Arts & Culture

See where art is born at the 2014 SLO County Open Studios Art Tour

This process uses the hammer to hit a tool that then rebounds and shapes the inside of the bowl. Silversmith Randy Stromsoe has been hand crafting gold, silver and pewter for decades. His studio is outside of Cambria.
David Middlecamp
This process uses the hammer to hit a tool that then rebounds and shapes the inside of the bowl. Silversmith Randy Stromsoe has been hand crafting gold, silver and pewter for decades. His studio is outside of Cambria. David Middlecamp 9-29-2014

For 16 years, ARTS Obispo has produced one of the largest open studio tours in the nation right here in San Luis Obispo County: The Open Studios Art Tour.

This year, more than 180 local painters, sculptors, printmakers, woodcarvers and a myriad of other artists will showcase their work at their home and public studios across the county.

We’ve profiled four local artists—Randy Stromsoe, Ann Bonestell, Penny Fitzgerald and Rod Baker — to give you a small taste of what you’ll find on the tour.


In his 45 years of silver-smithing and metalworking, Randy Stromsoe has created pieces for presidents, popes and everyone in between.

And it all started because of a misunderstanding with a community college class description.

“When I was 18 or 19, I took a class at a community college, crafts workshop,” he said. “I though it was going to be woodworking, but then it turned out to be making jewelry.”

Though he was hesitant at first, Stromsoe soon found that he had a talent for jewelry-making, and after taking a class trip to world-renowned silversmith Porter Blanchard’s studio in Southern California the next semester, he signed on as Blanchard’s apprentice.

From there, Stromsoe began his career as a silversmith, a career that has led him to create pieces for three First Families — the Reagans, Bushes and Clintons — and formerPope John Paul II, as well as numerous exhibit pieces for museums nationwide. Stromsoe, who moved to the Central Coast in the 1970s, works out of his Templeton studio at 3775 Old Creek Road, producing everything from jewelry and tableware to larger concept art pieces, all while using the traditional silversmithing tools he inherited from his mentors.

“We’re just excited to open up our studio and show the world what we do,” said Stromsoe, who runs the business with his wife, Lisa. “Most people don’t get to enjoy this or appreciate it.”

Examples of Stromsoe’s work can be found at


While some know from a very young age what they want to do, Ann Bonestell didn’t discover her passion for art until later in life.

“I started, in earnest, my art career in the early ’90s after my father passed away,” said Bonestell.

“It started as a personal way for me to deal with my feelings regarding his death, but then it became more.” Bonestell, who specializes in mixed-media art, said she only truly began to consider herself an artist after she moved to the Central Coast and met her husband, Jay, in 1995. The pair later founded Bonestell Studios at 2008 Ferrell Ave. in Los Osos, which provides an important artistic release for both of them, she said. “It’s been a blessing to havethis studio and basically be able to express ourselves until the cows come home,” Bonestell said.

After retiring nine years ago, Bonestell said she has been able to dedicate all of her time to her wide range of artistic media that include everything from photobox- like works and tribal masks to her newest pieces that feature hot beeswax melted across a canvas to create images (known as “encaustic painting”).

Although she produces more pieces than she did at the beginning of her artistic career, Bonestell said the work still remains “deeply personal.”

“I like to work from an emotional space,” she said. “Each piece I do, I feel it brings me into something bigger and leads me to something about myself.”

Examples of Bonestell’s work can be found at


Penny Fitzgerald is an artist for a digital era.

Fitzgerald worked as a graphic designer in Los Angeles for more than 20 years before relocating to Cambria eight years ago. But it wasn’t until a friend of hers gave her a cast-off easel that Fitzgerald said she began truly exploring art. From seascapes to animals, Fitzgerald said she has come to love painting the natural world in ways that she couldn’t before as just a graphic artist.

“I’ve always been a designer,” she said. “But I like to think that I’ve always had the heart of a painter.”

Fitzgerald, who owns her own digital design agency, Studiopkf, currently paints part-time but hopes to be able to transition to full-time painting in the next few years.

In the meantime, she is looking forward to her latest venture — a series of community workshops teaching local artists how to market themselves online, called Paint to Success.

“I think a lot of artists are sitting in their studios, not at their computers,” said Fitzgerald who besides her website,, uses social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter to “get the word out” about her art. “If it’s not in your daily job, a lot of the time I think they just forget that they have to be out there on Facebook. It’s important to marketing an artist.”

Fitzgerald’s studio is located at 870 Suffolk St. in Cambria.


If you show Rod Baker any of his glass-blown or fused pieces, he will recognize it instantly.

“I know my pieces, even the small ones,” said Baker, who operates his studio, Central Coast Glass Blowing and Fusing, out of Los Osos. “If I see it somewhere — I love that.”

Baker, who moved to the Central Coast in 2000, began his career in construction, where he often worked on leaded stained glass pieces for windows. One day, while working on a window, he ran across someone fusing glass (the process of arranging different colored glass pieces to create patterns and shapes, and then putting the entire piece in an oven, similar to how ceramics are made), and became inspired, he said.

After that, he toured the Oregon coast, visiting several oneman glass-fusing and -blowing studios, and signed up for the glass-blowing program at Cal Poly in 2006.

Now Baker divides his year between glass-blown and fusedglass projects: working on glassblown pieces from November to April and then fused-glass pieces during the summer. Using both methods, he creates everything from jewelry and knick-knacks to plates and bowls, all for sale in his shop at 1279 2nd St., he said.

Though he doesn’t have a favorite piece, recently he has been inspired by “things with eyes,” he said, and has created a series of bird-themed pieces for the summer season.

Examples of Baker’s work can be found at