Christi Schaeffer cannot believe she ever wanted to leave the Santa Ynez Valley, especially now that she uses the area's beautiful landscapes as backdrops for her new business venture.
Schaeffer founded Gypsy Studios, where she teaches painting while sipping wine at local vineyards.
“I have always loved painting and drawing since I was a little girl, and now I can do this for a living while teaching others,” Schaeffer said. "It's a dream come true."
The Orange County native first came to the valley in high school and graduated from Santa Ynez Valley Union High School in 2003.
“I remember thinking that there was nothing to do here, and I couldn’t wait to graduate and get the heck away,” Schaeffer recalled.
Schaeffer attended Santa Barbara City College and spent a semester abroad studying art history in Italy.
She then earned a degree in organizational leadership from Biola University, and went to work as a graphic designer for a nonprofit company.
“I wasn’t happy and wanted to figure out a way to get back to painting,” she said. "I found a job teaching kids how to paint in San Marino, and it wasn’t work for me it was so fun."
An opportunity arose, and Schaeffer jumped at the chance to move back to the valley in the spring of 2014 to become the tasting room manager at Kalyra Winery on Refugio Road in Santa Ynez.
“I really think it takes leaving the valley to realize just how special a place this is. There is nowhere else like it and I have traveled,” Schaeffer said.
When Schaeffer and a friend wanted to open their own tasting room, things didn’t work out, and Schaeffer decided to research options for how she could combine her passions for art and wine.
“The idea of Gypsy Studios just popped in my head one day, remembering my ‘Paint by Numbers’ games, and I decided, why not make a ‘paint by wine’ class,” she said.
Gypsy Studios was created in the fall of last year, and has gaining popularity to the point where she is hosting a class a week at different vineyards around the valley.
Customers sign up online, and when a class gets to a certain capacity they show up to the vineyard, find a seat and grab a glass of wine.
Schaeffer instructs them how to use different techniques to create a landscape on canvas they can take home.
One glass of wine, the canvas and paint are included in the $55 price.
Schaeffer also works with private parties and special events.
“Art is so subjective, which is why I think I love wine just as much, because it is all about your personal style and opinion as to whether the wine and art is good,” Schaeffer explained.
Schaeffer was also recently selected to be the artist in residence with Arts Outreach, teaching art classes this summer to kids.
“We have the best landscapes to choose from, from agriculture to mountains, and if we can’t be creative here, then where else would we go,” Schaeffer said.
For more information on Gypsy Studios log on to gypsystudiosart.com or call 805.990.2105.