By Abigail Mandlin

In these times of shut-downs and lockdowns, quarantine and isolation, we need art now more than ever to sustain us, to keep us sane.

Robin Williams said it best when playing beloved high school English teacher John Keating in Dead Poets Society: “Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

As many of us continue to “shelter in place,” we turn ever towards art is all its capacities: new TV shows to keep us entertained, podcasts to help us fall asleep, drawing and writing to allow our minds to rest in a world that is increasingly trying to keep our attention on the “necessary,” the mundane.



And as well, we are all the more in need of pursuits and presences in our lives that treat us softly, that are “safe spaces” in the most fundamental definition of the term. With political, social upheaval—along with the coronavirus and all that entails—our mental faculties have been taking hit after hit basically ever since the year began. It feels necessary, then, to dole out our energies in a way that feels fulfilling, ethical, sustainable. For some people that means supporting their friends’ and neighbors’ small businesses; for others, it means creating art or consuming art that supports the causes we hold most dear.

Olyphant art supply store. Photo courtesy Abigail Mandlin.

What if one could do both, in only one trip?

Olyphant, Olympia’s own independent craft store, might just be the place for one then.

Centrally located next to another Olympia staple, Rainy Day Records, the shop has been offering a wide variety of craft supplies since September of 2010. Brothers Nick and Jonathan “JB” Baldridge moved the operation three times initially, before nestling into the perfect alcove on Fifth Ave SE in the heart of the Historic District to serve the greater Olympia area.



“We simply saw a need for [the craft store] and started out small,” said Baldridge.

The store, however, is not immune to the current situation plaguing us all.

The company is now reaching out for new help in running the business, as one of the main operators has decided to move closer to family and pursue other projects. As Baldridge claimed, “We’re looking for someone else to simply take what we’ve started and improve upon it as Olympia continues to grow.”

Despite both the change in management and the coronavirus pandemic, the shop is still up and running 12 – 6 p.m. every weekday. And as well, to cater more easily to the needs of local artists, it has also created a new website during this time, theolyphant.com. There one can find the entire stock, and local delivery is free.

Whether one is a professional or a hobbyist—both simply trying to find an ethical way to cater to one’s artist pursuits during this unique time in our lives—Olyphant is the local one-stop shop for all one’s creative needs.

Olyphant art supply store. Photo courtesy Abigail Mandlin.