Group Project

Critiques, collaborations and access to networking might bend the rules of a traditional design firm, but it works for the designers at Monterey GlassWorks in Sand City.

On a Friday afternoon, painter Jessica Ansberry drapes herself on an armchair, escaping the heat. She’s in the Shop, a multifunctional art studio and retail space in Monterey. From the chair she talks to Chris Powers while he screenprints shirts. Their conversation is broken up with swift woosh sounds as Powers scrapes ink onto cloth, filling the studio with the heavy scent of ink.

“I can’t believe it’s been a year,” says Ansberry, an artist who on July 9, 2020 signed a lease together with Powers and marketing professional Nile Estep. Though the three creative minds are technically the tenants, they’ve opened up the multifunctional studio-kitchen space to other artists, makers and vendors. Today you can buy everything from handmade Johnny Wick’s candles and CBD bath bombs to art prints and full-sized canvases at the Shop.

If customers don’t walk away with something from the Shop’s retail side, they can make their own art. There are several workshops on offer, led by the people behind the products. The do-it-all mentality is deliberate.

The way they – and other younger artists – see it: the more diverse an art business’ offerings are, the more people have access to art. The more access there is, the bigger the interest in art becomes. When the market is wide, and the price points are accessible, art isn’t just for collectors. “Art can be for everybody,” Ansberry says.

The traditional art market – where you find representation in one gallery, and then rely on that gallery’s marketing smarts to make a sale – is notoriously cumbersome and competitive. Everything from renting studio space to getting customers takes capital, be it monetary or social. “Making a living painting canvases is really difficult. The margins are slimmer,” Powers says.

At Monterey GlassWorks in Sand City, a glass blowing workshop (“hotshop” is the industry term for it) is similarly powered by a group of late-20s, early-30-somethings who also see the benefits of working together.

Their main business is set up like any design firm. “A client has a problem, we give them a design that solves that problem,” says Nate Sambar, owner and lead glassblower.

But unlike many design firms, they have an artist residency program, a gallery and glassblowing courses. “We’re still a business, but one of the visions is to help emerging artists thrive,” says MGW’s Hannah Brimer, who notes that she and others don’t all come from a glassblowing background. “[Sambar] put together this team from diverse backgrounds allowing us to come together, work and grow our knowledge of design. It’s less competitive.”

MGW plans to host First Fridays to spread the glassblowing and small art business gospel even further. “We tell people all the time, if the door is open say hi,” Brimer says. Their open-door policy may be getting somewhere, as Sambar says there’s a new hotshop opening soon just across the street.

Marielle Argueza is a staff writer and calendar editor for the Weekly. She covers education, immigration and culture. Additionally, she covers the areas of Marina and South County. She occasionally writes about food and runs the internship program.

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