Finleaf Gallery offers fine teas, handcrafted artisan gifts in historic Shandon neighborhood

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When Peg Finlay Averyt thought about opening up an art gallery, it took a leap of faith. Finlay had taken courses in starting a business and painting through the Penland School of Arts and Crafts but could not decide whether to open the gallery. Not until a friend convinced her, did Averyt take the steps to open Finleaf Gallery.

Tucked away in a tiny craftsman home off Devine Street, Finleaf Gallery offers a variety of art, jewelry, clothing and home goods created by local and regional artists in the Carolinas. Averyt also takes special care to include items from around the globe to showcase the unique wares of artisans in developing nations.

“I’ve always been drawn to handmade, original items,” Averyt said. “All of this sort of evolved in the last 10 years.”

Averyt wasn’t always a purveyor of art. She said her taste for art was sparked by two professors who taught music and art appreciation classes at the University of South Carolina.

A tea kettle from Averyt's tea leaf collection (photo by Kelly Petty).

A tea kettle from Averyt’s tea leaf collection (photo by Kelly Petty).

“They have meant a lot to me,” Averyt said. “They loved the subject and they made it come alive.”

Globetrekking with her husband over the years also gave her opportunities to be exposed to various cultures. Items within her shop reflect her travels to places like Africa, India, Turkey, Italy, France and Argentina.

“Wherever I am, I like to learn more about the culture,” she said. “I like to just sit at the table, have a cup of tea and watch the people.”

Visitors who stop by the shop can peruse rooms full of whimsical art pieces, tunics, kimonos, summer hats, handbags, candles and bath and body products. Pottery from Asheville and handmade beaded jewelry from Greece line shelves in the small home. Averyt’s collection is organic, with items forged in natural materials like wood, stone and marble.

Finleaf Gallery originally opened 13 years ago as Finleaf Tea Arts, serving as Columbia’s exclusive seller of loose-leaf teas. The name Finleaf was a nod to her family name, Finlay, as well as the family’s legacy in the tea business.

The gallery still sells high quality teas, including jasmine, darjeeling, chai, passion fruit and a Finleaf blend that features holiday spices like cinnamon, cloves and peppermint.

“It’s the personality of the owner that makes a small business like this distinctive,” said Carol Saunders, owner of Saunders Gallery in the Vista and a close friend of Averyt.

Saunders said Averyt is able to connect with people through the art in her gallery, which is a quality that adds to the spirit of Finleaf.

“I love it. It’s always changing,” Saunders said.

Gifts perfect for a wedding registry from Finleaf Gallery (photo by Kelly Petty).

Finleaf Gallery features a variety of items, including wedding registry gifts.(photo by Kelly Petty)

Averyt recently set out to publish her first children’s book, “Willowbel’s Wagon,” which she debuted at a book signing Thursday. The book follows a brown rabbit named Willowbel looking for the lost wagon he uses to carry Easter eggs for children.

Averyt illustrated the book by painting scenes using watercolor on batiste fabric. Those square pieces of fabric were compiled and printed to form a book with her original story.The book is inspired by her love for her grandchildren.

This spring, Finleaf Gallery expects to attract brides who are looking for unique items for their wedding registry. Couples can stop by and choose from a selection of handpainted champagne glasses, ceramic platters and Alex Marshall designer lamps.

“A lot of times the grooms come in too,” said Robin Williams, a longtime employee at Finleaf Gallery. “Guys love to come in and pick out things they like.”

The gallery also can be rented for bridal and baby showers.

Averyt looks forward to hosting more workshops and special gatherings, including tea leaf readings. Children can come to the shop this Saturday to paint Easter eggs.

Finleaf Gallery is at 2323 Devine St. Visit the website for more information about the shop and featured artists.

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