BY PENNY WEBB
Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
April 1, 2015
Sharon and Fred Lundahl have circled the world, many times. Both retired diplomats, they each spent 30 years in the foreign service—the last 10 of it together in central Asia. When they retired to Whidbey 11 years ago, they decided to open a store that would allow them to keep up their travels, make a few bucks and do good in the world.
Music for the Eyes on First Street in Langley is that store.
“I like to call it our ‘pretend’ store,” Fred explained. “It’s really just an excuse for us to travel.”
And travel they have. From Pakistan to Tibet to Argentina (this year’s journey), Fred and Sharon love to visit other cultures, make connections and help where they can.
“I think you are born with a certain amount of volunteerism you must spend,” Fred said. “Since I had spent most of my life moving every two or three years, I’d spend a little here, a little there, but I knew I had to spend it all by the end of my life. Since we washed up on Whidbey Island with pretty much all our volunteerism yet to spend, we’ve been making up for lost time.”
They have done that in a number of ways—first, by becoming indispensable figures in the local community. Fred has been president of the Langley Chamber of Commerce, helped found the Langley Main Street Association and is a driving force in the Langley Whale Center. Secondly, they contract with artisans from all over the world to create unique rugs, jewelry and gifts for their store and, in so doing, provide a livelihood for these artists and craftspeople.
Because the Lundhals work directly with artisans, they can sell their treasures very inexpensively. “There is no middle man,” Sharon explained. “When you purchase from us, you know your money is directly benefitting these artists.”
One such contract stands out as especially inspirational.
While working in Islamabad, Sharon met Didar Ali, a businessman and liberal Muslim from the Hunza Valley in Pakistan. The Hunza region of Northern Pakistan is a remote, beautiful place with eight of the world’s highest mountains. Didar owned a workshop in his village where women created wool needlepoint cushions made from natural dyes. Sharon and Fred began purchasing these lovely pieces from Didar Ali to stock their new store. Soon the relationship grew to include hand dyed rugs, which Sharon helped design.
“Now there are 250 women weavers, creating rugs for Music for the Eyes,” Sharon said.
“The rugs we commission are replicas of either antique rugs or my own designs. And, because they are new, they are a fraction of the cost of our antique rugs, but made with the same wool and cotton that will wear wonderfully for decades.”
When asked by a customer how to care for a rug, Sharon said, “Just soak them like you would a wool sweater.” When the customer balked, Sharon responded, “These women make these rugs to last!”
To help support their friends in Hunza, the Lundhals send books for the local schools. “The Hunza are very liberal and very literate,” Fred said. “Education is very important to the Hunza people. We’re pleased we can help support their education and their economy.”
Besides rugs, a visitor to Music for the Eyes will find the whimsical and wonderful.
“We have a very large hat selection,” Fred said. “Each country has its official hat, so we’ve got dervish hats from Turkey, priest hats from Georgia, embroidered hats from Turkmenistan, folding hats from Uzbekistan.” Fred pulled out a huge fuzzy sheepskin hat from Russia. “This would look great on anybody!”
Fred then picked up a boiled wool slipper shaped like a mouse. “We had these for the kids and so many adults wanted them we now have our artisans making grown-up sizes!” Same thing with monster mittens. “People love these.”
An extensive bead collection fills the back of the store. “I started out making my own jewelry,” Sharon said. “Whatever beads I had left over I’d put out to sell. They’d be gone so quickly, I decided to bring in more stock.” The plethora of colors and variety is visually stunning and a beader’s dream.
Art, textiles, antiques, artifacts, scarves, jewelry… Music for the Eyes is an international symphony, led by two world-traveling conductors. Stop in for a virtual tour around the world, today.
Music for the Eyes is located at 301 First Street in Langley and is open every day of the year, including holidays, 11a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays. Phone them at 360-221-4525 for further information. Or check their webpage at http://musicfortheeyes.com/
For a link to the Music for the Eyes blog post about the Hunza project, click here.
Image at top: The entrance to Music to the Eyes at 301 First Street in Langley. (photo by Marsha Morgan)
Penny Webb is a writer, musician, mom, and gardener. She is currently rewriting her story.
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Sweet article about wonderful people doing loving things for this incredible world! xoxoxoxo
Entertaining story and marvelous photos. I thought it would be impossible to do justice to the interior of Music, but Marsha Morgan managed it.
It is a shame that charm and heart cannot be bottled. It would let me take Music for the Eyes home with me. I guess I will just have to settle for my stunning rug :-).
it is fantastic story
I love these two wonderful people. I remember when they came to the Island and immediately became a part of the Island fabric (pun intended :)), supporting the community from the first day they arrived. What a fantastic article and brilliant pictures that capture the essence of Music for the Eyes. Thank you for sharing!