“Art is messy,” says Sharon LaPine, mixed media artist and owner of Limelight Studio and Gallery in Fort Walton Beach.
The one-time jewelry designer dotes on her students and makes sure everyone leaves with a smile. “My studio is a sanctuary, a place of refuge for anyone who wishes to express themselves,” she says. “This is organized chaos. In here, you can forget your crabby old world, create something and leave feeling better then how you walked in.” Sounds perfect, don’t you think?
Open since 2011, Limelight Studio and Gallery features the work of LaPine and her students. The walls are filled with bejeweled and whimsical creations of all shapes and sizes. Any surface becomes fair game.
There are painted mirrors, small tables, recycled carousel ponies, rejected manikins and a collection of odds and ends that LaPine has collected or been given over her lifetime.
Hanging from the ceiling are handpainted fish and a variety of baubles and knick-knacks that have been transformed into decorative craft. “I like to encourage my students to dream,” says LaPine. “Yes, I teach art, but along with that, I am teaching kindness, how to be respectful of others. I try to encourage and inspire confidence. The world is full of people with different ideas, and in my own way, I want to nurture understanding. Art is a great leveler.
“I want everyone to follow what they feel inside, to draw their dreams. Declare it and then make it. No one's ideas or creative spirits are any better then those of the person sitting next to them.”
As a native of the Panhandle, LaPine grew up combing the beaches for natural treasures. Using her brother as scout assistant, LaPine began creating boxes and houses from the local sea glass, stones and shells they collected. Years later, her structures morphed into elaborate blown glass and shell castles.
In 2007 LaPine’s castles were featured in a solo show titled Bohemian Waters at the Headley-Whitney Museum in Lexington, Kentucky. Her ocean inspired shell art began turning heads.
LaPine credits her skills to an eightyear apprenticeship under Doug Reed at Merlin’s Jewelers Inc. in Fort Walton Beach. It was there that she learned to design, create renditions, carve wax for casting, set stones and all other details to complete a polished piece. This gave her the freedom to move on to any medium.
Today, LaPine does custom pieces, paints furniture and continues to work on her own canvases. She prefers the mythical world of mermaids and fairies. They represent adventure, colorful magic and folk tales. With a wink and a nod she invents their stories.
LaPine knows the kids have fun but feels they should also contribute and get involved in the community. Several times a year, her younger students paint the interior of the windows for the antique dealer next door. An upcoming project is a mural for Magnolia Manor, a local senior daycare facility.
LaPine’s studio also hosts adult workshops and what she calls her “Wine and Whimsy” parties. Anyone can gather a group of friends, enjoy a bottle of wine and paint for a couple of hours. Guests can choose what they wish to create, and LaPine will guide them through the process.
Four years ago, she started doing intricate facepainting for events and parties. “This is my first attempt to work on moveable canvases,” she says. “I like to keep experimenting and try new things. For me, my art is not a hobby but a conscious lifestyle.”
Limelight Studio and Gallery is located at 169-A Eglin Parkway NE in Fort Walton Beach. For more info, call (850) 226-7045 or visit www.bohemiandaydreams.com.