Downtown Friday Harbor has a new art-focused gift shop. Local artist Alisha Merrick opened FERN in June 2020, and while the physical store may be small, there’s plenty of heart — and art — packed into the space.
After primarily showing her work at local farmers markets, Merrick saw great value in opening a brick and mortar store.
“Having the opportunity to sell year-round instead of just on weekends randomly is much more stable,” she says.
Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19 — during Phase 2, only two people are allowed in the 100-square-foot store at a time — the store is a mere block from the ferry, so it’s in an ideal location for tourists visiting San Juan Island.
Art has been running through Merrick’s veins her entire life. After learning early on in high school that she preferred art to math, she quickly became involved in a wide range of artforms.
“I kind of went as art heavy as I could because it was fun for me,” she says.
She attended the Cleveland Institute of Art in Ohio and majored in enameling. While enamel art may be her specialty, Merrick does a little bit of everything.
“I do a lot of jewelry and enameling, but I have managed to weave in painting and drawing,” she says.
What You’ll Find
About three quarters of the art in FERN is Merrick’s own work, like her Outline Hoop earrings (from $88) and Rainbow Keychain ($16), but she also sells items from other artists to round out the store’s offerings. You’ll find fun gift items like Rainbow Thigh High Socks ($14) and Stitch Kits (from $26).
Merrick draws inspiration from nature when creating her artwork, so many of the colors, patterns, and lines seen on San Juan Island play into her jewelry and paintings. She admits the store draws in a more female crowd, but some products appeal to men and children, too.
Merrick’s enamel hoop earrings are among her bestsellers, but she personally doesn’t have a favorite creative medium. Rather, she enjoys experimentation.
“I really like switching back and forth between different mediums because it keeps it fresh,” she says.
Ultimately, it’s the creative process that drives Merrick and brings life into the shop. “I just like the actual making of something and then having someone love it, and then knowing they’re going home and they’re excited about it.” 110 First St. S, Friday Harbor, 574.596.3412, fernsanjuan.com