Loose Ends

 The Fine Art of Interior Design

When Art & I decided, in 1988, to commute after work to Seattle for an evening class on importing, (we had to stop at a rest area to grab a few hours sleep on the way home before going back to work the following morning in Salem), we had no idea that it would lead to a 30 year love affair with travel and sourcing unusual, handmade and/or organic items from exotic and remote world locales.

This grueling, twice a week, 6 week schedule culminated in us pooling all our money and taking off with the import instructor and one other hardy soul to Taiwan to try to get our idea turned into a product.

Although our “instructor” deserted all 3 of us in Hong Kong, Art & I met a young Taiwanese man who, in spite of being trained as an aeronautical engineer, knew his real passion was to be in international trade – it was a match made in heaven.  He became our “maker”, and 30 years later we are still close friends.

Beginning our import life as Reinke & Associates (we had Roscoe, a parrot & our associate), with one item, the now rare Ribbon Shredder, it wasn’t long before a stringer for a local newspaper in San Francisco discovered us and our device at a trade show and wrote a fortuitous article that said something about “tying up your loose ends” with our Ribbon Shredder – well, you don’t have to tell us twice - and Loose Ends was born.

For the first 10 or 12 years Loose Ends was strictly a wholesale source for the then blossoming balloon/gift basket craze, the florist trade, the party trade, and “special events” planners.  At that time Loose Ends consisted of just the Ribbon Shredder and 24 colors of the “curling” ribbon that the shredder worked with.   

But our four annual overseas buying trips exposed us to wonderful handmade items and exotic raw materials, and predictably we once again fell in love – this time with incredible “stuff” – AND, our personal passion, handmade papers!  

Now our primary market shifted to the interior design and art supply trade – and anyone else looking for something a bit unusual.

Enter the HGTV people, who are ALWAYS looking for something different – and certainly our trade show booths were that!  It was here that Carol Duvall discovered us, followed by TV design personality Christopher Lowell and a host of other “how-to” design, decorating and art/craft shows.

I was the guest “talent” on dozens of shows, with the opportunity to play on the backlot of Universal Studios and other venues.  Art & I spent one entire Easter weekend “tricking out” a studio dining room set for The Christopher Lowell Show, then were able to wander unescorted and at will (no union folks working on Easter) through the old “Leaver It to Beaver” house, the set of the laboratory of Jurassic Park, and take photos of each other on the porch of the Bates Motel.

These television shows highlighted what could be done with our products, and our new TV exposure necessitated & facilitated Loose Ends morphing from a strictly wholesale source into becoming a destination place for the actual user/retail consumer of our unique items.
It was two days after the 9/11 tragedy that Loose Ends moved into our new showroom and warehouse (THAT was scary) on Madrona Ave.  Now Salem artists, designers and craftspeople could come play & shop in the “paper room”, wander through our working “studio” or get lost in the huge attached warehouse.  It was in these large quarters that we made all the projects that we later duplicated on the TV shows.  The company grew to 10 people plus Art & I and the catalogue hit a high of 3 volumes, totaling 526 pages.

We had the opportunity and privilege of working at various times (providing props & “stuff”) with Disneyland & Disney World, Steven Spielberg studios, Starz, Sea World and others (even supplied some decorations for the White House a few years ago.

For 3 seasons we created and installed the Christmas décor for The Grand Hotel, downtown Salem (I think they still have some of the original pieces).  

But things and priorities change, and after 2008 we really felt that we wanted to hone down our offerings and concentrate on the handmade papers and natural fibers that had become our first love.  Working directly with the artists and craftspeople who were using the items was exciting and inspirational, and I loved working more directly with the creative people that were actually using our products.  

At the same time I was starting to seriously play with all of the ideas that were swarming around in my head, and I wanted to devote more time to my own artwork and personal creative endeavors.

Art & I were still traveling, but now it was more often down to Baja, where we had purchased property on the Sea of Cortez, in the little town of Loreto.  It was here that we found and rescued Thistle, a homeless street dog & our best friend (and another animal associate) for the last 5 years.  

And Baja was a paradise for those of us who liked to “gather stuff”!  But now it was fossils, shells, cactus skeletons, bones and “rusty refuse” that we were finding.  
And these are the things that now inspire my own artwork.

A dramatic change came In 2012 when we sold the Madrona property to the perfect new owners –

Gilgamesh Brewing.  But moving from 14,000 sq. feet to less than 3.000 meant we were into some serious downsizing.  

Today Loose Ends has morphed again – this time into Loose Ends Unleashed, (Loose Ends apparently wasn’t “loose” enough for us and we needed to “unleash” it to encompass more of our interests).   

Loose Ends Unleashed has a stronger focus on the papers, fibers & ephemera for artists.   As always, our business/life is a “work-in-progress” and is always changing.  When we travel, our focus now turns more & more in the direction of the amazing things we discover in the natural world – bones, fossils, sacred stones, Nature’s anomalies.  (a few years back Art actually found the entire backbone - vertebrae, ribs, etc. of a whale on one of our secret hidden beaches! – it took him & my brother-in-law 2 days to get it all up off the beach and onto my sister’s palapa roof – but THAT is another story for another time).  

As we continue to “hone down” and organize our “loose ends” you will be able to find more and more of our personal “finds” on our website, as well as some of my own artwork.   
Today I am more fascinated than ever by the papers, paints, and found materials that can be utilized to create a personal vision.  Many of the castoffs that we pick up now on the Mexican beaches and deserts find their way into my 3 dimensional “seabowls”, just as the discarded bits of either the natural or urban landscape combine with handmade papers, fibers, my own “stained” papers and other relevant flotsam & jetsamin my collage and mixed media pieces.
I love to experiment, and I now teach occasional classes on some of my own “trial & error” discovered techniques at The Art Department and Runaway Art & Craft Studio, both in Salem.  And this year I will be teaching 2 classes at the annual Newport Paper Arts Festival in April.
I still don’t have all the time I would like to work on my own projects, but that is coming.  Plans include adding a blog to our website for exploring ideas, and since we are now “unleashed” I added a “studio” to the site that features some of my own 2 & 3 dimensional collage/mixed media pieces.  

AND some of my “seabowls” can now be seen at Lunaria Gallery in Silverton!

Loose Ends Unleashed will always be a “work-in-progress”   Now just the 3 of us, Art, Thistle & me, we are tucked away in 2 offices & 1 warehouse at 2805 19th St SE, just off McGilchrist near the airport.

Our quarters are small compared to the huge Madrona property, and we still have an eclectic collection of unusual “stuff”, but as we continue to liquidate inventory we are gradually turning the spaces into a working and browsing studio, workshop and shopping showroom.  

We LOVE having people come by, whether you want to browse through our handmade paper sample books of 600+ different papers, check out my “seabowls” and collage/mixed media “in process” pieces or maybe you’re just looking for a string of “Fake Fish”.  If we are in town and here (which is most of the time), you are most welcome!

If you are making a special trip (we know we’re not in a very convenient location) we suggest a phone call (503 390-7457) to make sure someone is here, since if one of us is gone we usually both are (& so is the dog!) – but 7 days a week, 10:00 – 4:00 are our “target” hours.  

We look forward to seeing you! Sandi Reinke, sandi@looseends.com