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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho Voices

Artists sell wares at Eagles on Saturdays

There was rarely a dull moment or a dull pair of Fiskars growing up in a home with a woman who has deservedly earned herself the title “Queen of Crafts.” For as far back as memory serves, my mother dabbled in nearly every arts and crafts trend to cross the cultural radar in the last four decades.

While doll-making was a constant over the years, there were different craft epochs in our household. First there was the dark, hairy Precambrian age of Macramé, when rope-art owls with big beady eyes ruled the sunken den and ivies entwined themselves around dusty rust-colored plant hangers.

The subsequent Paleozoic Mod-Podge era of decoupage, dried flowers and dry-bean-and-noodle art was followed by the brief, but, important Triassic Stained Glass period, complete with light table and welding torch. Soon these primitive tools were replaced by a variety of saws and sanders for use in creating wood shapes for toll painting. In the ’80s, no suburban home was complete without a fake wooden watermelon with the weary greeting “Welcome” hot-glued to its face.

Arts and crafts have made somewhat of a comeback recently, especially among hip individuals who read ReadyMade magazine and flood Internet sites like etsy and artfire with out-there concepts like tequila-scented soy candles in shot glasses or hot pink crocheted Princess Leia earmuffs for dogs. Making stuff is fun, a constructive and therapeutic alternative to spending hours in front of the widescreen playing Grand Theft Auto 4 for PlayStation 3.

It’s unlikely that making hand-stamped, linocut Arbor Day greeting cards will pay for too many Riviera vacations or buy massive amounts of bling and Cadillacs. However, you might be able to at least make back your initial investment and possibly pad your pockets with a little extra cash.

Longtime Coeur d’Alene resident Madeleine Bessette came up with the idea to create a venue for local artsy and crafty types to sell their goods after submitting her rock-and-feather jewelry to the downtown co-ops only to be told there was simply no more space. She had tried the local outdoor Farmers Market, but after watching her inventory blow away in the wind one too many times, she decided it was more trouble than it was worth.

After hearing similar complaints from other merchants, including a candy maker who saw chocolate treats melt away in the summer heat, she was inspired to create an alternative Saturday marketplace.

“With the way the economy is today, I was looking for a good way to help artists and other local vendors have an affordable way to show their wares,” says Bessette. She was looking for an indoor location, someplace where they might be willing to share her vision despite her complete lack of budget. Ironically, when she approached the Eagles Lodge in downtown Coeur d’Alene about using their cavernous dining room, they asked her how much it was going to cost them.

Bessette laughs, recalling how she told them, “Nothing at all, just keep the electricity on and unlock the door, and I’ll handle the rest.”

Going a step further, she decided to hand over all money collected for table rent directly to the Eagles, who in turn will donate it to the various charities they support. It’s a winning situation for all parties involved. The artists and craftsmen will have a low-cost opportunity to display and sell their goods away from the whims of the weather. The Eagles Lodge will earn some needed cash toward funding to find cures for heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Plus, visitors will be able to snag unique mementos with a lot more pizazz than ceramic mugs or “Core-Duh-Lane” T-shirts and a lot less expensive than a Stephen Lyman painting.

“There are many places for tourists to buy typical souvenirs. I like the idea of actually meeting the person who made the item. They’ll return home with something that represents North Idaho with a face to attach to it and maybe a story to tell,” Bessette said.

Bessette only has a few simple rules for qualification: Items must be created in North Idaho and be approximately 80 percent handmade. Along with jewelry and candy, items available on opening day next weekend will include hand-stitched purses and baby items, candles, carved wooden birds, flower seed greeting cards and lots of items with local flavor, like “Idaho potato bags.”

One young girl, who is splitting the cost of a table with a friend, makes paintings on old CDs and DVDs and turns them into magnets. Now, why didn’t I think of that? Actually, after brainstorming ideas, I’ve decided I may rent a table to peddle the fruit of my latest hobby, making cigarette cases out of Hudson’s Hamburger wrappers.

Contact correspondent Patrick Jacobs by e-mail at orangetv@yahoo.com. For more restaurant and nightlife reviews, music commentary and random thoughts and photos, visit his blog at getoutnorthidaho.com.
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