Tikiz Wine Designs in Walla Walla offers a variety of unique and rustic-style household furniture that is handcrafted from wine barrels by local artisan Moises Soto, 54.
He takes emptied barrels — they retain a lot of rich color after surrendering their last drop — and turns them into custom wine racks, full-size bars, stools and tables as well as decorative signs and other items.
Whatever the idea for a holiday gift, Soto is more than prepared to exercise his artistic skills.
He has been making wine barrel furniture for more than 20 years now.
“Anything your mind can imagine, I can make it,” Soto states on Facebook.
He has made one-of-a-kind rocking chairs, full-porch swings and dog beds on request.
While the price for simpler items like a single wine bottle holder is usually about $15, the most expensive might be a complete bar arrangement with stools all together costing more than $1,200.
Take into account the days Soto put into his work on each order.
Once an item has been assembled, time is needed to stain and varnish the wood.
“From start to finish, I’d say at least four days,” he said about the average project time. “But I use that drying time to get started on the new set of things.”
The workshop for Tikiz Wine Designs is a shed Soto put together in his backyard.
Soto and his wife, Christina, have resided there since getting married in 1999.
Now grandparents, they have made Tikiz Wine Designs a weekly hit at the Walla Walla Downtown Farmers Market each May through October.
“We started out with one tent,” Christina said. “We’ve been renting three tents the last four of five years.”
Tikiz has been Moises Soto’s nickname since he was a kid (friends nowadays also call him Moses).
A native of Mexico, he moved to Walla Walla in 1987 following his high school graduation.
Soto would spend the next 23 years working at Smith Chrome Plating, on N. 9th Avenue.
Wine barrel furniture was little more than a fun hobby until now.
“This year, when they closed their doors, I told him to just concentrate on the furniture,” Christina said. “That’s all he’s been doing, and we’ve been very blessed.
“He is doing awesome. It’s great.”
In addition to the local farmers market, which happens only about six blocks from his house (and workshop), Soto also takes finished products to regional events — like the annual Altrusa Holiday Bazaar, which will take place November 19 this year at the Pendleton Convention Center.
Visitors get a first-hand look at at least two deck chairs, two rocking chairs, a bench, a guitar stand and several smaller items like a Lazy Susan.
Replenishing the items on display for each showing is a busy task, but one Soto savors.
“I really like doing this kind of work, making new things with my hands,” he said. “I also like working with metal tools. I’m a welder by trade. This has been a lot like that.”
The inspiration for a unique art like wine barrel furniture hit Soto about 20 years ago when he was visiting Mexico.
Walking through a store and coming across a bar made from wine barrels on display, he was captivated.
“But it was too big to just bring back over here,” Soto said. “We’re flying back, and I can’t stop thinking about it. We get back home to Walla Walla, and I get my tools. I just keep thinking, ‘I’ve got to make that.’”
No need for a blueprint or instruction manual; Soto grew up in Mexico with different family members at work in carpentry, shoe repair, tailoring and saddle making.
He grew up knowing how to use his brains and his hands.
“I made my first bar for our house, and my sister and my friends kept telling me how much they liked it,” Soto said. “Then I started making different things for my sister, my brother, everybody.
“They kept saying, ‘Why don’t you start making more of these and selling them to people?’ That’s how I really got started.”
Fast forward to July 2014, after building a reputation at various community markets and bazaars, and Soto officially launched Tikiz Wine Designs.
He purchases used barrels from local wineries.
Business continues building through word of mouth with the help of social media.
Orders have come in from as far away as Hawaii, Florida and Ohio as well as Spokane and the Tri-Cities.
A big shipment of Tikiz Wine Designs furniture went out last month to Sunriver, Oregon.
“There’s something about the color of the wood, the color it gets from the wine stains,” Soto said. “It’s very pretty. We like it. That’s why I’m doing this.”