MADE Winners - Arts Category

By Staff Reports, posted Feb 26, 2016

EDA Surf

Year established: 2011 | Number of employees: 5

Top local official: Sean D. Ruttkay, founder and CEO

Company description: Influenced by evidence-based design principles, EDA Surf Art makes artwork – prints and 3-D pieces – of water subjects that “when installed transforms physical environments into restorative spaces.”

Target market: Corporate spaces, health care spaces and homes

Company growth: “EDA Surf sales have tripled in 2015 compared to 2014, selling over 700 large-format pieces in a 12-month period to a manly local population. Going into 2016 with a strong focus on the growing corporate and health care markets, we expect continued exponential growth.”

How did you originally come up with the concept for your product? "My artist father in the late '90s was making large-format digital art. Fascinated by his ability to enlarge digital graphics made on his Mac, I began to study the craft under him. However, it was not until 2005 when I graduated from the University of North Carolina Wilmington with a degree in teaching that I decided teaching was not for me. That is when I decided to take the leap and go into the art business myself. Then as it is today the mission of my startup venture was to collect glorious imagery from the natural world and reproduce it on state of the art mediums."

How has your product helped impact the region’s economic development? “Hundreds of offices just in the Wilmington area hang on the walls the water art of EDA Surf. This visual natural stimulant increases the cognitive activity of those who live with and look at the pieces daily, thus on a micro level increasing the personal economic development of EDA Surf customers and in doing so our region’s macro-economy benefits.”

What are your future goals for the product? "With imagery and a brand philosophy focused on the aesthetic of water and its benefits, EDA Surf believes it is poised to tap into a growing holistic art market supported by growing corporations and expanding health care facilities."

Rebecca Duffy Bush Metal Artwork

Year established: 1998 | Number of employees: 1

Top local official: Rebecca Duffy Bush, owner

Company description: Local artist producing handmade, hand-painted acrylics on steel sculptures for retail and wholesale markets nationwide

Target market: Women, tourists, “young at heart, parents and grandparents”

Company growth: “In 2013, we started exhibiting at wholesale shows, and our gallery participation has grown from 10 to 100 nationwide. We continue to expand to more galleries as we add more wholesale markets and sales reps to our show calendar. We also continue to participate in retail shows and have expanded our online presence to include Etsy retail, Etsy Wholesale, and the Amazon handmade marketplace.”

How has your product helped impact the region's economic development? "Our pieces are handmade right here in Wilmington. While we do sell to galleries all over the country, we exhibit our entire collection here in downtown Wilmington on the riverwalk at our family-owned gallery, River to Sea Gallery. At the gallery we feature my work, but also offer space to 50 other local and regional artists to sell their handmade creations. We also sell at local art and craft festivals around the region, offering our locally made products to tourists and locals alike. Each piece is like a little ambassador for Wilmington, as they each come with a hangtag that reads 'Handmade in Wilmington, NC.'"

What are your future goals for the product? “While I still paint on canvas and offer limited edition prints and handmade frames, my focus right now is really on expanding the steel sculpture line. Right now we are mostly nautical, but I am constantly working on new designs. I am currently working on an ‘active girls’ line, featuring strong girls playing sports. As a mom I feel it is so very important to emphasize how strong young girls can be. It can be very empowering to kick a soccer ball super hard! As demand for my sculptures grows, I hope to have the time to add even more designs to our line, incorporating zoo and jungle animals, boys sports, garden and more.”

Spectrum Fine Jewelry

Year established: 1997 | Number of employees: 7

Top local official: Star Sosa, president

Company description: Fine jewelry store and award-winning designer studio; makes custom jewelry

Target market: “Our primary demographic has been female self-purchasers from 40 to 65. This is unique to Spectrum since traditional jewelry stores typically focus on marketing to male clients to purchase for women.”

Company growth: Spectrum Fine Jewelry has grown to over $1 million in sales. “Spectrum’s team has been recognized nationally for excellence and unique design. In addition to their own creations, Spectrum has attracted some of the top art jewelry designers from across the U.S.”

How did you originally come up with the concept for your product? “I have been in the jewelry business since the mid-1980s. My focus has always been on fine craftsmanship, exceptional materials and unique design. I’m very attracted to unusual gems with vibrant colors and these naturally find a place in our designs. Our lead designer, Susan Drake, is a sculptor at heart. … Rings are probably her best-selling item since they can be enjoyed to the fullest by the wearer. Each one is a unique sculpture and creation for that specific wearer, and because they are sculpted specifically for a certain finger and hand, they are exceptionally comfortable.”

How has your product helped impact the region's economic development? "Well, since 2008 my payroll has tripled in cost, so that contribution to the local economy should have an impact. I have attracted talented staff to the area, increasing the skills available here in Wilmington. Also, we represent local artists and designers, this serves to compound our financial impact into the community, what we pay them for their products provides them the opportunity to make a living doing what they love."

What are your future goals for the product? "I’d like to see Spectrum producing most of the product it sells, both custom and items for stock. As we approach our 20th year in business, my goal is to break into the two million mark in sales. Plus now that my jewelry team is complete with both an award-winning designer and a master goldsmith, I think we are ready to blow the doors off the competitions and bring home even more design awards. We will continue to participate in the national contests and aim to put Wilmington on the map as the home to the most award-winning jewelry designer studio in the Southeast."

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