The good news is that there’s too much to mention.
The shopping season approaches. (Shop owners will tell you that it is always the shopping season; but there’s shopping and then there’s Shopping.) There is little reason to leaving the island to shop, and plenty of reasons for folks on the mainland to make a special trip to the island. Want something with a brand name on it? There are big box stores for that. Want something unique? Well, Whidbey Island certainly has a long list of places that will provide art, crafts, and uncommon items that are difficult to categorize. Welcome to some of Whidbey’s collections of artists.
Start in Oak Harbor. (Almost) everything is available in Oak Harbor thanks to a variety of familiar names for those big box stores. For something more local, keep in mind places like Garry Oak Gallery, an artists’ coop on Pioneer Way, a road and a line of shops that encourages strolling with occasional diversions for drinks and other energizing food groups.
Coupeville’s artist coop, Penn Cove Gallery has been open for over two decades, and sits by Main Street. Wander the waterfront, maybe head out to the wharf, drop in on the museum, or check out the other stores filling the old town. Fresher mussels are hard to find. Wave at them and wonder if there’s a way to ship them – or at least ship someone a gift card.
Greenbank Farm’s Artworks Gallery, as well as Raven Rocks Gallery and wine and cheese shops makes the Farm a fine place to get away from the “crowds”. Shopping is a bit more casual when surrounded by quiet and nature. Pets appreciate it, too, thanks to broad meadows and forested trails. People can also appreciate finding the right spot to catch glimpses of two mountain ranges (weather permitting, of course.)
Langley’s Whidbey Art Gallery is celebrating their Grand Reopening (which was prompted by the consequences of a freakish bit of weather. Ask them for details.) Langley has a mix of galleries and gift shops, and some shops that blur the lines with furnishings and clothing that could be considered art, or craft, or whatever. That’s true for each of these collections of collectives.
Clinton doesn’t miss out, thanks to Whidbey Wonders in Ken’s Corner “that wants to champion our island economy” with locally produced art, as well as artistic produce. (Disclosure: they are currently displaying some of my translucent satin photos.) And, down by the ferry is Madrona Supply Co, home for the work of several artists – including furniture-sized live-edge wood slabs that can spark creativity.
The bad news is that there’s too much to mention.
Around each of the places mentioned are several more places. Driving from one area to another means driving past individual studios with dedicated galleries where you meet the artists, see their work spaces, and see innovations that may not make it into a gallery. Apologies to everyone who is overlooked. (You’re welcome to include yourself via the Comment section below.)
Within each of these places is an opportunity to do more than buy gifts. Each purchase can be an opportunity to meet the artist, to understand what work was required to create it, and to help a creative person live a sustainable life – instead of it being pooled and then pulled to some remote corporation. That’s a gift that can be equally appreciated, no wrapping required.
As if that wasn’t enough. There are farmers, ranchers, distillers, brewers, winemakers, and folks pulling fish from the sea. There are also trips to sea to see Deception Pass or whales, wherever they may be. Then, there are those services that work so well for personal services like massages, readings, and pampering. Maybe the gift for someone who has everything is nothing, except a customized retreat at a B&B with gift certificates for meals and drinks and well – you know your friends best.
Good shopping! Good gifting. And, be good to yourself.