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Gilford resident gives a 'Thumbs Up' to arts and crafts

Shirley Sullivan, owner of the Thumbs-Up Arts and Crafts Shop, shows off some of the art on display in her store. Sarah Schmidt. (click for larger version)
May 27, 2009
The owner of a new arts and crafts store in Meredith is giving the "thumbs up" to many local artists and crafters in search of a venue for their wares.

Shirley Sullivan of Gilford opened the Thumbs-Up Arts and Crafts shop last week, across from the Meredith Post Office on Main Street. She's been kept busy ever since, both with people stopping by to look in the new shop, and people hoping to rent a booth to showcase their wares.

"I want to build artists up and encourage them," said Sullivan. "Each day, a new thought comes in to make it (the store) new and different."

Sullivan said that she used to work in a chain of six arts and crafts stores, and showcased her paintings. When the stores started to close, she began working with the art shows traveling in the Northeast, demonstrating her work to visitors.

People would watch her paint, and Sullivan in turn would encourage the artists in the group to start up their craft again. One man that carved cribbage boards but had given it up promised Sullivan that he would pick up his tools that afternoon.

"It (art) is not a gift that should be wasted," said Sullivan. "God has given you a gift, and you want to be grateful and do something with it."

As the shows began to wind down, Sullivan said that she wanted to move on to another place where she could encourage artists – her own arts and crafts store. Focusing on "middle-ground art" rather than high-end, she invited crafters and artists to set up shop and rent a booth at her store to display their wares.

John Bolduc, a portrait artist from Laconia, rented the wall behind Sullivan's counter, where a portrait the serene-faced Sitting Bull looks out over Sullivan's head. Bolduc said that he was self-taught, and did commission portraits at request. Sullivan described him as a "really good portrait artist," and one of the few in the area.

With the help of Butch Keniston, Sullivan began putting her store together, including the tall wooden booths that hold local artists' displays. Filling up quickly, they house the work of artists like Margaret Jewett of Meredith, who creates primitive wood and slates, or Karon Mertz of New Hampton, a decorative painter. Patricia Correll, a landscape photographer, lined the shelves of her booth with photographs large and small of New England landscapes. Sullivan's own art is on display, a collection of paintings and painted Lazy Susans and eggs. Even though the store is hers, Sullivan said she still pays for her own booth, since "it's not just my store, it's our store."

Not everyone displays in a booth. Artist Kathy Clifford of Moultonboro, who creates colorful jewelry, said that a booth was too much space for her – but a small spot on the wall was just right. Sullivan agreed, and Clifford came back that day with a painted white shutter, which she then hung the delicate necklaces from.

In order to keep the store from being dominated by one craft, Sullivan said she would only accept one kind of art at a time. Since one photographer in her store takes wildlife photography and another takes landscape photography, Sullivan judged the difference to be great enough to allow them both in.

Other arts and crafts on display include jams and jellies from Apple Hill Farm, goat milk soap and lip balm from Northwood Naturals, Wick-It Cool Candles from Hollis, doll clothes, calligraphy, cross-stitch, and wall quilts.

"It (art) is a gift of yourself going to someone else," said Sullivan. "It's taking a part of you and giving it to another person, and it's a very loving gesture."

In the back of the store, Sullivan keeps a Creative Kids Corner, so that kids have their own little place to go in the store (a safety mirror allows her to keep an eye on them from the counter). In the very back of the store, Sullivan keeps a meeting room for artists to rent out, in order to teach classes and do lessons in their art. A set of doors keeps the room separate from the rest of the store.

Sullivan will be joined by Shawne Randlett of Laconia, a fellow artist who works in pastels, and will be working in the store to give Sullivan a bit of time off. Randlett's own art is on display above the counter.

The "Thumbs Up" part of the store's name has special meaning for Sullivan.

"When someone shows me something that they've created, I'll give them a 'thumbs up' because words can't always express enough," said Sullivan. "The thumb is also pointing upward, giving the praise to God."

The Thumbs-Up Arts and Craft Shop will have its grand opening later in June. The store will be open Monday – Saturday from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., and during special Sunday events.

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