Sticks sprung from humble origins when, in 1992, Sarah Grant began carving ornaments and candlesticks from birch, poplar, and driftwood in a small studio in Des Moines. As her work began to attract national interest and demand for it grew, Sarah enlisted the aid of other local artists and expanded her inventory to include handcrafted heirloom-quality furniture, whimsical sculptures, and intricate keepsakes.
Today, the artists’ work is showcased in more than 100 galleries across the country. Their installation projects have even decorated the walls of Blank Children’s Hospital, the Animal Rescue League of Central Iowa, and the student center at Iowa State University.
Sticks artists can often be spotted by the shores of local rivers, gathering driftwood for their work. They assemble the wood into custom-designed tables, beds, and armoires within their spacious, light-filled studio before painting them with colorful, whimsical designs, from smiling suns and moons to lush landscapes. The versatile artists even take their tools and paintbrushes to homes, businesses, and underground mad-scientist labs to craft custom art installations and interiors.
At Glazed Expressions, a large stock of pristine canvases await a painter's touch. Owner Laura Riegel and her knowledgeable team of artists encourage creativity during studio sessions, when visitors spend time designing and painting their own works of art as experienced and helpful staff members offer advice on the best painting techniques. Alternatively, fused-glass projects meld shards into kaleidoscopic pendants or clients can decorate pottery items such as vases, picture frames, and animal figurines. A BYOB policy enhances a festive atmosphere within the studio, keeping the mood as bright and colorful as the decor.
Operated by a family with more than 80 years of experience in furniture retail, Artis Home Gallerie outfits homes with opulent chairs and tables from upscale brands such as Stickley and Harden. Elegant interiors find the ideal appointments with leather or stylishly patterned sofas ($3,000–$3,600), and bodies weary from holding floors in place find comfort in chairs with intricate Morris upholstery and tiger-print styles ($1,900–$2,500). Knowledgeable designers squire visitors around geometric coffee tables bearing colorful glass vases and fluid sculptures, and a fanciful wine-barrel lamp ($625) illuminates abstract paintings and landscapes. Meanwhile, dining room tables admire their silky dark-wood reflection in mirrors framed by metallic curlicues.
Waukee Beds’ packed showroom displays a breadth of spine-supporting mattresses from brands such as Ideal Bedding, Symbol, and Serta. Memory-foam bed toppers—the store’s specialty—conform to body shapes better than a latex onesie, and contain pressure- and temperature-sensitive materials to ease tossing and turning. Helpful staffers make themselves available seven days a week and until 7 p.m. on weekdays to answer questions and help customers determine the ideal mattress fit for their sleep style, be it on their back, side, or with both eyes open. Also available for purchase, framed wall art, including prints and photos, hangs along the showroom’s walls.
The expert mechanics at Hill Motorbikes service 50cc–250cc mopeds and scooters from companies such as Lance Powersports, Puma Cycles, and BMS MotorSports. Safety-conscious riders can pick up a new helmet from the store to defend their craniums from bumps, scrapes, and segway-riding sharks ($50–$100), or order an oil change that douses engines and rear ends in lubricant to keep street prowlers purring ($35). Bike bosses kick off tune-ups with a test drive to check on-road performance before cosseting crafts with an oil change, a sparkplug replacement, and an inspection and adjustment of the valves, carburetor, brakes, and clutch ($75). Hill Motorbikes' knowledgeable staff can also dispense useful advice, such as how to winterize your bike by teaching it to hibernate in a hollowed stump.
Born of one woman's idea to create a store that is completely kid-centric and appeals to children, Simply for Giggles is a cheerful, welcoming place that’s filled to the brim with necessities for being young and bearing young. The stock crosses all categories and includes—but is not limited to—furniture, toys, books, bedding, strollers, diaper bags, bath supplies, and slings for wearing a baby or letting a friendly Yeti wear a baby. The Hedgehog Family hanging mobile ($29.99) gives children an alternative to counting sheep; the Snuggle Buddy Lambie ($23.99) gives them a sheep to snuggle; and Sandra Boynton's Bath Time book ($6.95) gives them information about bathing sheep. Simply for Giggles carries Little Twig organic baby-pampering products, as well as JuJuBe diaper gear.