Saturday, June 30, 2012

What I did on my summer vacation or...

...the importance of stepping away, ocean air, and finding inspiration while having fun. Whew, I know that's a long title but it is perfect for this post. I recently returned from my native land...Florida. All my family still lives down there and whats better is that they now all live within about 20 minutes of each other. So annually the wife and I along with our daughter and wiener dog, Maximus, pack up all our stuff and head down to visit. Like I have said before...ITS GREAT HAVING FAMILY AT THE BEACH! This year we drove the 18 hour trip from PA down to South Walton County where my parents, brother and sister all live. Taking a lot of the back roads, we picked up fresh peaches and conch(or lady) peas and saw really cool home made yard art(see here) along with a handful of sweet bottle trees. 

My family lives out on the panhandle between Panama City Beach and Destin...a pristine stretch of land devoid of rows of high rise condos instead opting for more high end housing communities mostly located across the street from the beach on 30A. These are places that have been extremely well planned and designed and offer some of the highest priced zip codes in the nation, places like Seaside, Watercolor, Rosemary Beach and Alys. Now don't get me wrong, my family do not live in these communities but like most locals live around them on the more affordable outskirts. That's what makes this area have these high end planned "towns" that mingle with the saltier local you get nice amenities AND a thriving cultural underbelly that is more often than not supported by the rather affluent tourists. 

The area is full of local artists, great musicians, and new and interesting places to go and see both...usually while you are eating fresh seafood and drinking plenty of cold beverages. And that is just what I did with help from my trusty guide and brother, Marc. Music was high on our agenda and my brother seemed to know most of the local bands in town. We saw a couple great bands on different nights...both local and both starting to gain much bigger attention. The Owsley Brothers rocked the house with their own blend of grimy swamp rock mixed with a heavy duty pinch of Sabbath. In contrast The Blue Ribbon Healers(pictured first) plucked and harmonized a bluesy, folky New Orleans rag sound that was absolutely perfect for hanging out a block off the ocean and soaking in the night air and salty breeze. Both bands pictured below, thanks to my wife and her smart phone...and Instagram.

On another adventure just having spent the morning baking on the beach...then eating tender, flaky, fresh Grouper fingers at The Red Bar, we continued our trek to Hurricane Oyster Bar for happy dollar beers...five dollar a dozen ice cold oysters on the half shell...honestly, you can't beat this place. Just before heading into Hurricane's we stopped in to check out a new studio/gallery space set up by local artist Andy Saczynski.  His work is mixed media on board mostly...and I do mean MIXED. This guy seems to toss everything into his work and then unify it all through the use of paint. I see this style down there often but he really pulled it off and took it to another level. His work has a New Orleans/ Gulf Coast/Folk/Outsider/funky feel and his space where he showed and worked was pretty damn nice. Pictured below.

 Marc and I spoke with Andy for a while and  he was laid back and talked about the risk involved with opening his own public gallery space. He told us that... "Even in this economy, with the encouragement, I felt the time was right in my artistic career to just take a leap of faith and step out and do it."...this was inspirational for me to hear gentle readers because I am working on something very similar right now. In the last couple months or so I have been looking for a new studio space here in Beaver Falls, PA. I met a woman here who was interested in doing the same and has a real passion for the revitalization of this old steel town. We have recently found a wonderful space that looks like it will be perfect. It is an interesting situation that I will get into more later is really a super space. It is a double storefront connected on the inside, brand new renovation in an old brick building on the main street. We will use it as a studio to do our own work from but also rent out studio space to others, have classes for kids and adults, and offer a clean retail gallery space as well. Scary, yes... but doable...YES! We are still in the planning stages and it doesn't look like we will get into the space until August sometime but my goal is to be cranking out work from there for the Fall. Like I said, more to come on this subject down the line.

 Meeting other artists and musicians, visiting with my family, and generally removing myself from the murky tub of water that I usually bath in has been hugely beneficial. It allowed for me to step back and reflect and think in a more forward direction. I highly recommend a change of scenery to everybody once in a while. Now I feel more able to focus on whats in front of me like: a two person show at a local art center that is opening in Indiana, PA, making more pots for the wood kiln at Little Mahoning Creek Pottery for firing in the month of July, teaching a graduate level class, "Visual Concepts" during the last summer session for IUP and then heading up to teach a week of ceramics  at Chautauqua Institution in New York... AND then really putting my energy into the opening of the new studio space! So stay tuned...change is in the air and there is so much coming up!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Summertime and...

Wow, I am just about half way into June and this is my first post of the month...what a slacker...or it could be that there is a lot of activity going on away from the laptop. I will admit to a bit of both in this case. I do have a lot going on right now...and I may have some big news to announce in a couple weeks as well...hate to leave you hanging but I just need to know a bit more before I shout it out. And speaking of summertime, I am about to make my annual trek down to the sugary beaches of FLA to see my family, soak up the sun(along with plenty of handmade Bloodymarys), and eat my fill of fresh, fresh seafood!

Before I go and get all sunburned however I had some more regional travel to do...I have just returned from a few days of sweaty attic cleaning back at my other house in Indiana, Pa...that along with a nice visit with Nancy at Little Mahoning Creek Pottery where I shot a whole boatload of images for everybody involved with the Indiana County Potters Tour. During the summer while everybody is busy making and firing, we also have to think about the advertisement for the upcoming tour in October. Next thing you know, Fall will be knocking on the door.

Tall hooter vase from Nacy Smeltzer

It was my pleasure to shoot the images that will be included in the brochure advertising the tour.  For those of you who might be newer to the ol' homefry blog click this link to check out the post from last year's tour. It was good to see people's faces that I had not seen in a while and also good to commune a bit over beer and Nancy's homemade pizza while I shot images. Its too easy to get so consumed in my own little going-ons that I forget about the fact that there is a thriving community of very talented potters all tucked away in the foothills of Indiana County...and I have proof. So I thought I would share a little of whats coming this Fall...I know its a long time from now and we are all trying to savor every drop of summertime, but hey...what the heck...its something to look forward to. The group, where I am always the guest potter at Nancy's studio, will not only be having the always well attended tour this Fall but will also be showing work at the Clay Place in Pittsburgh and very possibly with the Artist Hand Gallery(more about this place later!) that is opening in Indiana, PA too. I am very pleased to be part of this small but strong community...enjoy the pics(click to see bigger) and I will talk at ya' when I am back from the beach!
Tumbler set from Cathy Bizousky
Birch Frew
Janet Runyan

Michael Smithhammer

Bob Bonnet
Whooooo's mug?....Nancy Smeltzer's mug!

Josh Floyd
Ruth Ferrier