korner.

Jamie Farage-Conners, who had been displaying her photography there, answered Elder’s call. Farage-Conners, who also owns Farage Photography, reopened the store as Whidbey Artists Collective in September.

Not only did Farage-Conners step up to run the place for creators to display their wares year-round, her new business plans to offer classes taught by the artists and artisans featured in the store.

When COVID-19 restrictions allow it, Farage-Conners teaches weekly photography and embroidery classes, plus a variety of arts and crafts sessions. You can make your own kite, try out hydro dipping, paint a salty apple and more.

When it was Whidbey Wonders, the store displayed up to 65 artists at a time. With the pandemic, Farage-Conners said it’s been difficult to retain many of Elder’s members because of COVID-19 hardships.

“We lost a lot of people,” she said. “Most of the artists needed to take care of family, or they themselves were at risk. A lot of them had to leave the state, a lot of them lost their jobs.”

But because of community outreach, Whidbey Artists Collective currently has about 30 artists represented, many of whom are new to the space. Farage-Conners is hoping to sign up at least 44 members. Monthly rent is $30-$50, based on how much inventory is displayed.

Connie Lovell, who has her monster dolls displayed, said the store is great for lesser-known artists like herself. Lovell’s dolls are made of painted fabrics and have quirky names such as “Miss Merlot” and “Honey-Do Hubby.”

“Jamie’s great,” Lovell said. “She’s trying to make a go of it.”

Laurie Sullivan, who repurposes vintage wool hats and adds Native American-style beadwork to them, agreed with Farage-Conners’s management.

“She’s got great ideas,” Sullivan said. “Her communication level is lovely with the artists.”

Denise Perkins, who liked to shop at Whidbey Wonders, was inspired to join the represented artists at the Whidbey Artists Collective after meeting Farage-Conners. Perkins makes coasters out of Scrabble letters, as well as beeswax candles and crystal sun catchers.

“I said, ‘I used to be crafty,’” Perkins said. “She said, ‘Go do it.’”

Among the scarves and salves, pillows and purses, jewelry and journals, calendars and cork stoppers at Whidbey Artists Collective, you also can find COVID-era items, including an assortment of fabric masks and an embroidery that warns “Six feet back or six feet under.”

Farage-Conners said she plans to resume the socially distanced art classes after Gov. Jay Inslee’s restrictions lift.

But, for now, you can pick up to-go craft kits for $5 each. Craft kits include journals to collage, beadwork and bookmarks to color. She said the kits are just as popular with adults as they are with children.

While the pandemic didn’t take away the art, the space is no longer accompanied by Elder’s Knead Bakery. (The new owner admits her customers were sad to see it go.) But Farage-Conners has added her own personal touch to the store — a photo booth. Much like the photo booths you can find in mall corridors, Farage-Conners’s photo booth snaps a strip of pictures that can be printed in store for $5.

She also photographs many of the items on display to promote the artists’ wares on the Whidbey Artists Collective Facebook page. Farage-Conners loves that she’s using her commercial photography degree from Seattle Central College as the owner of the shop.

Farage-Conners envisions the store as a place where Whidbey artists and artisans can one day teach their own crafts. She doesn’t want to be the only art teacher there. (One artist taught a couple of Lego collage classes, but has yet to schedule more.) As long as there are enough sign ups, Farage-Conners said teaching an hour-long class can cover an artist’s monthly rent payment.

“I’d like it to sort of become a school,” she said. “It’s a collective where people just collect and work and make art and promote each other.”

If you go

Whidbey Artists Collective, formerly Whidbey Wonders, 11042 Highway 525, Suite 128, Clinton, is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Call 206-697-0769 or go to www.whidbeyartistscollective.com for more information.

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