By Jenny Rebholz   Published Apr 13, 2005 at 5:38 AM

{image1} If you need the perfect gift or a special something to spice up your home décor, an art boutique with "expressive accessories" and "artistic elements" may be just the place you need. The Milwaukee area shopping experience is getting more sophisticated, and whether in the city or the suburbs, shops are popping up to satisfy your extraordinary taste.

Laura Staton and Julia Jaegersberg opened the doors to Mio Bella in November of 2004 at the Sendik's Towne Centre on Capitol Drive in Brookfield. Two creative spirits with backgrounds in marketing were, according to colleagues, destined to meet. When they did, common interests were found, creative energy exploded and now they own a store. Both women even share the bond of naming their daughters Isabella. Mio Bella or "my beautiful" seemed the perfect name to suit their unique boutique.

With successful careers and thriving families, what is the next life step? Staton and Jaegersberg were looking for a new medium for their creativity and were ready to test their entrepreneurial spirits. To prepare for this venture, they talked to other business owners, took a class at MATC and did plenty of research.

And now the duo has a boutique that offers an original shopping experience and a chance to explore the world of art. Mio Bella boasts Asian furnishings, paintings, jewelry, scarves, lamps, ceramics, glassware and purses.

"It's an indoor art festival," says Jaegersberg. "We want to make all different kinds of art accessible to everyone."

The pair finds many of its featured artists by attending art fairs. In the beginning, the merchandise was largely from a national talent base, but now they have created an even balance between local and national artists. They currently represent over 100 artists and are thrilled to support the local talent.


"An emphasis on local artists gives our store a unique niche," says Staton.

Their goal is to create an appreciation for handmade items, and they're finding this type of shopping is new to many. But, as the women share the stories behind the art and the history of the artist, shoppers fall in love with the work and find a new appreciation for originality.

With every purchase at Mio Bella, the client receives a written bio of the artist behind the creation. The list of artists includes Lester Schwartz, a fine painter from Ripon, who has traveled the world and even met Pablo Picasso. Pewaukee's Jessey Vigue manipulates acrylic and oil crayons on wax-painted surfaces. Rita Tisser of Milwaukee hand-paints on silk fabrics, and Julie Feider-Grisar of Glendale creates mosaic masterpieces.

Tisser is deeply entrenched in the art fair circuit and typically stays away from retail arrangements, but the sincerity and persistence of Jaegersberg and Staton eventually resulted in her participation. "They bring a great deal of appreciation for what we do," says Tisser. "They respect us and treat us well. They value people, and that comes through in the way they treat the artists and their guests."

The store is colorful and comfortable, and the women welcome all visitors. Asian furnishings are part of the merchandise but serve as display areas for the artistic creations. Music fills the space and refreshments appease your stomach while you satisfy your creative appetite.

Mio Bella also offers Feng Shui consultations. This is the ancient Chinese art of placement; it offers a way to rearrange your home to create balance and harmony.

Mio Bella coordinates special events to allow visitors to meet the artists and experience the store. In April, Claudette Lee will introduce her latest series of abstract paintings. Lee works from an old woolen mill in Grafton, and her painted tiles and paintings have found homes around the country for over eight years.

"I work with color and shape and in various sizes," says Lee. "I even do commission work." Some of her pieces offer typical Wisconsin cows in unique abstract settings. "The cows have added a strange twist. It has led me into a new world and down a new path." For more information on this special event, contact Mio Bella at (262) 781-6707.

And according to Lee, "Mio Bella carries works of a number of Milwaukee artists. People can find unique items and support local talent."

Tisser adds, "It is not an intimidating atmosphere like some galleries. It has very approachable work, and they do a good job of making people feel comfortable."

Local interior design professional and Mio Bella patron Suzanne Koch says, "I like to give gifts that are unique and have a story. Mio Bella offers just that, creative and unique gifts. It's affordable art."