As I approached Stacey’s booth at Mugler Plaza today, I was reminded of something she had told me when I interviewed her in September 2019. When I’d asked her what kept her motivated to create her charming pieces, she answered, “I make things that connect me to this beautiful area, that make me smile — and I have fun creating them!”
“Hi, Stacey,” I opened. “Might you have a moment this morning for an interview?”
“Of course,” she replied smiling.
After we’d settled ourselves, I glanced over at her two tables full of an eye-catching assortment of Christmas ornaments, fun visors, note cards, ceramic pieces, “Idaho potato” soaps, interesting fly-fishing themed earrings, and amazing Idaho-shaped sugar cookies. “I see you’ve expanded your inventory since we interviewed last in 2019!”
“Yes,” she replied smiling. “At that time, I was just making ceramic Idaho potato soap dishes and a few other things. Last year, during the Covid lockdown, I really started expanding my line.
“Christmastime in ‘19, my father-in-law gifted me and my husband a glass ornament containing one of his hand-tied fishing flies. He is a very talented woodcarver and has been tying his own fishing flies for several years now. The two of us soon began brainstorming what we might do together art wise. In March ‘20, my mother-in-law, a gifted artist in water color and pen-and-ink art (who had been listening in on our conversations) surprised us with what she’d been up to — her own whimsical artwork based on our fly fishing theme. In her early life, she had studied art and dabbled in many different mediums and styles. She and her husband raised their children around all kinds of art forms. Their influence has grown with them, and now they are all talented artists in one form or another. My mother-in-law will create a few pieces she is inspired to do at the moment, then move off to create something else. Like these eight pairs of earrings adorned with fishing flies over here,” Stacey continued as she brought one over to show me.
“What else has she done?” I asked.
“She puts her clever ink drawings along the fronts of these visors over here,” Stacey said as she pointed over to a few visors on the table near the ornaments.
Several customers had been carefully looking over the items displayed on Stacey’s first table. “We’re looking for gifts,” one of them began, “something great for the holidays.”
Excusing herself from me, Stacey stood up and went over to her little ornament tree on the table. “These are popular,” she said. “And you can fish with the fly, too!”
Another customer had picked up one of Stacey’s fish ornaments made of ceramic red clay. “This is nice, too,” she remarked holding it up in front of her.
After the sales were accomplished, Stacey brought out a notebook and made some notes. “My father-in-law likes to know what flies are popular. Just like what flies the fish are biting at on the stream! It’s a true collaborative effort — I supply the glass, and he ties the flies. They’re all based on traditional fly-fishing patterns, and he puts the names of the flies on the labels. That’s how I know which ones are selling.
“As you can see, the theme on our family table is fly fishing. My husband, a talented artist himself, does water color paintings of fishing scenes like these over here,” she points smiling and takes one to show me up close.
“How did your husband get interested in adding his paintings to your collection?” I was curious.
“He’s always been a fisherman, and that came into play in his art. He has spent a lot of time on the Teton River, either fishing or painting wherever he finds inspiration. Like his mom, he does beautiful work in both water colors and pen and ink.”
Rio, one of our younger artisans, came around looking for one of Stacey’s large, Idaho-shaped cookies. She and Stacey negotiated the “deal”, and Rio left happily munching away. “What kind of cookies are they?” I had to know!
“They’re scrumptious sugar cookies made with a butter-cream frosting and topped with colorful ‘gemstone’ sprinkles. Many people aren’t aware Idaho is the Gemstone State, or that you can dig for gemstones here — as well as potatoes!
“I had an engaged couple come by either the first or second week of our Artisan’s Market and buy one to try. They told me they would be gone for a while to have lunch but would be back to let me know if they wanted an order. They were back in less than an hour to order ninety cookies they said would be perfect for their wedding party later this month.”
“Wonderful!” I exclaimed. “Now, let’s go back to gemstones...”
“I’ve known about Idaho gemstones since I was a kid, and now in adult life, I’m connecting the dots, so to speak. I often use gemstone-colored glazes for my ceramic pieces, and now I would like to dig for the stones themselves! I heard about of a family-owned opal mine up in the Idaho panhandle I’d like to explore one day, and, just two hours away, there’s a family who owns a hillside where anyone can go and dig for $5 a bucket of stones. Idaho has a lot to discover under the ground — and it’s not just potatoes! So much yet to do...”