Carman stops to talk with me for a few moments. On Friday night, he hopes to fill the place, and begin to fulfill the mission of CHARTS (Child Humanitarian Arts): connecting local artists and art enthusiasts for the sake of children in the community.
COMMENTS: At F&C, we've noticed that our mission is somewhat encapsulated by a couple of viral hashtags that will once again make their rounds this weekend.
COMMENTS: The meal starts off well, and gets better. We're greeted by not one, but two charming Frenchmen, whose accents make each ingredient sound even more delicious. I opt for the bartender's whim...
It was 1997 when Jody Steensland met the man who would later become her husband. She didn't know it at the time. She also didn't know that—in the very same moment—she was meeting the art form that would change her story.
"He was wearing this bracelet," she remembers. "Stainless steel byzantine chain maille in a very unique weave. I had grown up in a small town, and I'd never seen anything like it."
She was smitten. She kept seeing the guy, and she began experimenting with making chain maille jewelry—starting simple, of course. Nearly twenty years later, her relationships with both are still thriving. That one moment had given her the gift of her life's central relationship and her lifelong creative endeavor.
Chain maille has a couple thousand years of history, and is best known for its use in sheets that can protect your body from a sword or a shark bite. But fine jewelry is a unique and striking use that is a bit more relevant to everyday life.
Along the way, Steensland began to wonder if she could begin selling her creations to the public, rather than just keeping them and giving them to friends. Her skills and craft had grown, and her intricate, made-from-scratch work was beginning to earn a reputation in the inland northwest. Maille and More Chainworks was born.
In 2011, she joined Pottery Place Plus in Spokane's Liberty Building. If you've been to Auntie's Bookstore, you may have found yourself wandering into this haven where local artists and craftspeople showcase and sell their passionately made goods. You may not have realized that it's one of longest-running art co-ops in the nation (open since the 1970s). For Steensland, being part of this community has taken things to the next level. She began in the guest artist program: each month, a different guest artist shows and sells at PPP, also visiting for demonstrations and/or a First Friday evening reception.
"I sold more than I had imagined I would," she says. "Not a ton, but enough to definitely signal to me that this is possible."
Since then, she has focused vocationally on her work and become a permanent member at Pottery Place Plus. She also sells her items at Echo Boutique, an upscale consignment shop in south downtown, and shows at renaissance fairs and art shows around the region. Her customers cherish the fully handmade pieces because the unique weaves are the fruit of Steensland's time-intensive creative process, not the mass-produced work of a factory.
"I don't buy any pre-made materials. It starts with the wire: lots and lots of wire," she says.
But a visit to the Liberty Building to talk with Steensland reveals something obvious: wire isn't the only raw material at work here. Creativity, passion, hard work, and a community of supportive artists/family/friends/partners/patrons/customers are all woven together to make her life as a working artist possible.
Shop Small For All: This week, I asked Spokane Short List retailers which unique items their customers are raving about this holiday season.
COMMENTS: Rolling around a somewhat surreal wind-battered Spokane, I'm quieted by each uprooted tree I come across, each downed...
COMMENTS: I’ve read stories (probably Steinbeck) of folks going on drives for the joy of taking in the surroundings
when quality starts speaking for itself. For a while now, we've had this playful, self-deprecating thing going on in Spokane...
COMMENTS: It's fun to hang out at the short list of places that exemplify the very best of Spokane, and chat about what's coming up. I also love it when I see some of my favorite local places coming together for creative projects.
COMMENTS: I belly up to the bar at Black Label Brewing in Saranac Commons, and ask Steve what’s new. He’s friendly as always, and we shoot the breeze a bit.
COMMENTS: I make my way up the stairs to the mezzanine level of the Liberty Building, after gazing up to the skylights in the building's hollow center. Being surrounded by books makes me a little more gazey than normal, perhaps. After a friendly greeting from Joe Johnson, he pulls me a cold pint from his keg.
COMMENTS: Driving around town they hang on the fronts of houses, colorful and flapping, like Tibetan prayer flags. Nope: there hasn't been a Buddhist revival in Spokane. Yep: it's the Friday before Bloomsday
by Ross Carper
Yep, it’s going off right now. The annual Get Lit! Festival. Here’s where we’re at with this thing: last year’s headliner just won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction (Anthony Doerr, All The Light We Cannot See). That’s how good this week-long event is. It’s also your cue to get out there and enjoy at least some of it, whether you’re a visitor or a local Auntie's denizen. We’ll make it easy for you: three top-notch events paired with some local food/drink to complete your literary night out.
A Tiny Sense of Accomplishment with Jess Walter and Sherman Alexie
Pairing: Burgers beforehand, Wisconsinburger (916 S. Hatch St)
As a fiction writer myself, these fellas are superheroes to me. Rock stars. It doesn’t help the ol’ pride that my mom is always reminding me how she was Jess Walter’s 9th grade English teacher. That she made him read Great Expectations, a book he referenced heavily in Citizen Vince. Cool, mom. Take credit for his critically acclaimed bestsellers. Be prouder of him than you are of me. I don’t care. I’m just thanking my lucky stars we have both Walter and Sherman Alexie as heavy hitters in the Spokane fiction scene. What? They’ve started a wildly popular and funny/awesome podcast? And they’re recording it live onstage? At a free Get Lit event? Duh I’m going. But I’m not bringing my mom.
The Annual Pie & Whiskey Reading with Kate Lebo and Sam Ligon
I ran into Sam the other day at Saranac Commons. He’s a former professor of mine. I love seeing him out in the city because he’s never having a bad or boring time. He’s also the sharpest editor I’ve been around, with no patience for stuff that isn’t great. With this brainchild of his, now in its fourth year, he has combined many things that are unquestionably great: pie, whiskey, poetry, prose, and a night out carousing with friends. This year Kate Lebo is the co-host, and she’s all about both writing and pie. It will be the place to be on Thursday night (read: packed). I live a few blocks away, so I’ll just stroll over early and see who appears.
The Round: Get Lit Edition
Pairing: A beer beforehand at Jones Radiator, a couple blocks east on Sprague.
Don’t you hate it when there are talented singer-songwriters and poets performing in front of you as visual artists create stuff all around the room? No, you don’t hate it. Because unless you’ve been to The Round before, it probably hasn’t happened to you. And you wouldn’t hate it because it’s really great. The Get Lit! edition features many, including Cami Bradley, in an intimate space. Get tickets beforehand so you’re all set.