• Tessuti Zoo: Serious Fun!

    by Robert Lewis

    [View Photos below] What in the world is that wacky looking, colorful little shop down on Forest Avenue across from Pepper with the crazy name, Tessuti Zoo? When you walk into this delightful store you have to plant your feet firmly to keep from

    falling over, your head will be spinning so as you turn this way and that in a blast of multiple colors that simply overwhelm the senses. There is so much color, so much visual detail, so much decorated design, so many multi-colored objects that it is actually hard to settle on one thing, to pick one thing, out of this rainbow, and say “Oh, that’s a table!” or “Wow, that’s a wall hanging!” or “Hey, that’s a…person!”. A person? That person behind the counter would be either Emily Owens or Mary Troup, founders and excellent co-creators of this unique zoo of wackiness.

    Tessuti Zoo is full of creations such as hand-painted tables, chairs, cloth wall hangings, clothing, hats, jewelry, stuffed animals, and more. This may sound like many other stores, but this is a Whole Different Kind of Store, as Pooh would say. No ordinary table, it is painted in brilliant colors, and lots of them! You wonder how many patterns of fabric were used to upholster that winged back chair. You laugh at the rococo birdcage filled with stuffed, garish birds. Your face starts to hurt from smiling. You wonder if you have stepped into the Yellow Submarine movie. Somehow it all just works. If, however, you think of yourself as a creative person, you may begin to feel just a little intimidated by the sheer virtuosity of these women’s creativity.

    Is all of this handmade, you ask? “Most of it.” says Owens. Owens makes the “art quilts” wall hangings, soft sculptures, the dolls, the children’s clothing, and the women’s pajamas. She used to do set design for ABC television specials, such as John Denver, the Carpenters, and others, where she began making hangings. Owens grew up in Los Angeles but has lived here for thirty years.

    “Together, we started this business 10 ½ years ago”, says Owens. Before that, Owens had a studio upstairs where she created her work and, through catalogs, shipped it all over the U.S. and Europe, to the Art Institute of Chicago, to the Smithsonian gift shop, and a whole list of places. Her window display caught Mary Troup’s eye, they met, and Troup opened a studio next door. Two years later, they moved into their current location at 171 Forest Avenue as Tessuti Zoo. Mary Troup creates the women’s clothing, art to wear, a lot of the very unusual jewelry, clothing embellishments, lovely little berets, t-shirts, pins and the painted furniture. They do the upholstery together. Troup was born in New York, lived much of her life in Florida, and moved here with her husband about fourteen years ago.

    Walking into their little workshop at the back of the store, where they do the majority of their work, Owens cries out “This is just a mess!”, apologizing for the dazzling array of the raw materials they use to make their creations. Jars of beads, spindles of colored thread, swatches of material, bolts of “tessuti”, each bolt more saturated in color than the last. There is an apparent chaos to the room, not unlike the shop itself, but once one gets past the pattern and the color, one sees the method in this relentless, zany madness. These women are serious about their business.

    And Tessuti Zoo is serious fun.

    Photos by Robert Lewis

    Tessuti Zoo, 171 Forest Avenue, Pacific Grove, CA 93950 831-648-1725


    posted to Cedar Street Times on March 20, 2009

    Topics: Features

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