When Tory Franklin was younger, her grandmother, who lived in another part of the country, used to send her books of fairy tales.
The books were “exquisitely illustrated,” Franklin said, and the images left a lasting impression and helped put her on the path to being a professional artist.
“It’s something that really influenced me at an early age,” she said this week.
That influence is on full display this month as part of a new exhibit in the windows of the former Renton Western Wear store featuring large-scale pieces of Franklin’s art based on fairy tales, called “Trove.”
Made of wood and cut PVC puppet figures, the pieces fill the old store’s empty windows with fanciful images from “The Princess and the Pea,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “The Little Mermaid” (the Hans Christian Andersen version, not the Disney movie) and “The Firebird,” an old Russian fairy tale.
Franklin said the idea for the large images came to her while driving from the East Coast and since 2010 she has been working on displaying her classic fairy-tale vignettes in public settings.
Franklin said she was tired of making gallery-style pieces and wanted to engage the public more, at which point she began applying for public art projects and grants.
So far, her work has shown in storefronts in Auburn and Seattle.
Inspired by the style of 1800s book illustrations, Franklin said she likes to think of the work as “gigantic pop up books.”
The piece is made possible by a $1,000 grant from King County 4Culture grant through the Renton Arts Commission for “site-specific art.”
According to Community Development Project Manager Jennifer Davis Hayes, the idea of the grant is to “bring art to where people are.”
Hayes said the Arts Commission wanted to get the city’s empty storefronts “activated” with art and Franklin’s experience and pitch fit exactly with what they were looking for.
“Tory is a person who does this professionally,” Hayes said, adding that the commission did not dictate what the art should be.
The owners of the Renton Western Wear building were also “very welcoming” to Franklin and her art.
Hayes said the idea is to temporarily use the empty window space for art to spur interest in the space and in downtown so people see the work of “high-caliber artists,” instead of just empty buildings.
“It brings attention,” Hayes said. “We want to contribute to the vibrancy of downtown.”
Hayes said after seeing the presentation of ideas, it is “very exciting” to see the work on display.
“I think it’s absolutely beautiful,” she said. “It’s a fabulous addition to downtown.”
Franklin also said she hoped the artwork would “liven up the area” and give shoppers something to look at while they make their way through downtown.
“They see something that is fun and maybe that makes them smile,” she said.
To see more of Franklin’s work, visit www.toryfranklin.com.