Written and photographed by Juliana Jones
“It’s like an oasis. It’s really, really magical,” said Inja Vitero, owner of Inja Ink Calligraphy, as she relaxed to the sounds of windchimes and twittering birds. “It’s like having this enchanted backyard right outside my shop.”
Vitero runs her studio in the Allied Arts Guild, a beautiful botanical garden that sits by the San Francisquito Creek in Menlo Park. Besides its “secret garden” charm, the Guild is also a place for local artisans and companies to run their businesses.
The Guild was founded in 1929 and holds many historic Spanish-style buildings, making it a popular venue for weddings and other special events. Vitero has been selling her work here for about 23 years, and she shares her space with pottery and collage specialists.
“I have an outlet for calligraphy here. What I sell at the Guild are mostly prints that are embellished with some kind of handwork, painting or coloring.” She is surrounded by other artisans, like leather workers and textile experts. She said, “during my early years, there were a lot more artisans, but the Guild had to close down for a seismic retrofit [to protect buildings against earthquakes], and a lot of businesses were affected by that.” Now, the Allied Arts Guild holds more businesses, such as the Moliere Groupe, a fine art and design dealer.
The inside of Vitero’s shop. Photo by Juliana Jones
The outside of Vitero’s studio. Photo by Juliana Jones
Despite this transition, the charm and beauty of the gardens hasn’t changed. According to Vitero, “there’s just this quality. All kinds of wildlife are attracted to this place. I see a lot of cats and bunnies here.” The variety of plants and fruit trees is also remarkable, most notably the persimmon varieties, which they sell at the gardens every year.
The Allied Arts Guild is owned by the Allied Arts Guild Auxiliary, a philanthropic group that benefits Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. The property is open to the public Monday through Saturday every week, and welcomes the community to take part in special fundraising events, shopping, and relaxing in the peaceful gardens.