Orleans artist creates one-of-a-kind pieces out of driftwood, seashells and nautical antiquesText and Photography By Taylor Fitzpatrick
At the end of a long driveway sits a small shed that is home to the workshop and store of Catherine Wissmann, owner of By the Sea Driftwood Company. For those unfamiliar with the name, Wissmann creates beautiful repurposed art, furniture and decorations from various objects found along the seashore.
Wissmann, who started her career by studying graphic design at the State University of New York, moved with her family to Cape Cod 18 years ago. When asked what inspired her unique art form, Wissmann says that she has always been a collector and that her parents were beach people. “I brought home whatever I could find.”
The artist started her business slowly by making handmade gifts for friends and family members, and showing her work at local craft shows. With her knack for creativity, passion for collecting and love for the ocean, Cape Cod was the perfect place for Wissmann to grow her following. She loves the art community on Cape Cod, which is part of the reason she has been so successful. As a member of the Society of Cape Cod Craftsmen, she describes the art community as huge, diverse and welcoming.
While outgrowing her craft-fair stage, Wissmann needed a place to invite her clients and display her work. In 2005, the artist expanded her workshop into the gallery that exists today. Now, she has a place where customers can both shop around or discuss creating custom pieces.
To create each unique piece, Wissmann uses driftwood, old boat hardware, nautical antiques and seashells. Her work includes mirrors, wreaths, lamps, dressers, ornaments and mantel decorations.
Almost everything in the store has been repurposed or found, and nothing is ever bought. Because the mediums used at By the Sea Driftwood Company are so genuine, each piece is one of a kind. “No two pieces are alike, even if I try,” Wissmann says, who runs the store with her husband, Rob. “There is so much room for variety when working with materials like these.”
Wissmann says she goes through creative phases, just like any artist. Sometimes her work is chunky, heavy and bold, while other times it can be sleek, smooth and uniform. Her work largely depends upon what’s available to her at the moment. Wissmann says she organizes her collections to some degree. Sometimes when she finds a special object, she knows exactly what it is going to be; other times, she just waits for the various pieces to come together.
Humble and passionate, Wissmann is devoted to her craft. Stop by the studio and gallery at 94 West Rd. Orleans, or give her a call at 508-240-5783 to discuss a custom project. www.bytheseadriftwood.com.