Creativity gets the green light |

Creativity gets the green light

Green Light Restoration, Colfax Avenue, Grass Valley.
John Hart/ | The Union

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Green Light Restoration

257 Colfax Ave, Grass Valley


Hours: Wed. through Sat., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Corisa Cobden says she comes from a “ridiculously creative family” — and it shows.

Growing up on the island of Oahu, she was surrounded by painters, designers and sculptors.

“I denied the artistic side of me for a long time — I thought I would be the bookish one,” she said, with a laugh. “But finally I accepted that I was part of the pack.”

As owner of Green Light Restoration in Grass Valley, Cobden’s own upcycled and repurposed creations are proof enough of her natural artistic abilities.

She has a knack for taking materials otherwise headed for the landfill and turning them into beautiful, fun and funky home décor. With an emphasis on lighting, her store also features pieces from other local artists who share her passion. Most tend to work with metal and wood.

A sampling of inventory includes lamps made from old car jacks, tripods, gears, car pulleys and tea cups. With an eye for spotting beauty in discarded utilitarian items, Cobden says the origin of a given piece is not always immediately apparent, such as a sleek-lined, painted lamp made from transmission pieces.

“My work also tends to be a nod to mid-century modern,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll just clean up and rewire lamps from that era. I love antiques — I try not to destroy things unnecessarily. I give a lot of thought to the things I make.”

A growing feature of her business is now providing custom work for customers who appreciate her innovative eye.

“I take people’s treasures — maybe they’ve been in a box from grandma for years — and turn them into something useful,” she said. “I just finished making a modern chandelier for someone out of 3-foot-long glass teardrops.”

Art isn’t just “something flat on a wall,” she said. “With a little thought, regular household necessities can become functional sculpture, something of beauty. Why not surround yourself with art in a nontraditional way?”

An added bonus to the Green Light Restoration experience is a small adjoining store, “Lei Lotus” — Grass Valley’s tiniest boutique — owned by Cobden’s mother, Cathy Carter.

The store features Carter’s original clothing designs handcrafted in Nepal by fair trade small family businesses. A portion of her profit goes toward the Happiness Colony Orphanage in Nepal, which Carter visits regularly.

“This is the greatest time of my life,” said Carter, who moved from the Oregon Coast, where she had two shops and ran a wholesale business for seven years.

“Not only do I get to see Corisa and her family, which includes my only grandchild Charley, I get to work next to Green Light where creativity happens daily. I think the combination of artisan and upcycled home goods — along with my original clothing designs — meshes unexpectedly well.”

When looking for a retail space in November of last year, Cobden first saw a picture of her current location — a rundown 1960s gas station on Colfax Avenue — and thought it looked horrible.

“It looked like a disaster,” she said. “It seemed desolate and run down. I thought, ‘Where is that and why would anyone want to be there?’”

Nonetheless, she decided to check it out and was instantly sold on the open space, high ceilings, large windows and carport. The renovation was extensive, but worth the effort, she said.

It was also in keeping with her philosophy — and it doesn’t hurt to have Summer Thyme’s, Diego’s and Back Porch Market right down the street.

“I’d love to see more arty businesses in the neighborhood, or a theater company,” said Cobden. “I’d love to organize an outdoor antique and artisans market here. We’re hoping to create an art district along Colfax Avenue, like an outdoor gallery with murals and rotating sculptures. The city has been supportive — they want to help us.”

For now, Corisa is content to tinker and create in her own gallery of functional art, with the help of fellow artists. It doesn’t hurt to have her mom next door, too, as she often serves as a creative sounding board.

“No doubt about it, it’s an eclectic store, but the things I put in the store are always things I would put in my house,” she said. “It’s not hard to let my creative things go. I’m glad when someone else is enjoying it. I mean, you have to put your art out into the world.”

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at or call 530-477-4203.

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