Redmond jeweler Sean Satterlee took a $100,000 line of credit to finance the creation of special solar eclipse merchandise, all of which he hopes to sell by Monday.
A third-generation business owner, Satterlee said he hadn’t taken a bank loan in 15 years, but when he realized how many people would be coming to Central Oregon, he said, “we just decided to take a plunge and go with the eclipse.”
Even before Satterlee set up his booth at Oregon Solarfest at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, the sun-and-moon pendant he designed was getting attention. A couple heading back to Portland after camping saw one of his brochures at the Black Bear Diner in Madras on Tuesday evening, he said. The couple turned back and drove to Redmond before the store closed to buy one of the pendants, which sell for $195 in sterling silver with a chain. Satterlee and two jewelers who work under him created a variety of eclipse-inspired items, but he produced 750 of his design.
“I kind of kick myself for not planning this a couple years in advance,” he said. “I could’ve sold this all across the United States.”
The eclipse has inspired designers, artists and souvenir-makers across Central Oregon, who’ve made everything from funky eclipse-viewing glasses to scented candles. Many of the locally produced goods won’t be available in high volume, however, because the last thing their makers wanted was to get stuck with eclipse stuff after Monday.
“We all know a ton of people are coming, but this is a little different experience,” said Sweet Pea Cole, a print maker who is hand-screening T-shirts at her studio in The Workhouse in Bend. Cole ordered 200 shirts but planned to screen print in small batches, as the shirts sell through her main outlet, The Bend Store downtown.
Cole said she was conservative because she wasn’t sure what to expect. “Will people be shopping, or are they so afraid traffic is going to be bad they don’t go out?” she said.
While eclipse-viewing shades and commemorative T-shirts are available everywhere from McDonald’s to Fred Meyer stores, the items designed in Central Oregon tend to draw on the region’s vistas and natural resources.
Dani Naturals, which bottles body and bath products in Bend, came up with a set of three scented candles, “dark musk,” “amber moon” and “high desert sage,” in special eclipse packaging. The pendant Satterlee designed incorporates the Oregon sunstone, and the state gemstone is involved in most of his eclipse inventory. Letterpress printer Susan Porteous of Green Bird Press created a print that depicts the full-eclipse sky with constellations, as seen from Madras.
Laura Nolan, whose main business is handmade soap, decided that for the eclipse, it would be best to sell an item that fits with the event. So she created eclipse-viewing glasses festooned with feathers and glitter.
“If I have any left over, I can potentially punch out the eyes, and they could be used for Halloween,” Nolan said in July.
She needn’t have worried. All 200 of the glasses, priced at $8 to $16, were sold last week.
Cole’s T-shirt design is a stylized eclipse moving across the state of Oregon. “It’s definitely an eclipse shirt,” she said, but she hopes the shirt, which sells for $28 at The Bend Store, has a broader appeal, and people will wear it well into the future.
“My concern when I set out to do the design just for the eclipse is that I would create something that didn’t have staying power,” Cole said.
Indigenous artist Molly Kubista of Redmond took an even longer view. “We’re always documenting history, on our rocks, on our leather, and now on paper as a modern artist.”
Kubista, who draws over antique ledger entries like her ancestors did in the late 1800s, began gathering material and inspiration for her eclipse piece about a year ago. The result is a leaping horse that’s sprouting butterfly wings. The wing pattern incorporates circles of darkened sky. She hoped to sell the piece at Solarfest for $4,500.
“If they love native history, and they’re here at this event, that’s the piece they’re taking home,” she said.
After investing so much time and energy into the eclipse candle set, which sells for $40, Dani Naturals owner Shannon Vetras said she’ll be happy to return the company’s focus to its bath and body products. “It was pretty labor-intensive,” she said. “That’s part of the learning process.”
There are definitely quicker, easier ways to commemorate the eclipse and make a little money, too.
Graphic designer Michael Asher of Bend created stickers and a T-shirt with the Bend city logo blacking out a blazing sun. The stickers, which cost $3.99, are selling briskly at the Expressway gas station at Reed Market Road and 15th Street in Bend — the station is owned by relatives of Asher. Asher, who works full time at a sign company, sells his shirt designs online, but for the eclipse he decided to take advantage of the high volume of visitors.
“I should probably just make some Bend stickers and shirts and sell ’em when everybody comes through,” he said.
Flash Ink owner Dan Wellisch said he has done some eclipse-related screen printing for Walmart and printed promotional items for local companies, but the numbers aren’t overwhelming.
“Based on our production, I think people are conservative in their buying.”
But that was before the visitors arrived.
“I do think the influx of visitors are going to take anything that says Bend, Oregon, and ‘eclipse’ on it,” Wellisch said,“which in my experience is what sells.”
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