Works of Wyoming gift store and art gallery started with an idea for an online store, but materialized into a brick and mortar without ever getting a web offering up and running, store manager Lorena Patzer said.
Now at its third location since 2011, Patzer said the gallery might have enough space for a shipping department and time to start an online retail component.
Originally, the gallery was located in Laramie Plains Civic Center, but it soon moved to First Street.
“First Street was nice,” Patzer said. “We got lots of traffic from Sweet Melissa and the Pedal House, but that’s mostly because they were already there.”
While Patzer said there wasn’t an immediate need to expand, an opening at 300 S. Second St. was too good to pass up.
“When an opportunity for a great location opens in Laramie, you go for it,” Patzer said. “We have lots of natural lighting, the building has lots of character and there is lots of traffic.”
The new location offered more window space, about 600 square feet of extra retail space and a basement for storage and shipping needs.
“We didn’t have furniture at our other location, because we didn’t think we had room for it,” Patzer said.
The gallery moved to its new location in April.
“It wasn’t just Suzanne (Mackey, a part-time gallery employee) and I moving everything over here,” Patzer said. “The whole Wyoming Women’s Business Center pitched in sweat equity, and the artists jumped in to help paint and help put art up.”
With the increased space, she said the gallery started offering hand-made hardwood furniture and elk antler tables.
“The antlers are natural shed, too,” Patzer said. “That’s important to many of our customers.”
Whereas Works of Wyoming’s customers come from around the world, she said the artwork is solely produced in Wyoming.
“We’re a nonprofit gallery — a project of the Wyoming Women’s Business Center,” Patzer said. “We focus on the artists, a lot of which are clients of the business center.”
Many of the artists receive business education at the business center and the gallery provides artists with mobility restrictions a place to display and sell their work, she said.
“The artists get 70 percent of the sale, and we keep 30 percent to keep up our grants,” Patzer said.
Artists are guided to the store through various venues, but she said the store does not have an active recruitment process.
“They come to us,” she said. “We don’t go out looking for them.”
Once introduced, Patzer said the artists present their work to a 2-6 person jury, and if they receive a majority vote, their work is sold at the store.
From earrings resembling fishing flies to silk scarves decorated with Peruvian folk art, the gallery accepts a wide variety.
“We don’t have much sea glass around Wyoming, but we do have an artist that works with prairie glass,” Patzer said.
Collecting wind-blown colored glass pieces from around the Laramie area, she said Jodie Altherton creates baubles and jewelry from the shiny debris.
“Tara Pappas is a local mixed-media artist with quite a following,” Patzer said, pointing to an image red bird singing to a smiling tree. “She uses magazines and books and all sorts of things to create these. And each picture has a story.”
Despite the gallery’s emphasis on Wyoming, she said they don’t offer much in the way of cowboy culture, focusing instead on recognizable iconography like the American bison and Indian paintbrush.
“These things really say Wyoming to our customers,” she explained.
Whether it’s an alpaca-wool shawl, a beadwork bracelet from the Wind River Indian Reservation or framed fine art photography, Patzer said the gallery has something for everyone.
“Art is a nice gift,” she said. “It lasts forever.”