By James Cullum
You better watch out when walking into A Show Of Hands in Del Ray – you might just spend all of your money. The shop, located at 2301 Mount Vernon Avenue, is the perfect outlet for Alexandria artists. The merchandise – paintings, jewelry, postcards, fountain pens, soaps, toys, glass, jams and jellies, recycled art, ceramics, bags, Bloody Mary mix, even the music playing on the CD player are locally made.
Alexandrians Maria Wasowski and Pat Miller opened the consignment store four years ago. Customers will usually find one of them behind the counter, since they walk to work and have only one other employee. “We really like to be here. When you walk into a shop, you want to be able to talk to the owner,” Miller said. “Maria is one of the best business partners around. When I’m down she’s up and it just works.”
A Show of Hands is a great place when customers are out of ideas for that perfect gift. “People come into the store and say, ‘I need to buy a gift for someone. What should I get?’ This is the place to find it,” Wasowski said.
The store showcases work from more than 200 artisans, including Patrick O’Brien, Alice Kale, Leah Sturgis, Paige Ireland and Ginny Steinhauer. The merchandise ranges from $7 for a postcard to $3000 for an original painting, “but most merchandise is priced below $150,” Miller said. “Everything in here is one-of-a-kind. We opened the shop to give local artists a venue to sell their work. Our artists are mainly people who still have full-time jobs but do their art on evenings and weekends.”
The inventory changes constantly. “The way to get your art in the store is to come in and say, “Hi, I want to put my art in here,” Miller said. “And that’s about it.”
Miller is the founder and organizer of Art on the Avenue, the annual multicultural arts festival that attracts thousands of visitors to Del Ray. She is also the chair of the Alexandria Commission for the Arts. Wasowski is a former production manager for a graphic design firm and makes and sells jewelry.
Over time, the pair have learned not to judge art by their own tastes. “Sometimes when something comes in I think, ‘That’ll never sell,’ and we keep it in the store just to give that artist an opportunity. Then whamo, it sells immediately!” Miller said.
A Show Of Hands is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.