“Unsale” comes to Friday Harbor

Submitted by Leonard Eiger

Friday Harbor experienced a first this month – an art exhibit in which people were invited to take the artwork home (for free). On Saturday, Feb. 3, the San Juan Island Grange hall was open to the public to come see what Friday Harbor resident Francie Hansen called her “unsale.”

Hansen, well-known for the annual Trashion Fashion show at the San Juan County Fair, had filled the tables around the hall with a large variety of her works – assemblage, felted pieces, baskets – that she had recently created over the course of three weeks. Her intention was to satisfy her need to share, to give things away, and so the idea of an unsale came to her.

Not long after the event began, the hall was packed with people checking out the artwork, engaging in conversation, and choosing something to take home. That was Hansen’s intention – to bring people together and enjoy what she had made. “I was motivated because I really, really, really wanted to make things for others.” She said she had “collected things for years and it was just time for these things to be made.” Her hope was that people would want them, and that was evidenced by the empty tables at the end of the day.

Many people left handwritten comments for Francie. One person wrote, “Thank you for such a gift to the community… A total bit of joy on a cloudy Saturday.” Another said, “…I especially love the way you relate to kids and those of us who are kids at heart. You meet us in the world of creativity and ask, ‘What if?’ Then you hold the space for us to discover the answers to the questions we didn’t even know we had.”

Once Hansen decided to go ahead with the unsale, she reserved the Grange hall and got to work. “I work under pressure and I said Feb. 3rd and just started working…” She explained that she just started making things – no judgement, no right or wrong, just spontaneous creation. Hansen is a self-described trash artist; her creations are all made using previously discarded objects that she has collected over many years. After the pieces for the unsale were completed she wrote a brief (and, of course, whimsical) story about each piece.

When asked about her creative process, Hansen explained that she begins each piece with a blank slate, and creates as she goes, making remarkably whimsical objects. The finished products are cohesive and show a free, yet intentional, process.

At the end of the day Hansen felt she had fulfilled her goals of bringing people joy and building community. Nearly everyone had chosen something to take home and had fun. She is already thinking about the next unsale; with a garage filled with so many repurposed treasures she will have no problem packing the hall again.