Commentary: The road most traveled
By Jan Wheatcroft
It all began when I was invited to sell in the driveway of friends in Pomona. I was selling my weavings and jewelry. I met my friend, Helen Feller, who was selling her quilts. Then I invited a few friends to my then-house on Eigth Street and it rained and we had to move inside, but still we sold. After those experiences Helen and I moved on to selling at my next house in the driveway with one other friend. We then expanded to the Village area to Raynebow Raggs (now the bagel shop) and then to the space in front of the Folk Music Center store, where we were invited to set up shop by Charles Chase. After that we were asked to set up our tables in front of Chancery Lane Bookstore on Second Street one Christmas, and after that experience a nasty letter was published in the Progress Bulletin about Gypsies moving around town and setting up shop. This made Helen mad, so she wrote a letter to the COURIER to express her feelings. The upshot of that was the name Gypsies stuck and we named ourselves the Gypsy Sisters. And so we have remained to this day. After that, as well as selling in front of the Folk Music Center at Christmas time, we were invited to sell at the Claremont Forum and the Prison Library Project, located on College Ave. in the COURIER building. We set up in the parking lot with a few other artist friends. We renamed ourselves as the Gypsy Sisters and their Brothers.
Selling was good and we began to be known around town. Soon after, we were invited to move inside and began to donate a portion of sales to the Claremont Forum to help send books to prisoners. The space was quite large, with three separate rooms to set up in, and we began to expand the Gypsies to offer good handmade arts in an enclosed building over three days of a weekend. Then we started working twice a year. We began to offer other themed shows as well. Sadly, the building became unsafe and was torn down and the Gypsies had to find new space.
After renting a building on Foothill for one Christmas and downsizing the number of artists due to space limitations, we moved to the tutoring space behind 31 Flavors ice cream on Foothill for two Christmas sales. As Gypsies, we were on the move again.
A friend suggested we try church halls, and happily we found the perfect place at the Claremont United Church of Christ on Harrison, where we showed twice a year for many years until the pandemic, during which such shows were not possible inside a closed area.
It was a lot of work for Helen and I to run the Gypsies, and after many years we gave it over to our friend, Aleta Jacobson, who has been running it faithfully under the name the Art Mob.
During this time Helen and I began to develop other smaller shows as well as participating in a small local show at a gallery. There was a great gallery across from the Bank of America on Yale, called For Arts Sake. About seven of us set up tables on the grass in front of the gallery. It was a jolly place and lots of fun and very centralized. I think we lasted about two or three years there. After that Helen and I began to rent the Ginger Elliot room at the Garner House twice a year; once for our Material Girls show, showing just our work and once for an open-themed show for any artist who wished to show and sell their art. These were successful and enjoyable shows and allowed everyone to show their handwork without being judged. These shows, too, had to close due to the pandemic. I miss doing them. For our show, Material Girls, we worked very hard to make enough to fill a gallery and it represented months of hard but pleasurable work.
And thus, like the Gypsies of old, we have made a trail up to and through Claremont. However, we cannot be stopped and are pulling our wagons up for a Mini Gypsy Sale on Saturday and Sunday, December 4 and 5 on the corner of Harrison and Yale in Claremont. There are 10 of us old but not forgotten Gypsies who just can’t stop creating and sharing our art with our public. Come and visit us as you travel our Village. We will be protected and careful and we are open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on both days. Creativity knows no bounds. Looking forward to your visits.
Helen and I are grateful to all of the kind people who gave us a chance over the past 36 years.