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Mountain treasure trove
July 21, 2012, 05:00 AM By Sally Schilling Daily Journal correspondent

Sally Schilling/Daily Journal Jolan Bogdan sells jewelry, paintings, photos, textiles and other works of art at Penelope's Den in Woodside.

Tucked away in the Santa Cruz Mountains in Woodside, where highways 35 and 84 meet, a woodsy old real estate office is now home to the works of many local artists.

A large stained glass sign that reads "Skywood Realty” still hangs above the fireplace. Dazzling treasures are perched on nooks and crannies around the shop.

Penelope’s Den is visited by residents of neighboring communities and is frequented by the cyclists and bikers who venture through this neck of the woods to Alice’s Restaurant.

Owner Jolan Bogdan, sells jewelry, paintings, photographs, textiles, sculptures and other forms of art made by both professionals and hobbyists.

Felicia Forte is an oil painter with a studio in San Francisco. Forte has painted many landscapes and portraits in San Gregorio, where she used to live. Like many of the artists in Penelope’s Den, she met Bogdan at the Kings Mountain Art Fair.

"I’m really excited to see what Jolan does with the store,” said Forte, who will be doing a month-long residency at the de Young Museum in San Francisco next year. "She’s very clever.”

Bogdan sells intricate vintage-looking jewelry made by a woman who grew up in Woodside. Creek Van Houten makes her Victorian style jewelry using industrial parts — antique clocks and old typewriter buttons — to create the Steampunk aesthetic.

The story behind the jewelry is something people care about, said Van Houten, who gets her materials from local and European antique fairs.

"People want to connect to a historical moment,” she said.

In the front shop window is a large white marble sculpture of a woman’s body hugging her legs to her chest. "Nobody does marble,” said Bogdan, admiring the time-consuming process of chiseling the perfect sculpture.

The marble piece was made by Ellen Lowenstein, who teaches sculpture at Skyline College. Lowenstein is not a self-promoter, explained Bogdan. "That’s the surprise of the store: you get to bring people together in a non-formal setting,” she said. "It’s not formal like a gallery.”

Bogdan opened the store with more than a dozen artists and now has many more. The back showroom has bright photographs of Cuba taken by a local judge.

"For some people this is just their hobby, they just like doing this stuff,” said Bogdan. "I don’t even have to look. They found me.”

Atop Bogdan’s loom in the back of the shop are three pieces that look as if they were found in a wizard’s home. They were made by a retired Stanford astrophysicist, said Bogdan. His mystical objects are made using lenses and metal rods from old equipment.

Since she opened for business in early May, Bogdan is always being asked if she is "Penelope.”

The name for her shop is a reference to "Homer’s Odyssey.” The main character Odysseus has a wife Penelope who is a weaver. She tells the people that she will give up hope of her husband’s return as soon as she finishes her weaving. Secretly, Penelope unweaves her textile each night.

As a weaver who lives on Kings Mountain, Bogdan, 33, feels there is a great need for the shop.

"There is a huge art community here and nowhere to sell it,” she said.

She knows that these are tough economic times, but believes that art is a necessity.

"Art is essential because we can’t devote our whole lives to making money,” said Bogdan, who studied textile design as Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia.

Her goal is to sell ethically made local art at a reasonable price. She sells her woven textiles and silkscreen printed scarves and American Apparel T-shirts.

Her "Highway 35” printed T-shirt for $35 is a hit with the bikers. Another design was created on special request from the bikers: a "Highway 35” skull print.

Surprisingly, some of the more delicate items are also a hit with the leather-clad crowd. One biker managed to fit four glass pansy plates into her fanny pack, said Bogdan.

Other items include goat’s milk fudge made in La Honda, wooden mushrooms made by a retired lumber worker, metal sculptures by local Bill Sorich, jewelry made by Deb Rockmore in Woodside and flowers from a neighboring family farm. So is there criteria for the items in Penelope’s Den?

"I have to like it,” said Bogdan of her collection. "It’s cohesive, but reflects the diversity of the community. We certainly are not one-dimensional up here.”  

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