Buying and browsing heaven

The Walker Shop draws in people with art, books, jewelry, chocolate and antler lamps

Some people come to the Walker Shop just to browse. Just to take a look at the oddities and beautiful (and sometimes expensive) artifacts on display. Some of the art for sale is from overseas, and much of it is disregarded as strange and random by folks not in the know.

The gift shop inside the Walker Art Center isn't your typical place to do holiday shopping. It's not filled with postcards and books about art history (although those are present). The Walker Shop is hip; an attraction in itself, if only you allow yourself to get sucked in.

Heidi Ferm of Minneapolis has been sucked into the quirky gift vortex of the shop.

&#8220This is just not in my world,” Ferm said. &#8220I always gain a new perspective when I come here and am intrigued. I enjoy just looking around.”

The revamped Walker Shop opened in 2004 when the refurbished Walker Art Center took its opening bow.

The shop contains items attractive to art aficionados and some items designed to catch the eyes of people just passing through.

&#8220We sell art pieces by artists and fine art jewelry by artisans,” said Nicole Lynott, manager of the Walker Shop. &#8220We also sell items ranging from art books to kitchen items.”

You can own the up-close art of Chuck Close with a book of his visual self-examinations co-published by the Walker ($34.95) or get a primer on contemporary art with your own copy of the Walker catalogue, &#8220Bits & Pieces Put Together to Present a Semblance of a Whole: Walker Art Center Collections,” which retails for $45.

Rest assured, the Walker Shop's kitchen items are not your everyday plates and silverware. The shop has sleek, stylish Alessi-designed food gear, such as cups, plates, and bowls that are like small works of metal and plastic art themselves. (Most of them can be had for under $100.)

According to Lynott, the Walker Shop is the only place in Minneapolis to sell the Italian Alessi equipment.

Many of the items in the front of the store are Walker exclusives; items that are sold at the Walker and only at the Walker.

Among the most popular exclusive items are the $6 gourmet chocolate bars by B.T. McElrath Chocolatier of Minneapolis. The selection includes the Espresso Bar, Cocoa Nib and Dried Cherry Bar, Marled Ivy Mint Chocolate Bar and the most popular one: the Salty Dog Chocolate Bar.

Some of the material found at the Walker Shop is befuddling; even the people working there have to do double-takes at times.

&#8220The oddest item that we sell has to be the Antler Lamp [$400],”Lynott said. &#8220Along with that, we have still-life porcelain logs and stones.”

The lamp is a porcelain re-creation of antlers on which the tips of the antlers light up. The logs and stones are porcelain sculptures ranging in price from $35 to $150.

Art books cover the entire back wall at the shop. You can find books about everything from log houses to architecture in the Netherlands. They have New York Times bestsellers, as well as books about artists of the past such as Andy Warhol (the enormous, 15-pound book sells for $125) and many selections featuring current artists.

The six glass cases of jewelry at the shop are filled with finely wrought silver and gold from such far-ranging places as Germany, Scotland and California. There are pieces for sale for as little as $15, but some may very well require customers to carry platinum-colored plastic. Among the more expensive items are a $520 necklace made out of brushed sterling silver and oxidized sterling silver. A $615 colored resin necklace can be found as well.

The books are one of the more popular items in the shop and are predominately priced at under $20.

The store also carries stuff for children, including board games and stuffed animals, including a flying pig paper animation kit (only $8.95), the Really Giant Drawing and Coloring Book ($18.95), and a $46 lacquered green frog pull-toy from Vilac, France (where else?).

Some say the idiosyncratic shop is the perfect place to put the final touches on holiday shopping.

&#8220I came here to replace some jewelry that I lost,” said Jeane of Minneapolis, who did not give her last name. &#8220I also like the children's department here. It is a great place to come to find all of those stocking stuffers.”