In 1979 eight young Bloomington artists realized their shared dream when they founded By Hand Gallery, an artist cooperative. Thirty five years later, the dream is not only alive but thriving. Today, By Hand Gallery, at 101 W. Kirkwood inside Fountain Square Mall, showcases the work of more than 100 artists working in a wide range of media, including jewelry, pottery, fibers, wood, glass, photography, and painting. “We are—and have always supported—local artists. Fifty of the hundred artists we represent live in Bloomington; the rest are in Indiana and out-of-state,” says Suzanne Halvorson, one of two original charter member artists still affiliated with the gallery; the other is local jeweler Lee Cohn. The other artisan-owners are: Ruth Conway (ceramics); Jack and Marian Forney (jewelry); Carolynne Gieryn (knitting); Marilyn Greenwood (jewelry); Jim Halvorson (ceramics); Linda Knudsen (dyer); Lance and Vicki Munn (woodworking); Walt Schmidt (ceramics); and Tim Shown (woodworking). The gallery has moved six times since it opened on Fourth Street in September 1979. The same month Yarns Unlimited, another Bloomington crafts institution, opened across the street. “It was always important for us to maintain a presence downtown,” says Halvorson, who owned Yarns Unlimited from 1997 to 2009.
By Hand Gallery is still a cooperative. Each artist-member pays dues, and the gallery takes a small percentage from the sale of all artwork to cover overhead costs. In the beginning, members worked shifts at the gallery, but now there is a full-time manager and sales associate. Current manager Tova Lesko is a fiber artist who was one of Halverson’s students at Indiana University. Lesko and Lon Haywood, a wood turner from Bloomington, will be the gallery’s featured artists in November. Lesko says that gallery is always considering the work of new artists: “The last Tuesday of the month we consider new work for consignment. We are careful to balance media and select work that we can adequately show in the space, and we only take things that are handmade.”
“I have an intuitive sense whether something is handmade or not,” adds Halvorson. “There is an energy that comes from something that’s handmade—a creative energy is inherent.”
Visit By Hand Gallery’s Facebook page for information about upcoming shows.