By Jennifer Marshall

Michelangelo sculpted the famous Pietà when he was only 24, and Grandma Moses started painting in her 70s—proving that you’re never too young or too old to achieve your artistic dreams. Dreams are attainable. Transform them into your life’s work, and enjoy the passion and success that spring from doing what you love.

Dreams, though, require hard work and discipline, and it’s often more challenging for those pursuing careers in the arts to convert their talent into dollars. However, thanks to Gwen Jorgenson and her Neighborhood Artisans Network, Phoenix artists now have a unique and amazing opportunity to showcase their work. Jorgenson provides the location, and with the Network’s growing popularity and clientele, crafters have the perfect marketplace in which to turn their creations into profits.

Jorgenson, who’s always wanted to be an artist, began painting in her 40s. Like all creative types, she longed to sell her work and develop a customer base. Most artisans depend on craft booths at festivals to help establish their reputation and grow their following. Festivals are typically annual events, and even if an artist attends several different ones throughout the year, they may not provide sufficient customer contact to elevate them from hobbyist to professional artisan.

In order for an artist to realize steady money, their craft must be worked like any other small business. Understanding that artists need the consistency of regular shows, Jorgenson devised a program where artists could display their handmade works and exercise their entrepreneurial spirit.

“I realized that I knew plenty of other artists—enough to start my own craft show,” said Jorgenson.

And that’s exactly what she did. The Neighborhood Artisans Network hosted its initial show in her driveway before progressing to various other public venues. Then, in 2017, all of her diligence and dedication paid off when she secured their current prime location.

“It all came together when Genesis Church granted us the use of their parking lot at 32nd Street and Thunderbird Road,” said Jorgenson.

Genesis doesn’t charge them to use their lot. However, they do ask for a nominal fee to use their restrooms. In fact, this is all the artisans must pay; they aren’t charged any other fees to show their handmade items.

Location really is everything, especially when you’re next door to the “very popular” Original Breakfast House.

“We receive a lot of foot traffic from the restaurant,” said Jorgenson, “and we promote them just by being there. Original Breakfast House is such a busy place. From about 8:00 a.m. on, there is always a line.”

October through April, the Neighborhood Artisans host their show one Saturday per month from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. with two in December. According to Jorgenson, the group is comprised of local artists representing the following art forms:
• Toffee and Cookies
• Wood Burning Signs
• Upcycled Rusty Gold – Lamps and Signs
• Jams and Preserves
• Barnwood Signs
• Pottery
• Spoon Jewelry
• Woven Table Runners
• Fractal Gourds & Furniture
• Leather Purses & Pouches
• Folk Art Carvings
• Hand Crocheted Hats
• Wire Wrapped Serving Pieces
• Aprons and Accessories
• Acrylic Flow Painting
Variety is the spice of life, so she doesn’t duplicate any art form. Jorgenson has designed every aspect to be professional. The artisans are required to meet specific standards in terms of the quality of their artwork and its exhibition.

“This isn’t your ordinary craft show where anyone can display,” said Jorgenson. “This is a handpicked group of independent operating artisans who’ve met the criteria and made the commitment to attend the events.”

Admission is always free, so shop their remaining shows this season: February 16, March 16 and April 20. Check out their Facebook page: Neighborhood Artisans, and if you’re an artist who is interested in showing, email them at: [email protected].

“To build a following, we must have quality shows,” said Jorgenson, “and having them in the same location helps create that following. By fall 2019, I anticipate we’ll have twice as many vendors at each event.”