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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Unique gifts on sale at the Artisans United Craft Gallery

Textile designs are reflected in a wooden mirror, with inlaid mosaics, by Richard Allen. 
If you’re looking for one-of-a kind, expertly hand-crafted gifts, the Artisans United Craft Gallery in Annandale is the place to find them.

During the months of November and December, the Craft Gallery is open 10 a.m-4 p.m. seven days a week. The tiny shop is in the Fred Packard Center at 4022C Hummer Road in Annandale Community Park.

Beaded jewelry by Karen Bowes.
The tiny shop is packed with beautiful things, including glass and polymer jewelry, paper holiday ornaments, stuffed animals, hand-painted scarves, knit purses, wooden boxes, framed photos, cloth coasters, embellished serving utensils, and much more. Several artisans spoke to guests about their work at a reception at the gallery last Sunday.

Karen Bowes, a resident of Burke, specializes in bead weaving. She makes lovely bracelets and other jewelry from tiny glass beads using a Native American technique called “peyote stitch” or “gourd style.”

“What I like about bead weaving is there are so many different kinds of stitches,” says Bowes, who uses beads from Japan, the Czech Republic, and other places. “You get frustrated. You never get bored.”

Platters and bowls by Richard Allen. 
Bowes first got into beads when her father gave her a Native American bead loom when she was a child. Her interested in the craft was reignited about 15 years ago when she visited a bead shop in Alexandria and signed up for a class.

Richard Allen, the gallery director, uses a lathe to make round, wooden objects, including platters, bowls, mirrors, ring stands, pepper mills, and kaleidoscopes. Some of the pieces have inlaid mosaics, and others have patterns burned into the wood.

Like many of the artisans at the Craft Gallery, Allen became more active in his craft after retiring. He had done woodworking before but had always wanted to try wood turning, so when he earned a bonus at work, he bought a lathe and joined the Capital Area Woodturners, one of 10 craft guilds that are part of Artisans United.

A resident of the Falls Church area of Mason District, Allen says his favorite wood is curly maple, but he also uses red oak, American black walnut, bocote, and box elder.

Children's sweaters knitted by Peggy Taves.
Most of the items at the gallery by knitter Peggy Taves, are for babies and small children. She created cute, colorful “pocket hats” with a handy pocket for a parent to hide a Kleenex for a runny nose.

Taves, a resident of Fairfax, designs her own patterns. She focuses on dressing youngsters because she like to work on small projects and incorporate humorous designs, like a tiny sweater with an owl pattern.

Now retired, Taves had created soft “sensory integration blankets” when she worked as a physical therapist for autistic children who couldn’t deal with scratchy fabrics.

Also on sale at the craft gallery: wood plaques, puzzles, and note cards featuring artistically enhanced photos of African wildlife by Gini Moore of Falls Church.

The photos are from a virtual safari at the Djuma Private Game Preserve in South Africa broadcast online by WildSafariLive, a program of the National Geographic Channel.

Wildlife scenes by Gini Moore. 
To have their works displayed in the Craft Gallery, artisans have to be approved by a jury. The work must be high quality and also must be a good fit for the small shop. There’s no room for a 15-foot sculpture, for example, and the gallery wants a variety of items and styles, says Katrina Sarlin, the president of Artisans United.

Most of the proceeds from craft sales go to the artisans, while a percentage supports the gallery’s rent at the Packard Center, a building owned by the Fairfax County Park Authority and named for the county’s first parks director. The gallery doesn’t receive any county funds.

Anyone interested in learning a craft can contact the gallery for referrals to classes taught by guild members. Among the guilds represented at the gallery are the Potomac Fiber Arts Council, Waterford Weavers Guild, Quilters United, and National Capital Art Glass Guild.

Crafts provide “an outlet for creativity, allow artisans to express their individuality, and bring joy to one’s life,” Sarlin says. “When I began working with polymer, it was like a toy I couldn’t put down.”


  1. Nice stuff, thank you for sharing, I didn't know this place existed. Wouldn't it be great if Annandale could be known as an arts district such "The Annandale Art District" rather than the "Dump" as it typically is referenced on this site.

    Penny Gross should be focusing on this spurring this kind of urban renewal for artists, young residents and and an arts and craft center rather than her hair brain ideas of throwing social service centers at us. It must be her revenge agains Lake Barcroft and Sleepy Hollow at play.

  2. Penny Gross has been a multiyear supporter of Artisans United. She helped us work out a rent deal and has had several exhibits of our work and artisans in her office.

  3. Great idea! Allow artists to rent vacant space until a permanent tenant can be found, or subsidize space for artists/artisans to draw shoppers to the area. Visited Staunton, VA which has created a vibrant destination downtown of theater, art studios, bookshops. Also have a wine tasting shop that also sells high end chocolate & snacks. Great idea to promote the many Virginia wines w/o having to drive to the wineries.