The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

October 12, 2012

Artistry aplenty: Shop manager markets creations by regional crafters

Ruth Rice
rrice@tribdem.com

— Laura Argenbright, with the assistance of her husband, Jim, manages the handcrafted work of regional artists at the AW Gallery Shoppe at Art Works in Johnstown!

Laura Argenbright said the shop, located at 413 Third Ave. in the city’s Cambria City section, opened Aug. 31 and was very well received by shoppers and artists alike.

“The Art Works gallery and shop were meant to feed off each other,” Argenbright said.

“The idea is to increase exposure for both. The shop is another reason to come to the gallery.”

The shop features original designs and handcrafted items from about 25 professional artists.

Argenbright, who has the responsibility of choosing artists for the shop, estimates she could have no more than

30 artists’ works in the shop at one time.

High-quality merchandise includes jewelry, handblown art glass, pottery, inlaid solid-wood cutting boards, yard art, fine art prints and paintings and hard-to-find quilling.

“You can find some unique items that you’ll never see again,” Argenbright said. “If you see something you like, get it. It might not be here when you come back, or it won’t be the same color. These items are not mass produced. The shop is constantly evolving.”

So far, Argenbright has gotten artists from the region and Harrisburg, Maryland and West Virginia.

“It hasn’t been difficult to get artists,” she said. “The response has been phenomenal. We’d like to focus on more local artists.

“You can request to be in the shop. We have guidelines on the types of items we accept and a committee who has the final say.”

When the shop opened Labor Day weekend, it was met with resounding approval and appreciation.

“They showed an interest right off the bat,” Argenbright said. “That proves to me this kind of store was needed here.”

Satisfied customers have compared the gallery shop to The Emporium on Somerset Pike.

“They said nothing ever took its place until we came along,” Argenbright said. “That was the kind of store we looked up to and wanted to be. It was really a compliment.”

Argenbright was chosen for the position of shop manager earlier this year through an Art Works board member who knew of her interest in art.

Argenbright works Saturdays, while her husband helps out Thursdays and Fridays.

The shop’s regular hours are noon to 6 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Holiday hours, beginning at some point in November, will be noon to 7 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays.

The shop also is open for special occasions such as artists’ receptions and fundraisers.

Argenbright also is in charge of the Second Sunday Antique Boutique held next door at Bottle Works Ethnic Arts Center.

She has a passion for vintage jewelry and enjoys teaching people to appreciate costume jewelry.

“It might not be fine jewelry, but it still has value,” Argenbright said. “You can make magnets or create new jewelry instead of tossing it aside. We started out with jewelry at the boutique and have one every month. There isn’t always a program, but items are always for sale. It’s a good fit for Bottle Works.”  

Argenbright began her interest in antiques by collecting and reselling vintage art and jewelry.

While she had a casual interest in antiques, her husband had an interest in antique art and furniture before the couple met.

“I saw how beautiful the old pieces were,” Argenbright said.

“The furniture won me over. We were able to get high-quality living room furniture.”

The Argenbrights’ address is Boswell, but they actually live along the Somerset Pike, halfway between Johnstown and Jennerstown, in a large house built in 1870 that is the perfect setting for their antiques.

Jim Argenbright has owned it since 1998, and the couple have been married five years.

The house that was the summer home of a prominent judge has nine bedrooms, four baths and seven fireplaces.

Four fireplaces are exposed, and one is functional.

“It’s a work in progress,” Laura Argenbright said.

The Argenbrights, who have a 13-year-old daughter and a

9-year-old son, live in two-thirds of the house and use the rest for storage, their shop and making candles.

Their family also includes various cats and a dog.

When not seeking out antiques at auctions around the state, the Argenbrights keep up with their children’s schedules and pursue their interests in running, basketball and skiing.

The Argenbrights also make and sell eco-friendly soy candles hand-poured into recyclable glass containers.

“You can bring back the jar to be recycled and used again,” Laura Argenbright said. “We’ve been doing this almost three years. We just started to experiment.”

The Argenbrights are vendors at the Ligonier Country Market during the summers and also sell their candles at a crafts show at Hidden Valley Resort, where Laura Argenbright works full time as marketing director.

“We like to go to smaller, more intimate artisan shows,” she said. “We’ll be at the Ramada Inn in Ligonier and Sunnehanna for a fall festival.”

The candles also are avail-able in vintage cups and saucers at various locations of Martella’s Pharmacy and on the Argenbrights’ website at www.theartiquegallery.com.

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