Chapman and Slautterback in Chapman’s studio with Suki.
The Monterey Peninsula seems to emit some sort of force that attracts creative, talented and smart people.
Witness the world-class businesspeople, musicians, actors, musicians and artists who have visited, hear the siren song and stayed. Carmel in particular seems to be a magnet for these inventive souls, and is home to a plethora of entrepreneurs who have created innovative ways to earn a living.
Two such people are Carmelites Fred Slautterback and Carol Chapman. They’re quite a pair. Often seen on around town and on Carmel Beach with their Bichon Frise, Suki, they are an effervescent, effusive and enthusiastic couple who find great joy in living, playing and working as one. The two jewelry companies they operate, SUKI (named after their cherished companion) and Carol Frederick Collection, are the result of the various skills each brings to the table: highly original artistic talent, precise engineering abilities and laser-sharp business instincts.
Chapman began formal art training at the age of 7, and has been a professional artist her entire life. Comfortable and fluent in virtually any medium, her work is colorful and thought provoking, sometimes whimsical, and always stunning. Slautterback’s background is in engineering, though he also possesses a business MBA and is a nascent and interesting artist in his own right. His first career was in the area of high-performance industrial packaging adhesive application. He founded and ran the Slautterback Corporation on the Monterey Peninsula for many years, manufacturing and selling machinery of his own design to companies worldwide.
One would think that after a lifetime of success, these two would want to slow down, relax a little and enjoy the fruits of their labors.
“We are more active now than we’ve ever been,” Slautterback says, “strategizing, planning and creating new products…we’re a great team.” Transitioning from helming a company that swam in the deep end with big-league corporate clients to operating a mom-and-pop cottage industry required a lot of retooling on Slautterback’s part. “I had to reinvent myself, big time,” he says. Chapman adds with a chuckle, “And he didn’t want to reinvent himself as a golfer!”
“We got the idea to make ‘wearable art’ about eight years ago,” Slautterback says. He developed an adhesive called “Touleen” that he used to encase small pieces of Chapman’s colorful sculptured abstracts within an aluminum matrix. The resulting pieces adorn earrings, rings, necklaces, cufflinks and bracelets. Totally unique, the jewelry has been a big hit with museum gift shops around the country, including the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, Boston’s Museum of Fine Art, the Houston Contemporary Arts Museum and the Museum of Arts and Design in New York.
Building on that success, the couple launched a second line of jewelry. SUKI is the result of more Slautterback innovation. This line is comprised of bracelets and necklaces of braided- and single-strand leather or nylon cord, held in place by a proprietary clasp invented by Slautterback. “After much trial and error, we came up with a design that worked,” he says. The inventor experimented with many different metals and magnet types before settling on a rare-earth metal known as Neodymium, an incredibly lightweight material that results in the strongest permanent magnets currently available. Magnets are affixed into two small cylinders of aluminum to which the leather strands are glued. Once donned, SUKI jewelry is there to stay until the user decides to remove it. Designs are available in a dizzying array of colors and combinations. For a higher-end look, metal parts are available in sterling silver.
Another trait shared by Peninsulans is the desire to give back to the community. Slautterback and Chapman are no exceptions in that regard either. They’ve recently launched their “20/20 Nonprofit Passive Giving Program,” offering local charities a no-hassle, no-investment way to raise funds. It’s a win-win-win for all involved: “When a nonprofit places a link to either of our sites, those who are directed there get a 20 percent discount,” Slautterback says. “We donate 20 percent of those sales back to the nonprofit.”
For more information on the 20/20 program, or to learn more about the artists and to order jewelry, visit www.SUKI-USA.com or www.carolfred.com. Carol Chapman’s art can be viewed at www.carolchapmancollection.com.