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For Sunday Market Artist, Spending Locally is Shopping With Love

Tarpon Sunday Market vendor Sherry Downing, owner of Dot's Dish Garden, says community supporters and local shoppers are at the heart of the matter.

Sherry Downing, owner of Dot's Dish Garden, has endured her fair share of unfavorable experiences, from being laid off from her corporate position 12 years ago to losing her husband to cancer in March of this year.

However, art has kept her going.

When Downing was laid off, she explained that she wasn't sure what happened but that she believes "an artist somewhere died, and their soul took over my body."

Downing said her artistic ability was non-existent in years past. She said that even her husband, an artist and art teacher for more than 16 years, deemed her unteachable. 

But one day after being laid off, something remarkable happened. 

"Suddenly, I was good," Downing explained.

Originally calling her work Dots on Pots, Downing would paint and sell three-dimensional objects like pots, furniture or whatever was lying around that she could get her hands on.

In the early 2000s, Downing recalled one of her first shows in Tarpon Springs. It was a Mother's Day weekend fair, and she remembered it being unsuccessful — at first. That Saturday, she wasn't even on track to break even, but the next day a woman who happened to be a buyer for the not-yet-built Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art visited her booth. 

Isabelle Leepa herself came and chatted with Downing, and within a short timeframe, her work was chosen to be "Isabelle's Choice" in the museum gift shop. 

"Needless to say, a flop of an art show for me turned into one greater than any other I'd done," Downing said.

Fast forward to March 2012, and Downing was faced with the devastating loss of her husband. 

She decided to change her artistic approach and had to come up with a medium that met three qualifications:

  • Easy set up
  • Fits in a small vehicle
  • Enjoyable to create

From there, Dot's Dish Garden was born. The business yields completely recycled plate and glassware flowers. Downing calls them the "perfect Florida flower."

"They can take hours of full sun, never need water and never wilt," Downing said. She incorporates a strong sense of commitment to the community in her work.   

"I think it is very important to buy and sell locally," Downing added. "I see no reason to travel a far distance to obtain the same goods and services that are available right here in my own community."

Downing and Dot's Dish Garden are participating members of the Tarpon Sunday Market throughout November, and the business will also be making an appearance at the There's Snow Place Like Tarpon Ave. event on Dec. 7.

Rachel Jolley November 16, 2012 at 12:55 PM
I agree, Sunde! Sherry has fought her battles well :)
Jean November 16, 2012 at 11:45 PM
Sherry is a really unique self taught artist. I love everything she paints. Her home is her canvas....everything she creates or paints makes you happy to look at. Sherry is a natural and a really sweet, friendly lady also! You Go Sherry Girl!
Lory Woortman November 17, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Sherry certainly grasps the concept of brightening all the world around her by making her home a work of art for all to enjoy. Now, She has formed "Dish Flowers" that that everyone can enjoy in their garden. I am the proud owner of some and they make me happy every time I see them. Sherry is a New Port Richey Treasure!
Pat Dotson November 18, 2012 at 03:02 PM
Sherry is a work in progress, personally and artistically. She can teach us all how to put one foot ahead of the other and keep transforming life. Charlie was her greatest fan. If you want to have fun, invite Sherry to the party...
Marilyn Chapman November 29, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Your story on Sherry really made me smile as I am the woman who purchased her art for the Leepa Rattner Museum. Love her work, love her personal spirit. Thanks for sharing. Marilyn Chapman

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