Shopping Whidbey, outside-the-box
— Created November 3, 2021 by Kathy Reed
By Kathy Reed
Don’t shoot the messenger, but there are exactly 51 days from this paper’s publication date until Christmas. Only 24 days until the start of Hannukah and 52 days until Kwanzaa. Supply chain and shipping issues across the country have some people worried about the coming holiday shopping season.
As it happens, there is no shortage of creativity and out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to Whidbey Island entrepreneurs.
Take Beth Herrild, for example. She is the founder of Outside the Box Creation, which offers subscription art education boxes aimed at children ages 5 to 11 (approximately). There is a new box each month which includes a picture book that relates in some way to that month’s art project, enough supplies to complete the project (often multiple times) and step-by-step instructions.
These boxes are not just craft projects in which children replicate a particular item, according to Herrild.
“It’s art, it’s not crafts,” she said. “Not that crafts are bad, but what kids get out of doing a craft is very different than what they get out of doing art.”
Herrild, who moved to Whidbey Island from an east Seattle suburb three years ago, has a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. She said seeing the lack of art education in the schools her three children attended started her on this path.
“I was appalled at the lack of quality visual arts education,” she said. “A lot of elementary schools don’t have paid art teachers. So, I was an art docent – a.k.a. unpaid art teacher – for 12 years. After my kids aged out of elementary school, I helped train and coordinate the art docents in the district, I volunteered at an intentional art drop-in center in the University district for youth and young adults to do art, I taught art as a volunteer at a juvenile detention center, so I’ve seen how powerful art is for kids.
“I saw the kids come into my art class, especially the kids that weren’t excelling in the core subjects, how art just lit them up and how it could be a vehicle for them to feel good about school and develop self-esteem,” Herrild continued. “I continued to watch the funding for arts decrease instead of increase and I saw the subscription box craze starting to happen and I thought, ‘I need to do this.’ So I quit my job.”
Not only are the projects in Outside the Box Creation boxes fun to do, Herrild said kids and parents can learn a lot, together.
“This is not something that you just hand your kid and go into the other room and say ‘don’t bother me,'” said Herrild. “It’s meant to be something that’s experienced with the child. I think it’s a lovely way to spend time with your child. To connect, create, educate.
“And you don’t have to consider yourself an artist as a parent to do art with a child,” she continued. “It’s better to discover the project together, anyway. If a parent sits down and in the child’s eyes is an expert, the child will try emulate that. To say. ‘I’ve never done this before – let’s work on it together,’ models lifelong learning. It allows kids the freedom to be creative and come up with their own ideas.”
The boxes come in two different sizes – the regular box contains enough supplies for one or two children, while the large box has enough supplies for up to four children. Families can subscribe to the boxes but there are gift subscriptions of varying lengths available as well, enabling grandparents or other family members to send the boxes. Digital subscriptions are also available. Paint trays and watercolor cups are compostable and Herrild does her best to source ecologically responsible supplies. More information is available online at outsidetheboxcreation.com.
“My favorite thing in the world is hearing from customers how much their kids enjoy the projects, how much they enjoy spending time together and knowing we are making quality visual arts instruction available,” Herrild said.
Gifts for those you love, from the islands you love
Supporting local business and the entrepreneurial spirit that goes with it is a choice that never goes out of style, according to Sherrye Wyatt, public relations and marketing manager/film liaison for Whidbey and Camano Islands Tourism.
“There are so many reasons why supporting island entrepreneurs is a good choice for shoppers, including their authenticity,” she said. “Outside the Box Creation is a great gift for aunts or uncles or even grandparents to give. Beth [Herrild] has created something experiential and educational and her commitment to the environment is compelling. Subscription gifts like Outside the Box for children or a wine club membership or farm CSA for adults are thoughtful, and offer something to look forward to.”
Whidbey and Camano Islands Tourism has created online profiles at whidbeycamanoislands.com for hundreds of businesses on the islands and this year is promoting the shop local campaign with the tagline “Gifts for the people you love, from the islands you love.” Wyatt said people have a better understanding of how local purchases impact the local economy.
“With so much uncertainty in the world, it is very tangible and satisfying to know exactly who you are supporting,” she said. “[It’s] nice to look that maker in the eye or to hold that gift in your hand. Many businesses now offer gift cards which are easily shipped and provide the chance for the recipient to choose their own island favorites.”
And Wyatt said it might not be a bad idea to get a jump on holiday shopping before shipping issues cause gift-giving headaches.
“It’s best to ask businesses early if they can create and ship a gift box for you,” she encouraged. “There are dozens already taking orders. like bayleaf, Ciao, 3 Sisters, Whidbey Natural, Lavender Wind, Mutiny Bay Blues, Cook on Clay, Chocolate Flower Farm and Camano Island Honey. It’s good to get out and explore the number of talented artists, photographers, authors and other island artisans and purchase something from a shop carrying their wares. Other ideas are food and beverages – like gift cards to restaurants or breweries, distilleries, coffee roasters or other craft beverage makers. Also, a membership to a local nonprofit organization or museum is extremely thoughtful.”
Another out-of-the-box idea exclusive to Whidbey Island is the Whidbey Island Grown Food Cooperative. WIGC’s online food hub now includes holiday gift items from local makers and producers like candles, candies, honey, herbs, botanicals and bath and body products. Select the “Attributes” button from the pull-down menu on the left side of the food hub storefront screen at whidbeyislandgrown.com. Locally made gifts can be ordered on the gift hub and picked up with food hub orders on Fridays.
“We are headed into what is traditionally always the slowest season for visitors,” said Wyatt. “For Whidbey Island at least, the negative publicity surrounding the reduced ferry service is not helping to encourage travelers. The only bright side is visitors are committing to multi-day stays to better justify their longer journey.
“I think there is a hunger to immerse ourselves into the small town holiday charm like you find in a Hallmark movie,” she continued. “Island communities really deliver on that promise. Holiday decorations are expected to go up earlier and be even more ‘over the top’ than ever before.”
As shopping time ticks down his holiday season, consider thinking outside the box and sharing a piece of Whidbey with someone you love.