In our “Handcrafted” series, we take you to the studios and workshops of the artisans, artists, and makers selling in Amazon’s store. Wendy Gold Studios captures memories into artwork made from vintage globes and maps.
Nestled among a row of shops on a busy stretch of quaint downtown San Anselmo, CA, is Wendy Gold Studio. Stepping in the door, you find yourself surrounded by meticulously hand decorated globes and maps that chart memories and stories from around the world. It is the work of collage artist and owner Wendy Gold.
Walk through the storefront to the studio space in the back, and you find Wendy at her desk, intently focused on a globe in front of her. Beside her is a stack of 100-year-old atlases and paper cuttings. Behind her are shelves lined with old globes and baskets full of carefully sorted ephemera, which she explains is “cuttings and etching created by hand a long time ago.” Since 2010, Wendy Gold Studios has been turning vintage globes and maps into handmade artwork. “I studied art. It’s always been my passion,” Wendy says. “The world as a canvas is endless.”
The idea came to her by chance. Wendy was home after giving birth, trying to cope with symptoms of postpartum depression. “I love being a mom, but I also felt like there had to be more.”
She missed being creative but didn’t know what to do next. Feeling at a loss, she began seeing a behavioral therapist who asked her what was it that she wanted to do. “I said, ‘I want to do art again,’” Wendy recalls, and that’s when she decided to get a studio space. “For weeks and weeks, I would really literally just go there and stare at the wall.”
Then one day while sifting through stacks at the Alameda Flea Market in California, she came across a vintage globe and inspiration struck. “It was just so beautiful,” she says. Then she started finding old maps and the idea began to crystalize. She was going to turn old maps and globes into artwork.
Wendy had already produced collage art, in addition to having a career in the arts designing packaging for a toy company, so she bought the globes and maps, took them back to her new studio, and got to work. “Learning to care for myself postpartum was challenging out of the gate, but coming back to art really helped me,” Wendy says.
As Wendy works on a new piece in her studio, she explains her approach, “The goal is to seamlessly decoupage, or collage, vintage ephemera on top of a cartography background.” Decoupage is the art of creating collages, typically in 3-D, with found or original materials and cutouts.
“The beauty of having a globe be the canvas is that there’s so much inherent commentary before you layer anything on it and you can make a statement in so many different directions,” she says.
I keep going by finding new and different ways to just follow my path.
There’s another reason that Wendy was drawn to the maps. “There is a nostalgia to maps and globes,” she says. Some of her earliest memories of maps are from the frequent road trips that she took with her dad while she was growing up. “It was the highlight of my summer,” she recalls. “We traveled all the way down the East Coast and all the way across the country, and we would use maps and we’d get out a highlighter” to plan a route.
Walking over to a stack in her storefront, Wendy pulls out a decorated map that she titled “Metamorphosis.” It is the map of the small town of Utica, New York that she made as a tribute to her late father, who passed away in 2013 at age 70. “He was from Utica and flew away,” she says. He had a love for travel, which he instilled in his daughter.
Each of the hundreds of maps in Wendy’s shop is handmade, so no two are exactly the same. She not only creates her own original art pieces, but also makes custom designs, catering to customer requests. “If somebody likes the butterfly globe, that one [may be] sold, but I’ll find you one and I’ll make it for you,” she says.
Wendy recently started a new series of Push Pin Globes, allowing people to track their travels around the world. She also creates maps to preserve people’s personal travel stories and memories, like she did with the Utica map, based on her own memories. “So if you’ve hiked the Appalachian Trail, for example, we can create a map of the trail for you, charting your journey.” Wendy explains.
Wendy Gold Studios joined Amazon Handmade soon after its launch in 2015. “We started selling [in Amazon’s store] for the reach and the audience,” she says. “Out of the gate, it was definitely challenging, and it’s constantly updating,” she says. “But the results have been amazing for us.”
In 2016, Wendy opened up her first storefront in San Anselmo, CA. While she finds the reach of ecommerce and Amazon are central to her business, she feels that there is something special about the personal connections made with customers who walk in off the street. She loves having the opportunity to observe customers’ reactions to her art in real-time.
There are daily challenges in running a business and maintaining an art practice. “My advice is to follow your gut and keep going,” says Wendy. She continuously invents and explores new ideas. “A lot of people have great ideas, but they stop before they start. And I think the key to my success is that I’ve always pushed myself to see it through.”
“Handcrafted” is a series taking you to the studios and workshops of artisans, artists, and makers, as they share their stories and give us a peek into their creative process.