Gracie Isbrecht came into the art business to help a friend. She had never done retail before and is not an artist, but her friend Barbara Warnell was ill and needed help running the Frisco Art Center, so Isbrecht stepped up.
She ran the business for two-and-a-half years before Warnell decided to close it down. Isbrecht bought all her inventory to keep Warnell’s dream alive and last year opened The Blue Lagoon in Frisco, an art gallery and chocolate shop.
The venue is filled with the work of about 50 local and coastal artists. “I try to show new, upcoming artists,” says Isbrecht. The only non-local stuff is the delicious and eye-catching chocolate — truffles, tortoises, salted caramel and fudge. But it’s Isbrecht’s dream to eventually make her own chocolates.
Prior to going into the gallery business, Isbrecht took care of high end properties for home owners. She did that for 25 of the 35 years that she has lived on the Outer Banks.
She laughs when she talks about taking over the gallery space that she is leasing with an option to buy. Apparrently the real estate has turned over many times. “God brought me to this building kicking and screaming,” says Isbrecht. “Oh, no, not the blue building!”
The space once was a Brew Thru, a bakery, a breakfast stop, and a paddle board shop. It has even sat empty for two-and-a-half to three seasons, says Isbrecht. “It needed a lot of love,” says Isbrecht. “So, I’m in the loving business.” Isbrecht’s husband has been a huge help, tearing down walls, painting and landscaping. “He’s made my dream come to life, and my children are my greatest supporters,” says the woman who married her high school sweetheart and mother of two. The couple grew up in Atlanta. Isbrecht’s husband wanted to be a commercial fisherman, so they moved to Ocracoke, then later relocated to Buxton.
Today, Isbrecht is surrounded by creative homages to her Outer Banks life. The gallery is filled with photographs that capture coastal images in both color and black and white. Some are surrounded by artfully constructed distressed wood frames. There are images of sea grass paths, shell-laden beaches, shadowy sand fences, fish and crab prints and very cool fish illustrations adorning coastal maps.
Hand-painted drinking ware — tumblers, wine, coffee, and tea glasses are adorned with sailfish, crabs, octopuses, sanderlings, sand dollars, heron, sea stars, turtles and lighthouses.
Coastal imagery shows up in paintings of billfish, crabs, herons, and dogs in beach chairs. There are colored pencil prints of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Steve Exum has created beautiful sepia toned cards and prints of the Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout lighthouses. Susan Waterfield showcases a wide variety of abstracted waves painted in blue
Multiple areas showcase pottery in a wide variety of shapes and colors including functional and decorative work. Think dip trays, fish pitchers, vases, petite platters, pie pans with scalloped edges, batter bowls, salsa bowl with shiny metal scoop and mugs galore.
To ward off the darkness, Isbrecht offers lithophane night lights, an 1800s art form that was invented in France. Their description includes the discovery that a 3D image could be produced by shining a light through a carving of varied thicknesses in porcelain. The clay lights are formed to resemble dolphins, sea horses, shells, sea stars, and pelicans.
Glass is also in the shop’s mix including crackled glass pitchers, cooking oil decanters and sculptures with undulating sea grasses and floating turtles.
The walls are covered with a variety of art including a large wire sea horse, wooden seagulls, fish and crabs and mermaids holding sea stars.
Looking for fun art to make you smile? Check out the gayly painted metal creature sculptures including cats, jellyfish, mermaids, pelicans and blue crabs.
Whether edible, functional, decorative, or inspiring, Gracie Isbrecht has carved out a coastal sanctuary where creativity and usefulness collide. Let’s hope the bright blue building housing The Blue Lagoon outlives her predecessors for years to come, and she gets to achieve her dream of making chocolate and selling art by the sea.