Art has a strange way of changing people’s lives. Being creative can drive a person to learn new skills and make new career goals.
One minute, you can be climbing up the corporate ladder in Texas, and the next, you can be opening your very own art studio in a small town in Arkansas after leaving your old life behind.
That’s what happened to Shelli Wood and her husband, Sam Jones IV, the owners of S.A.W IV Studio in downtown Mountain Home.
“We both met in Austin,” said Shelli Wood. “We were both working corporate jobs. My husband maintained his art on the side, and his goal was to get out and do art full-time. He just didn’t know what that looked like, exactly. He was able to jump off the corporate bandwagon and start his career as a full-time artist.”
Wood and Jones are creative people. It’s what attracted the couple to each other when they first met in Austin, Texas. While they both enjoyed their work in Austin, Jones longed for the day he could leave his corporate job behind to take up the artist’s life.
With help from Wood, that dream finally happened. Jones left his job and began presenting his drawings and paintings at shows around the country, while Wood continued to work for her company full-time.
“He started down that path, and a few years into it, we were both like, what are we? What is this going to look like for both of us?” Wood said. “He had already started doing shows on the road. Well, I had gotten introduced to a gentleman in Austin that was a fourth-generation jeweler. He was an amazing jeweler and designer, and he agreed to take me on as a student at night on the side.”
Wood’s new mentor would be Bob Weaver, a popular jeweler in Austin. Under Weaver, Wood began to perfect her own craft while working alongside her mentor during the evenings.
Her mentor also provided her with his workshop and contacts to get the gemstones needed to make her items. She would work alongside him for eight years before moving on to strike out on her own.
“I consider myself a metal-smith,” Wood said. “I do hand forge jewelry. That’s my description because I don’t do casting. I don’t set traditional stones. I have a very specific skill set with the type of jewelry that I do. I use hammers. I use saws. It’s my style that makes a piece unique.”
While mentoring under Weaver, Wood also began to tour around the country with her husband, going from art show to art show.
Eventually, the couple came to a crossroads. Continue to live life in Austin or fully embrace their lives as artists. The time had come for Wood to leave behind her corporate life.
“We have a really good chemistry on how we work when we go to shows,” Wood said. “I said, I’m willing to try this path and do something different. And we were looking at if we were going to stay in Austin on leave, and for both of us, we loved it. But Austin was changing so much, and we said if we’re going to both be artists, we’re really going to have to reconsider the cost of living.”
The pair decided to move and began searching for a new place to settle. Wood said they started looking at locations in the middle of the country, so traveling to both coasts would be easy.
They eventually settled on Jonesboro, Arkansas, as their new home.
“We did it because my brother and his family were there,” Wood said. “Jonesboro, in particular, was very central for us. We could be in Kansas City in four hours. We could be in Chicago in eight hours.”
In 2009, Wood and Jones settled into their new city and hit the road, doing between 20-22 art shows a year.
They also set up an art studio in downtown Jonesboro and became involved in their local community.
“We stayed in Jonesboro for a lot longer than I thought we would,” Wood said. “We ended up buying a building in their little downtown. We got very involved in the community, which has also kind of been my path to this store because we were attracted to their older downtown. We live in the loft above it.”
They would stay in Jonesboro until 2015 before deciding to move on. The hunt for a new home began again, but this time was different.
Wood’s parents, who lived in Baxter County, stepped in and told the couple that a house on Denton Ferry Road had become available. They jumped at the opportunity and rented the home.
“They said we should rent this house and then think about where we wanted to go,” Wood said. “We weren’t really a hundred percent on what direction we were going, and it ended up being a really cool thing.”
They fell in love with the area and quickly learned that they could continue their work despite being in a rural community. Eventually, the couple bought a home on the bluff overlooking Cotter and the White River.
“We had a vision when we saw it,” Wood said. “It’s become very much our homestead that will always be a base for us.”
With their new home established, they dove back into their work, meeting new people in the area and setting roots. They also converted the bottom floor of their home into a new art studio.
Yet, as time went on and the pair kept traveling, Wood began to eye the downtown square of Mountain Home, which was beginning to be refilled by new businesses like Cove Coffee, Rapp’s Barren Brewery, and Crush Studio.
The district spoke to Wood, who jumped at the opportunity to rent the space next door to Cove Coffee when it became available.
“I wanted to get more involved in the community here in Mountain Home,” Wood said. “We literally got back from one of our shows in Sept., and we pulled up to Cove Coffee that morning, and I went to cross over here, and the space was empty.”
With a new space in hand, Wood and Jones created S.A.W. IV Studio and immediately set about renovating the space over the next month and a half. They would open in time for this year’s Christmas holiday.
S.A.W. IV Studio features work from both artists, with Jones’s metal leafed drawings and paintings lining the walls, while Wood’s jewelry decorates its shelves and display cases.
Comfortable furniture also fills the space, letting guests and shoppers settle in to talk with the artists about their work. Wood even began hosting a “cocktail and shopping” event every Thursday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
“I wanted the space to feel like an extension of our living area,” Wood said. “So the look and the feel are very much, as far as color palettes, metals, and furniture, it’s very much how we live and decorate at home.”
The new storefront also allows the couple to slow down and not travel as much throughout the year. Wood did note their store would occasionally be closed throughout the year for the shows they plan to attend.
Additionally, S.A.W. Jewelry Design has also opened its space to other artists throughout the country, letting them sell their goods in the Mountain Home area.
“I wanted to bring that element to Mountain Home,” Wood said. “Artists that they don’t have a chance to see. Ones that we love.”
Wood said the reception to their new studio has been positive, with local buyers coming into buy their work.
“It’s been a cool thing,” Wood said. “Our reception from everyone has been awesome. People have been super excited about Sam’s work. About my work. They come in here while I’m working and talk with me about things. It attracts new people that are out on the square, looking to see what’s new and what’s open.”
S.A.W. IV Studio is located at the corner of South Baker Street and East 8th Street in downtown Mountain Home. For more information, call (512) 297-4213