Drawn to Beauty
The State Street Trading Company
By Jackie Perrone
Elaine “Lainie” Lewis couldn’t give it up if she tried (which she has no intention of doing). She’s been involved with art, design and beauty all her life; it’s kind of what makes her tick.
What’s ticking these days is: The State Street Trading Company. Lewis opened her art/gift/antique store last February in what is becoming a bustling and lively neighborhood, just a few steps from the newly-arriving Brookland Community at State and Meeting Streets in West Columbia. “I believe about 40 units are already leased, even before it opens officially,” she says. “It’s all rental, targeting young professionals as well as empty-nesters. They’re moving in, creating a new home in an urban environment, and I am here with artwork and furniture and decoration. We’ll make a new world for living just across the bridge from downtown Columbia.”
Lewis seeks out local artisans of all stripes: painting, ceramics, quilting, metal working, jewelry design. If you’re making something wonderful, check in with her at State Street. She likes introducing new creativity into the local scene.
As she says, she’s been “into” this arena all her life. She grew up in Pittsburgh and moved to Florida at age 19, earning a degree in Art Geology and Native American History at Florida Atlantic University. Since then, it’s been a career of art galleries and Interior Design and artwork including painting, ceramics and pottery.
Grandchildren lured her to the Midlands of South Carolina. After moving here to be close to family, she decided that a shop featuring the local art scene would fill a need in the booming West Columbia area, and is quickly learning there is plenty of talent looking for exposure and opportunity.
“You may know of a local blacksmith, Justin Vorhis, who has found wonderful ways to create things from iron. I have a unique wine-bottle holder he made, as well as an oyster-shucking knife and other small and not-so-small items.
“Virginia Scotchie is head of ceramics at the University of South Carolina, and her work, along with that of Nick Boismenu, displays variety and originality.” It seems these artisans are available also for commissioned pieces. If what you’re finding there is not quite the perfect choice, chances are they can come up another version which may be exactly right.
The pottery and ceramics display features pieces by Valerie Hawkins of Lancaster, and Bri Kinard who teaches at USC. David and Taryn Shekitkea are a husband-and-wife team of painters, and Jim Cheatham offers an unusual photography technique glazed on canvas to look like painting. Kathy Oda of Lady’s Island works in “fused” or “kiln-fired glass,” creating what she calls Splat Glass. Surprisingly, it’s microwaveable and dishwasher friendly, as well as scenic and unusual.
Lewis’ outreach also brings in works from others, sometimes her Florida connections, as well as commercial Love Pop-Up Cards. Helena Bec of DelRay Beach, FL, creates beautiful jewelry items of semi-precious stones and fresh-water pearls. Lewis has assembled a tea-pot collection, something antique-lovers often seek: “beautiful, sentimental, and small enough to transport easily.”
Something you’re not likely to find anywhere else locally is hand-made deer-hide pieces, featuring quilted squares and lacing. Remember, this entrepreneur majored in Native American History. Their handcrafts loom large in her experience, and she has created unique pieces from the deer hides. She has explored Native American handiwork in the area, and keeps an eye out for antique furniture. She likes finding pieces from the 1930s period, items such as desks and tables which are well-made and often of solid wood, adding a special touch to a newly-furnished room.
She haunts the markets and estate sales to find pieces that are unusual and special. Handmade jewelry is always an eye-catcher. Recently, a family closing out an estate brought her original paintings from that home, along with paints and easels and brushes. That may be just the impetus to get her back to one of her first interests, painting.
“I like helping people plan their home environment,” she says. “If they just want a little advice about how to put things together, or what is needed to complete a room, I am always glad to assist. Interior Design has been a prime interest of mine all my life.”
Lewis is contributing her talents and expertise to her chosen home town by serving on the West Columbia Beautification Committee. She mentions their emphasis on developing a park with special equipment for handicapped children, making it possible for them to explore the outdoors and have fun safely. Lewis has been a critical part of creating the non-profit’s signature events, the Tribute for Trees and the Taste on the River.
A visit to State Street Trading Company is likely to include a sampling of Lewis’ freshly-made home baked cookies. You’ve probably not seen a cookie server quite like this one: three tiered, highly ornamented, one of a kind. Just one more way to create a homelike atmosphere unlike anyone else’s. Lainie entertained the notion of including a tiny coffee-shop nook in the Trading Place, giving folks a chance to sit and look over the offerings while enjoying a cup and a snack. Space is at a premium, and she did not pursue the plan; then lo! The space next door to State Street Trading Company was leased to a – coffee shop! They’ll make good teammates in the busy neighborhood.