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Visual Arts - Good Works 

by Sheri Boggs

You've got to be careful with a phrase like "one of Spokane's best-kept secrets," but interior designers, artists and sustainable living devotees are already big fans of Earth Goods, the industrial hemp company owned by entrepreneur/artists Jill Smith and Ann Wyman since 1999.

Hemp is a durable, fast-growing fiber that shows up in textiles going all the way back to the ancient world, but because of its associations with a certain plant (yep, that one), it has been pretty slow to take off in the United States. Small companies like Earth Goods aim to turn that around, and one look at some of the beautiful fabrics the company carries is enough to win new converts every day. It helps that they're also part of the exciting arts community that's taken up residence on the block that includes West First, Monroe and the alley behind Far West Billiards.

Now Earth Goods has opened a public gallery that showcases work by 31 artists, including jewelry, textiles, glass, ceramics, clothing, metal work and more. Good Works has been open for about six months, and while foot traffic on the block is still a little bit sporadic, a lot of visitor activity is generated both by word of mouth, and by people interested in the gallery's hemp alcove.

"This is kind of our 'education on hemp' area," says manager Jacob Feaselman, gesturing at the bolts of fabric, rolls of twine and several objects made of the soft, durable fiber. "When people learn about hemp and what it can do, they're really interested and a lot of them come back, or want to see what Earth Goods carries. There are hundreds of fabrics to choose from."

For the Visual Arts Tour, Good Works has both its regular stable of fine artists to offer, and also a showing of furniture -- mostly metal tables with glass or granite tops -- by Tom Sykes. His stylish constructions pair sleek, thick, brushed metal legs (often with overstated, bold curves) with either dark polished stone tops or plates of cracked window glass sandwiched between intact glass plates. The gallery space sets the work off to good advantage, with its "distressed" pre-renovation walls (that look like birch bark), high ceilings, hardwood floors and great lighting.

"His work is really amazing," says Feaselman of Sykes. "I think people are going to be impressed by what they see here."

Publication date: 02/06/03

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