Photographer: Ellie Sophia Photography

Indiana Artisan is an 11-year-old organization that was started in 2008 by former Lt. Governor Becky Skillman in order to raise awareness about the availability of locally-crafted products. Skillman wanted to create an “arts in place” initiative. According to Rosalyn Demaree, Executive Director of Indiana Artisans Indianapolis, they are more of an economic development initiative than an arts organization as they support retail development as well as training and networking opportunities.

“We have extremely talented artists spread all over the state, but many of them are working in tiny towns where people can’t see their work,” Demaree says. “Indiana Artisans was created to develop ways that we could push people to those areas.”

In 2016, they opened their first store inside the French Lick Resort.

“It’s a small store but very successful for the artisans as it showcases their work, and tourists get to know Indiana art in a better way,” Demaree says.

Though Indiana Artisan briefly had a store on Main Street in Carmel, it closed last fall. Now they have settled in a new location at 22 N. Rangeline Road.

“[Carmel leaders] call us one of the premier arts organizations in the state, and we consider Carmel to be one of the premier arts districts in the state so it’s a perfect pairing,” Demaree says. “This gives us a home in the center of the state where people can learn more about Indiana artisans as well as what Indiana has to offer in art and in foods. We’re excited about the opportunities this location will give us.”

The Carmel Indiana Artisan Store had its grand opening in May and features more than 100 Indiana artists from all over the state. At least a dozen Hamilton County artists will be represented, including four from Carmel. They include Ken Rabbers, a color and black & white photographer, jewelry artist Lily Pai, Nancy Keating, a contemporary mixed media mosaic artist and Marie Reamer, a fine arts photographer who captures the essence of the community in her pictures.

The 2,400 sq. ft. store features a wide variety of handcrafted art, including paintings, pottery, paper, wood, glass, weaving and fiber arts, not to mention willow furniture, musical instruments, and food such as caramels, chocolates and cheese. There will be gallery walks and demonstrations as well as a monthly solo artist.

Lily Pai, who works as an architect by day, makes jewelry in her spare time.

“Sometimes I joke that what I cannot achieve with my clients I do with my jewelry,” says Pai who crafts tiny architectural sculptures. “My jewelry is very organic. To me jewelry expresses how we live life — imperfections and all. I try to embody life in my jewelry.”

Larry Hampton, a former racecar driver, does color pencil landscapes and portraits that are all transportation-related.

“All of these artists have incredible backstories,” Demaree says. “Most of them have been practicing their art for 20 years or more. That’s how they got so good at it.”

John Bundy makes wooden duck decoys, which have been distributed as gifts by the governor. According to Demaree, George Bush had one in the Oval Office.

“There is a lot of creativity and inventiveness in Indiana and we try to highlight it all here,” says Demaree, noting that people are drawn to the store because of the versatility in price and selection. Photographic coasters sell for as little as $10. Some furniture is priced at several thousand dollars. And it’s not just women who flock to the store.

“Men tell me that they’re comfortable shopping here because it’s not intimidating or overwhelming,” Demaree says.

Sometimes the store is open for special events — like to welcome those with developmental disabilities.

“We don’t tell them not to touch,” Demaree says. “They love the interaction, colors and textures. It’s such a pleasure to have them here.”

In the future, they hope to open the store to nonprofit groups who can use the space for meetings and gatherings. They would also like to offer a designated space where artists can offer free classes to the public. For now, they are just excited to invite the community to check out their new digs.

“One of the things that we really love about this space is that we’re able to nest here,” Demaree says. “Indiana Artisan really has a home here in Carmel.”

Indiana Artisan Store is open Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. & Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m.- 8:30 p.m. Monday is by chance or appointment. For more information or to read artist profiles, visit indianaartisan.org.