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Mayan! Mayan!: Lynn Guenther's latest jewelry series was inspired by a recent trip to the Yucatan.

Santa Cruz Style in San Francisco

Jeweler Lynn Guenther and fashion designer Linda Ripatti head to the Bay Area for the prestigious Celebration of Craftswomen.

By Matthew Craggs

Art is about showing the world how you see it, having a unique perspective on the world and sharing it. For two local artists, Lynn Guenther and Linda Ripatti, the world is a pretty fashionable place.

When she graduated as a graphic designer from Michigan State University, Santa CruzCK resident Lynn Guenther decided that she was too much of a hands-on person to stick with a keyboard and found her passion in crafting jewelry. Always learning as an artist, Guenther has adapted her style over the years, gathering experience while selling her jewelry in outdoor Berlin marketplaces, working at jewelry stores and taking classes in metalcraft at Cabrillo College (which she praises for its excellent metal shop).

Just as her skills have grown and evolved, Guenther's inspiration continues to be molded by her life.

"I travel a lot and that's one of my big inspirations, and I started this whole Mayan series after going to the Yucatan," she explains, holding up a beautifully detailed bracelet layered with various metals and featuring a Mayan temple in the center. "I love to paint because I love to color, but the way that I get colors into these things is using different stones for the accents. And that's the idea of using the mixed metals."

Guenther prefers to start with sheet metal and wire, which allows her to keep her intricate pieces light and flexible. For her, part of the appeal of the art she creates is that even the larger, more complex pieces are practical and can be worn every day.

Fine Vintage
Not a stranger to the issue of practical fashion, Linda Ripatti designs her clothing around the concept of versatility.

"I try to make things that fit a lot of different people and fit a lot of different body styles. Something that people can feel comfortable in and work in," Ripatti says as she slips into a retro swing coat that she recently designed. A 20-year veteran of design, Ripatti works out of her home in Watsonville, in a separate studio where she keeps the majority of her materials. A fan of vintage fashion, Ripatti allows the past to echo throughout her designs.

"I like vintage," she says. "I go to vintage because, to tell you the truth, the '20s and the '30s, you can't beat the vintage look. And the quality of the workmanship is unbelievable. So I like to go back to those looks all the time, and they have a very avant-garde style, which I am. That's kind of me."

One need only look to the swing body and box shoulders of the retro coat Ripatti's wearing to believe that. Resembling a classic Myrna Loy piece, the coat is elegant and casual at the same time—another example of her emphasis on versatility. And if the '20s and '30s are considered vintage, Linda's husband Steve Ripatti is practically Jurassic in some of his designs. He has been answering a need for unique fabrics for over two decades.

"I have enough ego that I don't want to be near anybody with my design," Steve explained while showing off a truly unique fabric. A customer favorite, the gray cloth with hints of plum features 32,000-year-old cave paintings.

Both Guenther and Ripatti bring a unique view of the world to their art and their fashion, so it should come as no surprise that they often share the same showcase. The largest event for craftswomen in the nation, the Celebration of Craftswomen in San Francisco, hosts both these artists, along with a half-dozen other local artists, Nov. 24-25 and Dec. 1-2. Designed to highlight the work of women artists, Celebration of Craftswomen is now in its 29th year. Since its inception as a small local fair with 22 exhibitors, it's grown to host more than 200 artists and countless attendees from across the world. The event raises money for the Women's Building, which supports programs designed to empower women and girls.

While artists each view the world through different lenses, the common ties that bind them often are stronger than their differences. For Guenther and Ripatti, the desire to bring the fashions of the past and from worlds abroad have brought them together under the same roof, for the same cause. At its most superficial art is mere entertainment, but, as these two artists prove, at its best, art is life.

CELEBRATION OF CRAFTSWOMEN is Dec. 1-2, 10am-5pm at Herbst Pavilion in San Francisco. Tickets are $8/$6 or $14 for a two-day pass; 415.345.7575. For more about Lynn Guenther see; for Linda Ripatti see

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