One of our artists, Jennifer Eskridge, wrote her very first blog entry about us… Thank you Jennifer!  I hope we can live up to your glowing comments!  🙂

Paradise Found – The Stash – Fairbanks Alaska

Okay, I realize that most of you would not consider Interior Alaska paradise, at least not in the middle of winter. Perhaps I am overstating a bit, but during these dark winter days I have found a source of sunshine in downtown Fairbanks – and it’s not just their bright yellow walls. The Stash is generating real warmth.

The Stash is Fairbanks’s own Handmade Gallery and Sewing Lounge.

Sewing Lounge! I love this, what community doesn’t need a venue that supports creativity in a hands-on and straight-forward manner. A sewing lounge, destination for beginner and experienced seamstress, crafter, and fiber artist alike. The equipment you need is there, set-up and rentable by the hour, space to spread out, and if you need it, a little help from your friends at The Stash.

Cool? Yes.

But really, a Sewing Lounge?

In San Fransico? Sure.

In Fairbanks Alaska? Why not?

It is not the first of it’s kind. A drop-in urban sewing lounge exists in the Bay Area for those who long to “sew and socialize” which is aptly named Stitch and gets credit for blazing this particular trail back in 2000. Since then a handful of other locations can boast a sewing lounge, but they are decidely “sew urban” and exist almost exclusively in large metropolitian areas such as Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, St. Paul, and Seattle.

However, you don’t need to be an urbanite to see the practicality of a place where you can use, but don’t have to keep and maintain, the sewing equipment you need. In Fairbanks Alaska, we don’t all have sewing rooms or studios, or perhaps we do, but currently the children are sleeping there. However, just as many of us live in cozier accomodations ranging from the classically full home, to dry cabins, or dorm rooms.

This snug bit of truth places our local sewing lounge on the cutting edge of the artist and maker revolution. Just think: this could be the end of dragging your sewing machine out of the closet or, as I do, borrowing one. No longer will you displace meals from the dinner table, or struggle to remember how to use this particular model of sewing machine. No more will you need to hunch protectively over your project, acutely aware of the “premium real estate” you are occupying in-house, feeling rushed to finish what you have started before a riot ensues. Hassel will no longer be the number one killer of Creativity!

Why not? Because the Stashettes, Rachael Brechan, Jane Magelky, and Robyn Neilko – the owners of The Stash – hear you and are providing a haven where ideas flow, artists and makers connect, and creativity isn’t just surviving – it is living LARGE.

You can learn to make duct tape accessories – think craft meets punk rock – or soulful knits, that warm the heart, heads, and hands of those who make, as well as recieve, them.
The Stash hosts special events and participates in First Friday – Fairbanks’s well-established monthly evening of gallery strolling and meet-the-artists type mingling.

In a manner both inspired and practical, the Stashettes are confident that art enhances the quality of life and they are helping others make that connection all over Fairbanks. Already they have hosted a variety of projects including a knit-a-thon, in which local knitters took part in an evening of knitting hat’s for chemo patients. Currently, they are supporting a drive for blankets that will be distributed by the Northern Council on Aging and they maintain display space billed as “For Kids, by Kids” which promotes local artists and makers who are under the age of 18, many significantly younger than 18.

Less than six months after opening The Stash has grown from showcasing a few dozen local artists and makers to approximately 100 local artists and makers whose vision and designs reflect a willingness to take risks, a sassy flavor, or an ironic playfulness that one doesn’t always associate with traditional galleries. Their sign boasts 100% Handmade – 100% Local and is brimming with hand-spun and hand-dyed wools, vintage fabrics, artistically re-purposed materials, and one-of-a-kind products, which are selected through a juried review and all of which support a creativity-based counter-economy.. The Stash is another step forward in the efforts to revitalize downtown. A downtown that recognizes increasing its appeal among longstanding independant-thinking Fairbanksians as well as newer community members means providing more choices for the socially conscious consumer.

To me, all this feels like a begining, an underground movement breaking through, grass-roots social action taking hold. Surely these women are represenatives of the indie craft movement emerging across the nation? When I asked each of the owners, they say it isn’t so. True, they offer an alternative to mass-produced goods. Their shoppers can make purchases and feel good knowing they are directly impacting the local economy. The environmentally consious are pleased to have a selection of artists and makers whose products embody the revamp, reuse, and recycle ethic. Additionally, everyone seems to enjoy discovering just how much talent exists in our community. But no, it turns out that community-building, helping revitalize local economy, and social responsibility are just natural by-products of their collective creative process.

How lucky are we? Okay, admittedly I gush. Go see for yourself – l’ll see you there.