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Studio Tour: Sticks Furniture & Art Objects

March 29, 2016 Sticks and Steel

“One can acquire everything in solitude except character.”  Stendhal

In 1992, Sarah Grant created much more than a furniture business. She created a community. Grant's training as a painter and printmaker enabled her to illustrate stunning, never-before-seen designs on contemporary nativities. This was fuel enough to give her national attention, but her commitment to her work didn't stop there. In the past 24 years, Sticks has expanded and evolved to a team of the most talented designers and artisans the midwest has to offer. Now, this successful group of creatives ships their one-of-a-kind home dècor and furniture to select galleries across the country. 

I recently had the privilege of touring Sticks' beautiful Des Moines, IA studio space and MUST share the love, artistry, and teamwork that it takes to make every piece that leaves their studio. 

Exterior of Sticks Studio
Photo Credit: Ryan Leafgreen Photography

Every inch of Sticks is filled with whimsical, artistic charm. Hand-painted signs give friendly direction. The exterior frame of the floor-to-nearly-ceiling height windows is illustrated and painted in Sticks unique style.

"Visitor Entrance" sign
Photo Credit: Ryan Leafgreen Photography

The pace changes from quiet observation to bustling, creative community as soon as I breech the entrance doors......Sarah and her creative director are discussing drawings for an installation. We make brief introductions and my tour guide, excitedly leads me to our first stop--the woodshop.  

Sticks Furniture drafting room

Wood workers everywhere, be jealous! This workshop is filled with a seemingly endless number of tools and workbenches, all of which are put to good use! The team in this room design and build furniture and home objects. It's also their job to troubleshoot safety and function for custom furniture ideas.

Sticks artist drawing a design onto a mirror
After the forms are built, they make their way to an illustrator. It's hard to see in this photo, but this artist is holding a sketch in her left hand, and free-hand drawing (yes, free-hand drawing!) the sketch onto the frame. 

Artist burning an illustration into a Sticks table.  
Once the drawing is complete, another artisan etches the drawing into the wood with a wood-burning pen. 

The end result of the burning process on a small Sticks plaque.

Here's a small plaque that has just finished the wood-burning process. Notice the fuzzy, yellow discoloration around the etched lines. This will be removed in the next area--sanding. 

Artisan sanding and smoothing a memory box after burning/etching process.

Through sanding, this craftsmen improves both the feel and visual appearance of each piece. The yellow discoloration that is in the previous photo is removed, the etched lines appear sharper, and the contrast between the wood and etching is increased. 

Paint palette
Now it's time to add even more life! We are off to the painting studio!
Artist painting a lampshade
The painting studio is FLOODED with the warmth of natural light. Four artists are chatting as they mix, blend and hand-paint each piece. Yes, even the lampshade is hand-painted! 
Freshly painted lazy susans.
Their work results in saturated colors rich in atmospheric depth. 

lazy susan with polyurethane coating

After each piece is painted, it's time for the spray room! (I'm not gonna lie. I neglected to snap photos of this step out of fear for my camera lens. You're gonna have to take the tour yourself to see this step......which I do highly recommend.)  There are several layers of polyurethane applied to protect the piece and give it the beautiful luster you see above.  

Several Sticks pieces drying on racks.
When the poly coats have dried, the pieces are ready to ship!

Sticks team member creating a custom shipping box for Sticks piece.
Even the shipping boxes are handcrafted! Boxes are created to house these precious works, so they arrive safely to galleries like Sticks and Steel. 

Custom Sioux Falls themed lazy susan.
As you've seen, each thoughtful design is touched by several specialized artisans and craftsmen from start to finish. Sticks and Steel is one of the very lucky few carrying these communally made works. AND we have the honor of sharing these beautifully crafted works with our arts and American craft community.  Relationships like these give me the warm fuzzies that make my work more far more enjoyable than I think work is suppose to be. Thank goodness for artists, craftsmen, and small business peeps everywhere!

Melanie CottonMelanie Cotton is the marketing manager for our gallery. Both on and off the job this product process nerd spends a fair amount of time researching artists and their creative methods. 



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