Arts & Culture

A garage sale with a creative twist

Olympia jewelry maker Leslie Sirag sold so much at the first Artists Garage Sale that she launched an online shop called Findings (www.leslietsy.etsy.com) to sell items year round.

“I’ve been making jewelry and dolls for at least 50 years,” said Sirag, who’ll be back for the second garage sale Saturday. “I sell them at craft fairs. I took findings with me, and they sold so well that I did better than I’d ever done at a craft fair.”

The garage sale, a project of the Olympia Arts Commission, will have 72 booths this year.

“We had some really fun stuff last year,” said Stephanie Johnson, arts and events manager for the City of Olympia. “One guy had a bunch of rocks, and I thought, ‘Rocks? What’s going to happen with that?’ There was a woman who walked out with a bunch of rocks in a box because she was doing bonsai.

“And there was an artist who does graphite drawing, and he also brought tomatoes.”

The sale has replaced the Artists Studio Tour, a city event that had been attracting fewer and fewer artists willing to open their studios to the public for a weekend.

“The commission wanted to start something else that provided an opportunity for artists and the public to engage,” Johnson said. “The Artists Garage Sale also allows artists to meet one another.

“It’s much more than just exchanging things; it’s about creating a network and a community of people.”

Sirag certainly found that to be true. In addition to selling lots of findings, she did some trading and buying herself; encountered someone who works with magnetic beads, something she was interested in learning about; and made friends with an artist staffing a neighboring booth.

“We don’t have a lot of stuff where you get to meet local artists,” she said. “At the big craft fairs, a lot of the artists aren’t local. But this is local: The people there are people you might run into in the supermarket.”

The sale has proved popular not only with artists but also with the public.

“Considering that we had a couple of hundred people a year attend the studio tour, the fact that we had 1,300 people come through the door the first time we ran the garage sale certainly got our attention,” Johnson said.

“We thought, ‘We should do this every month,’ but we just couldn’t manage it, and it would maybe lose its charm if it was every month,” she added. “But we’re excited to roll it out again this year.”

As for Sirag, she sees a booming market for people buying art and craft supplies.

“Everybody is talking about the economy,” she said, “but Findings is doing fine. I think that’s because when the economy is down, people are more likely to make stuff for themselves.”

Artists Garage Sale

What: The second annual sale, a project of the Olympia Arts Commission, gives local artists a forum to sell art, art supplies and more.

When: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday

Where: National Guard Armory, 515 Eastside St. S.E., Olympia

Tickets: Free

More information: 360-753-8379

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