Calaveras Made Art Makes The Perfect Holiday Gift

Calaveras County, CA…This month we’re profiling three local artists dedicated to their craft and whose works make excellent gifts for the wall, the kitchen or the wardrobe.

Steven Brownell | photo by Jason B Smith

Staria Stine | Photo by Jason B Smith

Dave Christian | Photo by Jason B Smith


In a sunny valley near Mountain Ranch, Steven Brownell is standing in the open doorway of his garage, sipping coffee from one of his signature mugs. Behind him, several shelves of ceramic art sit in various stages of completion. A ceramics class at Calaveras High School introduced Brownell to the craft, and he would go on to earn his MFA in ceramic arts from San Francisco State.

In 2012, he decided to return to his childhood home in Mountain Ranch to commit himself full time to making his work. An ongoing relationship with the Calaveras Arts Council has helped introduce a larger audience to his products, which are on par with anything you might find from a high-end retailer.

As Steven explores his vision with new directions in ceramic vessels, the mugs, demitasses and vases are hot items that he promotes through his popular Instagram feed, the Arts Council gallery and at events in the Bay Area. Visit his website as you go looking for the perfect porcelain gift this season.


After a decade in academia, ceramic and mixed media artist Staria Stine began to crave a lifestyle less urban, but more connected to the process of making things. “I would go crazy if I couldn’t make,” Stine says, “I don’t idle well and I don’t know what I would do with myself otherwise.” The opportunity for a reinvention came when a childhood friend introduced her to Calaveras County.

A major theme in her work is addressing the relationship between environment and industry, and this region with its complicated history of both reverence for nature and heavy handed treatment of the natural world has proved a fertile ground for Stine’s creative process. She finds inspiration not only within the small details of the geological and biological diversity of the area, but also loves to incorporate the metallic elements of industry into her work.

Known for her popular tiles and Dia de los Muertos calaveritas (little skulls), which you can find at Allegorie or on her website, Stine has recently launched a line of hand-painted trucker hats. Also available on her site or in person at SNAC in Arnold and Murphys, these one-of-a-kind wearable art pieces have lately been flying off the shelves.


Dave was on a trip through Europe when he was inspired by a series of vintage travel posters. The artists’ interpretation of the landscape blended with period typography, all hemmed inside a well-balanced rectangle was something that captivated Christian. It was as much for the sense of place as it was for the hand drawn lettering that advertised the location – he’d been passionate about typography and calligraphy ever sense he was a child.

His next destination was Patagonia, and the Torres del Paine national park inspired his first attempt at emulating the travel painting. Once home in Calaveras County, friends recommended he do similar paintings of Yosemite and the Sierra, and at the 2012 Murphys Irish Day he took a risk and set up a vendor booth. One sold, then another, and he was hooked.

Christian and his wife now spend part of their year traveling to art shows around the West, selling the popular travel posters, and you can also find the work anytime online, or in select locations around the county, such as the Big Trees Visitor Center.

Dave has kindly offered a special promotional code for readers of this blog: use the code CVB15 to get 15% off your purchase at through December 19.