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Gallery displays all things functional

Susan Wood
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Artist Susan Krieg manages Fire and Rain Gallery in the Village Center.
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If art reflects life, then South Lake Tahoe is indeed the fun place the residents tout and the tourists seize on the weekend.

The Fire and Rain Gallery appeals to both, Manager Susan Krieg said Sunday, strolling through the Village Center shop.

Since owner Judy Smith opened the unique art gallery in February, the place has been filled with artwork from a variety of artisans and media.

It’s difficult to walk through the shop without getting decorating ideas.

There are, of course, wall paintings, mobiles, jewelry, furniture and many types of accents for the home that are made out of wood, glass, silk and other backdrops. Barrick candles, promoted as burning inward and for 100 hours, also sit on the shelf in the store filled with eclectic, contemporary merchandise.

The works are what Krieg – an artist herself whose “Archetypes of the Feminine” paintings are on display – calls “functional art.”

“One thing Judy tries to reflect in here is having the customers feel at home with the art. You’re buying a work of art and living with it,” she said, glancing over at a hand-painted wooden table standing next to a crafty bar. “No piece is ever the same (as the next).”

Indeed, a chess/checkers table with wooden pieces carved into animals, food cartons and fire hydrants appears to be one of a kind. It runs about $3,000.

People smile when they stroll through the shop to get a glimpse of all the unique artwork.

Take Rikki Helmsin of Carmichael, who screened the offerings in the store.

“I’m looking for something to go over my bed,” said Helmsin, who took part in an extended weekend with friends in Tahoe.

Then, the jewelry caught her attention.

“Rings go nicely over the bed,” Krieg joked.

But Helmsin – who’s familiar with Smith’s Folsom store opened 13 years ago – came in with a theory on what to buy. “You know it when you see it,” she said. “What I like about this store is a lot of the artwork has a message.”

“A lot of people say the art touches them,” Krieg added.

Krieg has found the market evolve in the last six months.

When the store first opened, the tourists dominated the sales receipts, the manager indicated. Now, the second homeowner has come on strong through the summer, and Krieg sees a growing market in the permanent resident.

Whatever the case, Smith has found blossoming markets of lovers of home furnishings who love to spend on the finer things. She recalled one such buyer from Dublin who walked out with a collection worth about $35,000. Often times, one purchase leads to another because the store is decorated in a theme many people have mentioned wanting to emulate in their homes.

And for Smith – who has worked in fields ranging from interior design to aerospace – the idea behind the selection of merchandise is to create an environment. It helps that she has good taste.

“I don’t bring anything in I don’t love,” she said.

Smith got the name Fire and Rain Gallery from the last shop she ran before opening in Folsom. When she sold wood burning stoves, she brought in artists’ works to show alongside the fireplace accessories.

“The artwork started selling better than the stoves,” she said.

Fire and Rain, which can be reached at (530) 541-9300, is open every day from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.


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