Meet a local artist intent on showcasing things made here.
By Rachel Spacek
Photography by Gina Munda
Nestled between large pine trees in Incline Village is a unique shop with the goal of offering Lake Tahoe visitors the option to avoid “made in China” Lake Tahoe products. Handmade at the Lake offers quilts, rugs, pottery, jewelry, photography, soap and other unique items with one unifying feature—they are all made locally.
Karen Colbert opened the shop in 2008, after she spent the summer selling her handmade quilts and rugs on her own, because she felt there was a market for exclusive items, created by artists, and not mass-produced.
“Aside from North Tahoe Arts (a gallery and arts center), there wasn’t a shop on the North Shore that offered a large selection of art pieces from strictly local artists,” Colbert says.
In fact, even 10 years later, customers won’t find magnets or Lake Tahoe T-shirts: Her gift shop is still one-of-a-kind and her merchandise consists of things you can’t find anywhere else. “And that’s the point of a gift, right?” she says with a smile.
Colbert is attempting to downsize her shop just a bit to make space for more of her own wall hangings and artwork. But for now, it is filled to the brim with everything from gourd art to photography prints.
Colbert relies on local artists to provide a steady stream of pieces, which she admits can sometimes be challenging. Lake Tahoe has a lot of good artists, she says, but she estimates only about 20 percent of them are “serious” and rely on selling their work to “pay the rent.” In fact, her ideal situation is to sell an artist’s piece, then have them stop into the shop the next day with three new pieces. That is something “hobby artists” are not accustomed to, she says.
Colbert herself has become a successful artist and attributes her success to the fact that she does something no one else does. “Usually when people refer to ‘the quilt lady,’ everyone knows they are talking about me,” Colbert says. Her quilts depict mountain and floral scenes, but she also creates more abstract and modern quilts.
Colbert believes customers frequent her shop because of the high quality of her own work as well as the other artists’ work she sells there—and because she tries to keep her price points down. Lake Tahoe may have the reputation of being a very expensive place, but she wants to make its art accessible.
“I am not going to get rich doing this, but if I can push back against the mass marketing of overseas products that are sold here, that is my goal,” Colbert says.
Handmade at the Lake is located next to Wildflower Café at 873 Tahoe Blvd. #3, Incline Village, NV, and is open 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.