CANTON – A vibrant mural greets visitors to Strauss Studios as soon as they enter the characterful brick building on Walnut Avenue NE in downtown Canton.
The imaginative aquatic scene is a precursor to a furniture boutique and art gallery combo that’s anything but ordinary.
Open at 236 Walnut Ave. NE for about 10 years, former John Strauss Furniture recently changed its name to Strauss Studios to better reflect its artistic identity and direction.
While Strauss specializes in the design and manufacture of furniture, his business partner Carisa Marie Bell focuses on interior design.
Strauss and Bell began working together professionally in 2012; they get married in June. Originally from the West Coast, Bell is co-owner of Strauss Studios.
Strauss Studios also has a full range of public art exhibits planned for its upstairs gallery, which features exposed brick dating from the building’s construction in the early 1900s.
Earlier this month, local artist Steve Ehret opened an exhibition called “Keep Watering The Plants.” He also painted the mural inside the entrance to Strauss Studios.
Her other works will be on display until November 12, followed by artist Morgan Spangle’s exhibition from November 19 to December 17. David Kuntzman’s work was presented earlier this year.
Using a very imaginative and often colorful style, Ehret said he “took inspiration from ‘The Maxx’, ’90s cartoons such as’ Ren & Stimpy’ and the rolling hills of the trail.”
Spangle, of Larchmont, New York, studied studio art and art history at Brown University before painting at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Spangle, former director of the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York City, said some of her paintings are loosely based on photographs, taken by her on a trip or taken from other sources on the internet or in newspapers and magazines. .
“This is now the artistic greenhouse that we envisioned, that we consider ourselves and this place to be,” Strauss, a trained sculptor, said of the furniture business.
“We love to share (gallery art) with everyone who comes (to buy furniture),” he said. Illustrations can also be viewed online at http://www.straussfurniture.com/
A native of Chicago, Strauss graduated from Brown University in 1982 with an art-related degree before completing the Independent Studies program at the Whitney Museum of American Art. He also received his Masters of Fine Arts from City University of New York.
With over 30 years of furniture design and manufacturing experience, Strauss works with designers from across the country to craft their custom designs. He said he takes inspiration from mid-century styles and art deco.
The company’s slogan is “creative objects for meaningful spaces,” Strauss said.
“We want people to understand the items they put in their homes,” he said. “Not just something that is going to stay in their house for five to six years and then be in a landfill.”
Works of art, photographs and other flourishes are incorporated into many pieces of furniture.
“We love to find artists who inspire us and who we can work with,” said Bell.
Contributing artists are from Ohio and out of state. Acrylic paints and other images blend with wood and metal to create memorable furniture. Sculpture accessories are also designed and sold, as well as upholstered furniture.
Strauss said more retail giveaways and smaller items have been added to the store beyond exclusive furniture.
“We’re really looking for the centerpieces that turn a home into a home,” said Bell, who has over 20 years of interior design experience.
“These are things that no one else does,” she added.
Prices range from “mid to high end,” Bell said.
The duo’s work was also on display at the High Point Furniture Market in North Carolina, which is the world’s largest furniture industry show, according to their website.
“A State that makes art”
Organics are important, Strauss said, noting that he uses wood from an Amish company and a certified sustainable forest.
“We really want to… stay green,” he said.
The furniture is made on site, but “we work with the Amish community for the pieces and the pieces,” Strauss said.
“We can’t do everything,” said Strauss, whose great aunt was Mabel Schamberg, the interior designer of the “House of Tomorrow” at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1933.
Her father owned an upscale furniture showroom in downtown Chicago, and her mother was an interior designer.
Ohio is teeming with welders, metal polishers, glassblowers and artists, Strauss noted.
“There are resources for almost anything we need to do,” he said. “We love it in Ohio – it’s literally a state of the art. There’s so much creativity and craftsmanship. It doesn’t exist all over the country.”
Contact Ed at 330-580-8315 and [email protected]
On Twitter @ebalintREP