A dedication to crafts

Crafts Carousel offers an array of items in buckets and bins, on racks, shelves, hooks, drums and pins

Posted: Thursday, August 29, 2002

From an old warehouse containing a couple of dead buses and a tractor, Linda Lane has re-created the Craft Carousel.

Lane, who lived most of her life in the San Francisco Bay area, was a widow with two boys when she first came to Juneau in 1987.

With no work available in her field of phototypesetting, Lane, who described herself as "a complete workaholic," began to take commissions as a seamstress, making costumes for the servers in the Red Dog Saloon, as well as specialty items for the gift shop there.

"I was not a bad seamstress," she recalled, "and for years I made a lot of my own clothes."

The Craft Carousel originally was owned by Sue Stewart and was on Industrial Boulevard. Lane became a frequent customer of Stewart and bought the shop in 1994.

Within the next year, the business outgrew its location. Lane formed a business alliance with Tina Whitehead, of Tina's Fabric Boutique, which was in the Nugget Mall, and the two went in together on space at 9397 La Perouse.

Lane recalls standing there for the first time, thinking, " 'Oh my gosh, it's so big!' It was just scary. At first I just couldn't picture it redone. It had all these little areas like horse stalls or something. I just kept thinking, 'How much would it cost to re-do this thing?' It was overwhelming."

They opened in 1996, operating as separate businesses sharing space until 1998. Then Whitehead left Juneau, and Lane assumed the whole business, dropping the fabric line and creating a store dedicated to crafts.

Lane said, "I was really intimidated then by the prospect of filling all this space with inventory."

Her store offers an array of items in cases, buckets and bins, on racks, shelves, hooks, drums and pins. There are books, materials, adhesives and paints for a wide range of crafts and activities, running from the common to the esoteric.

How about a little tole painting, for instance?

Lane said the term originally referred to decorative painting on tin. The art emerged in New England in the latter part of the 18th century for those unable to afford fine china and who wanted to embellish their tinware with inexpensive paint.

Over time, the form has come to include a wide variety of surfaces such as porcelain, glass, wood, fabric and pottery.

The shop also has supplies for making candles or soaps, and for quilting, crocheting and doing needlepoint. Lane said commercial fishermen often visit the latter section, since some of those instruments are useful for mending nets.

Fly fishermen often are found in the section of beads and beading materials, she said.

"They go for beads that resemble salmon eggs, and also pom-poms, little tiny pom-poms that also look like salmon eggs, I guess," she said.

Near the unfinished wooden houses for birds and butterflies, up from chenille pipe stems and rabbit skins, are supplies for doing macramé, which, Lane said, is growing in popularity.

Lane said she will order items or materials, and will go to lengths to track down hard-to-find items.

Of special pleasure to Lane are students from local special education classes, who pick out materials for class projects.

"It's really cool. They will often spend 30 to 45 minutes just looking around, the leaders mingling among them, making sure that everyone's doing OK," she said.

She also offers classes for crafters of varied interests and abilities. "I'll hold any class that a teacher wants to come in and teach," she said.

Classes are dictated by interest, with five or six being a minimum enrollment for most subjects. Proposals for classes are posted at the store.

Business is especially good around the holidays and the times of crafts fairs held at the malls because people find inspiration to create things for themselves and to make gifts, she said.

With her one employee, Debby Stevens, Lane is able to handle it all though, and said she still looks forward to coming to work every day.

"It's the customers," she said. "My customers are absolutely wonderful."

Phil Greeney is a free-lance writer living in Juneau, and can be reached at Bigdawg1@alaska.com.

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