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The lost art of craft 

Nicole and her husband, Walt Watson, are members of an elite and vanishing breed in America they're craftsmen. Walt is a third-generation metal-smith who makes custom furniture, gates, or anything you can think of. Nicole has been sewing for 20 or more years, and calls her grandmother her biggest inspiration, although her clothing line doesn't exactly conjure visions of blue-haired Bingo players. While the pair has done well to invent a niche for themselves, they worry about the loss of their craft to factory-designed clothes and metal.

click to enlarge CRAFTY :  One of Nicole Watsons dresses sits atop a handmade metal bed frame designed by Walt Watson at their new show room in SLO. - PHOTO BY JESSE ACOSTA
  • CRAFTY : One of Nicole Watsons dresses sits atop a handmade metal bed frame designed by Walt Watson at their new show room in SLO.

# "In this country, I think we've lost our edge," Nicole said from behind her sewing machine. "Our craftspeople are fading away, and I think it's really important that we have these skills. It's important that young people find a way to do these things."

In their brand-new showroom on Higuera in San Luis Obispo, Nicole works at a small desk in the muted light of Walt's lamps while she talks about their history in New York and exodus to SLO.

Walt's lamps and chandeliers have a presence much larger than the room they adorn. Highly detailed, almost gothic furniture commands visitors' attention, but a scrapbook of past projects attests to Walt's versatility. Stainless steel gates and cabinetry and countertops are decidedly modern and stark compared to the heavier romantic pieces in the showroom. Walt also works with copper, granite, and chrome to achieve different styles.

As a child of the '60s, Nicole's style is airy and fun, relying on floral, lace, and vintage prints. Her clothing line, Minerva, features both original designs and hand-dyed fabrics in subdued colors that work with any season's palette. Minerva is mature, but not frumpy.

"I have a lot of European and retro fabric from when I lived in New York," Nicole said while matching a '70s blouse to a vintage Japanese print. "I've just been collecting fabric for years."

Having a well-developed library no doubt gives Minerva an edge when it comes to commercial clothing lines. Each piece is not only handmade, but guaranteed one of a kind. In addition to her line of skirts, camisoles, and sweaters, Nicole has a line of hand-dyed yoga clothes, as well as a line of blankets and throws from another designer.

The Walt Watson showroom is located at 1043 Higuera, between Uptown Espresso and SoHo Salon. For more info about Walt or Nicole's work, call 546-1033 or stop by the store Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. Find them online at

Kylie Mendonca compiled this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send your business news to or

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