At the edge of Historic Oakwood in Raleigh, on the corner of East Lane and North Bloodworth streets, two cherry-red doors with square windows conceal a small white room. Through the glass, towering walls lined with canvases and antique cases of ceramics are visible. Tucked away in the back, shop owner Caitlin Cary is likely hunkered over her sewing machine.

Cary and her husband, Eric “Skillet” Gilmore, have lived in Raleigh for over 25 years; on March 5, the couple opened Pocket Gallery at 222 North Bloodworth Street. Open Wednesday through Sunday, from noon to 6 p.m., the 350-square-foot storefront features local art in all forms, from Gilmore’s screen prints, to Cary’s needlepoint canvases, to jewelry, crochet, and greeting cards made by local artists and friends.

Pocket Gallery also features a monthly-rotating guest wall, located at the front of the store. Currently, the work of artist Davis Choun occupies the wall, his large clothespin-assemblages challenging three-dimensional space. Cary says they are already fully booked with guest artists until 2022, with Autumn Cobeland set to take his place in April. Future guests artists include Pete Sack, Adam Cohen, and Luke Buchanan.

“I thought, well, if I lived in a neighborhood that could have a store, I would love to have a little place to go and get a card for a friend or a gift,” Cary says. “And then accidentally spend $2,000 on a great piece of original art!”

Cary and Gilmore have always been artists—although first, they drew people in with their sound. In the mid and late 1990s, the two performed on stages across Raleigh in alt-country act Whiskeytown, alongside Ryan Adams, before he branched out as a solo act. Cary, a vocalist and violinist, went on to release three solo albums, a duet album with singer-songwriter Thad Cockrell, and two albums with girl-power-group Tres Chicas.

Around six years ago, Cary decided her time in music was done, and turned to visual art to fuel her fire. As a visual artist, she has a style that’s eclectic but organized, spontaneous but intentional. She coined the term “needleprint,” because her personal technique—sewing reclaimed fabric scraps onto canvas or paper—doesn’t quite have a name. With these canvases, she creates deconstructed versions of noted landmarks, street corners, or clients’ childhood homes.

Gilmore also pivoted to art, learning graphic design and creating posters for local music and city events (at one point, he also worked for the INDY’s art department as production manager). His zany, colorful screen prints are attention-grabbing—it’s impossible, for instance, to ignore two comic-book-style middle fingers pasted on the wall.

Prior to the pandemic, Cary had studio space in the Raleigh collective Artspace for five years. With the shutdown in effect, working from home proved a hangup for creativity, she and Gilmore finally decided to open the gallery.

“It was just something about the way it felt when we walked in,” she says. “It really is tiny; ‘The Pocket’ is the right name. But there’s a lot of wall space, which made me think, okay, maybe I can wrap my brain around the size of the space, and I’ll really be able to get quite a bit of work in here.”

When she pictures what a COVID-free future looks like, Cary imagines extending displays onto the sidewalk, Friday wine-and-cheese nights for guest artist openings, and even small poetry readings indoors. And while current circumstances limit how many people can frequent Pocket Gallery at once, Cary feels confident in its potential and future, and has begun booking a couple years out. Business may not be booming yet, but people are gradually beginning to discover, and appreciate, the neighborhood space.

“It’s a groovy block with a restaurant right next door, right across the street,” Cary says. “There’s people walking their dogs and picking up their kids. I feel like we’re grabbing attention slowly. People are noticing.” 

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