With the diverse constituency of a big city and the community network of a small town, Santa Barbara is overflowing with entrepreneurs wanting to tap into its creative juices. This edition of Off the Wall is dedicated to the brave business owners who see a niche to be filled and take the plunge into ownership. Some of them are new faces, others more recognizable, but all of them realize the value of employing the arts.
The Bold and the Beautiful
One of the newest apparel establishments in town, Paseo Nuevo’s InSoul has a funky aesthetic that characterizes its entire inventory, including unique pieces of clothing, customized shoe designs, hand-painted skate decks, and a selection of paintings by resident artist TazRoc. With a vibe that is half skate shop and half art gallery (the oversized store logo is stenciled on a snowboard, which hangs from the ceiling), InSoul is set up to display each piece as an individual artwork. Clothing displays incorporate strategically placed, large-scale portrait paintings, and custom shoe designs by Saber appear under Plexiglas cases. All of the pieces in the store have a street art sensibility-an exaggerated, illustrative edge. The store also includes the distinctive styling of Mary the Machine and owner Sean Oshea, whose skate decks apply the same aesthetic on a smaller scale. Whether or not InSoul fits your particular style, the store is an excellent example of good design crossing media boundaries and standing by its product.
Handmade and Home-style
Just down the proverbial Paseo, lovebird, a newly opened boutique and jewelry store owned by Studio 3 East’s Erika Carter, adopts a more whimsical, romantic style. To complement her jewelry line and add to the store’s sweetly subdued allure, Carter has displayed her nature-inspired paintings. Carter is a prolific artist with hundreds of pieces to her name and an instantly recognizable style: mixed-media on wood with a waxy surface texture. All of her work shares a similar aesthetic, borrowing from her Central Coast surroundings. Carter’s subject matter makes her work quintessentially Santa Barbaran and gives lovebird an air of hominess-walking into this space feels more like entering an artist’s studio than a place of commerce.
The last stop on the new businesses tour, Livingreen Montecito, has been around for months, but its unique selection of green housewares, furniture, and lifestyle items continues to surprise and delight. Tucked into the store’s corners and nooks are complementary pieces of artwork by Santa Barbara artists that bring to life the store’s commitment to local creations and organic living. The artistic roster includes photographs of tranquil Hawaiian scenes by Bobby Benton, like horses grazing in wide green pastures, close-ups of tightly packed bamboo clusters, and hazy rainbows in atmospheric landscapes. Chris Homer’s photos of heart-shaped rocks nestled in sandy beds echo the intrinsically calming spirit of the islands, and Robyn Geddes’s series of birds painted in a soft pastel palette provide an additional ode to nature.
One of the current highlights at Livingreen is a display of furniture designer John Spivey’s Kanji Collection, which is influenced by sumi-e (Japanese brush painting). Spivey finds inspiration in natural materials, their inherently unique properties like grain, color, and hue giving life to his extraordinary designs. His love of materials shines through his work: Natural curves and imperfections shape his work. Graceful arches form the legs of a wide-seated chair, its back grates resembling frets on a violin or guitar. Indeed, Spivey’s works have an innate lyricism, with all of their components working in quiet, effortless harmony.
TazRoc, Mary the Machine, Sean Oshea, and Saber
At InSoul (801 Paseo Nuevo) indefinitely.
At lovebird (7 E. De la Guerra St.) indefinitely.
Robyn Geddes, Bobby Benton, and John Spivey
At Livingreen Montecito (1275 Coast Village Rd.) indefinitely.