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The Mercury News 8/2/2016

Around Livermore: Family finds wine barrel art a popular niche

By and

In 2014, Monte Martella, 36, and his wife Melissa, 33, had their first child — a girl named Audrina. During his week of paternity leave, Monte, in addition to taking care of his wife and baby girl, started a new project — wine barrel art. Little did he know his naptime pastime would soon become a booming business.

“As Audrina slept, I spent this time in the garage making my first wine barrel chair,” Monte shared. “It came out a little lopsided, which was probably due to the lack of sleep, but it worked.”

His second piece was the beginning of business for the Livermore couple.

“I made a beautiful wine barrel American flag wall hang. The red strips are from the beauty of the red wine, and it became a focal point on our wall in our living room,” Monte explained.

He shared the new artwork on his Facebook page to show family and friends. Before he knew it, people wanted their own pieces. Their first clients were people they knew, but word-of-mouth spread fast.

“We quickly filed for patents and copyrights and got our business up and running,” he said.

Monte said the venture has quickly taught him and Melissa the inner workings of the “crazy” business world. He sources his materials locally, getting all of his wine barrels from Livermore and Napa.

Through their Etsy store (Martella’s Custom Wine Barrel Art), the couple has sold nearly 150 custom pieces since 2014. They also sell works at McGrail Winery, Plush Boutique and Milfleur.

It’s still a side hustle — Monte works as a special-education teacher at Foothill High School in Pleasanton and his wife stays at home with their two kids, Audrina, 2, and Brock 3 months — but the couple is gearing up to take business to the next level.

“We have plans in the works to start manufacturing and entering the wholesale market. We plan on being ready to accept wholesale orders by January 2017. In our first product line we will have the American flag, Texas flag and a couple different-sayings wall hangs,” Monte shared. “We are excited for our future.”

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The Independent 1/8/2015

Monte and Melissa Martella are teachers by day, artisans by night.

Under the light of the moon, as their baby peacefully drowses, the married couple dive into their nighttime work: crafting one-of-a-kind wine-barrel art.

"What started out as a cure for boredom while Monte was on paternity leave after our daughter's birth, has morphed into a creative business that is up-and-coming in the handmade marketplace," said Melissa. "After repurposing an unwanted wine barrel into an American flag wall hanging, the seed for Martella’s Custom Wine Barrel Art was planted."

The American Flag piece, with its red stripes vibrant from the aging red wine that naturally saturated the wood over time, is a focal point in the couple's Livermore home, reminding them how far they've come since baby Audrina's birth last March.

"During the baby's frequent naps, we spent time in the garage creating a nursing rocking chair made from a wine barrel," said Monte. "It came out a little lopsided, which was probably due to lack of sleep, but it sparked the vision that would become our passion."

Since then, Martella's Custom Wine Barrel Art has filled around 120 orders, many coming from their Etsy site which offers free shipping.

"Customers can order anything! We've had people order custom monograms, and restaurants and businesses order their logos on our wine-barrel designs," said Melissa. "We've had military members request emblems and firefighters request city names on custom flags."

The pieces take anywhere from one day to four weeks to create. The Martellas work with Bay Area artist Sean Anetsberger to create the more detailed paintings.

"Each one of our creations pays homage to the brilliance of Americana, and is worthy of being displayed in the trendiest art galleries," said Monte. "I seal all the flags with a polyurethane that has a UV protectant so it can be hung indoors or outdoors. They are dynamic pieces that catch people's eyes and start conversations."

"It's great when we can deliver the flags and see our customers' reactions," added Melissa. "We enjoy seeing how they use our art; some display it in their homes, others in their yards or businesses. We also love partnering with local businesses like McGrail Winery, Swirl on the Square, Therapy and Milfleur."

Martella's Custom Wine Barrel Art is entwined with the Livermore Valley's wine community.

"We always try to get barrels from local wineries. Mitchell Katz, Cuda Ridge, McGrail and Eagle Ridge have helped us many times," said Monte. "We currently have several of our unique wine barrel wall hangings on display at McGrail."

While Monte currently teaches at Foothill High School, Melissa is taking a break from teaching to raise Audrina and help with the business.

"We are always looking to make our small business bigger and better. Right now we're creating a line of silhouette designs and items that can be customized for weddings," said Monte, who often works under the close supervision of Reddick, the couple's Golden Retriever. "In the future, we'd love to move our business out of our home and into a local workshop where we could create much more."

The Independent News 

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