Since moving here in 1994, I have always searched for what I think of as 'quirky Seattle.' I'm talking about the places and businesses that are not concerned with being cool. Instead, these spots feel authentic, creative, and fun. In the 1990s, I lived in Belltown and the low rise buildings - glass hot shops, laundromats, and night clubs - felt like home. From zines made at copy shops to bands formed in basements, the DIY ethic inspired me.
As anyone who has lived here awhile knows, twenty years later, we find Seattle in a bittersweet situation. Our downtown is thriving, there is gobs of money being made, and physical growth (and increasing gridlock) is happening fast. That means the arty little rough spots are becoming polished and glossy.
As is common with change, there is loss to mourn, but also opportunity to embrace. The handmade community is thriving through venues like Etsy and huge modern craft shows. Innovative technology makes things easier for micro-businesses -- from Square readers to WYSWG web design platforms. With the wealth in Seattle, have money to spend on handmade things. Still, I search for the quirky Northwest in undiscovered corners of this place.
Sew What's Next?
When I moved out of the retail space I occupied for nearly thirteen years over the summer, I said goodbye to my little patch of quirky Seattle.
I left behind a building that was not charming or cute on the outside. It had plumbing problems and the ceiling was cracked. The corner definitely wasn't cool back in 2002 when I signed the lease and my husband Jeff did some pretty intense work to make it into a serviceable studio and shop.
I think some people who visited the shop in the early days felt sorry about the location and wondered if I had a plan. My secret was that I loved that the space was affordable, nestled in a cozy neighborhood. I felt I could chart my own course there. The city, my team, and our customers inspired me for a long time and I remain grateful.
The great news is that I've found a new spot for a studio a bit further north in Edmonds, Washington. Jeff and I hoisted the sign, so it's official! The space isn't open to the public for now, but I anticipate events and open houses in the future. Right now I'm just enjoying setting things up and starting to sew and create. I can make things for my website and wholesale business, work on new projects, and recharge creatively, but still have the freedom to enjoy travel and weekends off!
The location is perfect: two miles from my house and chock full of not gentrified quirkiness. Within the complex you can:
Get your dog washed
Get your cat groomed
Buy exotic fish
Go see a play
Buy dollhouse miniatures
Drop your pooch off for day care
Get your hair done
Eat Turkish food
Buy a latte
Have a diner breakfast
Get your books kept
Take belly dancing classes
Order custom floral arrangements
Here's to fresh starts and quirky places to discover!
I took this picture on an early summer Saturday day trip to Whidbey Island. Since closing up shop in late January, I've been on more than twenty planes and several mini road trips. There's a great big world out there and I'm excited to keep exploring it!
Since 2002, I've shared my love of fabric, color, and handmade goods via my retail store, blog, and web boutique, Laura Bee Designs.
Check out our handbag studio blog (2006-2014) here.