Debra Joy Peisner spends her days creating custom jewelry and conducting workshops out of her small studio in North Tampa. But on occasion, she packs her car with the tools of her trade and heads north to the Downtown New Port Richey Art Gallery to teach others the art of turning metal, stone and beads into wearable art.
It's a good outlet for locals like Susannah Caum, who recently ventured out for a Thursday evening workshop with the thought of trying something new.
"I'm starting to think of what I want to do when I retire," Caum said while scissoring her way through a piece of flat copper.
It it might start with a thin piece of copper that, when cut, filed and bent just so, becomes a whimsical pair of ribbon earrings. Or maybe a cherished piece of polished agate, coral or turquoise that becomes a one-of-a-kind necklace when looped in a thin piece of wire.
"People go on vacation and sometimes they come back with a rough stone so they can remember their trip," Peisner said. "We make it into a memory they can wear."
It's not always about what's hanging on the wall, and Peisner's jewelry fabrication workshops are just one of the ways the Downtown New Port Richey Art Gallery has been branching out.
Now in its 10th year, the modest art mecca, formerly known as the Progress Energy Art Gallery, is always looking for new artists to display and sell work or share their talents with others, said gallery director Nancy Ciesla.
"To me, I always think there should be something going on in here," she said. "It could be a workshop that others can participate in or a demonstration the people can just sit back and watch."
Regular events include poetry nights that are open to any writers wanting to share their work or simply listen. There are evenings spent with local authors and opening-night receptions for revolving art exhibits. Ideas in the works include after-school art classes for kids and Friday night art demonstrations or workshops.
Hence the call to artists.
There's also the opportunity to exhibit works in most any medium. Upcoming themed exhibits include All American (September); Small World/Big Love, featuring artwork centered on pets and children (October); and Hand Made Holiday Gift Gallery featuring small paintings, photography and other mixed media. (November-December).
Then there's the option to just stop in and see what's on the walls or check out the handmade treasures for sale — pottery, jewelry, note cards and more — all created by local artists.
"A lot of people find us by accident," Ciesla said. "When they come in here, they tell me, 'It's magic.' "
It might just be one stop to think about making on purpose.
Michele Miller can be reached at [email protected].