Gina Luellen brings artistic flair to the Sequim Farmers Artisans Market at her Stonewear Art booth. Photo by Emma Jane “EJ” Garcia

Gina Luellen brings artistic flair to the Sequim Farmers Artisans Market at her Stonewear Art booth. Photo by Emma Jane “EJ” Garcia

What’s Happening at the Market: A passion for nonprofits, pieces of peninsula

Stonewear Art is known to guests of the Sequim Farmers and Artisans Market for its cheery displays featuring hand painted stone pendants and portraits on local slate. The craftsperson responsible for this colorful display? That’s Gina Luellen, who also happens to be the Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market board president.

Luellen as an artist

Each piece from Stonewear Art features a plucky critter or plant. The range of choices is expansive. From hummingbirds happily feasting on flowers, to dogs, giraffes, flamingos, hedgehogs, puffins and dragons.

“You never know what someone is going to be attracted to,” Luellen says.

Pieces from Stonewear Art take a whimsical cue from the current painted rock trends and refine it to a heirloom quality artistry. Luellen said she’s excited to create pieces that help people stay connected to their history and that which excites them.

“I love when people come up to me and say something like, ‘Oh wow, look at this piece with the poppy. It reminds me of my Aunt Betty, she loved poppies. When I see this I think of her. I have to have this,’” says Luellen.

“I have never found more joy than when a piece reminds them of somebody, or creates an emotion in them,” she says. “It feels good to know that I helped facilitate that memory.”

Each stone piece is originally foraged by Luellen from the local waterways of the Olympic Peninsula. When one wears a Stonewear Art piece they are adorning themselves with a literal piece of Washington state.

The process of browsing the collection to find the perfect piece is a uniquely joyful experience. Luellen is also known for her custom commissions to create pieces that pay homage to individuals’ favorite pets and objects.

Board presidency

It wasn’t long into Luellen’s five-year stint as a market vendor when her other talents became clear to the market community.

Luellen is an accountant by trade, specializing in nonprofit business management. She was tapped for a board seat within the market organization and eventually agreed to accept the position of president.

Luellen’s personal focus as board president was aimed at spearheading the development of the market’s nonprofit status, something she perceived as a priority when she spotted the potential for growth within the organization.

“There was this buzz about the market when I joined,” Luellen says. “The interest in vendors was beginning to increase and we were becoming more visible in the community.”

Luellen identified that achieving 501(c)(3) status would allow the market to expand its community programs and continue supporting it’s patrons in deeper ways.

“We were approved almost immediately, which is absolutely unheard of,” Luellen says. “Receiving that status so quickly really validated who we were as an organization and where we could go.”

The achievement has meant good things for Sequim’s community market.

“Over the past three years, we’ve doubled in vendor size,” she says. “We now have a lot of interest from very talented people who are excited to become a part of the market. There are so many people who have always thought they wanted to be a farmer or thought they could potentially sell their craft, but didn’t have the venue to do so.

“I think the visibility and sustainability we’ve proven has really driven some of that interest.”

Luellen says she’s witnessed an increase in community support for the market.

“People really want to shop locally,” she says. “They really want to support their neighbors and support the economy. This is the best way to do this. They get to meet the person that actually grew the food or the actual artist. They get to see exactly who they’re supporting.”

“The market is different from your average shopping opportunity,” Luellen continues. “We have a strong community focus. The vendors that we support and the businesses we help incubate are to the benefit of the entire community. From strengthening the economy, to providing access to high quality foods to individuals and families with the programs we offer, that’s the nonprofit piece of it.

“I don’t ever want that to be lost,” says Luellen. “We could not be the market we are without the community we serve.”

Find Stonewear Art every Saturday at the Sequim Farmers and Artisans Market from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. each Saturday through October.

Visit your community market at Sequim City Hall Plaza at North Sequim Avenue and West Cedar Street, and at Centennial Place at the Sequim Avenue and Washington Street intersection.

Emma Jane “EJ” Garcia is the Market Manager for the Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market.

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