Craft Storytellers

Craft Storytellers


Deb Kneale and Douglas Brugger pride themselves on the connections they've forged with the dozens of artists whose work they carry at Show of Hands. Photo by Barry Staver.


Show of Hands
Gallery of Fine American Craft
210 Clayton St.
Denver, co 80206

In 1983, 16 artists pitched in $400 apiece to open Show of Hands gallery in Denver.

Woodworker Deb Kneale was among them, and today she co-owns the business with
Douglas Brugger, who traded in a career in corporate retail management-with the likes of
Banana Republic and Barneys New York-for the more intimate, inspiring and little-bit-crazy world of running a gallery.

Show of Hands is fine American craft with a contemporary flair. Longtime customers and tourists alike smile as they navigate a labyrinth of color, sophistication and fine craftsmanship.

The gallery, in the heart of Denver's historic Cherry Creek North shopping district, features furniture, pottery, home and garden accents, clothing, handbags, baby items, Judaica, wall art and jewelry-the top seller. A third
of the pieces are produced in Colorado.

Kneale handles the books. Brugger greets customers and heads up merchandising. They make buying decisions together.

What makes Show of Hands unusual?
Douglas Brugger:
The gallery is filled with work that people are not seeing everywhere else.
Deb Kneale: We know the makers of this work. We've met them. We've often met their families. We have been to their studios sometimes. There's a story with each piece, and when a customer purchases a piece, that story goes out the door with them. Take Anna Blake, one of our jewelers. She's also a rancher. When she's not making jewelry she's raising horses. That's information people like to know. We can also tell people how things were made.
DB: We forget that when people come in for the first time, or the hundredth time, it's just a "wow" factor. They're visually moved. That is so humbling when you're not asking for it.
DK: It's a happy place, and people feel welcome and comfortable to come in. We've got a psychiatrist who comes in routinely to get away from what she's dealing with in her job.

How often do you bring in new work?
DK: Daily. Toward the holidays, even more so. We try to promote our local artists. Half the art in the store is consigned to us, and those artists switch out their work continually. That keeps the store really fresh.

How did your partnership come together?
We were down to two owners here, including me [in 1999]. The other owner-a couple-wanted to open a B&B in Glenwood Springs. I knew that I didn't want to do this alone. I had gotten to know Douglas when he managed the Boulder Arts & Crafts Gallery.
DB: I loved Barneys-don't get me wrong-but I needed to get out of corporate life. That short window with the Boulder co-op was amazing. There were 40 member-owners [including Kneale]. I was the go-between between them and the staff and business. I had to do four interviews.
You almost didn't get the job because you interviewed in a suit.

You show artists from around the country. How do you stay plugged into craft nationally?
We're a part of Craft Retailers & Artists for Tomorrow [craft]. It partners gallery owners and artists throughout the country.
DK: It's also our mission to see that galleries don't close and that there's a succession from one owner to another. We mentored Ann Ruhr Pifer, who opened The Grand Hand in St. Paul, MN, in 2004.

Kelly Pate Dwyer is a Denver-based freelance writer.