Island Finds

     While Mother Nature's handiwork is easy to spot on the islands, handcrafted gifts, artful jewelry and unique apparel are treasures awaiting your discovery.
     The most unique stop in a search for handcrafted goods would be at Tin Can Alley on Library Way, Sanibel. Tin Can Alley is filled to the brim with whimsical yet functional housesehold objects, including lighting fixtures, in a variety of patinas, like the ones adorning the building. What's not readily apparent is that each wonderfully creative item in the gallery is fashioned with great imagination from recycled everyday objects. Each piece morphs into something you'd have endless fun displaying and using. The carved lighting 'cans' throw fantastic patterns across any room they illuminate. Tin Can Alley is one of several galleries on 'the triangle' formed by Palm Ridge Road, Tarpon Bay Road, and Periwinkle Way.
     Sanibel's most colorful building on the triangle houses some of the islands' most colorful art within its two galleries. Matsumoto Gallery, 751 Tarpon Bay Road, though most often associated with the works of Sanibel artist Ikki Matsumoto, also offers a memorable collection of objets d'art. Browsers will be delighted by hand-painted furniture, one-of-a-kind jewelry, pottery, paintings, rugs, and clothing, all with a sense of humor or a twist on the ordinary. The adjoining Tower Gallery is a cooperative of artists, many of whom are local. Look for beautifully textured works by Lalita Lyon Cofer, who 'paints' with Japanese and transparent papers. Her work is joined by the ceramics of Jo Anne Bedient, whose imaginative hand-built clay pieces are raku fired (we particularly like her clocks). Dreamlike, hand-painted photos by popular area photographer Lynn Russell round out the diverse media available at the Tower Gallery.
     A stone's throw away, you'll discover more work by island artists. The Black Orchid, located in the Timbers Center at 705 Tarpon Bay Road, has a lovely selection of jewelry by longtime local Gretchen Wilson. Wilson is known on-island for her bracelets, earrings, and pendants featuring turtles and other native wildlife. The Black Orchid carries her newest work in 14k gold, including nautical pieces, and her version of this year's jewelry of choice, the 'slide'. Gallery owner Sharon Wise also carries original paintings by Sanibel artist Trace Tillou. The layering of tone in Tillou's abstracts is magical. (We also spotted a couple of Tillou's works on display at the elegant Temptations bistro.)
     Diligent detective work will ferret out a few sources besides galleries for handcrafted work. We found a large collection of blown glass from around the world at Pandora's Box, in Periwinkle Place Shopping Center, 2075 Periwinkle Way. Brilliantly hued vases, stemware, candle holders, paperweights and glass-stoppered perfume bottles all dance in the sunlight that splashes across Pandora's displays.
     One particular Sanibel boutique has a devoted following of patrons, and for good reason. Customers of the upscale Jonna's will find exquisite hand-painted clothing and accessories unlike those in any other establishment, on-island or off. Jonna's is now found in a handy new location: Palm Ridge Place, at the intersection of Periwinkle Way and Palm Ridge Road.
     If you find yourself on Captiva, a visit to Jungle Drums Gallery on Andy Rosse Lane is a must. This extravaganza of wildlife art includes the highly coveted etched glass works of Sanibel artisan Luc Century. Century's illustrious resume is as luminous as his work; his windows crown the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum on Sanibel-Captiva Road. You can enjoy Century's artistry in several forms, including our pick, his beautifully etched cocktail glasses, available at Jungle Drums.
     A stop by McCarthy's Marina on Captiva Drive will lead to the discovery of handcrafted jewelry by two talented island women, Nan Baer and Barbara Renneke. Baer works in metal, Renneke works in clay; both women turn out beautiful work.
     Lest you be fooled into thinking that marinas only rarely offer good shopping, add another to your list: Tarpon Bay Marina at the northern end of Tarpon Bay Road (take the dirt road from the four-way stop) has one of the finest gift shops on the islands. Filled with inspired wildlife-oriented gifts, books, tees, and accessories, Tarpon Bay also carries a line of T-shirts that will make you giggle. Utterly irresistible, these quirky shirts bear the 'Vera's' label from their Pine Island studio of origination.
     The Islands are filled with thoughtful works created by people with whom you share a commonality: a love of the islands. Their work will always bring to mind your favorite island destination.