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Originally published March 27, 2011 at 7:26 PM | Page modified March 28, 2011 at 6:26 AM

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Arts-and-crafts festival this weekend drew thousands

Northwest Art Alliance's spring show this weekend attracted about 5,000 people, artists say, making it better attended than last year.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Mary Pence got out of the Best of the Northwest art show on Sunday with just a $24 bracelet.

She was tempted mightily by 113 booths at Magnuson Park in Seattle packed with jewelry, paintings, hats and purses.

"It was tough — very, very tough," admitted Pence, of Issaquah. But ultimately, all the jewelry lover bought was a Mirage Bead bracelet from Seattle jeweler Laurie Mortinson. It changes color with the temperature, like a mood ring, as Pence demonstrated for others at that booth.

She was among roughly 5,000 people browsing the Northwest Art Alliance's spring show over the weekend, making it better attended than last year and, artists said, more lucrative than since the recession started.

Michele Raney was struck by the boost in sales. She owns Enanimals in Port Townsend and makes jewelry by carving and painting with glass on precious metals.

In recent years, her expectation for sales at the spring show have dropped from $5,000 to $2,500. This year, she racked up $4,000 on Saturday alone, making it feel like the good old days.

Raney and others said the art alliance, which recently became a nonprofit, did a better job of publicizing the show.

People were lined up waiting for the doors to open Saturday morning, something that hasn't happened for years, said event manager Karen McInerney.

Linda Grimes of Laughing Girl Arts in West Seattle said customers fretted last year about not being able to afford her Japanese-style jewelry — even though some of her most popular works are $49 necklaces with artwork on bamboo, nobody's idea of outrageously priced jewelry.

"I heard a lot of, 'Gee, I love it, but I can't afford it,' " Grimes recalled. "This year, I'm not hearing that."

Her weekend sales are up from last year, and she is donating 15 percent to the Japan relief effort at the Red Cross and ShelterBox.

Linda Lee Nicol sat at her Whidbey Woolies booth, knitting like mad to replace the 83 alpaca-fiber hats she sold at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show in February.

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She starts the $90 hats at home on Whidbey Island, where she cares for alpacas Goldie, Cinnamon and Ciscoe (named for gardening dynamo Ciscoe Morris). Then she gets bored with knitting and waits to finish them — about two hats a day — at art shows.

People who find $90 hats, $1,000 purses and $3,000 paintings a little steep often end up at the Soapworks Studio booth, where a trove of soaps in scents from clove mint to vanilla honey cost $4.25 each.

"A couple people came by yesterday who said they love the art but can't afford it," said Soapworks owner Heidi Risse of Beacon Hill. "They were looking for a little treat."

Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com

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