Locally crafted decor and accessories can be found throughout the town, nation and even the world.
By Cheryl Pruett
Laguna Beach is home to visionaries whose designs make a house a home. Whether it’s super-soft textiles that brighten a bedroom or handblown light fixtures to illuminate a kitchen, local artisans are making innovative pieces that are equal parts function and beauty. And, as different as their creations and mediums may be, these artists all have one thing in common: Laguna has served as their muse.
Let There Be Light
Glass blower and designer Caleb Siemon was born in nearby Newport Beach, then he lived in Laguna as a child and later took classes at Laguna College of Art & Design. Today, he and his wife, Carmen Salazar, have shared a home in Laguna Beach for 12 years and are the team behind Siemon & Salazar studio, where they design and create handblown glass pendants, sconces and lamps, as well as vessels like vases and bowls.
About seven years ago, the couple began translating their glass vessels into lighting fixtures. “We can think of glass in a whole other way with the illumination coming from the inside,” Caleb says.
One collection was entirely inspired by their surroundings and the landscape of Laguna Beach: The Banded Orb glass pendants feature a palette of colors that mimic the landscape and color transition from the ocean to intertidal zone, and then to the hills and fading into the sky. “We use those tones from different times of day to create the bands,” he says.
Their Happy Kiss pendant light is another example of Laguna’s natural environment inspiring art. Caleb was sitting on a surfboard one day, looking down into the water, watching the patterns of the sun’s reflection below—he and Carmen re-created the effect so that as the light goes through the glass pendant, the pattern on the wall is evocative of the sun’s reflection through the ocean to sand below.
Caleb describes their art as a perfect mix of two styles: The colorful approach of Venetia’s Murano glassmakers and the simplicity and restraint of Scandinavian design. “I like to allow the form to be the main idea or the color to be the main idea,” he says. If he uses a lot of color, he keeps the shape simple; if he uses clear glass, he will manipulate the shape more.
Carmen, a recently appointed arts commissioner in Laguna Beach, has a background in architecture and sculpture. She developed the hardware for their glass creations and heads the custom design portion of their business.
For Caleb, the inspiration he finds in Laguna is almost as strong as what draws him to glass. “I love the optic qualities of glass,” he says. “It reminds me of something mystical.”
Siemon & Salazar Lighting
The Laguna-inspired Banded Orb pendants are available in a variety of color combinations. The green, brown, yellow and blue palette, for example, mimics nature from dawn to dusk, and from ocean to mountain. The pendants sell for $1,000 each at Lightopia on North Coast Highway. (949-715-5575; lightopiaonline.com)
Cathy Bartels, who has lived in Laguna “forever,” says that her environment influences her mixed-media art. Those influences include seeing her son Jesse’s local murals (created for the public art project on Mermaid Street), hearing her son Dave occasionally play music—Indonesian gongs—with friends on Main Beach and viewing her husband’s iconic Main Beach art piece, “Canyon Chess and Checkers.” But Cathy surrounds herself with all things Laguna: Peter Blake Gallery on Ocean Avenue, Anastasia Boutique and Zinc Cafe & Market, and the many beautiful coves and beaches of the city are just a few of her favorites. Her nature is to take in all the texture Laguna has to offer.
She also loves the Laguna Art Museum; she previously served as co-chair of its Art Auction Committee, and one of her mixed-media wall pieces was up for auction at the museum in February. While mixed-media wall art is her main focus, she’s expanded to furniture pieces with her Leopard Cube ceramic tile tables. “I love surface design, which is what the Leopard Cubes are—just a different medium,” she says. “I’m of the school that finds leopard print a neutral.”
Her versatile, 18-inch cube can stand in for another dining chair in a pinch and has hidden marble feet with felt tabs for easy movement on floors that could be easily scratched, like wood and granite. The Leopard Cubes create a focal piece in a living room or other areas of the home that could benefit from a pop of intrigue. A pair works well as a coffee table, and they can be used both inside and on a patio.
She creates the tables in her C Studio, located in the house that she and her husband, Marlo, built years ago. “I’ve worked on design and art under various sides,” says Cathy, who has participated in the Festival of Arts and taught textile classes.
Cathy Bartels Accents
Cathy’s black-and-white ceramic tile Leopard Cubes can serve many functions, from stool to table, and they can be used both inside and outside. The cube sells for $4,000 and is available by contacting Cathy at C Studio. (949-525-8292; cstudiolagunabeach.blogspot.com)
Heirloom in the Making
Randy Bader may have started out with medical school on his mind, but fate—and Randy—had other plans. He wanted to make furniture. As a young man, he was like many others in their early 20s who had bookshelves made of cinder blocks and wooden boards in their first apartment.
Fast forward, and Randy now has a woodworking studio in Laguna Canyon where he crafts custom furniture and accessories that sell around the world. He’s known for rocking chairs he has made for 32 years. His choice of wood is domestic hardwood with “incredibly beautiful grain.”
Randy has shown in the Sawdust Art Festival and Festival of Arts for 30-plus years. “I can’t tell you why I’m successful,” Randy says. “I do only what I want to do. My pieces have a really grounded feeling. They are cozy and intimate. I sell pieces of my soul—not just art.”
Randy readily remembers moving to Laguna Beach in 1977 with a surfing buddy. Now Laguna is more than a youthful adventure, more than a home. For Randy, it’s also a community of artists.
“I tend to feel the most camaraderie with the artists here who have given up everything else, but have given themselves over to art. [Having] people like that around allows you to ask about your own work and get the truth.”
In addition to his rocking chairs, he crafts tables, mirrors, art shelves, clocks and more. He has a knack for taking the ordinary out of typically common pieces: A mirror doesn’t need to be a rectangle; the pendulum of the clock can be set apart from the hour and minute hands.
“The heart of my work is I don’t build it for money,” Randy says. “Yes, it has value. You respect it. But, even if I won the lottery, I’d still make furniture.”
Randy Bader Seating
Randy’s custom-made rocking chair is typically constructed from beautifully grained, domestic hardwood, but he will use other woods if requested by customers. His goal is always to create a “really comfortable chair” that can become an heirloom. It is priced just shy of $6,000 and is available at his studio, Randy Bader Woodworking, in Laguna Canyon. (949-494-8696; randybaderwoodworking.com)
Bring in the Color
Textile designer Kerry Cassill opened her lifestyle boutique, lala – A Kerry Cassill Store, in Laguna Beach in 1998. Starting with clothes, she quickly added bedding to her line of signature, hand-blocked, 100-percent custom-designed prints. Her sheets and pillowcases are now on beds across the United States and internationally. For her, it’s all about the color—then the transformation takes place.
She emphasizes the importance of combinations; for example, balancing happy, bright palettes with more grounded, “low” ones. “If you want to live with your fabrics and treasure them, you don’t want something that’s all the same tone,” she says.
Beyond the colors and patterns, Kerry has a reputation for the feel of her luxury bedding. “I’m really known for the comfort of it all. It’s all so soft,” she says. She encourages mixing, matching and layering, which allows for style flexibility.
Kerry describes her collection as bohemian chic. Her style certainly made for an easy transition to Laguna when she moved here from Seattle about 17 years ago. California-born, she spent several years in Laguna in the 1980s before traveling to Paris and later to India. The textures and techniques she encountered overseas inspired her, as reflected in her shop on Coast Highway. “We do hand-block printing, which is rarely done,” she says.
While her world travels influenced her textiles, Kerry continuously draws on her local surroundings—especially for color. Laguna’s amazing light, sunsets and beaches all have served as sources of inspiration for her.
“In my line of work, it’s very helpful to see the colors,” she says. “I’m always looking for different color combinations. That’s how my brain works. I could be looking at dishes or pottery and be inspired by that. I’m more inspired by plants and trees and sand and shells—sunsets and nature.”