Willy Micali can make most anything out of driftwood, but he's especially proud of the little piece of the movie industry he created recently.
Micali and wife Sheri moved to Crescent City 13 years ago because "there were so many people" in Santa Cruz.
"My wife liked the name; so did I," Willy said, but not everything went smoothly. They opened a store, Second Hand Wishes. A fire destroyed it on their wedding anniversary, and they moved their stuff to a barn in Smith River. Exactly a year later, the barn burned down. No insurance.
"The fire wiped out everything," he said. "We were left here with nothing."
But from the ashes came inspiration.
They started collecting driftwood and fixing broken bird houses. "After a while we started making stuff."
Sheri collects driftwood, and brings it all back in a cart tagging along behind her bike.
"She goes out every day, even at night. It's a lot of hard work."
She'll go all the way down to South Beach and up to Point St. George. Sometimes she'll go as far as Smith River, taking a bus transporting her bike and then riding back with driftwood on her bike.
"She rides back collecting cans along the way, making the road pretty."
Willy assembles the wood, but he doesn't carve. He preserves natural shapes while using 2- to 6-inch deck screws to put them together.
"I make mermaids to elephants and everything in between," said Willy. "You name it, I'll make it. I've never not been able to make something for someone."
He sells his stuff at the farmers market in the summer -- benches, plant stands, animals. He says he's made over 1,000 plant stands.
"No two pieces are alike, ever. I keep my stuff priced low so people in Crescent City can buy it, so I don't have to depend on tourists."
He was making stuff for Wild Bill's Off the Beach, an eclectic shop at 1226 2nd St., in the summer of 2011. A film producer saw one of his chairs on a web site, contacted Willy and arranged to buy the chair to use in the 2012 movie "Ruby Sparks," a romantic comedy about a struggling novelist whose fictional character comes to life. The producer had Willy make another one that he keeps in his office in Southern California.
"I got a hundred bucks and a T-shirt for it," Willy said. "It was just the honor of having one of my chairs in the movie."
These days, Willy can be found working on his craft at Marshall Arts, owned by Ray Marshall, 1100 Highway 101 South, across from South Beach. "I love what I'm doing," he said, "I'm not gonna get rich, but I love the compliments."
She's back, and brought music
Suzanne Pennell has moved back to Del Note from the Bay Area, where she was treated for cancer several years ago, and now she wants to give back to the community that has given her so much.
During her childhood her family would come to their summer home in Fort Dick from the Bay Area, and she fondly remembers picking berries in the woods, meeting new kids and looking for the elusive Bigfoot.
"In all the places I've lived people here are the friendliest," she said, "and this is only the most beautiful place to live on the entire planet."
She grew up in a family of musicians and she started playing the Boehm flute at age 5 and moving on to the harp, guitar and keyboards. Now she's looking to teach people of all ages how to play the recorder, a simple wind instrument. Free classes will be offered at the United Methodist Church, 664 H St., Tuesday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. for adults and Saturdays from 2 to 3:30 p.m. for children.
The beginner classes start the first week of March and last through May, when she plans to offer intermediate classes.
"It's a way to help them appreciate music more. This class will really help them with that, it's a good intro to music."
Reach Laura Wiens at firstname.lastname@example.org.