The world of bluegrass is once again centered on downtown Raleigh this week, and local artists and merchants have been busy for months getting ready for the throngs of souvenir-shopping musicians and fans expected to attend.
Raleigh designer Holly Aiken, creator of Holly Aiken Bags and the owner of Stitch, a retail shop at Hargett and Wilmington streets, created a line of bluegrass-influenced accessories for last year’s Wide Open Bluegrass Festival and revived the collection for its return. “We did the same banjo design as last year,” Aiken said. “But different-shaped bags and different colors.”
Aiken said the banjo bags – which included purses, wallets, clutches and wristlets in her signature colorful vinyl – sold out quickly last year.
“We had no idea the response would be as good as it was, because we’re not associated with bluegrass,” Aiken said. “It exceeded our expectations. We tried to plan ahead this year and make more.”
This year’s collection includes a side-snap tote, a bike messenger bag, a crossbody bag, a clutch wallet and a wristlet. Prices range from $51 to $136. Aiken will have a booth in the Shop Local area of vendors along Fayetteville Street (near Davie Street) and the bags will also be available at Stitch (20 E. Hargett St.; hollyaiken.com).
It’s an unwritten rule that you can’t leave the bluegrass festival without something sporting a banjo, acorn or state outline. So for your all-purpose souvenir shopping – whether the desired theme is bluegrass music, Raleigh or the great state of North Carolina – DECO Raleigh (at the corner of Hargett and Salisbury; decoraleigh.com) requires a visit. The shop, which sells hundreds of items made by area artists and designers, specializes in local art, retro tchotchkes and cool North Carolina and Raleigh-centric tees.
Dig through the long racks of locally designed T-shirts sporting clever takes on local landmarks and themes, and you’ll find the requisite banjo tees (most cost around $25). One popular shirt, made by Oak City Collective ( oakcitycollective.org), covers all the bases: it has a banjo, acorn, cardinal, pig, lighthouse, pine cone, squirrel, etc. Ah, North Carolina.
You can also get tea towels and small prints with banjo, mandolin and guitar graphics by Tiny Peepers ( etsy.com/shop/tinypeepers), a label run by Raleigh designer Kelly Smith. (You’ll also find Smith’s booth in the Art Market on Fayetteville Street). Prices range from $16 to $22.
And who doesn’t love an ornament commemorating special trips and events? Posy ( posymarket.com), a Raleigh label from Laura Browning, has sewn ornaments shaped like guitars and banjos ($12) with the date stitched on the front.
DECO is also stocked with music-themed kitchen utensils, bottle openers, books and CDs.
At the Art Market
Artists and vendors will line two blocks of Fayetteville Street, from Hargett to Davie on Friday and Saturda. The area between Hargett and Martin is designated the Art Market, and that’s where you’ll find artisans – many of them from North Carolina – selling unique t-shirts, art prints, jewelry and about everything else you can imagine.
We’ve pulled together a few standout bluegrass-themed souvenirs and keepsakes to check out:
Peter Geiger - Cary artist Peter Geiger specializes in creating sculptures of guitars, banjos and mandolins out of license plates. His work, much of it custom, is themed; he has created works celebrating musicians (from Springsteen to Johnny Cash to the Beatles), states and sports teams. Geiger’s work ranges from around $400 to over $1500, depending on the style. He’ll be selling his pieces, including the “Bluegrass Banjo” and “Bluegrass Violin,” in the Art Market. petergeigerart.com
Dana Minette - Dana Minette is a stained glass artist from Bryson City. She’ll bring her stained-glass sun-catchers, necklaces and lanterns – ranging in price from $25 to about $250 – in the shapes of banjos, guitars, mandolins and more to the Art Market. facebook.com/danaminettestudio
Jenny Marsh - Durham welder and sculpture artist Jenny Marsh of Marsh Welding can make you an iron armadillo, a Lucky Strike fire pit or metal flowers to adorn your garden. She also welds banjo, guitar and fiddle art out of bicycle and transmission parts. Her work ranges in price from $60-$100. You’ll find her in the Art Market. marshwelding.com