Several professional designers in Petaluma create wearable art that matches the beauty and craftsmanship of some big-name designers. And there are talented artists who construct more casual, one-of-a-kind accessories that are available at Petaluma prices rather than Beverly Hills prices. A small sampling here is sure to impress and delight.

Tina Mills

"I was a total geek growing up," scarf designer Tina Mills admits, "and I was always into art. When I was 12 years old, I had five fish tanks in my bedroom, and one entire summer, guppies in my bathtub."

Is it any wonder that fish have inspired four exotic designs for her Chanel-type silk scarves? That inspiration came when she visited Monaco's Jacques Cousteau Oceanographic Museum in 1993.

A graduate of San Francisco's Academy of Art and Sonoma State, where she earned a bachelor's degree in fine arts, Mills hand paints her designs, replicates them on Adobe Illustrator, then emails them to Larioseta, a well-respected silk printer in Como, Italy.

Mills says she could have the scarves printed more cheaply in India or China, but "I wanted the best quality possible, and Italy is known for the finest silk printing."

Actress Tippi Hedren recently received one of Mills' "Cuttlefish" scarves, and immediately sent a thank you to the friend who gifted it to her, and emailed Mills, saying, "Fabulous scarf, great design and beautiful silk."

Mills is eager to start her next series of designs, inspired by butterflies and birds.

"I contribute a portion of my business profits to the California Academy of Sciences," where fish, butterflies and birds flourish, the designer adds.

Mills' scarves are available at Gallery One, 209 Western Ave., and at www.tinamills.com.

Diana Sanabria

Colombia is a leader in the textile and clothing industries in the Americas, and Bogota native Diana Sanabria is a prime example of that fashion leadership. Sanabria's showroom at 5 Petaluma Blvd. South holds a treasure trove of her exquisitely made leather designs.

At the start of our scheduled interview, a trio of out-of-town fashionistas trooped into the shop oohing and ahhing over her collection. For a smart businesswoman, the customer always comes first, so business partner Steve Laska was recruited to conduct the interview for her.

"Diana received a bachelor's degree in textile design from the prestigious Taller Cinco Centro de Dise? in Bogota," Laska explains. "But it wasn't till 2008 that she discovered that her passion was working in leather.

"We go to trade shows and tanneries in Colombia to choose a wide variety of leathers in different textures and decide on which color to use on which texture. The trick was finding the right manufacturer who does the best quality work, and we did."

Sanabria emails her renderings to her manufacturer in Bogota (and soon to Cali, Colombia, as well, to keep up with the demand). Only cowhide is used, but with the latest technical advances, the look and texture of exotic leathers, like snakeskin, alligator, and crocodile can be replicated perfectly.

As Sanabira says on her website, www.dianasanabria.com. "Enjoy what you see and what you wear."

Erik Metzler

Erik Metzler and his wife Taylor comprise Metzler Metalcrafts (www.metzlermetalcraft.com/), and they hand-make jewelry in chainmaille (the industry's preferred spelling) for the metal weave that European knights and Japanese samurai of yesteryear wore into battle.

"It has a very similar feel to crocheting," says Taylor, "which was my craft and hobby since I was about five. I still crochet but my main love now is chainmaille."

Their customers range from teens to seniors, both male and female. Says Erik, "Three older gentlemen had me create sports-specific bracelets in green and white, blue and white, and orange and black, for their favorite teams (Jets, Yankees and San Francisco Giants)."

Much of the Metzlers' custom work consists of remounting family heirlooms like watches and favorite do-dads like crystal pendants in distinctive anodized aluminum settings.

"We've done simple $10 brass pocket watch chains, all the way up to a $300 custom necklace for a very special pendent," says Erik.

Their hip designs are available at Palmgren's Engravables, 348 Petaluma Blvd. North.

Cathy Wayne

"Handcrafted felt hats are big in Europe and they're getting very popular here," says local hat maker Cathy Wayne, an artisan who clearly enjoys what she does.

"Felt is the oldest human-made textile and my work utilizes ancient felt-making techniques," she explains. "The only materials involved are wool roving (soft fiber before its conversion into yarn), water, and soap plus agitation. It takes from 7 to 12 hours to make one hat. The result is colorful, environmentally friendly, water-repellant, and fire-resistant wearable art. People tell me that they have never seen anything like my hats. They're pretty magical."

Check out her website at www.cathywayne.com or call 763-2554 for information.

(Contact Bob Canning at argus@arguscourier.com)