The name says it all. The Handcrafted Life is all about creating something wonderful with your hands. From giving new life to an old piece of furniture to making something stunning from discarded oyster shells, this shop offers local artists a place to display and sell their creations.
Owners Chris and Sam DeLuca are both Flagler alumni and in the growing number of Flagler students who decide that St. Augustine is just too nice to leave upon graduation. “Chris and I love the quaint, friendly city that St. Augustine is. We love the beach and the charm of downtown. Everywhere you look, you see beauty here,” said DeLuca.
A former kindergarten teacher, Sam was refinishing furniture on the weekends and selling the pieces on Craigslist. Soon, she was unable to keep up with the demand, and the idea to open the store was born. Now, less than two years later, the shop contains its own community of artists, displaying the work of over 35 locals who have a passion for creating. “I love that the pieces we sell make people feel happy and make them love their home just a little bit more,” said DeLuca.
Most items available for purchase are created from items that are upcycled or repurposed. A little creative attention from imaginative artists turns discarded or used items into a unique work of art for any coastal home.
A lifelong Detroit resident turned St. Augustine transplant, Nancy Krezewski paints The Oldest City’s iconic landmarks and picturesque seascapes. “I moved to St. Augustine two years ago, and fell in love with the city, its history, and its residents immediately,” said Krezewski.
Krezewski started painting with oils on canvas and drawing with charcoals on paper when she was 12 years old. At the time, an avid equestrian, most of her art was centered around horses.
An interesting fact about Krezewski’s paintings is her choice of canvas. She paints on repurposed wood from historic St. Augustine buildings. Her favorite “canvas” is cypress planks, but she also enjoys using old doors and frames. The paints she uses are mostly cast offs from a local hardware store or old house paints. “If I can repurpose a piece of St. Augustine history to bring joy to someone’s home, I’m happy!”
For eight years Barbara Green has been rinsing, bleaching, separating, and grading piles of oyster shells. It sounds like a lot of work. But after all the prep is done, she builds art in the fashion of putting together a puzzle. She designs a unique line of home accessories, which include mirrors, lamps, and what she calls, “oyster pies.”
She made a shell covered mirror as a birthday present for her mother. Soon, requests were coming in from neighbors and her friends … she realized she was on to something. Then she got the idea to use oyster shells and that is when her own unique brand emerged. She’s been lucky that her large group of friends keep her supplied with shells from their annual oyster roasts, so she doesn’t often have to purchase the shells.
“I’m a beach girl and I love the fact that I can stay connected to the beach by using shells in my art. When I sit down, I don’t know exactly what’s going to take place, so seeing the finished product is a lot of fun,” said Green.
Tina Gipson is a master of reinvention. She has an uncanny ability to take two pieces of furniture and combine into one or just build something magnificent from simple pallets. She may turn pallets into amazing headboards with built-in candle holders or build a clock from a discarded cable spool.
As a child Gipson helped her father restore cars and found her favorite part was the sanding and painting. Since she didn’t have the money to buy old cars, she started refinishing furniture.
Her canvases are everywhere, from yard sales, to Craigslist, to the side of the road. Gipson is a firm believer in the“waste not, want not” mentality. “People throw usable items away every day. They may not be usable in their current state, but with a little TLC those thrown away items can become beautiful pieces,” said Gipson. Her biggest challenge? Getting custom pieces to the exact measurements the client wants – she most often works with reclaimed wood and pieces that are difficult to resize.
Everyone needs a colorful way to add personality and sparkle to their home décor. This is where Susan Plante’s punchy designs come in to play. Her brand is called Beach Jive, and you will know why when you peruse her beautiful selection of beach themed pillows, table runners, napkins and placemats.
Plante’s mother taught her to sew when she was younger. However, the interest was reignited about six years ago when she decided to take a local quilting class. “I have learned a lot since then, and I am so happy to have found a hobby that I can share with others,” said Plante.
She finds so much joy in sewing that most days she wakes up thinking about what projects she will work on when she is done with her real job. “This may sound crazy, but sometimes I even take my sewing machine on vacation.”
It’s clear that Chris, Sam and the community of artists are all passionate about uniqueness and creativity. This shop is proof that when Flagler alumni stay in St. Augustine, they make a solid contribution to the community.
The Handcrafted Life is located at 900 E2 Anastasia Blvd. in The Lighthouse Plaza. For more information, visit them online.