Ask artists where they find inspiration, and they’ll probably tell you that it comes in the strangest places. For local hair stylist Janine Facciola, design inspiration for her new gallery space in Beaufort came at a baseball game.
While visiting Nationals Park stadium, home of the Washington Nationals, Ms. Facciola was impressed to see that the adjacent mixed-use area of souvenir shops, restaurants and bars shared one unusual element: They were built from salvaged shipping containers.
Years later, when trying to find an inexpensive way to develop an artisans’ studio space, that memory was still strong in her mind. After she found a half-size container and the perfect place to park it, Driftwood Artisan Studio was born.
Although the studio was pulled together using her own resources and imagination, it functions more as an artists’ cooperative than a typical gallery.
In the classic retail scenario, store owners keep about 50 percent of an item’s selling price, and pass along the rest to the artist or vendor.
Ms. Facciola didn’t think this business model would work well for her new venture.
“Many of our local artists are only able to create part-time, because they have to work full-time jobs. I wanted to pass along more of the profits to the artist, so that they’d be able to spend more time working at their craft,” she said.
“I was interested in giving people an easy way to get their incredible creations out in front of the public. That meant I’d have to keep the overhead as low as possible. Considering the rent being charged in downtown Beaufort, I knew I wouldn’t be able to pull this off in a traditional space.”
When Ms. Facciola moved her salon from Front Street to The Mill on Lennoxville Road earlier this year, she realized she had the perfect location.
A large, previously vacant lot between her salon and Mill Whistle Brewing is now buzzing with creative force.
The container itself has been outfitted with sliding glass doors and a welcoming front porch, complete with a cheerful red awning and twinkle lights, and the grounds surrounding it are filled with plants, hand-made furniture and art of all kinds.
A baby blue porch swing hangs in the side yard, ready for anyone who wants to relax. Fittingly, a driftwood “tree,” decorated with mobiles and wind chimes, holds a prominent place at one corner.
The container concept appealed to Ms. Facciola not just for its affordability, but also because it mirrors the work represented in the space.
“I’m all about repurposing things instead of throwing them away,” she said. “I love when someone can find a treasure in someone else’s trash. And upcycling something really takes imagination and vision.”
She’s not alone. Many of the artisans represented at Driftwood create their work from materials that are repurposed or recycled. There are handbags made from discarded upholstery samples, and jewelry that features sea glass instead of fancy (and expensive) jewels. The creativity on display is an inspiration in itself.
Like many of those represented in the studio, Leigh Fulcher works in a variety of art forms, transitioning from painted canvases to jewelry and other forms as the spirit moves her.
Ms. Fulcher is also a hair stylist and has known Ms. Facciola for about 15 years. Her current offerings range from playful earrings featuring colorful silk tassels, to more earthy pieces, such as bracelets and necklaces crafted from leather, many of which are embellished with hand-painted designs. She’s recently started working with metallic paint because she loves the way the paint’s shimmer and sheen contrast with the rough leather textures.
“I knew that anything Janine created would be amazing, because that’s just how she is. If I tried to create a space like this, it would probably look like the junkyard in ‘Sanford & Son,’” Ms. Fulcher said.
She said she was initially nervous to exhibit her pieces.
“Putting my work out there for strangers to see made me feel kind of exposed. But I’m okay with that now, because in my heart, I don’t feel like art has to be ‘perfect’. To me, it’s more like a personal expression.”
Each individual artisan is asked to keep at least five pieces for sale in the studio at all times, and they’re encouraged to change out their selections as often as they like. If any customers wish to commission special orders directly from the creators, the payment price will go directly to the artisans themselves.
“I’m a facilitator, not an agent,” Ms. Facciola said. “I’m just excited to have a forum for local artisans. We live in an area filled with talent and I hope this unique venue will be a great place to bring their offerings to our community, as well as to tourists and visitors.”
The studio’s interior space is set up much like a tiny home, with a kitchen at one end, bed/bath at the other and living space in between.
Ms. Facciola chose this layout so that the work could be displayed in its natural setting.
In the bathroom, hand-milled soaps sit next to hand-embroidered towels.
The kitchen features trivets made from wine corks and serving trays hand-carved from pieces of found wood. Out on the porch, a terra cotta drainage pipe has been fashioned into a planter.
Some of the more colorful, mixed-media canvases were created by local artist Lea Wolf, who also works as a licensed professional counselor.
Like many of the other artisans represented, Ms. Wolf enjoys experimenting with different art forms and materials. Her mermaids and fish crafted from beer cans are whimsical examples of her creativity.
“Before this studio opened, I never sold anything,” she said. “But now, I’m so pleased to know that the public likes the things I create – even enough to pay for them. It’s wonderful to have a place like this, instead of just hanging everything in my garage. I’ve never called myself an artist before, but this studio makes it feel more official, that now I’ve earned the right to call myself an artist. It makes me want to get even more creative with future projects.”
It takes a certain type of mind to look at a beer can and see a fish, and that’s exactly what Ms. Facciola was looking for. She’s always interested in meeting talented locals, particularly those who aren’t already represented elsewhere in this area.
In the future, she plans to host a variety of community-building events in the space, and to feature work from child artists. Classes such as art lessons and knitting are another possibility.
Beginning Friday, Oct. 6, the studio will host a “First Friday Block Party at the Mill” each month, from 5:30-7:30 p.m., with live music. Food and beverage sales will benefit various local charities. At the studio’s grand opening party, the East Carteret High School marching band sold food and drinks, with all proceeds going towards their uniforms fund.
Ms. Facciola is not good at taking credit for her hard work.
“My husband Danny and daughter Adrianna supported me from the start; when I told them my idea, they said, ‘Go for it!’ Otherwise, I may not have followed through. It was really important, for me, to have Adrianna see me take a chance on something I wanted to do, something that was not only for myself, but also for our community. I wanted her to see that it might be scary, but not trying is scarier, for me, at least. I haven’t always been able to do that, but knowing she’s watching pushes me to do better and be better. Their support helps a lot.”
Driftwood Artisan Studio at The Mill is at 1390 Lennoxville Road (just east of Safrit’s Building Supply) in Beaufort.
Prices range from $5 to $200. The studio is open from noon to 6 p.m., Wednesdays through Saturdays. Private appointments can be arranged in advance.
For more information, contact Ms. Facciola at 252-723-7031 or find the studio on Facebook, www.facebook.com/driftwoodartisanstudio/.