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.
Ticket stubs, needlework, oil paintings: the experts at The Great Frame Up have handled them all, turning them into wall-ready hangings. Their selection of hundreds of frames, matting options, and varieties of glass makes it easy for clients to find the right colors and textures to complement their artwork. In addition to custom framing, the professionals offer conservation framing for paintings with monetary value or used napkins with sentimental value. Three-dimensional objects are also a specialty: The experts can slip hockey pucks and musical instruments into acrylic cases or send clients home with one to keep empty in anticipation of finally acquiring that unicorn horn. Inside the store, customers can peruse a selection of ready-made frames and framed art work.
Behind Whatta' Dish's handsome, unpainted wood exterior lies a treasure trove of similarly unadorned pottery that awaits the caress of a paintbrush. Ensconced in warm light and bright, multihued walls, guests embellish a wide array of bisque pieces, such as ornaments, pet dishes, and plates. As the last coat begins to dry, Whatta' Dish's staff whisks finished pieces away, glazing and firing them to give each item a protective gloss that makes it safe for use with food and trips through the dishwasher. Guests are free to tote along their own snacks and beverages of choice.
Stocking shelves with new and recycled duds since 1971, Ragstock fortifies wardrobes with a storefront brimming with new and recycled men's and women's clothing and accessories. In addition to mainstream garments, stores sling eclectic outfit accouterments such as neon suspenders ($9.99) and thick-rimmed spectacles ($4.99+) that allow shoppers to evoke the air of literature professors without blithely quoting Joyce.
Schaffer’s Impromptu’s stylish store supplies fashion-conscious men and women with modish jackets, more than 140 styles and fits of designer jeans, and other trendy apparel. Dresses from brands such as BCBG ($178–$498) or Miss Me Couture ($68–$138) can wrap around bodies of any age or shape, except that of a multidimensional hyper-cube. Don a pair of DL1961 jeans ($128–$179) to experience the distinctive four-way stretch fabric that adapts to fit the wearer’s hard-working gams. Tops from Mystree ($38–$62) or Bailey 44 ($53–$182) can be paired with jewelry, shoes, and accessories to prevent today’s busy professionals from simply showing up naked to social events.
Blond Genius covers lower halves in a fresh assortment of high-end designer denim. Its Denim Bar stocks more than 130 fits and styles for women sizes 0–20, as well as 25 styles for men sizes 29–40. The shop shows off styles from brands such as Citizens of Humanity, Hudson, True Religion, and Joe's Jeans. Blond Genius also custom tailors jeans, sculpting denim to shorten a hem or replicate Michelangelo's David. While women can do a front flip into a pair of Big Stars ($90) or climb leg-opening-first into AG Bell Flares ($215), the denim dealer also stocks styles for men, including the AG Protégé ($178+) and 7 for All Mankind Austyn jeans ($189+). Petite and extra-long jean lengths are also available.