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."