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San Francisco

Inside The Outer Sunset's Colorful, Whimsical 3 Fish Studios

Inside the Outer Sunset's 3 Fish Studios (4541 Irving St.), paintings and prints line every wall and shelf: brown bears hugging various states across a kaleidoscope of backgrounds, re-imaginings of the iconic Rex May San Francisco road sign, and Bay Area ports depicted in all their industrial glory—all of it an homage to the whimsy and spunk of California culture.

Owners and artists Annie Galvin and Eric Rewitzer can be found amidst this colorful chaos on any given day of the week, in the process of, as they simply refer to it, creating.

The husband-and-wife duo formed 3 Fish in 2006, after they realized that years of following more traditional career paths—banking for Galvin, tech for Rewitzer—just wasn’t cutting it for either of them.

At the time, they'd decided to participate in ArtSpan's Open Studios, in which artists around the city open up their workspaces to the public. After seeing visitors' positive responses to their work, they decided to commit to becoming artists. “It just felt right,” Rewitzer said. “It felt like the work we were doing was resonating, so we sat down and had a talk, and that’s when 3 Fish Studios was born.”

Originally located in the Dogpatch, 3 Fish moved to the Outer Sunset in 2011, and has been a fixture in the neighborhood ever since. “This community and the city itself have been so supportive of our works,” said Rewitzer. “I think San Francisco is a great place to be an artist, because there are a lot of people out there who appreciate the kind of work that artists do, the thoughtful approach to it.”

Photo: Tev Lee

Part of Galvin and Rewitzer’s approach is maintaining an open-door policy, so they can engage directly with the people buying their work. “When people come in here and realize that the person ringing them up is the artist, that’s a really nice connection to make,” Galvin said.

Rewitzer agrees. “The fact that we’re able to just engage with people authentically, and talk about the work that we love to do in our own voice, makes all the difference in the world."

Photo: Eric Rewitzer

In addition to the art it sells to the general public, 3 Fish does some commissioned work, including participating in community projects. One example is Galvin’s collaboration on the design of several murals around the city, including one at 33rd & Taraval and another on the face of Java Beach Café at Judah & La Playa.

But perhaps the most important collaboration 3 Fish has undertaken so far is teaching printmaking. The studio offers classes for all ages, at skill levels from total beginners to advanced artists. “We think it’s really important that kids, in particular, see things like this," Rewitzer said. "If they're inspired by the arts, they can see two folks that are actually making a living out of it."

Over the past few years, 3 Fish has expanded its scope of work and hired several new people, without whom, Galvin and Rewitzer say, they wouldn’t be able to function. They hope to continue that momentum.

“We do want to start offering more classes,” Galvin said. “I want to start developing a collage class, stay open a few more evenings during the week, and have little gatherings where we teach different things.”

Photo: Lisa Lindell Photography

But for both of them, creating new work—and enjoying the process of creating it—is still the main focus. “We really like what we do," said Rewitzer. "There is an element of joy in being able to do this, and we are very grateful for having the opportunity to do this in this town at this time.”  

3 Fish Studios is open seven days a week, from 10am-6pm. To see their work (as well as the pieces Galvin produces for the “Doodle-a-Day” challenge she's currently undertaking), follow @3FishStudios on Instagram or visit their website.

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