Creating the perfect picture on South Coast Highway

Sydney Hensler's displays in Toes on the Nose's front window have included a moose head, ocean graveyard and a wave made out of Solo cups.

December 27, 2012|By Britney Barnes
  • Sydney Hensler wraps giant bow ties for the display window at Toes on the Nose surf shop, a New Year's themed celebration window. Hensler is the creative designer for the popular window displays that catch the eye of passersby in downtown Laguna.
Sydney Hensler wraps giant bow ties for the display window… (Don Leach, Coastline…)

It's not every day that people get the chance to do something creative that they're not only passionate about, but also pays their bills.

Toes on the Nose window dresser Sydney Hensler says she got lucky.

"It's something I never expected to do, but it totally fits me in a weird way," the Newport Beach resident said. "I really enjoy doing it, and I really enjoy doing it in Laguna Beach because I feel like it's a community that appreciates it."

Hensler, 28, was working at Toes on the Nose in downtown Laguna about two years ago when she was asked to try her hand at the storefront windows that face South Coast Highway. She put her background in art and graphic design to work and came up with such an eye-catching display that the store ditched its normal mannequins for Hensler's monthly artistic creations.

"It's a lot of work, a lot of troubleshooting," Hensler said last month at the shop. "It can be frustrating, but I love doing it, and I love the end product."


Growing up in Mission Viejo, Hensler would always ask for paints or clay for the holidays. She remembers going all out for any art-related school project and spent hours building elaborate dioramas inside shoe boxes.

"I was just always making things," she said. "I feel like my mind is always going and it always has been."

She went on to study art and graphic design at San Diego State University and graduated in 2006 with a bachelor's in the subject.

At Toes on the Nose, Hensler joined the company to teach surf lessons — she left Christmas Day to give lessons in Costa Rica — and soon after that she started working in the Laguna shop.

Hensler uses her artistic eyes to display merchandise, like clothes, hats, shoes, surfboards and any manner of accessories a grom would need. With her manager, the two recently found a small tree sans leaves to display the store's many hats, and Christmas tree branches are draped around clothes' displays interspersed with small pots of poinsettias.

When Hensler was first asked to try her hand at a trial window display, she built a beer can surfboard and a wave out of Solo cups for the 4th of July.

"I try to do things to put some emphasis on the ocean or some kind of surf theme, but not always," she said.

Since then, Hensler has changed the windows on a monthly basis.

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