An INSP award-winning original series, Handcrafted America, embarks on its third season telling stories of artisans from around the country who make products with their own two hands—and three artisans from Santa Barbara County are featured this season, proving that creativity abounds in the area! In every episode of the series, host Jill Wagner meets three gifted artisans and gets a behind-the-scenes look at how their products are created. Along the way, viewers learn about the history and cultural heritage that inspire and influence the design of their handcrafted products.
The first Santa Barbara Country resident featured this season is Salvatore Cisaria, a talented craftsman of artisanal espresso machines. His business and workshop, Salvatore Espresso Systems Inc. (225 McMurray Rd.) is based out of Buellton, although he is originally from the charming Italian town of Ostuni. Italy is where Salvatore first developed a fascination with espresso. He would watch his uncle make espresso drinks using huge six group machines in his cafe. He became mesmerized by the sight and smell of the delicious espresso.
Before pursuing his real passion Cisaria worked with plumbers and electricians, gaining experience welding copper and steel. Afterward he worked in Florence at a tool and die shop. This experience proved to be incredibly useful, as he honed his skill set by creating beautiful and intricate designer metal pieces while learning forming and punching.
Cisaria started repairing espresso machines, learning how they work and the intricacies of their parts. He decided to open up his own shop in Santa Barbara in 1988. He imported espresso machines and repaired them for restaurants and coffee shops. By 1993, he was building his own line of espresso machines that were of commercial quality but made for the home.
When asking Cisaria his favorite thing about this work, he responded, “I get to do something I have had a passion for since I was a child, and I experience the joy of making beautifully designed machines.” He has gained quite a loyal following and his customers are from all over the world.
Cisaria’s slogan is “Handmade in the USA” and the quality of his work shines through. He customizes every single machine, engraving his customer’s name, a personal serial number and his signature.
His machines are never mass produced, with each tube and boiler hand cut, bent and braised. They have a six-year warranty, and to this day he services machines that were made back in 1993.
In his mind “nothing is disposable” and Cisaria builds machines that are made to last a lifetime!
Tanya Holroyd Stevenson and Dave Polarek are local Santa Barbara residents featured on Handcrafted America for their incredible recreations of historical Spanish lanterns. The artists founded Holroyd Studios in 2001, and they work to produce timeless and traditional designs by recreating classic old world charm with European influence. Their expertise and knowledge is extensive, including Tudor, Tuscan, Provencal and Andalusian styles, as well as American Craftsman and Prairie styles.
Stevenson is originally from London and spent many of her early years exploring historic buildings throughout Europe. She studied Art History at UC Santa Barbara and has experience doing photography and drafting with local architects.
Polarek has 20 years of experience as a commercial artist and illustrator under his belt. He also has a background in fine art and printmaking from the University of the Pacific and UC Santa Barbara. Polarek can attribute his strong understanding of historic integrity and fabrication skills to his lifelong passion for restoring vintage British sports cars. This knowledge is necessary for creating historically accurate designs and restorations.
We asked the pair what they enjoy most about their work, and in response they said, “we love to figure out new designs and how to build them from old photos from the 1920’s. The proportions are so crucial to their beauty and this can be a challenge from just an old photo. Figuring out the hand pressed copper parts and how to shape them for the final design takes a lot of patience.”
They got their start re-creating historical Spanish lanterns after working on restorations for the Santa Barbara County Courthouse. They worked on the restoration of 75 Spanish lanterns that had originally been purchased in the 1920s, some of which had not been lit in over 10 years! This project required extensive research and incredible attention to detail, and they consider this a highlight of their career thus far.
For an in-depth look at what these three artists do, check out their episodes on Handcrafted America airing September 1 and September 15 at 8:30 p.m. For more information about the show, visit the website here.