In ye olden days, craftsmen guilds rented workspaces to use professional instruments and supplies while sweating alongside strangers. It was the norm and how civilizations were built. That era is long-gone, as artisans now toil away in their homes while streaming the umpteenth rerun of Breaking Bad. But mother-and-daughter duo Lauren Macaluso and Susan Varteresian seek to bring back collaborative boiler rooms with their Creative Outlet space in Costa Mesa.
"I hate admitting it," Lauren says with a laugh, "but it was her idea." Susan, a lifetime crafter with textiles, took a sewing class about a year ago and realized returning to work at home on her non-industrial machine was frustrating. Lauren has been crafty her entire life, especially with adorably grandmotherish projects (such as needlepoint); she'd already been involved in the small-but-generous local crafting community before sites such as Pinterest and Etsy made people go DIY-crazy.
Together, the two ladies created a shop as humble and cozy as they are. Even though it's packed with machines and workstations, it feels natural, unforced. The design aesthetic is industrial chic, with raw wood and white walls offering inspiration, not distraction. Creative Outlet now buzzes with people working on their dreams—you can actually sew, letter press, screen print, make shoes and do pretty much any other thing you could imagine while chatting with inspiring people. And Lauren and Susan are incredible assistants. Although, if you've no idea what to make, the space hosts diverse workshops and crafting parties each week.
Creative Outlet Studios, 2035 Placentia, Ste. F, Costa Mesa, (949) 423-7995; creativeoutletstudios.com.
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You'd better finish your project, though. Lauren points to the floating platform above the shop. "That's where the UFOs go," she says. "It's the Unfinished Objects Platform." As of now, Lauren's two-years-long upholstery project is sitting there. "I was hoping it would inspire me to finish it," she says.
Susan responds with a laugh, "Well, it hasn't worked for you!"