Visitors and residents who participated in the Clarke County Studio Tour on Saturday and Sunday were treated to both spectacular weather and extraordinary art. The thirteen stop county-wide tour featured something for everyone regardless of your artistic preferences. If you missed the tour here is just a small sampling of the rich artistic community here in Clarke County, Virginia.
Don and Harriet Maloney’s wood turning shop is listed as the first stop on the Studio Tour but I visited at 4:00pm on Sunday, just an hour before the official tour ended. (My weekend plans orbited the movement of two large electrical transformers but that, literally, is another story.) The husband and wife team’s Blue Ridge mountain home and wood turning studio of 33 years is witness to their dedication both to their art and to each other.
“We moved up here is ’78 or ’79 and lived in a trailer while the house was being built” Don reminisced. “I dug the footers of the house with a pick-axe” Harriett added.
One might wonder how such a petite lady could wield a pick and shovel until seeing the turned bowls and other art that she and Don produce in their wood working shop. Both husband and wife are experts with tools and know how to get the most from them.
Don, a production wood turner for fifteen years, still works every day on his beloved 18-foot long lathe turning out all kinds of work from funeral urns, to bowls to “spirtles”.
What is a spirtle, you ask?
“Why it’s a traditional Scottish porridge (oatmeal) stirrer” Don laughs. It’s also his most popular sales item. In addition to traditional bowls turned from burls and other beautiful woods.
Don also turns funeral urns out of local and exotic woods.
“One pound per cubic centimeter” Don says holding one of his larger urns. “You can get a pretty big guy in there.” The urn, turned from box elder harvested from along the Shenandoah River, features beautiful red stains caused by natural pests that infest the tree.
Don and Harriett both sell their wood art locally in Berryville and at a new gallery at Hill High Orchard in Round Hill, Virginia.
“The gallery opened in June and now we have 30 artists showing their work there” Harriett said. “It’s doing very well.”
Opus Oaks – The Studio
Malcolm Harlow loves to work in his garden. However, Harlow’s plants and flowers grow from paint, stone and canvas rather than soil.
Harlow has a stunning range of artistic abilities including stone sculpture, clay portraiture, bonze sculpture, etching, painting, wood working and even black smith-ing (to name just a few!)
“I call it a garden because I always have four or five commissions going at once so that when I get tired of one I can put it down and move to another” Harlow said. “Being able to move from one job to another is a delightful sort of lifestyle.”
On a warm Saturday morning Harlow has many things to tend in his workshop “gardens”, which are shaded by many huge oak trees that lend their name to his studio, Opus Oaks.
“I’ve been able to survive as an artist by having a wide range of work” Harlow said.
Harlow takes me to a work area where he is creating a cemetery marker for a gravesite in Boston. The commission is one of the first that Harlow has gotten through the Internet.
“The inquiry came through the Internet and soon I was negotiating with the client over the phone will he was on a trip in China” Harlow said. Harlow’s gravestone design features an elegant heron along the left side of the stone with a mournful barn owl being coaxed from the center of stone by Harlow’s pneumatic stone chisel.
A few of Harlow’s current commissions include a clay sculpture portrait of a Texas business woman for a museum that will commemorate her work and a clay sculpture portrait of former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.
Although Harlow is known internationally for his work, including stone carvings that adorn the Washington National Cathedral, his most well known local sculpture is a seven foot bronze of George Washington that stands near Cork Street in Winchester at the south end of the old town pedestrian mall.
“We produced thirty miniature bronze Washington statues from the maquette that were sold to Winchester businesses to raise money for the large statue featured on the mall” Harlow recounted. (“Maquette”, I learned, is a French word for the scale model of an unfinished architectural work or a sculpture.)
Harlow then created the seven foot clay image that was turned into the bronze masterpiece guarding that surely must be “first in the hearts of all Winchesterians”.
Opus Oaks – The Art School
Malcolm Harlow and his wife, Gale Bowman-Harlow, both exude the skill and patience that are so often are found in successful mentors in all fields. So perhaps it is no surprise that Gale decided to open “Opus Oaks, an Art Place, Inc.” on First Street in Berryville ten years ago.
“We offer classes in many areas including sculpture, painting, stained glass, water colors and drawing” Gale Harlow said standing in the school’s studio surrounded by both finished and unfinished projects. “The ideal class size for us is about ten people.”
According to Gale Harlow, art classes are filled mostly by adults during the school year although she also has strong student enrollment from the home-schooling community. Winter classes are performed in the Berryville studio, however, summer classes include study at the Opus Oaks studio where she and Malcolm Harlow live.
Gale Harlow showed me foam print blocks made by students over the summer depicting animals impacted by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Students elected to sell prints made from their foam carvings as a way to raise funds for animal rescue groups working in the spill zone.
Gale Harlow is a master artist, as is her husband, and their respective fields of expertise overlap. Asked whether there are ever challenges presented by two artists living under a single roof Harlow is pensive before offering a reply.
“We’ve gotten to the point where we enjoy critiquing each other’s work. We respect each other’s opinions.”
Opus Oaks, an Art Place, Inc. operates year-round with classes typically six weeks in length.
One hallmark of a successful venture may be in knowing your business partner so well that you can finish their sentences before they do. Joyce Badanes and Norma Colman partnership is one such partnership of friendship and fabric.
During the Studio Tour the women displayed their work in two large rooms of intricate and beautiful quilts, aprons and other one-of-a-kind “Art-to-Wear”. Customers formed a steady stream through Joyce’s “only for this weekend” living room-turned-showroom admiring and purchasing the unique clothing designs.
As I spoke to the pair of fiber artists about their work, questions are often shared between them with charming joint replies. For example;
Question: How do you describe your work Joyce?
Joyce takes a breath, pauses, and then looks to Norma for the correct words.
Norma: Joyce’s work reflects her love of nature and a desire to protect nature. Her designs reflect sensitivity to people and often are inspired by poetry. Many of Joyce’s design themes show her love of the desert southwest. One quilt even has a Tai-Chi theme.
Question: What made you want to work together with each other?
Joyce: I saw one of Norma’s quilts in the book “Reflections of Clarke County” and I said to myself “I’ve got to meet this woman!” So I went to a reception where she was showing her work with the book in hand. When I saw her I walked right up pointing at the book and said “Did you do this?! If so, I need to talk to you!”
Norma: We immediately started exchanging stories. You needed a “fabric friend”, didn’t you?
Joyce: I wanted to get away from traditional quilting and Norma was there for me.
Norma: You were lonely.
Joyce: Three years in November â€¦
Norma: â€¦ we’ve been friends for that long.
Together Norma and Joyce explore new approaches for their fabric art including innovative adhesives and designs. Old jewelry is often used as bead embellishment in their designs. Unique shapes from thrift stores, a potato masher for instance, can be used to stamp prints on the cloth either before or after it has been sewn.
“There’s a growing interest in fiber arts with more and more quilters are buying clothes at thrift stores that can be torn apart and made into new things” Norma said.
Many of the pair’s designs feature a small “green bird” signifying that the item has been made from recycled cloth.
Circus of Art
Self-described as the Harrison Family Circus, Russ, Diane and ten-year-old son Liam Harrison clearly share the same creative, and very active, gene pool. All filled the family’s living room cum art gallery with their work for the Studio Tour.
With the family’s prolific artistic resume on display in their living room a visitor could be forgiven for wondering where the trio find times to be so creative. Both Russ and Diane have full-time professional “day jobs” and Liam is a full time student attending D G Cooley Elementary School.
“Sometimes it’s hard having three artists in the house” Diane Harrison said. “It can get a little competitive here from time to time.”
Russ greeted tour visitors from the family’s front porch with a demonstration of paper clay sculpture technique. Russ explains that paper clay technique mixes paper pulp with clay to form a lighter and more versatile sculpting material than ordinary clay.
“Paper clay allows me to build additive sculpture” Russ explained to me. “The paper fibers in the clay make it stronger and lighter so I can build taller structures. When the object is fired the paper burns away leaving pores in the clay.”
“451 degrees” Diane says standing nearby.
“Right” Russ smiles. “Like the novel. The temperature at which paper combusts.”
According to Diane, Liam is beginning to focus on photography but also enjoys sculpture and draws.
Diane’s artistic love? “Pottery” she says.
“If I could do pottery full time I would” Harrison said while looking over rows of her colorful clay cups displayed on a shelf in her living room.
“I’ve always liked working with my hands, plus, clay provides faster gratification that paint!”
Heather Mansfield is a wildlife biologist by training. Her scientific training made her suspect that she had Multiple Sclerosis for several years before she received a formal diagnosis. As the disease progressed Mansfield’s scientific work became problematic so she decided that a career change was in order.
“What is the sense of crawling up in a ball over it?” Mansfield said.
Mansfield’s fused glass art is a celebration of beauty that often showcases her love of wildlife and the natural world.
“Fusion design uses two layers of glass to create a single piece” Mansfield said. “Glass is cut into pieces that are heated together in a 1,500 degree kiln. The warm glass is them placed back into a mold to acquire the shape of a plate or a bowl.”
Mansfield’s art technique originates from a one-hour class that she took as a child. Everything else has been self-taught.
“My sister took a fusion glass class and I liked what I saw her doing” Mansfield said. Mansfield continued to expand her technique and knowledge and today offers one-of-a-kind jewelry and other objects.
Mansfield said that the profits from her work are donated to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Art at School
The Clarke County High School International Baccalaureate (IB) program challenges students to demonstrate a well-balanced blend of academic achievement, creativity, action and service. Art is an important part of the IB curriculum.
CCHS art instructor Kathy Campbell and several of her IB students welcomed Studio Tour participants visiting the high school art room to view the student’s artistic creations on display in the classroom.
IB art students may pursue any medium from painting to mosaics to sculpture. A quick glimpse around Campbell’s art room reveals examples of nearly every art form imaginable.
Senior Shannon Dykes demonstrated her skills with a painting that she is creating under Campbell’s tutelage. Dykes said that she likes the independence that the IB program offers to pursue her own creative goals.
“You get to do your own thing” Dykes said. “The class lets you do more realistic work.”
A Lost Art
Shawn Hartsook grew up on her father’s 110-acre Oak Hart Farm just northeast of Berryville. After a stretch of teaching second grade at Berryville Primary, Hartsook decided to try her hand at a different type of instruction; Helping people learn to feed their body, mind and soul.
Hartsook’s new classroom is the fields and berry patches that grow at her farm. Hartsook offers her farm as a children’s summer camp and for farm parties and small gatherings. A shady area of the farm is now home to a party pavilion and a farm-arts teaching building that houses a commercial kitchen.
“Last week I had a group of three to five year-olds here” Hartsook said. “They were harvesting things from the garden that they planted earlier in the year.”
Hartsook proudly showed a visitor the newly built commercial kitchen where both children and adults learn about getting back to basics through simple pleasures with sustainably grown vegetables, flowers and canning techniques.
The growing popularity of “sustainable living” is prompting more and more people to want to regain the “lost” art of canning food. Hartsook’s new kitchen includes an industrial quality stove with plenty of counter space that is perfect for helping her students learn how to preserve their own fruits and vegetables.
Fifty bushels of local apples were stacked in the corner of the room awaiting Hartsook’s next group of novice canners.
It really isn’t surprising that Hartsook traded her inside teaching job for an outside classroom. Teaching runs in her family; Both of Hartsook’s daughters have followed in their mother’s footsteps to become teachers and both daughters are married to teachers.
What may be more surprising is the quest so many people now have to get back in touch with the land and its farming heritage. Either way, Shawna Hartsook will be there to help. She’s traded her blackboard for Ball canning jars and Blue Ridge vistas and she’s teaching from the classroom that she’s known all of her life.
Pain and Creativity
After two tours in the Marine Corps, veteran Kelly Banks needed an outlet for the experiences he had while serving in the military.
“Art helps Kelly deal with what he went through” said Regina Banks, Kelly’s wife.
Banks seems to move easily and confidently between the different art forms that uses. At one moment he is describing the techniques and imagery that he used to transform the crotch of a tree into a tribute to Mother Africa and its rich Egyptian heritage, moments later he is describing abstract eyes and faces that eerily peer out of a deep impressionistic jungle captured in a traditional oil painting titled “From Darkness Cometh”.
Banks creative comfort was apparent on Saturday not just with his art, but also in the gallery space where his creations were being displayed; Josephine School Museum.
“This place is a big part of my life” Banks said. “I used to come here to practice for band class.” Banks, originally from Berryville with family members still in the area, now lives in Leesburg.
Banks said that, for him, the creative process is always active but not always easy to harness.
“I start with a basic plan when I begin to work on a new piece” Banks said. “Soon after I get started the piece starts to speak back to me. I try to let the creative force touch me and move my hands.”
Banks also described times when the creative forces were less cooperative.
“Sometimes I sit and look at a piece for hours and it doesn’t touch me. That’s when I have to make myself walk away from it.” Banks said that separating from the piece gives his mind room to receive new ideas that he can later bring back and implement.
Banks painted tree is a visual feast of symbols, color and texture that an observer can look at many times and still discover deeper levels and nuance not apparent from the previous viewing. At first glance, the painting, titled “On the Throne”, reveals the ancient Egyptian kingdoms of the upper and lower Nile with ancestral figures depicted throughout. The Nile and the Sphinx are easily identified, however, deeper symbols are revealed only to those who are patient enough to spend time “reading” the paint that Banks has applied.
Banks described his creative process as “pain that must be endured in order to create something of value.”
“All of the relief carving was done by hand with a chisel” Banks said. “The work was painful for my hand and as I experienced the pain my hand created a woman feeling the pain of childbirth.”
There aren’t many art galleries where you can feast your visual senses while also indulging in gastronomical pleasures, but Mary Paula Malucci has such a place.
Walking into Pantteria Malucci was temporarily disorienting for me; I didn’t know whether to stop to savor the aroma of the fresh baked bread, walk to the side of the dining room to admire the original art work hanging on the wall or to look at Malucci’s original and colorful lithographic prints displayed on a table next to the door.
Fortunately Mary Malucci solved the problem for me by inviting me to take a closer look at her prints.
“Lithography is all about oil repelling water” Malucci told me. “I etch my design onto an aluminum plate and cover the areas where I don’t want paint with oil.” The result is a kind of colorful negative.
Mary’s printing press is located in Frederick County but she sells her prints at Pantteria Malucci (formerly Bon Matin), the restaurant she co-owns with her brother Greg.
Malucci’s prints are awash with vivid colors and designs. Graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2004, Malucci’s work demonstrates her mastery of creative design and technique.
“VCU has a huge print making department” Malucci said. “It’s a great program.”
In addition to breakfast and lunch, Pantteria Malucci also sells graphite drawings by the proprietress, either framed or unframed.
Artist in Residence
When 20-something-year-old pottery artist Lindsay Pasutti saw the listing for a “visiting artist” on a sustainable jobs website she may not have appreciated how little night-life Clarke County has to offer to a young, single woman. Then again, she grew up in Des Moines and studied in Minnesota.
“At least here you’ve got mountains here!” she said.
Pasutti’s first job after arriving at Smithfield Farm in Clarke County was to transform a small stone former livestock barn into a pottery studio. La Capretta Studio (“capretta” is Italian for “goat”) was the result.
Although Pasutti has done wheel-thrown pottery in the past she opted to spend her summer at La Capretta working on “hand-built” objects including small dishes and other simple forms. Pasutti adds design and texture to her creations using patterns from lace, doilies and other items with interesting features.
“I’m always been drawn toward hand-built pottery items because everything that you make is a little different” Pasutti said. “I don’t want something that is perfect; I’d rather have something with character.”
Pasutti assists with cooking and helping at Smithfield Farm’s bed and breakfast operation in exchange for time to develop her artist talents in the studio. She relishes the independence and experience of having a private pottery studio all to herself.
“It is a chance to be in a fabulous environment and in my own personal studio” Pasutti said. “I get to explore and develop my own work in a real life situation. That’s pretty cool!”
Pasutti’s said that she has been able to earn a small, but regular, paycheck from her work every month. She focuses on production and enjoys seeing the creative process through from start to finish.
“It’s a great feeling knowing that I can fill a kiln with work all by myself” she said. “I feel proud of the work that I’m doing and I enjoy showing it when it’s complete.”
By Sunday afternoon I had visited nearly all of the studios in the tour. The weather had been perfect for most of the weekend but now the clouds were thickening and rain was near. Jean Clagett’s bronze animals were a perfect way to wind down my two-day tour as I traveled south of Boyce into traditional Hunt Country.
Clagett’s artistic approach involves more than just creating a bronze statue of a horse and rider (most of her work involves equestrian themes). Instead, Clagett tries to capture the unique personalities of the subjects in her bronzes.
“I like to do specific horses and riders” Clagett said from her Boyce home and studio. “They all have their own idiosyncrasies.”
In addition to capturing specific horses and riders in here bronze figures, Clagett’s designs her work for placement in specific environments. For example, in a recent commission for the Kentucky Horse Park Clagett envisioned a horse and rider leaping across a pool of water. When the statue was finished and installed at the park the intended water pool had been eliminated by the facility’s owners. In its place? A large advertisement for a luxury watch maker.
As most artists would be, Clagett was clearly disappointed by the unexpected change in venue for her well planned statuary.
“I heard that the line to see the statue was the longest for any exhibit in the park” Clagett said. When reminded that the long line of viewers indicated that her bronze was a success despite the lack of intended water accents she sighed and said “Yes, but think about how great it would have been if the water had been there.”
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