By Jennifer Squires
Santa Cruz Sentinel
Ever increasingly, artisans are turning to the Internet to sell their wares on hosted sites like Etsy, eBay and Amazon.
But five artists are bucking that trend in Capitola, coming together to create a brick-and-mortar cooperative gallery featuring their locally made art including jewelry, furniture, paintings and custom photography.
Stepping into Art Inspired of Capitola, the cooperative feels part-homey farmhouse, part-Anthropologie chic.
Liz de Puydt had run her boutique photography studio in the Capitola Avenue storefront for a few years but realized this fall she didn’t need the entire space to herself. She invited other artists — starting with mothers of her children’s friends, Day of the Dead artist Summer Rhee-Pizano and jewelry designer Sara Fletcher — to share the shop with her.
Leslie Stabile, who handcrafts sea glass jewelry set in silver, and Vickie Steffy, an artisan who builds custom reclaimed wooden furniture, round out the artist cooperative.
Though each woman brings her own unique artistry to the shop, their works seem like a natural complement to one another. Steffy’s furniture, like a railroad coffee table, builds the foundation for the other artists to display their wares. With de Puydt’s framed photos and Rhee-Pizano’s paintings adorning walls, greeting cards and jewelry fill tables and shelves.
“It’s fun having a lot of different artists together to inspire each other,” said de Puydt, who is the only one in the cooperative who has had a storefront before. Rhee-Pizano and Stabile both sell their wares on consignment at other shops in the county, though all of the artists have longed to open shops of their own.
“I always said I’d never do it alone,” said Stabile, who participates in dozens art shows a year and has an online shop for her one-of-a-kind jewelry, Bella Mare Sea Glass.
Stabile studied photography in college, then worked in the travel industry for years. She’s visited over 30 countries and collects unique sea glass during those journeys, like wave-worn painted tiles from a beach in Italy. Stabile also gathers her “gems of the ocean” on the Central Coast, then sets the unaltered glass in sterling silver.
When it’s slow at the shop, Stabile makes earrings and Rhee-Pizano paints.
Rhee-Pizano recently discovered her knack for painting. She began painting whimsical images of blossom-covered skeletons to commemorate a spirit vision dream she had two years ago on the Day of the Dead, the Mexican holiday that focuses on remembering loved ones who’ve died.
“I’d never picked up a paintbrush,” she said. “I never, never imagined people would want to put up — let alone buy — anything I would produce.”