Monday, December 28, 2009

Wooden Maps

It's pretty rare for me to go to an art show and see something new. I spend most of my life looking at fine craft. While a show may be full of beautiful pottery, unique jewelry and outstanding glass work, it's rarely something completely new and different. When I see something new & different, I tend to get excited. That's how it was for me this weekend, when I discovered Abby Bay Designs.Abby Bay starts with nautical charts and topographical maps of area's that contain large bodies of water. The silhouette of the land is cut from fine hardwoods. Each depth of the body of water is cut from another layer of the same wood, then stained a beautiful blue that lets the natural grain of the wood show through. The layers are stacked up, topped with glass and framed in a contrasting hardwood, leaving you with something more than an ordinary map...a truly unique piece of art. My favorite was one of the great lakes, done in birds eye maple. The pictures really don't do the pieces justice, but maybe they will help you get the idea.As I was standing in the Abby Bay booth, I couldn't help thinking how much my father would love these pieces. That is something I rarely think when looking at art.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Holiday Gift Guide

We've put together a gift giving guide to help you fill those difficult slots on your holiday list. And don't forget to check out our Stocking Stuffer ideas. All fun gifts priced $20.00 and under.

If you're in the Naples area, be sure not to miss all the fun events happening on Fifth Avenue this December. The Downtown Christmas Walk is on Dec. 3rd, the Christmas Parade on Dec. 8th, Holiday Wishes on Dec. 10th, and the Hanukkah Celebration on Dec. 16th. If you're attending any of the events, stop in and say hi!

For the Romantic....Is she a hearts and flowers kind of girl? We've gathered a collection of both the beautiful and the unusual. You're sure to find something she hasn't seen and is sure to love!

For Mr. Impossible...There's one on every list. The guy who's got it all, doesn't want or need anything. That's Mr. Impossible. We've gathered some of our more unusual gifts here, things we're sure he doesn't have and didn't know he needed!

For the Beach Babe...She's the siren of the seas. Water and sand are her favorite things. Here we've gathered baubles, trinkets and treasures sure to delight any beach babe!

For the Party Girl...The table is always perfectly set, the food is always wonderful. She is, in fact, the "Hostess with the Mostess". Here we've gathered some wonderful serving and entertaining pieces guaranteed to get you a return invitation.

For the Tree Hugger...Recycle, Repurpose, Reuse!!!! These gifts are sure to delight all of the eco-warriors on your list.

For the Sassy Girl...She's fun, she's edgy, she's a little bit unique. You're not going to find her gift at any chain store. But you're sure to find it here!

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Birds Are Back In Town

No, I'm not talking about the snowbirds (although, they are back too). I'm talking about those wild, wacky, wonderful long legged birds from artist Aletha Rector.

These birds have always been very popular, but due to an artist illness, we haven't had any in quite some time. Aletha's better now and up & running, or maybe I should say up & potting. We're thrilled to have a small flock of birds right now. And they've brought some friends! Along with the birds, there are sheep, camels and bunnies.

A Florida native, Aletha learned the basics of clay while residing on the island of Okinawa. Many years later and a continent away, she has developed these early lessons into her own unique style and method. She sculpts each creature in clay and kiln-fires, then pit-fires them to achieve it's unusual color and texture. She's basically a one woman operation, except for a little help from her husband (he pours the cement bases for the birds).

My favorite part of the birds....because they come apart, you can change their socks! Dress them up for the holidays. I've got a bag of Christmas socks waiting in the wings for our flock.

See the whole flock and their friends at Random Acts of Art.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Those Cute Little Mice

One day, several months ago, a customer entered the gallery, a little upset looking and clutching a small color catalog. She asked, in a frantic voice, "Do you carry Wee Forest Folk?" She was so upset, I had to ask her to repeat herself several times until I understood what she was saying. When I told her I didn't, she asked if I would please carry them. The owners of the store she had buying them at had retired, closing up, the artist doesn't sell direct, and she had no place to buy them. It was at this point I had to admit I had no idea what Wee Forest Folk were.

She showed me the catalog she was clutching. It was full of mice. Mice all dressed up and doing things. OK, I'll admit it, I thought to my self, with a great deal of disdain "Mice sculptures? Really? You've got to be kidding." I thought it, but I never let that show. I asked the women a few questions about the mice...were they handcrafted, made in America, etc? The answers were all the right ones for my self imposed criteria, but still...mice sculptures?

I asked the customer to leave me her information and I'd see what I could do. I figured I would do some research and, if the minimum order was low enough, offer to order them for her. I had no intentions of caring them in the gallery. I got in touch with someone at Wee Forest Folk and got the whole story. It seems that the mice first came into existence 37 years ago, crafted out of bread dough by Annette Peterson. Bread dough doesn't hold up very well, so now they are molded out of a stronger material. Each piece is a casting of an original sculpted by either Annette or her children, Willy and Donna.They are then meticulously painted with great detail. They are produced in small amounts and retired regularly. It all sounded great, but still...mice sculptures?

They offered to send me a sample, a beach bound mouse called The Little Dipper.I was amazed when I opened the box. First of all, they are so much tinier than I expected. The Little Dipper is only 1 1/4" tall. And the amount of detail on such a little! From the spout on her inner tube to the starfish on the beach to her pink cheeks, it was all there. I'll admit it, she was a cutie. But still...mice sculptures?

I decided I would do a very small order and see what happened. Those first few mice have spread like...well, like mice. They now have their own shelf in a case and new friends arrive regularly. The Halloween ones just showed up and they are as cute as can be.

So, mice sculptures? YES!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Craft in America

Craft in America, the Peabody Award winning series, premiered season two last night on PBS. Season two features two episodes focusing on the origins and processes of craft.

Craft traditions didn't just appear, fully-formed and mature. Episode IV - Origins focuses on craftspeople with a long history in the craft world. Include in this episode. just a few of the artist featured, are Jugtown Pottery and Teri Greeves. Jugtown Pottery was started in 1917 and, drawing from the tradition, creates traditional jugs, candlesticks and tableware. Teri Greeves, a member of the Kiowa Indian Tribe of Oklahoma, uses traditional Kiowa beadwork methods to tell the story of American Indians. Her work includes beaded books, jewelry and high top sneakers.

Episode V - Process focus's on what inspires a person to choose a career in craft. What makes an established professional give up everything to take up a career in arts? How do they learn their crafts? Along with several artist, Process looks as several important craft schools. The visit to the North Bennet Street School in Boston, with its emphasis on violin making, was fascinating. The Kansas City Art Institute has a ceramic arts program that produces many of today's prominent contemporary ceramic artist. And New York's 92nd Street Y...oh, to have access to the kinds of craft programs and classes offered, both for children & adults, would be such a gift.
While the episodes premiered last night, many PBS stations will be replaying them through out the month. If you love fine crafts, love beautiful handmade items, you should check you local station for airdates.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Bonnie Perry - Bold Glass Jewelry

A native of Cape Cod, MA Bonnie Perry found her love of creating at the torch in the early 2000's. For the past seven years, Bonnie has perfected the art of glass beadmaking.

Melting rods of Italian glass in a torch, she coaxes glass into shapes to form beads. The hollow beads are then annealed to insure that the bead is sturdy. She then turns these miniature glass sculptures into one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry that are bold and daring.

"My respect for the flow of the glass and its properties makes the glass and I equal partners in this creative process. My artistic journey began with exploring color, design and texture using textiles, and today I continue that exploration with glass which is a mix of art and science. The colors in glass come from their metallic content. Melting colored glass rods is combining metals in heat. The possibilities are endless and always exciting. My current work is big, bold and whimsical and reflects the joy and excitement with which I embrace each new day. What will come next? I’m open to the journey and will follow the flow of the glass."
Teaching her gift to others is one of her passions. Her seven year old grandson has been known to work at the torch alongside Bonnie.

Friday, September 11, 2009

What's New

Evan & Kyanne Livingston
These cute little flower pillows and beautiful ikebana provide an interesting way to show off your favorite flowers. Click here to see all the styles.

Scott Bisson
These snakes don't slither, but they sure do shimmer. Torch worked borosilicate (Pyrex) glass is used to make some of the prettiest reptiles around. Click here to see them all.

Astrid Garcia
Better known for her beautiful, unique wedding and portrait photography, Astrid has brought us a small collection of her tropical-contemporary fine art photography. The alternative processes used transform these palm trees into something almost other worldly. Click here to see more of this collection and if you are having a wedding or family gathering anywhere in South Florida, be sure to check out Astrid & Rene Photography.

Friday, June 26, 2009

To Move or Not To Move

Moving a craft gallery is not fun.
For me, the most stressful part came before the big move. Was I making the right decision in moving? Is moving really going to increase my business? Where should I move to? It had become very clear to me that it was time to move. My original location, while beautiful, was just not attracting customers. It is an area of town that people seem to have forgotten about and just are not coming to shop anymore. Everyone seems to be struggling. My lease was coming up, so I took that as a sign that it was time to go.

So, now that I've made the decision to move, where to go? I spent several months just hanging out in different locations. Hanging out and watching. At all different times of day. The questions I asked myself... Are their people here? Are they coming just to the restaurants & leaving, or are they walking around? Those people walking around, are they actually shopping? Do they have bags in their hands?

I finally narrowed down the area of town I wanted to be in. Fifth Avenue South. From there I narrowed the 6 block area down to about 3 blocks that I really thought were optimal. Then came the fun of looking at available locations, comparing prices, figuring out what kind of build out the spaces would require. It was the end of our busy season, when the business drys up, and there are always stores closing up then, so I had a few good options.
Once I finally picked the location I wanted, then came the bargaining. Here I have to say, I hate bargaining. I'm pretty good at it, but I really hate doing it. I'm actually pretty proud of the deal I got. I emailed the final agreement to my old boss (who's really smart in business matters) to review before I signed anything. After he read it, he called to make sure he was reading it correctly. This whole bargaining process took several weeks. I often didn't know from one day to the next if it was going to happen. At several points I was so stressed, I wouldn't have been surprised if I ended up with an ulcer. But I didn't and now the new location is mine. Here's a few "before pictures".

Now comes the fun of packing & moving...but that's another post.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Amanda Ryznar

After graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Slippery Rock University, Amanda Ryznar spent several years working for production potteries in Vermont. In 2005 she made the leap, opening her own pottery studio.

Working in bright colors on white porcelain, Amanda's designs are clearly inspired by nature. More subtle are the influences of different eras, from the Arts and Craft movement to the Mod style. Recent additions include a selection of tropical motifs. The pieces are thrown on the wheel, either from white stoneware or porcelain. Any trimming is done, and attachments such as handles made, when the piece is "leather-hard". The colors are applied at this stage. When the color drys a little, Amanda carves away to reveal the clay underneath. The piece is fired to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit, then coated in a clear glaze and fired again to 2380 degrees.

"I believe that life is to be enjoyed and that the objects we bring into our homes and use everyday should reflect that joy in being."

Click here to see our selection of Amanda's work.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Living With Studio Furniture

The Collection of Robert & Carolyn Springborn
Naples Museum of Art through Sunday, June 28

For lovers of studio furniture, this exhibit, featuring cabinets, tables, chairs, lamps and more, should not be missed. Too often the Naples art community only focuses on traditional art. Paintings in traditional styles and fine antiques are the norm. Anything a little different or unusual is looked upon as "odd" and "not really art". Unless you have a name like Chihuly, fine crafts get little respect here. The Naples Museum of Art is breaking through some of those boundaries with this exhibit.

Robert & Carolyn Springborn's collection, one of the most eclectic collections of studio furniture in the country, contains pieces that are both beautiful & quirky. One of my favorite pieces, the chair pictured here by artist John Cederquist, seems to be saying, "Yes, this is a chair, and yes, it is art. See the paintbrush?" That may not be the artist intended point, but after years of explaining that studio furniture is art to people, that's how I relate to it.

If you love handcrafted things, if you love beauty with a sense of humor, if you love the unconventional, if you just want to see some great art, check out this exhibit before it is gone.

Naples Museum of Art

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Discovering 2 Naples Artists

This past weekend was the Downtown Naples Art Festival on 5th Avenue. I attended on Sunday morning, which was gray and overcast. It rained off & on all day, which was good for me (I don't mind getting wet & no crowds to fight), but not so good for the artists. One big surprise for me was running into Avner Zabari there. Avner is an amazing furniture artists, and as a sign of the times, is doing retail shows for the first time in the approximately 12 years I've known him, because gallery sales are so down.

My other big surprise was finding 2 artist, both originally from Peru now living here in Naples, completely new to me, whose work I just loved. The first was Angeli Naveros. Originally from Peru, Angeli wraps brightly colored thread around PVC pipes that she then places into large brushed stainless steel frames. From a distance, the effect is a bit like a color block image. As you get closer the texture of the threads, some of which have been frayed, comes into play. The contemporary pieces require a larger space than I currently have, but I hope to see more of Angeli's work at future shows.

My second discovery of the day was the retablos of Nicario Jimenez. All I can say is, "Wow!" In fact, I think I stopped right in the middle of the street and said that out loud. Traditionally, retablos were carried by Spanish priest in Central America as portable religious shrines. The ones you to see now a days tend to be crafted in Mexico for the tourist trade, small and not very detailed. Most of the ones I've seen have Day of the Dead themes. Nicario's are in whole other category. The figures he creates out of boiled potato and gypsum powder are intricately detailed. And there are a lot of them packed into those little boxes. Speaking of the boxes, the painting on them is wonderful. While some of his pieces have traditional themes...biblical stories, saints, Day of the Dead...others are decidedly modern, depicting everyday life and political statements. Most of Nicario's work was outside of my budget, but I did manage to get a charming mermaid ornament.
While I was in Nicario's booth I couldn't help but eavesdrop on a conversation he was having with a woman who turned out to be a teacher at a local school. The school she teaches at is in one of the poorest parts of Collier County. Most of the students are the children of farm workers. They have no funding for field trips and almost none for art supplies. Nicario offered to come to her class and teach the students about this traditional art, bringing a supply of the potato & gypsum powder mixture so that they could make their own sculptures. That gesture alone made me wish I could afford one of his pieces.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Amy Peters Inspirational Jewelry

Eight years old is a little young to pick your career, but that's just what Amy Peters did. It all started with an after school program in jewelry enameling. In highschool, she worked an after school job as a pearl knotter. In college, she worked in a bead shop. After college she continued to perfect her craft but treated it more as a hobby than a career. Over the years she worked working various jobs, everything from retail sales and a kidney transplant coordinator at a hospital's blood center.

A prominent artist once told her "if you haven't used your art to make a living within 5 years of graduating art school, you probably never will." It had been 4 1/2 years, so she lept. She set up a studio in a small (9' x 15') shed with a dirt floor & no running water and Amy Peters' Studio was born. Thirteen years later, and she's still going strong. Her sterling silver jewelry is stamped with wonderful inspirational messages...Follow Your Heart...Reach for the Stars...Take the Road Less Traveled. I give her necklaces as gifts a lot and they are always a hit.

On a side note, she's a great person to share a pitcher of margaritas with!

Click here to check out Amy's blog.
Click here to check out her jewelry at our store.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Dennis Elliot

Some people are born with more talent than seems fair to the rest of us. I think Dennis Elliott is one of those people.

Dennis became a professional musician at the age of 16 as the drummer for the British jazz-rock band IF. In 1976, Dennis became one of the founding members of the rock band Foreigner. From 1976 to 1991, when Dennis left the band, Foreigner recorded six multi-platinum selling albums. While still with the band, Elliott's wife Iona gave him a Black & Decker lathe attachment for his power drill and that started it all. He needed to get his mind off the anxiety of performance. But turning took over.

"In creating music, you're creating out of thin air. There's no material that you're working with when you begin," says Elliott. "When you're working with a solid object like a piece of a tree, you can only do it once. The responsibility is therefore greater than creating a new song which can be wiped out and started again."

Eventually Dennis gained recognition as a wood turner and his work is in several public collection, including the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Museum of Arts & Design (formerly the American Craft Museum).
Platinum records and your art in the's just not fair to the rest of us, Dennis!

See more of Dennis' work here.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

What is contemporary fine craft?

That is a question I frequently get asked, and it's a hard one to answer. When I say that I have a contemporary craft gallery people mostly ignore the word gallery and assume I have a store that sells scrap booking and knitting supplies. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against scrap bookers and knitters (some of them are my best friends), but it's not what I do. I've searched the internet for a definition of contemporary crafts. Most of what I found was extremely limited or so esoteric as to not make any sense. Now, I'm not promising to make any sense, but I'll do my best.

The things I look for in contemporary crafts and craft artists are:
1.Utility---Not everything that is contemporary crafts is functional, but most can trace its roots back to something that was (or still is) a part of everyday life. A perfect example of this would be blown glass. The work of Dale Chihuly is in no way utilitarian. It was never meant to be anything other than beautiful and decorative. Yet, you can trace the roots of glassblowing back thousands of years in the making of drinking glasses, bowls, windows, and more.

2. Vision---The ability to see something in a common object that wasn't readily visible to others. When you see a piece of scrap wood, do you see fuel for a fireplace or do you see the figure of an angel with something to say? When you see an old muffler, do you see something to throw away or do you see the body of a dog?

3. Mark of the Hand---Contemporary craft should show that it was made by a person, with skill and care. Even when something is made with the most cutting edge machinery, it should still show something of the artist in it.

My description of contemporary craft is by no means definitive. Some people will disagree with it totally. Some will say it is too broad. Some will say it's to vague. I challenge them to come up with their own definition (it's not as easy as you think.) These are just the guidelines I use for choosing work for my gallery. After that, it just comes down to what I love. And even then I've been known to throw the rules out the window for something I truly love!

I'd love to hear you definition of Contemporary Fine Crafts.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

So, this blog thing...

I've been getting the push to start a blog for some time now. I'm finally giving in & doing it. I plan on devoting most of the post to the art that I love (although I am known to get sidetracked). I attend a lot of art/craft shows, everything from tiny church craft shows to big national juried shows. You never know where you'll find that new amazing artist. Sometimes those I'll carry those artist in my gallery, sometimes I won't. Just because I love it, doesn't mean my customers will buy it.

I'm doing this in hopes of encouraging people to buy American crafts. Buy them from me (hey, I'd really like that), buy them from a local shop, buy them from an artist at a street fair, just BUY them!

I'm telling you, you will get so much more joy out of eating your cereal from a beautiful ceramic bowl, hand-made by some guy in Michigan, than you will from a bowl mass produced at some factory in China, sold at a big box store. And it won't cost you that much more, if it cost more at all. I promise!