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Artifax: Art Pays the Rent, but Ocean Swimming is a Second Passion

Kaeti Bailie, owner of Artifax International Gallery and Gifts, moonlights as a competitive open ocean swimmer.

Kaeti Bailie has a penchant for silky and flowing things: the lustrous fabrics woven into clothing and the feel of the water swirling around her as she cuts through ocean waves.

Though the two sensations sound miles apart, they intertwine in Bailie’s life.

A fine artist and an avid textile collector, Kaeti Bailie bought on the Sonoma Plaza in 2008. Since then, she's created a niche for herself- stocking the popular shop with handmade clothing, jewelry and other one-of-a-kind items.

However, mention the ocean to her and you’ll find another passion: open water swimming.

"I could swim before I could walk and I always felt very comfortable in the water,” said Bailie, who grew up in southern California “But I didn’t do my first open ocean swim until I was 49, and I immediately loved the challenge.”

The subdued daily interactions of a retail environment make for an interesting pairing with Bailie's penchant for tackling pounding ocean waves. But the diversity comes naturally to Bailie.

“I find both things creative,” she says. “Each fulfills a different aspect of my life and calls on the same energies.”

Intuition and an artist’s eye determined the aesthetic of Artifax, but as a first-time retailer, Bailie took courses from the Small Business Administration, and developed a realistic business plan, before setting off into the retail world. 

Under her keen eye Artifax is full of one-of-a-kind pieces, hand-wrought jewelry and whimsical objects from around the globe (though many pieces are sourced locally or from the Bay Area).  An avid traveler, Bailie's brought African mud cloths from Mal and hand-painted silk kimonos from a private collection and brilliant patterned silks from India.

Swimming, Travel, Textiles: all three combined in 2009, when she had a chance to compete in a race across the Hellespont straits, one of the world’s most famous waterways, a trade route which connected Asia to Europe for thousands of years.

Florence Chadwick, my childhood hero, had made the Hellespont swim after setting world records crossing the English Channel in the 50’s,” said Bailie. “Everything about it was mythical to me.”

Not only did Bailie swim the Hellespont, she won first place in her age group in an overall field of 228 participants.

 On other recent forays to Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, Bailie discovered a plethora of indigenous arts and intricately crafted fabrics and clothing that are bound for the store.

For Bailie, the true pleasure in creating a store brimming with beautiful and intriguing things comes from the many personal interactions that occur. “It’s really a joy for me to meet people from all over the country—and the world and share a few moments of conversation with them” she smiles.

For her next big swim competition, she has chosen the San Francisco 10K “Bridge to Bridge” event in September. She'll start cold water training in June at Aquatic Park, though she doesn't wear a wetsuit, just a bathing suit.

Though athletics and sales don't seem interconnected, Bailie doesn't see it that way.

After finishing San Francisco's notoriously brutal 'Escape from Alcatraz' race, she thought to herself '‘If I can do this, I can do anything!’

"The confidence you achieve from an accomplishment like that translates over into your life and work," she says. "Understanding how to set goals, plan and prepare for them and then put them into practice is the same in both realms.”

Bailie hopes to continue her adventurous journey through the waters of the world, well into her golden years (she cites racers in their 80s).

Oh, and as for those silky fabrics she loves, look for her in something aquamarine…

Vicki Jones-Pittman April 22, 2011 at 08:47 PM
Go roomie! (from her roomate Vicki on her last trip to Thailand and Cambodia)
carol rondo April 23, 2011 at 09:31 PM
Kaeti, love receiving emails on your exploits-still enjoying the beauty and energy your paintings give our home. Hope to see you. Carol Rondo
Carolyn Terman April 28, 2011 at 02:54 PM
Carolyn Terman Awesome, Kaeti. I love all the new and dreamy textiles you've brought into Artifax. And the thought of a Bridge to Bridge open water swim is overwhelming to me, but I know you can do it and come out of the water smiling.
Sue Albano May 01, 2011 at 06:54 PM
You are so damn cool. WOW! Sue Albano
Dyann Espinosa May 14, 2011 at 08:34 PM
Kaeti's story made the Official European Open Water Swimming website: http://openwaterswimming.eu/node/3940

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