Thursday, October 18, 2007

Renee Berglund, Artist Extraordinaire of Monkapaws

Renee Berglund, artist and owner of Monkapaws, is a warm, wonderful, enthusiastic, and talented woman I met at a street fair a few months ago in San Francisco. I instantly fell in love with her work and asked her to create some pieces for me. And voila, she designed and created the beautiful mirror and pendant shown below.

Since she's such a terrific person, I wanted to introduce her to you, too!

Rachelle: How did you come up with the name “Monkapaws” and what does it mean?

Renee: I have a giant Bernese Mountain dog and his name is Guinness. But I call him "Monkapaws.” Many pet owners may relate – to the numerous pet names that one can develop out of the tender devotion for our furry babies. The name developed because Guinness is just that in every sense – he's a crazy monkey and always bouncing around on his back paws – if one can picture that image. He also has enormous giant white paws. So, somehow, the name “Monkapaws” stuck and he is referred to it by many.

Hearing it in a business context makes my husband and I laugh to this day. It is hard not to- knowing most clients don’t realize that “Monkapaws” is in reference to our enormous bouncing monkey with giant white paws.

Rachelle: What made you decide to start the business? How long have you been in business?

Renee: I developed Monkapaws about two years ago when I was tinkering around with old typewriters. My first piece of jewelry was a pendant for myself. Many people loved it and I made many as gifts. My unique designs made it very special and then I decided to try and sell them. I started out very small, hitting local shops and telling anyone that would lend an ear about it. My designs then became increasingly popular and I eventually ended up selling my pieces to the public at art and wine festivals in the Bay Area and also at Santana Row in San Jose. I have a loyal following of customers that love the pieces almost as much as I do. So it is very rewarding in all aspects.

Rachelle: I'm now one of your loyal customers - your jewelry is beautiful. How do you come up with the ideas for your pieces?

Renee: I guess it is just one of those things, like thinking out of the box. I think I have taken the typewriter keys to the next level and really enhance their beauty through my work. It is almost as if they are individual antiques and deserve a special place to exhibit their real beauty. That is where I feel my art comes in. Most of my work is a direct reflection of the beauty that I love and want to express in them. But the real beauty lies mostly on the simplicity of the typewriter key itself. I am just the 'middle man.'

Rachelle: What do you like most about making a piece of jewelry? Is there anything you like making more than others? (i.e., necklaces vs. bracelets, etc.)

Renee: I looovveee making the altered art collage pendant pieces. That is my true passion, where my expression has no boundaries or limits. I guess it allows me to unleash my inhibitions and express the humor I see in life that can be expressed in my work. I also do not create anything that I personally would not wear – so I guess that lets me keep it real.

Rachelle: How would you describe your work? In other words, what makes a Renee Berglund piece unique?

Renee: I think I have taken the vintage typewriter key to the next level, the life ever after. To me, it is like wearing a piece of history and I just add embellishments to enhance the story/detail.

Rachelle: When you’re not creating gorgeous pieces of art, what do you like to do?

Renee: I love riding my horse. And when I am not doing that, I love hitting garage sales and flea markets, looking for that discarded item that I may incorporate into my work. I love yoga. I am also a labor activist and am involved in several aspects of the American labor movement that directly affects our community and our essence of the “American Dream.” And I love to immerse myself in my collection of historical fiction in the wee hours.

But if I had to state my favorite, it would be hanging out with my husband and my Monkapaws. That is the best! My steadfast relationships with them both have given me confidence and encouragement. Without them, it would have been impossible to have come this far. And without them, Monkapaws would probably not exist. So, thank you, Tobbe and Monkapaws.

Rachelle: And thank you, Renee, for sharing a bit about yourself and your work!