Artisans transform one small town’s economy


Sam Bliss is traveling from Seattle to London by bicycle and boat. Read the intro to his travels here.

Tieton, Wash. — population 1,200 — sits on a plateau just above the Yakima Valley. A decade ago, it was just another economically depressed American farm town, one more victim of the corporatization of agribusiness. Successful small to mid-size farms had virtually disappeared, along with most local enterprise.

Now, Tieton is a place for creative people to enact their visions. Almost by accident, an influx of creative enterprise is bringing a different kind of prosperity to this one-time fruit boomtown.

Thanks to a loose association of artists and artisans that have set up shop, Tieton now shines as a hopeful example for hundreds of struggling rural towns across the United States. A long-abandoned apple distribution center now hosts a letterpress studio, a metal shop, a versatile gathering space, and a lamp production…

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