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.
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.
Ted's Garden Center, in operation for almost three decades and housed in a new facility since 2007, harmonizes a symphony of verdure and home-garden supplies. The center's 88 acres house annuals ($3.99+), perennials ($9.99+/gallon), unpredictables to populate flower patches, and ornamental grass to spruce up drab carpets of regular grass. Customers can collect trees ($59.99+) for a burgeoning cubicle forest, whereas pottery ($8.99+) and garden art ($19.99+) pass for colorful petrified foliage.
Howell's Dried Floral & Greenhouse is nestled in 800 acres of farmland that has been tended by the Howell family for six generations. There, the family grows more than 50 varieties of flowers, grains, and pods on a 5-acre plot. Inside the greenhouse, guests can peruse vibrant hanging floral baskets or pick up containers and yard plantings for home gardening.
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.
Since 1932, Lumbermen's family of businesses have aimed to fulfill their motto of bringing quality to life—expertly cutting stone for projects including the face of The Village of Ponderosa, PF Changs, Scheels, Fleming's, and a tiny fireplace for Barbie’s upscale dream house. Their most recent store, Fireplace and Stone Center, specializes in hardscaping materials as well as stone veneers for home and commercial façades. The center’s vast display area also boasts an array of outdoor-living merchandise, such as outdoor fireplaces, kitchens, and stylish patio furniture.