Extraordinary garden art at Sol’stice

As Austin awaits its first freeze of the season and squints skyward for a few predicted snowflakes, I’ve been showing my visiting mom and cousin around town in very chilly weather. Yesterday we spent the day shopping in Dripping Springs, about 30 minutes west of Austin, and our very favorite stop was Sol’stice Garden Expressions, on Highway 290 West.

Sol’stice is a dream of a place for those who love garden art and garden-themed art for the home. Not kitschy resin bunnies or formal Grecian statues either, mind you, but one-of-a-kind steel, concrete, and glass creations, as well as the most incredible kinetic sculptures.

Sol’stice’s front yard hypnotizes with numerous colorful, mandala-like spinners. These wind catchers will definitely catch your eye as you drive along the highway. I rubbernecked at them last week when my husband resolutely drove past the place on the way to and from Pedernales Falls. But nothing could keep us from visiting yesterday, not even cold, dreary weather.

My favorite kinetic sculptures at Sol’stice are part of Santa Fe artist Mark White’s Dreamcatcher series. The spherical one in the picture above this is also his. Sadly, not one could come home with me, as they are quite expensive.

I love this steel mesh gate studded with colorful pieces of slag glass.

I’ve seen these metal trees before at the Antique Rose Emporium in San Antonio, but this one was transformed into a colorful bottle tree with the addition of pretty, ribbed-glass wasp catchers (at least I think that’s what they were). And oh yes, Sol’stice sells plants too—not many, but some lovely desert and semi-tropical specimens.

A glass birdbath with a metal heart and dangling glass hummingbird feeder

This steel-and-concrete sculpture was created by the owner and resident artist, Chris Sol Smartt, who cheerfully answered our many questions and showed us around and also gave us time to browse on our own.

A water feature made of copper tubing and a plate of glass with water sheeting across it intrigued us.

This UFO hanging from a tree made us laugh.

I loved this carved wooden face. Is it just me, or do you see Santa too?

A metal-and-glass suncatcher ornament

Agaves and Mexican mint marigold gave a lushness to the grounds, despite the lateness of the season.

Inside a brand-new, fresh-wood-smelling greenhouse, succulent arrangements in hypertufa pots were for sale at very reasonable prices. The owner’s mother is the gardener, and she not only made the tufa pots but did the arrangements as well.

Inside the old house that is the gift shop, handmade garden-themed gifts and art had us adding to our Christmas wish lists—and helping Santa by buying a few things too.

A metal-and-glass flower lamp—just right for lighting up cold, winter evenings?

I really wanted this copper-and-glass tree suncatcher. Darn it, I walked away, but not without several other treasures for myself and others.

Another look at some of Mark White’s kinetic sculptures

And another, with billowing Mexican mint marigold

I should have taken video to show you their hypnotic motion in the light breeze.

Owner Chris Smartt is as friendly as anyone you could hope to meet in Texas.

I know I’ll be returning to Sol’stice again soon.

Disclaimer: I am recommending this shop freely because I enjoyed my visit there. This is not a paid post, and I have not received any payment for my recommendation. Now go have fun!

All material © 2006-2009 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

20 Responses

  1. Diana says:

    So cool – I’m just down the road and have never been there. I have been to the Thyme tea room and nursery, and love that place. Sounds like a good day, in spite of the chill.

    Yes, you’re much closer than I am. We had a nice lunch at Thyme and Dough while we were in town. We also enjoyed the shop Cowgirls and Lace. —Pam

  2. Robin says:

    Pam, I’m just a bit further down the road than Diana, and I didn’t even know of this place! And like both of you, I’ve enjoyed Thyme and Dough often, and have never seen Solstice. I’ll definitely be making a trip, thanks so much for this post. I loved the succulent planters, I think one of those is now on my wish list. And Cowgirls and Lace is one of my favorite haunts, too. What a good day you had after a great week of trolling through Austin/Hill Country special places.

    You’ll love Sol’stice, Robin. It’s past Thyme and Dough but not so far as Cowgirls and Lace, and on the other side of the road. —Pam

  3. What a neat place! I think I might try making a kinetic sculpture as my next welding project, I find them so fascinating to watch.

    That would be a challenge, I’m sure, but so fun to try. Good luck with it, MMD. —Pam

  4. Looks really interesting…a garden store even my husband would like. I especially like the red globe-shaped sculpture in your second photo. I could actually imagine having that in my garden.

    The owner said with a smile that even the husbands will get out of the car to look at the spinners and such. —Pam

  5. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    One could go broke in a place like this. Such beautiful colorful objects. Of course one sees Santa everywhere this time of year.

    It’s so much more fun to “help Santa” in a unique shop like this rather than at the mall, I find. —Pam

  6. Lola says:

    Wow, Pam, that is a fantastic place. I would absolutely go bananas in a place like that. I love all the art work.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the virtual tour, Lola. —Pam

  7. Susie says:

    What a great find, I would go nuts there. They have a nice web-site too.

    Yes, they do. The owner said he does the website himself. He must stay quite busy. —Pam

  8. Frances says:

    So full of artistic treasure, Pam, what a place! I laugh thinking how you managed to get back there even after your husband would not stop on the earlier trip. He was afraid, but you went anyway! Hope you got something you loved. I saw lots there that would look good in any style of garden, in particular the one under the santa photo. :-)

    I did, Frances. I ended up getting a small painting and a pair of earrings for myself as well as some Xmas gifts. —Pam

  9. Becky Lane says:

    Ah, I see you’ve discovered one of my favorite spots. My friends and I stopped there on an art studio tour a year or two ago, and I happened to mention the cool kinetic sculptures to my husband later. So, guess what showed up out of the blue for my birthday this year? The small version of that very whirligig, there in your last photo! I was soooo blown away.

    You are one lucky duck to have one of those! Your husband sounds like someone who really pays attention too. ;-) —Pam

  10. Loree says:

    Santa definitely! Thanks for the tour…I love “virtually” visiting shops like this, that way I spend no money!

    You’re completely safe up there in Oregon, Loree. Unless, that is, you do come to Austin for a visit one day, and then I’ll take you over there. —Pam

  11. Cindy, MCOK says:

    Pam, this is on my absolutely-must-visit-it-next-time-no-matter-what-else-I-do-while-I’m-in-Austin list! I saw Mark White’s sculptures in Santa Fe back in January and took some video of them. They were just amazing.

    Cindy, you were smart to take video of his spinners because still photos just can’t convey what they’re like. You’d love this store, and it’s just a little further along on Hwy. 290 from Austin. —Pam

  12. cheryl says:

    Fabulous! I’d LOVE to have a kinetic sculpture in my yard! Say, isn’t that a glass hummingbird feeder hanging in the heart over the glass birdbath? Looks like a Parasol Hummer feeder to me. ;>)
    good thing I don’t live near Austin… I’d go broke! Thanks so much for sharing!

    You are quite right, Cheryl! My mom pointed that out to me too when she read this post. I’ll go back and correct my caption. —Pam

  13. Mamaholt says:

    Next time, if you take me?, I promise to be really, really good. I want all of that stuff. Every. bit. of. it.

    Oh, so do I, Mamaholt, so do I. Maybe you could print this post and put it in an envelope to Santa? —Pam

  14. Gail says:

    The list of must visit Austin nurseries and garden art spots grows ever longer! The kinetic sculptures are fantastic and I loved the slag studded gate. Thanks for sharing the day with us. gail

    You are most welcome, Gail. I love to give virtual tours of cool places I’ve visited. —Pam

  15. Janie says:

    I work with metal and stained glass, and I think I am going to try some of those metal and glass sun catchers. Thanks for the tour.

    There was a lot of inspiration here, Janie. I’m glad you enjoyed the virtual tour. —Pam

  16. Liisa says:

    I love the mesh gate, the metal and glass suncatcher, and that last kinetic sculpture. How lucky you are to have such a wonderful place so close. I have yet to find such a place in Vermont. :(

    I’m so happy to have found this place too, Liisa. I can’t help wishing it were in Austin instead of a 30- to 40-minute drive away in Dripping Springs, but it’s a lot closer than Vermont. ;-) —Pam

  17. Amy Emerick says:

    That looks like a great place. I will have to venture out there…i love the colorful bottle tree. Thanks for sharing this spot!

    My pleasure, Amy. —Pam

  18. Kat says:

    What a coincidence! I just saw this man and his business featured on some local station this morning. I was so fascinated that I kept watching and skipped my usual cooking show. And now, here it is on your blog. The universe is weird that way, huh? Love it!

    That is a funny coincidence, Kat. I’m glad he’s getting good publicity. Now that I’ve found his store, I want it to survive so that I can keep shopping there. In this economy, good garden shops need all the help they can get. —Pam

  19. Leigh says:

    Pam, What a great post idea to tour a garden shop this way. I loved it and wished I’d found Solstice on my one trip (so far) to Austin! What a great place for gardening and art. Your blog is beautiful as always. Thanks so much and I’ll look forward to your great work!

    from A Larrapin Garden (Ozarks, US)

    Hi, Leigh. Thanks for popping by. Now you know where to go the next time you’re in the Austin area, right? —Pam

  20. What a great looking business (and such a sweet-looking guy!). Nice to see some real garden art that is strong and sculptural and not cute. The piece with the water running down it is a great contemporary water piece and unlike anything i’ve seen.

    Yes, I really liked that water feature too, Linda, and my photo didn’t do it justice. —Pam