Just prior to the 1900s, Santa Cruz was enjoying a massive expansion phase. Entrepreneurs came to the area from all over the world to set up rubber, leather and limestone businesses. In the process, they introduced locals to the Victorian style of architecture, fashion and art.
Local Santa Cruz’s in-house designer, Julie Rawls, has captured the ethos of that era with her Victorian Santa Cruz series, which will be on display in front of Palace Arts as a part of December’s First Friday Santa Cruz event. A collaborative effort between Julie and her husband, Local Santa Cruz founder Jon Rawls, the series features approximately 15 different hand-sketched, custom-inked pieces in the Victorian style of art and typography. Each piece combines elements of local history with symbols from the modern day. For example, in a design representing the town of Santa Cruz, a Victorian cherub is seen wearing board shorts and holding a surfboard, while a Seabright design juxtaposes a castle with an umbrella and beach ball.
Julie Rawls’ Victorian Series
Illustrations and lettering from a 19th-century Victorian etiquette book called “Never Give a Lady a Restive Horse” served as stylistic reference points for the series. In reference to that book’s slightly quirky title, Rawls chuckles, “I guess you’re supposed to give a lady a horse that has run around a little bit so it won’t go crazy.”
Rawls gathered information for this project by going to the library and talking with historians. “It’s been fun doing a little bit of research here and there,” she notes. “The hardest part has been figuring out dates for certain neighborhoods that aren’t actually incorporated. [For example,] when did Soquel become Soquel? There’s a couple of different versions of that.”
Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Rawls began creating websites while in high school. After graduating from Savannah College of Art and Design with a BFA in graphic design, she moved to New York, where she worked at an advertising agency for four years. Since moving to California with Jon, she has put her skills to work for a variety of local businesses and institutions: along with the LocalSantaCruz.com logo, which she recently reworked with completely custom lettering, she has designed posters, T-shirts and hats for the last two Fourth of July Parades in Aptos, done the graphics for the first six issues of Santa Cruz Waves magazine and handled the branding for Santa Cruz Running Company, Mission Inn, Smooth Body Lounge and the10K River Run. Outside the realm of commercial graphic design, she does creative work that can be viewed at orignauxmoose.com and thedaughter.net.
Julie Rawls’ Aptos 4th of July designs
Jon, who came up with the initial concept of the Victorian Santa Cruz series and collaborated with Julie on the elements of each design, hopes the First Friday display can help show people that Santa Cruz has an aesthetic all its own. “We’ve seen a movement in a lot of Santa Cruz design towards the generic,” he offers. “You get a lot of stickers that borrow or coopt things from other brands, and we wanted to show through design that there’s so much cool stuff in our actual history that can be drawn from; you don’t have to coopt things from San Francisco, the East Coast or other parts of the world.”
The Victorian Santa Cruz series will be on display from 3-7 p.m. at Palace Arts, 1407 Pacific Avenue, Santa Cruz. For more information, see http://firstfridaysantacruz.com/palace-art-downtown-santa-cruz-julie-rawls/.
I absolutely love Victorian-style art, and these are really beautiful—sort of calming with an air of mystery and charm to them. I love the California Barn one, but all these designs give a really unique feel to Santa Cruz.