EMERALD ISLE — A new store called The Artisan Gallery opened in this Bogue Banks town earlier this year to give senior citizens and other artists a place to sell their handiwork and crafts.
A quick glance around the storefront, at 8201 Emerald Drive, shows hand-thrown pottery, stained glass and blown glass pieces, jewelry pieces, artisanal exotic wood carvings and much more.
For Joan Bomhard, the owner, The Artisan Gallery is proof that dreams can come true if you work hard to achieve them.
For years, Ms. Bomhard would talk with other artisan vendors she would meet at craft shows across the state and would tell them that one day she would have a gallery, and when that day came, she wanted them to come sell their offerings at her storefront.
“I would make friends with the folks in the tents next to me,” she said, noting that she thought highly of these folks who would spend long hours sitting outside at craft shows trying to sell their products like she was. Ms. Bombard made T-shirts that can stretch to fit most sizes and coordinating jewelry.
Several years later, and she made her dream a reality with the help of her husband and The Support Center in Raleigh, which gives loans to small businesses.
Her search began at the Small Business Center at Carteret Community College, where she was told that The Support Center would likely be able to help her with her dream.
Within a year, she found a storefront and received a loan. She was able to reach out to the friends she had made at past craft shows and suggested they bring their items to her new gallery to sell.
“Most of my people are senior citizens,” she said. “I think it was an area that really needed to be addressed, to offer opportunities for them.”
She said The Artisan Gallery focuses primarily on senior citizens’ work, but accepts items from artists of all ages. By primarily allowing senior citizens to sell their work at her storefront, she feels she is offering new opportunities for them.
“If they sell something on a Tuesday, they have the check in their hand by the following Tuesday (for their work),” she said.
Ms. Bomhard said for the older artists, it is the chance for them to sell some of their products and make a bit of money to supplement their retirement or Social Security checks to help put food on the table or financially help another need.
“When you go to the festivals, that’s who you see, the seniors,” said Ms. Bomhard. “The majority of them have aged, have time to do it, are already retired from their jobs, and their children, like mine, are grown up.”
As she walked around her well-lit gallery, she pointed out various pieces that were furnished by specific artists. Some use their particular craft as a way to deal with the grief of losing a child or other loved one, she said.
“Everything here is handmade, every piece is just handmade with so much love and caring. … Everything in here is made just that, there’s not another piece like it. You can’t just order six and get it tomorrow. I think to me, that’s the biggest thing – just each piece is so unique.”
Ms. Bomhard hopes in time she will be able to hire area senior citizens to come in and help take care of the various art exhibits in her gallery. This will give them some extra income, as well as a chance for them to socialize with others in a setting they may not normally have available to them, she said.
In addition, Ms. Bomhard plans offer classes to the public to teach how to quilt, crochet, knit, paint, throw pottery and make beaded jewelry.
“These are all the things that we need to pass down (to the next generation),” she said.
Her gallery also has a small seating area that she has opened to law enforcement, firefighters and first responders who may be seeking a quiet place to sit and relax on a hard day. She offers coffee and said they are welcome to use her Internet while they are spending time in the gallery.
The Artisan Gallery is open from noon – 8 p.m. six days a week. It is closed on Tuesdays.
Those interested in having their work for sale at the gallery or have questions about what is offered can contact Ms. Bomhard at 910-284-7542 or by email at email@example.com.
Contact Anna Harvey at 252-726-7081, ext. 229; email firstname.lastname@example.org; or follow on Twitter @annaccnt.