Hidden Treasures: Artist Carolyn Stich brings whimsy to holiday tradition

Lakeshore's Hidden Treasures is a column about people doing interesting and inspiring things under the radar.

Holland artist Carolyn Stich grew up in St. Louis but has definitely adopted the Lakeshore as her home. While she lives in Holland, the beauty of this area has captivated her, and she loves that Lake Michigan is “different every day.” In fact, much of her artistic inspiration comes from driving along the shoreline in Ottawa and Allegan counties, enjoying the Big Lake’s ever-changing beauty.

How you might know her work: Stich has turned her whimsical paintings into pillows, tote bags, mugs, garden flags, note cards, puzzles, napkins, placemats, coloring pages, magnets, wine glasses, tea towels, wine bags, tumblers, coasters, and — most recently — face masks. A two-time Tulip Time poster winner, she has also created artwork that adorns Astra Wine labels in Australia.
The Carolyn Stich Studio is located at 29 W. Eighth St., Suite 100 in downtown Holland.
How she got her start: Art has always been Stich’s passion. As a child, she used to draw “all the time.” By high school, this entrepreneurial artist had a “design a locker” business, where for a week’s worth of lunch money, she would customize a drawing of a student’s interests on a scroll of paper the length of their locker. It would then become the locker’s facade.

What inspires her art: “I am inspired by the incredible beauty all around us: nature, architecture, and random acts of kindness I notice throughout my day. We are living in very unsettling times right now with such national uncertainty and hatred. This affects all of us. So, when folks stop in my shop and are embraced with all the bright colors, nostalgic scenes, and light-hearted humor, most mention how happy they feel as they walk around. I can't think of a better purpose for my art than to bring a moment of happiness and peace to people.”

How life-altering events changed her: "Since my breast cancer treatments, it sounds cliche, but I really appreciate every extra day I have. I hope my art shows how much I love life and am grateful to be healthy. And now I'm a grandmother. I used to shake my head at grandmothers as they gushed about their grandkids. Well, I get it now! I'm so in love with my little grandson and can't say enough about him. I want him to be proud of his grandma and her artwork, so I continue to create art with him, my family, and my community in mind, hoping it brings a smile to anyone viewing it."

What’s she doing now: For the past 19 years, Stich has designed a Christmas card highlighting her beloved Holland, commissioned by the Holland Convention & Visitors Bureau. In Stich’s distinctive whimsical style, this year’s card features Santa and his trusty reindeer lifting off from a twinkle-lit Eighth Street on a peaceful, snowy night. The inside message reads, “Wishing you and your family joy, peace, and love.”

The cards can be purchased exclusively at the Holland Area CVB, the Kerstmarkt – outdoor European Christmas Market opening Nov. 21, at the 8th Street Marketplace in downtown Holland; Van Wieren Hardware, at 645 Douglas Ave. in Park Township; and the Carolyn Stich Studio at 29 W. Eighth St., Suite 100 in downtown Holland. Retail prices for the cards are $3 for a single card and $15 for a package of 10. (A 15% discount is available for orders of 100 or more cards.)

For the 20th anniversary of the card this year, Stich has compiled all of the drawings into a book titled ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas in Holland, MI. The book is available for $15 on her website, Carolynstich.com, as well as in her downtown Holland shop.

Do you know someone who is a local hidden treasure? Send your suggestion to Managing Editor Shandra Martinez at shandra@thelakeshorewm.com.

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Read more articles by Sally Laukitis.