Crafts with an American spirit

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Find a wide selections of artistic, functional and perhaps humorous products at Moonstones Gallery in Cambria.

Find a wide selections of artistic, functional and perhaps humorous products at Moonstones Gallery in Cambria.

Visit the eclectic Moonstones Gallery

Art produced by American craftsmen is the specialty at Moonstones Gallery in the historic East Village of Cambria. With a visit to this eclectic gallery on Burton Drive your eyes will fill with the wonder of finely made artistic craft items. This is not just a beads and jewelry store!

Bob and Kathy Unger fell into the craft world early on, starting with the leather work that Bob began creating while going to college. A friend showed him how to make braided leather belts and before he knew it Bob was also producing purses, chokers, coasters and other leather items. When orders from chain merchandisers started coming in, he hired Kathy, who lived next door to him, to dye some of the pieces.

“I didn’t plan on being a craftsman,” Bob said. “I was studying urban planning!” He soon found out after graduation that jobs in his field were not really where his heart was. “I took a job with the State of California as a Transportation Planner and hated it.” One of the jobs he did like in his youth was driving a tour bus throughout California. It was on these trips that he came to love the Central Coast area. Ultimately he and Kathy, who were then living in Woodland Hills, gave up their jobs and made the move north to Cambria.

Spirit of creativity

“Our first business here was called the Rainbow Cotton Company and we did screen printed fabrics, pillows, windsocks, and kites,” Bob said. But their love of fine craftsmanship and pride in our country brought them to opening the gallery of American Art 33 years ago.

“We were young and didn’t know what we were doing,” Kathy said, laughing. “We were young and too stupid to know what a risk we were taking opening a small business in a small town.” The Unger’s realized that in order to make their business succeed and grow it required their attention 24/7 and they devoted themselves to it and to the artisans and customers they acquired.

“We want people to connect to their spirit of creativity when they visit our gallery,” Kathy said. “We like to get to know them a little bit and make their visit to our gallery a memorable experience.”

Bob is an art juror on the American Craft Retailers and is the primary buyer. He finds the artisans and chooses the crafts while Kathy takes care of organizing the business. They have a synergy between them that really works. The Unger’s develop long lasting relationships with the artists they support. “We’ve watched many of their families grow up,” Kathy said, “and we’ve seen their crafts and their lives develop.”

Wide selection of hand-crafted items

Items offered in the gallery include elegantly-crafted wood inlay jewelry boxes, finely-carved wood birds, whimsical metal sculptures of cats, cows, and mice, socks, mittens, hats knitted from recycled t-shirt materials, hand blown glass figurines, beautiful wooden kaleidoscopes, soft and warm textiles and clothing, kinetic wall sculptures that whirl in fast and slow motion, paper crafts, and so much more. “Our selections have to be alive with creative spirit,” Bob said, “they can be artistic, functional and perhaps humorous. We hope our choices lift one’s spirits.”

American craftsmanship

Ninety-nine percent of the craft in the gallery is hand made by an artist living in America.  It is the Unger’s’ belief that American craftsmen employ the highest skill sets, use the best materials, and follow the strictest environmental and safety regulations doing their crafts.  They feel strongly that American craftsmanship and design are unsurpassed. “Skill and a keen imagination are involved in the translation from physical raw materials into art,” Bob said. “It is no-thing elevated to some-thing.”

Walk through the door at Moonstones Gallery and feel the spirit that is infused into tangible items – it is a craft gallery a cut above all other craft galleries. It is difficult to browse in this shop without smiling or even laughing out loud. One could spend a delightful afternoon in this gallery on the Cambria coast where moonstones truly do exist, lying quietly in the sands as the ocean waves wash silently over them. Be sure to stop by Moonstones Gallery, where the Art of America lives.

Moonstones Gallery is open daily, 10 a.m. – 9 p.m. and is located at 4070 Burton Drive in Cambria. For more information, call (800) 424-3827, (805) 927-3447 or visit moonstones.com. Items also available for purchase online.

— Ruth Ann Angus

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