Between the colorful, often playful murals that adorn the walls of buildings throughout the city and the three-dimensional works of art known as the traffic box wrap project, Tacoma is a city that appreciates artwork.

One business owner in the City of Destiny wants to keep elevating the city’s love of art with a gallery dedicated to showcasing the work of Tacoma artists. With a varied background that includes being a former correctional officer, to owning her own sign company called Signs of Distinction, Carolyn Osborne struck out in a new direction in 2012.

Also an artist herself, she’s made art her whole life, but she didn’t always have a full-time career built around her creative work. That changed seven years ago when Carolyn opened Creative Forces Gifts and Sundries, an art gallery and gift shop located inside the Hotel Murano.

Creative Forces Gallery Tacoma
From starting out with a dozen artists to her current inventory of the work of 60 local artists, the shop has blossomed along with the Tacoma arts scene. Photo credit: Amanda Bretz

As an artist, Carolyn works in a variety of media – mixed media, fused glass, charcoal, watercolor and acrylic. She even makes jewelry, using glass, metal and other materials. Likewise, that variety is reflected in her shop, where she carries art of all kinds, from large-scale paintings, to ceramic pieces including sculptures and pottery, to jewelry and textiles.

One of her desires in running a small business is creating a space where other area artists can sell their works. From starting out with a dozen artists to her current inventory of the work of 60 local artists, the shop has blossomed along with the Tacoma arts scene.

“I wanted to create a gallery that would only have local artists’ works,” Carolyn explains of her business.

Tacoma Gallery
The gallery and gift shop has a variety of types of art featured, from paintings to jewelry, textiles and ceramics. Photo credit: Amanda Bretz

In fact, she says opening the gallery was a dream she’s had since she began selling her own artwork in the seventh grade. The business opportunity came about after a friend told her the space was available inside Hotel Murano.

Carolyn’s niece had hosted a fundraiser at the hotel to benefit Saint Anthony’s Oncology Center. Also, Carolyn’s brother David passed away after a battle with cancer, so when the chance to open a business inside the hotel presented itself, it seemed like a loose connection to her brother.

In addition to owning the Creative Forces gift shop, Carolyn also runs another business. Carolyn creates custom glass pieces where she fuses cremated remains into a memorial piece of art. Sacred Embers is something that came about after the loss of her brother. And it was during her time of grieving that she discovered that there were other people like her who would like a unique piece of glass artwork that also doubled as a keepsake to honor a loved one.

Often times, the art she creates through Sacred Embers is wearable. During the process of making the pieces, she fuses ashes with dichroic glass. This type of glass is created through a technique that artists use when they layer glass along with metals or oxides. The end result of dichroic glass is a beautiful piece that has multiple colors that reflect in the light.

Creative Forces Gallery
Carolyn makes art in several media including glass jewelry, painting and mixed media pieces. Photo credit: Amanda Bretz

After her brother’s passing, she made a memorial piece of jewelry for herself, which prompted her to do some research on companies that make similar pieces from ashes. What she found was that the larger companies don’t take the time to get to know anything about the person who’s suffered the loss, or the person who is being memorialized in the piece.

“I want to be a trusted source for those experiencing the loss of a loved one,” Carolyn says of what she calls her heart work. When she makes a piece, she talks with her customer and gets to know the person they’ve lost so she can truly honor that individual through her custom creation.

With a Sacred Embers piece, she creates a one-of-a-kind remembrance item that is both beautiful and meaningful. The artwork allows you to keep a part of your loved one, or beloved pet, close to you. Carolyn makes her memorial pieces in pendant, cuff link, ring, bracelet, earrings and other jewelry forms. They’re also made into key chains, small dishes, wind chimes and more.

With this work, Carolyn creates something that not only helps other people with their grief. It’s yet another way she feels a connection to her brother.

“I feel so honored creating Sacred Embers. I also feel that my brother is with me as I create.”

To find out more about Creative Forces, visit the shop inside the Hotel Murano at 1320 Broadway, or call 253-227-8871. To learn more about Carolyn’s art and her Sacred Embers pieces, visit her website or find her on Facebook or Instagram.

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