While growing up on her family’s nursery in Portland, Anna Davis was raised with a particular set of values. She learned that money alone wouldn’t make her happy. She learned the importance of pursuing her passions. And she learned that she loved to do things her way.
“I like to stay unique. I don’t want what everybody else has. I’m kind of an odd duck that way,” she said. “I never wanted to do things like everybody else did them. I’ve sort of always been that way. I was kind of a pain in the butt to my parents every once in a while. But I think life is more interesting that way.”
Davis has applied that philosophy to her Washougal-based business, A Place to Create, which, true to its name, offers space for people to come together to work on their arts and crafts projects.
“I do have a little bit of product for sale — stuff for art journaling, paints, some paper products, books and thread. (I provide) some sewing machines, and I have irons and a cutting table, but usually everybody brings in their own stuff,” Davis said. “This is a place where you work on your own projects. I charge a $10 fee for the day to come in and bring everything you want and work on your own stuff.”
Camas resident Kathy Begier has been coming to A Place to Create since it opened at 1324 “E” St. seven years ago.
“Everyone does different things,” Begier said. “We usually have four projects going at all times. (Anna) has helped us so much.”
On a recent Saturday morning, Begier visited A Place to Create to show off her recently-completed wool applique, an ornamental needlework in which pieces of fabric are sewn or stuck onto a larger piece to form a picture or pattern. Meanwhile, Washougal resident Jill Fortman sat at a nearby table, carefully completing her latest project using a Diamond Dotz kit, which provides designs that can be created with tiny, diamond-like facets.
Sewing, scrapbooking, rug-hooking, card-making, needle-felting and embroidery are just a few examples of the types of projects that artists and crafters work on at A Place to Create.
“(We do the) the old-fashioned stuff,” Davis said. “There are a lot of lost arts, (things that) they’re not teaching in school anymore. I think it’s important to pass these (skills) on to the younger generations. We’re so busy all the time, and the electronics are always moving so fast, everything’s going fast, that it’s nice just to sit down.”
A Place to Create also offers a variety of classes and workshops led by guest instructors, including Tammy Stoffel (card-making), Laura Bray (embroidery), Hollye Maxwell (terrarium) and Juneko Martinson (needle-felting); and time and space for groups (rug-hooking) to hold monthly get-togethers.
Davis teaches a monthly applique class and an annual childrens’ camp, which provides an opportunity for youth to work on sewing projects, art journaling and more.
“(The childrens’ camp) is totally rewarding. I love it. I totally love it,” Davis said. “The kids are so fun and so forgiving; everything doesn’t have to be perfect for them. They’re thrilled (with what they do). You can see the pride in their faces. That just makes it all worth it.”
Creating a community
Fortman has been a regular at A Place to Create since moving to Washougal from California five years ago.
“Coming here in my late 60s and not knowing anybody was really hard, but I’m friendly, so I’m able to connect with people,” she said. “I went online and found a few different things going on, and met some people. My community has grown, but this is my favorite.”
“Because of the people,” Begier said, finishing Fortman’s thought.
“I enjoy being with the other ladies. It gives us an incentive,” Fortman continued. “You watch somebody else’s project, and you go, ‘I want to do that.'”
Fortman is passionate about her hobby; she recently built a 16-foot-by-20-foot “sea shed” on her property to house all of her projects.
“I’ve been (doing arts and crafts) for a long time,” she said. “My mom taught me to embroider and cross-stitch and needlepoint when I was little. It’s fun. It keeps your brain going — if you become a couch potato after you retire, you’re not going to be worth anything. But coming here, meeting people … I just love doing crafts. I’ve always loved doing crafts.”
“I’m retired too,” Begier added, “and (arts and crafts) get me up and out of the house instead of sitting around in my pajamas watching television.”
Growing and expanding
A Place to Create will grow and evolve in the next few months. The most notable change will be the incorporation of Woodlawn Nursery, Davis’ other business.
“I’m giving my nursery a storefront, which it didn’t have before. It’s going to fit in here since both of these businesses have been supporting each other. They can complement each other,” Davis said. “The (nursery will) get a whole other crowd in here.”
Davis is also offering extended hours, providing open studio space from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday, Tuesday and Thursday through Saturday.
A Place to Create has already experienced a lot of changes, however. Davis started out by renting space at Washougal Community center one day per month. After she began to build a community of crafters, she increased her offering to two days per month. But she realized that still wasn’t enough time for dedicated crafters to start and finish their projects.
So when the space on “E” Street opened, Davis was happy to move in.
“We have our own space now, and we can stay here all the time,” she said. “You don’t want to put your stuff away. When you pull it back out, you’re going, ‘Where was I?’ You lose your groove. I encourage people on the days when I’m open (the next day) to leave their stuff if they want to.”
Davis was introduced to arts and crafts when she was young, but stayed away from them for 20 years after a bad experience with her high-school sewing teacher. She’s glad and grateful that she found them as an adult — and the community that they’ve given her.
“Without (the people that come here), I wouldn’t have a place to create,” she said. “A lot of us do get, ‘Oh, you can’t do that,’ or ‘That doesn’t look so good,’ or ‘You’re not an artist.’ The feeling when somebody does something that they didn’t think they could do, and it turned out great and they’re all happy with it, is just unbelievable.”