Gulf Shores & Orange Beach feature a community of coastal crafters
Words by Paige Townley
The coastal weather and scenic landscape of the Alabama Gulf Coast attract new residents from all over the country. Like Ali and Ruta Qureshi, who moved to the area about five years ago from Virginia. With them, the Qureshis brought their soap making business, and they soon opened up Harmony Creek Farm in SanRoc Cay. At their Orange Beach shop, they make and sell high quality soap in a variety of scents, as well as offer soap-making classes. The Qureshis are part of a growing number of new residents to the coast known as the Coastal Crafters.
This growing number of unique makers—and bakers, too—have found a welcoming home in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, and they have brought a variety of unique items to the area. Along with the soaps from the Qureshis’ Harmony Creek Farm, there’s all sorts of culinary treats, handcrafted jewelry, glass art, artwork, textiles, and even craft beer that add a truly unique flavor to the Alabama Gulf Coast.
These specialized crafters in the area also mean unique experiences for residents and tourists alike, as well as can’t-find-it-anywhere-else gifts. The Clay Studio, which resides in the Coastal Arts Center in Orange Beach, features works by resident ceramics artist Maya Blume-Cantrell, and it’s also where visitors can create their own piece of pottery. Also in the Coastal Arts Center is The Hot Shop, an open-air hot glass blowing facility where in addition to purchasing amazing works of art visitors can watch daily viewings and even take classes themselves. Another highlight of the community’s art scene is Sea Oat Studio, where local potters Steve and Dee Burrow craft and sell wood-fired and electric-fired stoneware pottery and sculptures. Perhaps the most unique—and often called wonderfully weird—are the works of local resident Steve Dark. At his shop Pottery Central, this potter and ceramist creates funky and almost always unusual works of art.
Looking for items even more unique? Check out Clara’s Loom and Coastal Textile Center, a quaint textile studio that also offers classes. Or there’s Tino’s Fine Art, where you’ll find his paintings as well as the work by a number of other local artists.
Another segment of the Coastal Crafts community that can’t be overlooked are the sweets and treats. Chocolate Corner has been serving up fudge, truffles, and a number of other gourmet chocolate treats for years. Kayden’s Candy Factory, named after the owner’s son, fulfills any sweet craving with ice cream, truffles, and homemade candy. There’s perhaps no better spot to enjoy a beach day than at Big Beach Brewing Company, where you can their craft beers. And no trip to the Alabama Gulf Coast is complete without the infamous Bushwacker coffee from Southern Shores Coffee.