A new local brand—with oh-so-soft cotton textiles imported from Turkey—was born from a life-threatening challenge that turned into a lifestyle choice. The Art Guy Workshop designs and creates functional daily accessories, from towels to bags to ponchos for kids, all with gentle reminders to live in the moment.
Valerie Bernhard is the woman behind the brand; here's what inspired her to start it.
What was the inspiration to launch Art Guy Workshop?
What began as an approach to healing later became a way of living. At 35 weeks pregnant, I suffered a very rare complication called HELLP syndrome and came very close to death as a result of it. Our strong baby boy, Arthur Guy, was born, weighing 4 lbs., 2 oz., and had to go home without me. As terrible as my situation was at that time, I found it incredibly important to never let that moment fade, to never forget how much I wanted to live this life.
While in the ICU, my amazing husband and I promised each other that we would start a simpler, more mindful life in a new location. We moved to Sarasota from New Orleans in October 2015 and are now so proud to call [this area] home. We recovered here as a little family and we strive to be more present, celebrating each moment that we have been given together. I created Art Guy, products that are gentle reminders to us that life is a gift, made of joyous moments to behold. Arthur will soon turn three and we are all just so happy to be here.
How does Sarasota influence your designs?
Sarasota is truly a great city and it provides everything that we were looking for in a community. It's family-oriented, with beautiful parks in every direction, healthy lifestyles, outdoor activities, friendly faces, modern architecture and beaches—Sarasota has it all.
To honor our fine Florida architecture I created the Lanai fabric. And I truly Siesta and Lido beaches have healing properties and I was so happy to dedicate fabrics to them. As a whole, I want our products to travel well and promote healthy outings, like picnics and sun-filled downtime. Sarasota is just the place for that.
Tell us about the textiles used for the products.
All of our products are 100 percent cotton and imported from Turkey. The manufacturing company is run by the second generation of a family with more than 40 years of experience in the textile industry. Their yarns are Oeko-Tex certified.
I select a wide range of colors and patterns for home, beach and baby. We carry bags, towels, round towels, hooded baby towels and toddler ponchos, all conveying messages of mindfulness.
What’s a must-have item?
The Lanai fabric is amazing all year long. Its weight is a little heavier than the traditional Turkish towel, but it still dries fast. The Lanai towel makes an amazing shawl or throw for cooler months, or at that perfect moment when the sun sets. It’s so soft that it feels like having an old friend with you, and I love it.
What’s next for Art Guy Workshop?
I find inspiration in wonderful, everyday events that seem magical to my growing child—a rainbow in the spray of the backyard hose, a simple yet beautiful verse of a lullaby that we sing as a family, or a kind moment between new little friends on the playground. Art Guy Workshop will continue to incorporate these moments into messages of mindfulness and share them with new acquaintances by way of new designs and products. We will continue to create. I’m not done.