Home & Garden

Getting a handle on Hands Gallery

Tres and Debra Feltman live in a home that is eclectic and full of art, which should come as no surprise for those who have visited their shop, San Luis Obispo’s Hands Gallery.

A ceramic artist, Feltman co-invented the original no-spill travel mug in the late 1970s. His company, Feltman Langer Inc. continued to produce mugs and other housewares for 10 years. By 1989, he had sold the business and moved to San Luis Obispo with Debra and their children to escape the hectic pace of Los Angeles.

Looking for a new enterprise, he began investigating downtown San Luis Obispo.

“I noticed there was a lack of interesting stores at the time,” he said. “I had a lot of friends who were artists and crafters, as was I.”

Since it opened in 1991, Hands Gallery has sold handcrafted goods and art, including furnishings and home accents. Although eclectic, the style of the pieces are casual and the mood of the store is humorous and a little offbeat.

“It’s not trendy, and we don’t carry modern furniture,” said Tres, “but it’s furniture that can fit into almost any décor very well.”

Two years after they opened the gallery, the Feltmans met artist Sarah Grant at a trade show. Her whimsical, painted home accents called Sticks caught their eye. They soon became one of the first galleries to carry the fledgling line.

Since then, the Sticks line—which began with accessories like mirrors and storage boxes—has expanded to furnishings like beds, armoires and dining tables.

Each piece of Sticks furniture is still built from scratch, then hand-painted and etched and sometimes embellished with metal, leather or fabric. The pieces are highly customizable. You can choose colors that suit your home, or incorporate motifs that have special meaning to you such as your favorite flower or the family dog. You can even incorporate wording, like a favorite quote, a wedding date, or the names of family members.

The size and shape of each piece is also fully customizable.

“If there’s a particular nook you want to fill with a bookcase, they can make it for you,” Feltman suggested.

Around 15 years ago, Hands Gallery began to carry handmade furniture by local craftsmen John and Ben Brigham. The father and son team build furniture, frames and mirrors out of salvaged woods and metals. Although the Brighams have a set line of pieces that includes tables, armoires, bookshelves and beds, you can customize them by choosing the paint color and finish.

If a full-sized piece of handmade furniture isn’t in your budget, Hands Gallery also carries an ever-changing assortment of home accents. There are lamps by Healdsburg company Festa, which are made by wrapping metal rods around river rock. There are Catstudios’ homey hand-embroidered pillows commemorating U.S. states and landmarks. San Luis Obispo’s Meg Johnson shows her folk art teapots, vases and mosaic lamps.

Feltman, whose portfolio as a ceramic artist includes the spiral that graces the beachside walkway in Avila Beach, has generated his own local following. Fans of his work will be glad to know he recently began to offer his own pottery at the gallery.

Hands Gallery is located at 777 Higuera Street in San Luis Obispo, 543-1921.

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