What’s New at the Market: Piecing together art, practicality

Libby Ballard is a champion for the revitalization of home arts and skills. At the Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market, Bountiful Pleasures hearkens back to the days when handcrafting home goods was not only a necessity but life-enhancing.

For six years, Ballard has been a mainstay at the Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market. Each Saturday, loyal customers return to rediscover her display of upcycled, environmentally friendly clothing, aprons, bags, fabric household essentials and meticulously-created art quilts.

The creativity that exudes from Ballard is indeed bountiful. Unwilling to be pigeonholed, Ballard says that she is governed by two primary sources: pragmatism and beauty.

It’s rooted in her history, she says.

“I came from an economically challenged family. As most of the people in my small town did, we passed down our clothes from person-to-person,” Ballard notes. “That’s how I got interested in it. My sister was seven years older than me. She would hand me down her clothes and I would remake them.”

Ballard grew up in La Grande, Ore., a small town that at the time based its industry primarily on logging, cattle, and the railroad. She says she was surrounded by hardworking creatives. Her father was a master carpenter who served in World War II.

When Ballard was 12 years old, her mother won $100 on an illegal slot machine. She used that money to start her own yarn store in their childhood home.

“That was also illegal,” laughs Ballard. “I have a checkered past.”

Ballard says that at a young age she began to witness how the cultivation of new skills could directly elevate her life experience.

“My parents, just coming off the depression as children, really instilled in me the need to think ahead,” says Ballard. “To be thrifty, to mindfully not waste. It made our home environment even more beautiful.

“Every time I learned something new, it was a way to enhance the environment around us. I learned that even though you may not have a lot of money, it doesn’t mean that you can’t make your habitat more beautiful in various ways.”

When Ballard was 15, her mother was able to relocate her yarn store downtown where Ballard worked until she moved away from home.

Ballard says the development and practice of these skills were an essential part of her childhood.

“All those home arts skills, people had to have those,” says Ballard. “They didn’t necessarily have the convenience of going to the store and buying whatever they wanted. They didn’t always have the money to do that.”

Ballard says she began to study voraciously, committing to the nourishment of her fiber arts passion.

For three decades, she enrolled in correspondence courses with the Embroiderers’ Guild of America and achieved mastery of multiple traditions and techniques.

As a young mother, she would take her daughter to the library for storytime and spend hours pouring over instructional books on sewing, applique, and quilting.

“I fell in love with the process. Eventually, I joined the local quilt guild. I learned a ton. I visited every traveling quilt teacher’s class. There’s so much to that art, different methods, and techniques. I just tried every little thing I could.”

Through this exploration, Ballard says she eventually unearthed her niche: art quilts, a style that deviates from traditional or historical shapes and patterns. She says the focus is on artistic expression rather than function.

“Art quilts express an emotion or depict an event,” Ballard says. “It feels like drawing or painting with fabric or thread. Then it can go in your lap, hang on your wall, or adorn furniture or clothing.”

Ballard went on to have her work published in McCall’s Quilting magazine, a national publication and a series of her work has also been prominently displayed in the Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum in La Conner.

In 2016, Ballard moved to Sequim and has called the farmers market home ever since.

“My booth is an exhibit of craftsmanship, functionality, and the artist within,” Ballard says. “It has the eco-friendly, upcycling side of me which just comes from my upbringing and love of renewing, but also that artistic side which really wants to jump out and say, ‘Hey! Look at me, look at this!’”

Over the years, Ballard has evolved into a passionate ambassador for her fellow artisans at the market.

“There’s so much to see at the market,” she says. “Art reflects your soul. It reflects where you live and your community.”

“Everyone at the market is from Sequim or close to Sequim. They are all experiencing and visualizing similar things to you. Their art is going to reflect that and speak to you.”

Ballard says shopping at the farmers market for art and household goods is an emotionally based experience. As so much is one of a kind, Ballard recommends following your instincts when a particular piece catches your attention.

“People will come, they’ll look and maybe want to think about it. But when they come back, that specific piece is gone,” says Ballard. “So I say if you really want it, if it’s speaking to you, make sure to pick it up!”

Ballard says 2022 has been a good market season for her.

“I feel particularly blessed. For every single one of the art quilts that I’ve sold this year, people have come back and told me how much they love them.”

“If whatever it is that I’ve made makes someone feel happy, then I’m happy. It’s about bringing joy always.”

Ballard says she’s proud to be part of the force keeping traditional home arts and skills alive.

“Helping people to be ecology-minded and benefit their home at the same time is fun. If we step back two or three generations, we’ll find the right options there.”

Bountiful Pleasures is at the Sequim Farmers and Artisans Market every Saturday from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. through October. Visit your community market at Sequim Civic Center Plaza at North Sequim Avenue and West Cedar Street.

Be sure to tune in on Thursday at 4 p.m. to KSQM 91.5 FM for the live radio “Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market Update.”

Emma Jane Garcia is the director of the Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market.

Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market

Open: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays through Oct. 30

Location: Sequim Civic Center Plaza and Centennial Place, downtown Sequim

More info: manager@sequimmarket.com

On the web: sequimmarket.com

Photo by Emma Jane Garcia/Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market / Libby Ballard’s hand-crafted, upcycled, and environmentally friendly clothing, aprons, bags, fabric household essentials and art quilts are on display at the Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market.

Photo by Emma Jane Garcia/Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market / Libby Ballard’s hand-crafted, upcycled, and environmentally friendly clothing, aprons, bags, fabric household essentials and art quilts are on display at the Sequim Farmers & Artisans Market.