Deb Dormody of If’n Books + Marks is sharing her city of Providence, Rhode Island today for Indie City Guides. Deb, a bookbinder and an organizer of Craftland, will take you on a tour of the quirky city of Rhode Island. Enjoy!
If you are interested in writing an Indie City Guide or sharing what is indie happening about your city, then shoot me an email.
by guest contributor Deb Dormody
Providence was colonized by Roger Williams who was booted out of Massachusetts for believing in such things as the separation of church and state. He arrived in what is now Rhode Island and was greeted by Narragansett Indians with the phrase “What cheer, netop?” which pretty much means “Hey holmes! what’s happening?”
Flash forward to modern day, and Providence still welcomes exiles of all kinds with catchy phrases. Then as now, people don’t come here to ‘make it’ but to make something out of nothing. The crafty atmosphere is plentiful and encouraged by communities of friends—not to mention preeminent institutions like the Rhode Island School of Design.
Located smack in the middle of the industrial revolution, Providence has plenty of big old mill spaces to go around in which to make your work. And there are two supply shops to get started if you’re ready to begin a project. One is Wolf Myro. This is nothing short of mecca for jewelers. Pilgrims come from all over the US to comb its dusty shelves for findings, stones, and odds and ends that you are not imaginative enough to even think could exist in the world. Fun fact: Providence is also known as ‘the jewelry capital of the world.’ This grants its residents a free pass for being extraordinarily opinionated about adornments, from artistic to costume jewelry.
The second must-see stop is Lorraine’s Fabric. Technically in Pawtucket, the next town over, this shop is home to a dizzying array of trims and buttons, lame´and fabric, fake fur and felt. But before you fall over, pop on your headphones (with music from Armageddon Records to overpower the blaring Kenny G) and head upstairs to the Bargain Attic. All the cloth is $1.99 a yard. That’s right, an attic full of $1.99 fabric. You just might find a bolt that reappeared from 1972 especially for you and your cloth-filled whims.
(As a paper nerd myself, I’m more likely to visit the RISD Store for a great selection or to stock up wholesale-style at The Paper Connection).
Frog and Toad
Once you’ve created your stellar body of work, you can head over to some local boutiques to see if they’ll sell them for you. Or perhaps you’ve given up entirely and just need to buy a super duper gift. In either case, there are plenty of options. Two include The Curatorium and Frog and Toad. The Curatorium is run by the inimitable Matthew Bird who describes his collection of fun designy wares as “well-considered.” Meanwhile, the goods in Frog and Toad are almost as cute as owners Erin & Asher Schofield who host a menagerie of imported and local artisan lines in their upper Hope Street shop.
And once a year, when the moon is in just the right position, the magical wonderment that is Craftland appears in its glittery form in downtown Providence. The month-long holiday craft show attracts thousands of customers and represents the work of 150 artists in its unique store format. Along with several other craft devotees (including Devienna, Heather L., Heather T., Margaret (whose Rainbow Sugar website was stolen) and Teresa) I organize this show in my ‘spare’ time. This December will be our lucky seventh year! It will be open seven days a week from December 5-24th. Catch it before it’s gone again!
Before you go though, dress yourself in cute outfits from Queen of Hearts. And for faraway folks who only wear pajamas, be sure to check out Peggy Lo’s exquisite stationery shop, Figments in your online travels!
Providence is a small secondary city and when you are out and about, you will run into so many people who will inspire you to make your cool stuff even better. The bicycles of choice here in town are made by Chris Bull and Brian Chapman at Circle A Cycles. Secure your helmet and ride over to the Dirt Palace, the feminist collective that lives craft. Maybe you will see a show there, or eat brunch there, or help with a Books Through Bars mailing, but you will definitely be able to check out the 24/7 storefront window gallery. Next, buy Jon & Shea, from Tiny Showcase, some tacos at the Taqueria Pacifica. Then see some music at AS220 and buy a beer for artist Jim Frain (who is apparently a ghost in cyberspace) or Sonny or Corace or Jo Dery or Mike Taylor or Jean Cozzens (screenprinters in Providence are like cheesesteaks in Philly). Oh man, there are so many more great and talented people! Just come over to Alec’s and my house and we will have a vegan barbecue with everyone invited.
If you are nice, you can also come and visit me at my studio – If’n Books + Marks. Crossing the city line back into Pawtucket, the bindery has a bruised doorframe from all the ridiculously heavy cast-iron equipment I’ve had hauled in there. Thankfully, this stuff is as beautiful as it is useful. It helps me make so many blank journals and photo albums.
I hope you have enjoyed your tour. There’s lots more people to see in Providence, places to visit and good food to eat. Drop me a line if you need to know more.
About the contributor: Deb Dormody had tried all the get-rich-quick schemes. None of them worked until she created If’n Books + Marks in 2000 when she started making blank journals and photo albums by hand. Now, she’s loaded.
The If’n Books + Marks studio is located in a century-old mill building complete with high ceilings, a fabulous corner view and a super-stripey wall. We make each book by hand using vintage and contemporary equipment that is beautiful unto itself.