Design & Home
3 Unique Artisans Who Are Putting Marin’s Arts Scene on the Map
Ask almost anyone, and they’ll agree — Marin has it all. Nature, restaurants, shopping, all at your doorstep. But one thing our cultured residents still trek across the bridge for is fine art. Of course, artists have long called Marin home, but have had to rely on galleries in San Francisco and beyond to sell their work. Thanks to a shift in how art is discovered (now at some top-notch Marin galleries) and purchased — one tiny victory for social media — we’re uncovering a new guard of Marin artisans who are worth setting your sights on.
If you’ve ever held a Twinkie (or any other bunker-approved food item) and wondered what exactly it was made of: Mill Valley–based artist Dwight Eschliman took that curiosity a step further by deconstructing the snack and photographing all 17 ingredients. The project led him to team up with science writer Steve Ettlinger to create Ingredients (ReganArts), a stunning book that artfully documents 25 different store-bought foods. Eschliman has made his mark as a commercial photographer, shooting campaigns for Apple, Absolut, Audi, Chobani and Adidas as well as editorial work for The New York Times. There is a unifying crispness, brightness and optimism to his work. He describes it as orderliness, making sense of the space. “When I was a little kid, I used to have all these knickknacks on my dresser. I would arrange them and take a picture when they were perfectly organized. And I think I somehow turned that into a career.”
He’s able to explore the deconstruction concept even more fully in his fine art photography series where, as Eschliman says, “the group informs the individual.” His prior series can be explored on the Eschliman Studio website and you can visit his newest series, One Day, exhibited as Color of Light at the Sarah Shepard Gallery at Marin Country Mart. As a photographer, Eschliman has long been fascinated by how one conveys movement or passage of time in a single still image. When he started thinking about landscapes and how even one vista changes throughout the day, he wanted to experiment with a portrait of a place in its full 24-hour cycle. By capturing a still image of every second of the day (fast math: that’s 86,400 images) and arranging them in chronological order (“like reading a book”), you get a color thumbprint of a location. The results even surprised even the artist, who says, “Even though I lived through the day, you never know what the final image is going to look like.”
If one could ever be born to excel at a certain craft, Bernadette Szilvasy would be that person. While her father was a master artist at the revered Herend porcelain factory in Hungary, little Bernadette was painting in the factory’s preschool with the same brushes the artists used. Fast-forward past art school and her own instruction in Herend, and you can now find her hand-painting porcelain in her Ross workshop. She has united the European heritage of refined porcelain painting with a more laid-back California vibe. While out hiking (Muir Woods is a favorite) or strolling on the beach, she racks up inspiration — ferns, flowers and seabirds are frequent motifs. “I love to be outdoors as much as possible,” Szilvasy says about how she is continually finding new ways to represent Marin’s limitless beauty in her art. “I love to catch a moment, like how the bird’s feather was moving.” Szilvasy brings the outside in, making the flora and fauna the center of her creations. Via an old-world technique, raccoons, birds, moths, beets and parsley all are transformed by a delicate brushstroke into timeless works of art on porcelain.
And if you want to see her work in person: Szilvasy loves when people come into her workshop and watch her work. Often, customers are so taken with her style that they ask her to create a custom pattern for them (a pet, a scene from a vacation), which she is happy to do. Though chuck-it-in-the-sink items they are not, all of her products are durable and meant to be used every day. Pieces start at around $65 (for a hand-painted mug) — an investment for tableware, but a bargain for holding a piece of art in your hands each morning. When reflecting on her father’s legacy living on in Marin, the artist’s eyes sparkle. “He’d be so proud.”
Denis Fraisse has spent the majority of his life on the water — growing up in a small fishing town in the south of France where his father owned a boatyard, and later as a craftsman, building and repairing racing sailboats. He’s always built things, primarily out of wood. So, it’s no surprise that when the Corte Madera–based sports enthusiast tried paddleboarding while on vacation in Hawaii, he fell in love with it and resolved to build himself a board as beautiful as the boats he was used to. Countless people told him he couldn’t make a sufficient SUP out of wood, which only increased his resolve. The high-end result quickly proved his naysayers wrong. Requiring 400 hours of work to build (and $40,000 to $50,000 to buy), Denis’s SUPs are almost too stunning to strap to your roof. But whether you take one to McNears Beach or mount it above your mantel, it’s craftsmanship at its finest.
Fraisse’s success with the paddleboard encouraged him to expand his offerings to one-of-a-kind home furnishings inspired by nature. When updating his home decor, he knew his coffee table had to go. So, naturally, he designed and built one worthy of the MoMA (Noguchi lovers, eat your heart out). The range is small, but growing, and currently includes a coffee table, a wall shelf and wall art (ranging from $8,000 to $12,000) — all otherworldly pieces that express the artist’s experience as if the wood was magically curved and shaped by water. He doesn’t use a mold and responds to the size, shape and type of wood, making each piece completely unique. Outside as much as possible, Fraisse finds ideas everywhere he looks. “I was hiking in the rain and there was a tree falling from the weight. There was a curve of the wood that was beautiful, and I took a picture. And in my head, I was thinking — ‘this is a lamp,’ ” he says. “We try to make beautiful pieces as a human, but nature is already everything.”