The fine art of ‘slow gifting’ for the creative souls on your list

Kari Zelson Robertson

Kari Zelson Robertson

Like it says in the song, there’s nothing like the real thing, baby. Diamonds? Puppies? Even food is tastier and better for you when made from materials that are close to the source. In Italy, they call it the “Slow Food” movement. It’s catching on here, too, as we start to appreciate regional traditions and locally available ingredients. We want to know from where, who, and by what processes our consumer items come to us.
In my world, this translates to my manmade surroundings. My home is more than 200 years old. The hand hewn timbers show the marks and some logs still have the bark on them. They tell a story of real people and naturally occurring materials. I also collect and proudly display art and craft work by people who I have met. Their stories are now part of my story and I enjoy their pieces every day.
In Alvin Toffler’s 1970 book, Future Shock, he predicted the stress induced by too much change in too short a time. He wrote about the downside of massive amounts of information piled upon us in our love affair with technology, overwhelming the human spirit. Interestingly, he also predicted a pendulum swing response, in the form of a renewed hunger for craft and art in the everyday.
Here in the north country, we are fortunate to live our own kind of slow movement. We take time to note and celebrate the beauty around us, to take time. This year, as you think about how you would like to embrace the season, I propose Slow Gifting, a movement toward finding authentic instead of mass-produced objects.
Seek out the creative makers in your area, and think about how their pieces can enhance quality of life for you and your friends and family. This is a perfect time to shop with an eye to regional tradition, authentic materials, and your entrepreneurial community. Have fun “slow gifting” this year. It will be memorable.

COOPERATIVES AND ARTS ORGANIZATIONS

These are one-stop-shops offering work by multiple artists at each location.

TAUNY

53 Main St., Canton

tauny.org

Bayhouse Artisans

21 James St., Alexandria Bay

bayhouseartisans.com

Fibonacci 321 Gallery

321 James St., Clayton

fibonacci321.com

North Country Arts Council

52 Public Square, Watertown

nnyart.org

Lake St. Lawrence Art Gallery

10 Main St., Waddington

 

INDIVIDUAL ARTIST STUDIOS

For the more adventurous and curious, here are a few favorites. The following are professionals who also have gallery and studio spaces that are worth investigating. Here, you have the opportunity to talk to the person who made the item, and to get personal assistance in learning about and choosing just the right thing.

Scott Ouderkirk, stained glass, illustration, 291 River Road, Hammond, glassgoat.com

Scott and his family run the art studio and sustainable farming project. They also keep bees, goats, and always have great projects in the queue.

Lisa Nortz, jeweler, 8270 Soft Maple Road, Croghan, silverbenchjewelry.com

A second-generation silversmith, Lisa does all sorts of things with silver. She hammers, bends, braids, solders and sets stones. You will say, “ah” as you wind your way through the woods to her place.

Greg Lago, printmaking and sculpture, 12975 House Road, Clayton, wingedbull.com

Greg is a Renaissance Man and knows at least a little bit about everything. He has a ton of information about local history that translates to his prints of scenes, stories, ideas about life. The work is truly magical, unusual in design and perspective. His workspace is off the beaten track, but only a few minutes from the village, and a very interesting location to soak in.

Larry Barone, painter, 115 W. Main St., Sackets Harbor, thegalleryfineart.com

Larry has been working as an artist nearly every day since retiring as an art educator. His pastels, mostly local scenery are nuanced, richly dimensional. He is a master. His bright and airy studio is on the main road in Sackets, where he always has a piece on the easel.

Cathie Ellsworth, clay, Paddock Art and Antiques, 1 Public Square, Suite 6, Watertown

Cathie makes lovely and unique hand-built serving bowls, platters and raku. Her daughter, Claire also sells drawings at the shop, with a focus on charcoal. Both women are certified art educators, with years of experience as trained artists. Their space is in the oldest covered mall in the United States, the Paddock Arcade.

Michael Ringer, painting, bronze sculpture and books, 47382 Dingman Point Road, Alexandria Bay, michaelringer.com

Michael, another former art educator, has been making art his full-time business since 1990. He has also published books of his work, highlighting life on the river.

ART TRAILS

In the third and final category, and panning further out, here are links to art trails, mapped overviews of the hotspots. These links throw open the doors to all sorts of local art world connections that are quietly bubbling around us:

NNY ART TRAIL

NNYArtTrail.com. New in 2016, this trail covers studios and galleries in Jefferson-Lewis-St. Lawrence counties.

SLCARTSCOUNCIL.ORG

Sponsored by the St. Lawrence Arts Councilin Potsdam, this trail covers artists in the St. Lawrence County region.

NORTHGUIDE.ORG

Initiated by the Adirondack North Country Association, this Art Trail covers everything north of Interstate 90 and east of Interstate 81. It is sortable by location, materials, name of artist and/or gallery.

 

Kari Zelson Robertson is a clay artist. Her studio is at 28279 state Route 126, Rutland Center. She makes sculpture to use, hand-built and wheel thrown serving bowls, vases and drinking vessels. Her studio is attached to her farmhouse. She runs a fair weather gallery next door, open by appointment in the fall and winter. Contact her at karizelsonrobertson.com.

Spring 2016 Feature Story: Art

A creative collaboration

Greg Lago, a sculptor with the Fibonacci 321 art gallery, patches holes in the walls while setting up  the space for the gallery’s opening. The gallery, 321 James St., Clayton, was scheduled to open May 6. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Living.

Greg Lago, a sculptor with the Fibonacci 321 art gallery, patches holes in the walls while setting up the space for the gallery’s opening. The gallery, 321 James St., Clayton, was scheduled to open May 6. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Living.

Fibonacci 321 brings 11 artists together in Clayton

By Gabrielle Hovendon, NNY Living

When Kari Zelson Robertson first came up with the idea for Clayton’s newest art gallery, she was thinking all in clay.

Ms. Robertson, a local potter and organizer of the Northern New York Art Trail, had wanted to establish a collaborative gallery with multiple artists paying the bills, staffing the exhibits and reaping the rewards of a common space. At first, she planned to include only clay artists, but she later decided that she — and the public — would be more interested in a variety of art media.

And so Fibonacci 321 was born. Opening May 6 at 321 James St. in Clayton, the gallery will feature finely crafted work in wood, metal, clay, textiles, glass, drawing and painting by 11 north country artists.

“I think this is going to be a unique offering because the variety of artists we have is really interesting,” said Ms. Robertson, who manages and is also an exhibiting artist at Fibonacci 321. “We have around two people for each medium, and they’re local artists who are very committed to their craft. These are people who have extensive experience in exhibiting their work. A few of them are or have been teachers, and they’re generally looking for a way, as I am, to stay in the north country. We like it here, we want to continue to live here, and we’re hoping it will make our work even more worthwhile.”

Greg Lago, a sculptor with the Fibonacci 321 gallery, Clayton, patches holes in  the walls while setting up space for the gallery’s opening. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Living.

Greg Lago, a sculptor with the Fibonacci 321 gallery, Clayton, patches holes in the walls while setting up space for the gallery’s opening. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Living.

Fibonacci 321 is organized democratically around the premise that the 11 participating artists will share equally in the running of the gallery. Although each artist will keep the proceeds from the sale of their own artwork, they will take turns staffing the gallery and divide up tasks like scheduling, website design and grounds upkeep.

Additionally, each artist is responsible for knowing about their fellows’ background, works and processes so that they can explain all the exhibited pieces to interested visitors. Ms. Robertson said she also envisions future collaborations between the artists, and she’s already had one of her clay “fossil” pieces mounted in a jewelry setting by one of the jewelers.

“What I was really looking for were people who were highly accomplished in their field and who were good team players and hard working,” she said about forming the gallery’s roster. “I’m glad for the chance to be able to do this and collaborate with some really interesting artists.”

One such artist, Mary Knapp, is a local quilter who incorporates mathematical patterns such as tessellations — and, fittingly, the Fibonacci series — into her precise, colorful quilts. She’s been quilting for many years, even having one of her designs grace the cover of a mathematics textbook, but she said she’s never been involved in a collaborative endeavor like Fibonacci 321.

“Part of the appeal of the gallery is that it’s a group of 11 different artists and we’re all bringing a little piece of ourselves into the gallery,” she said. “I think it’s just going to be a lot of fun. There’s nothing else like this gallery in Clayton or anyplace along the river. It’s going to be classy, it’s going to be unique, and it’s going to have items there that you can’t find anywhere else.

“I’m really looking forward to meeting the visitors to the gallery,” she continued. “I was a teacher, and I love showing people how to do things, so I will really enjoy showing them how I work and how they can do this.”

Owned by the Thousand Islands Arts Center, the gallery’s James Street site has previously been home to a resident potter, arts classes and, most recently, gift shops. Now, it will continue in that tradition of arts education, at least informally: Ms. Robertson hopes to see not only customers shopping for a special gift but also families bringing in their children to show them handmade work. (To that end, the gallery is also planning to host some demonstrations and outdoor activities.)

According to Leslie Rowland, executive director of the Thousand Islands Arts Center, Fibonacci 321 is ideally situated for visitors: it’s both in a desirable commercial space in downtown Clayton and at the entrance to the TI Arts Center campus.

What’s in a name?

Leonardo Bonacci (1170 – 1250) — known as Fibonacci, and Leonardo of Pisa, Leonardo Pisano Bigollo, Leonardo Fibonacci—was an Italian mathematician, considered to be “the most talented Western mathematician of the Middle Ages.”

fib WEBFibonacci gave his name to a sequence of numbers whose proportions echo throughout the natural world. The Fibonacci sequence, which is formed by adding the previous two numbers in the sequence together (for example, 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8), has been found in flower petals, pinecones, hurricanes, shell spirals and even galaxy patterns. The Fibonacci sequence is also the foundation for the “Golden Ratio” or “Divine Proportion,” which can be seen in ancient art and architecture.

“Essentially, the idea is that there’s a natural order and beauty that pervades math and art,” Kari Zelson Robertson said about the gallery’s name choice. “And 321 is a reverse Fibonacci number, so it seems to fit.”

“I think there’ll be an organic pass-through of people between our galleries,” Ms. Rowland said. “We always love to collaborate with fellow artists, and we’re really delighted to have this fine group of artisans located on our campus. I think it’s going to be a win-win for us, and I think it’s going to be really good for Clayton, too.”

Ms. Robertson agreed that the location was ideal, with the back of Fibonacci 321’s seven-room gallery adjacent to the TI Arts Center’s pottery studio. Like Ms. Rowland, she anticipates a good flow of visitors between the two sites.

“One of the things that is exciting about being in Clayton is the growth of activity in the creative sector,” Ms. Robertson said. “This synergy is something that our group appreciates and wants to be a part of. …There is enough arts and lifestyle activity going on there that the village has become an attraction. A visitor can eat a fine meal, go to a concert, watch a sunset, and take home a one-of-a-kind piece of art, all in one small village.”

The gallery will participate in the Memorial Day weekend River Open Studio Tour, and it will have its grand opening from 6 to 8 p.m. May 6, with free refreshments and classical guitar music by Gary Walts. That night, the artists will be on hand to discuss their work and show visitors around the space, hoping that people will not only purchase the art on display but also learn something about it.

“I think that when people know more about the arts, they’re more interested in owning a piece of art,” Ms. Robertson said. “A lot of times, people might not know what it takes to create something, and when you learn about the process, it makes you appreciate it more. Regardless of whether there’s a sale, we want to be the kind of place where people can come in and they can learn something, enjoy themselves, and have a nice conversation.”

Fibonacci 321 / Who’s who

Meet The Artists

The 11 artist-hosts of Fibonacci 321 are:
Dave Ciechanowski — clay
Peter Curtis — fine furniture
Foster Holcombe — glass
Ginny Hovendon — painting, drawing
Mary Knapp — quilts
Greg Lago — printmaking, sculpture
Brian Lister — painting
Claudia Loomis — textiles, jewelry
Suzan McDermott — photography
Kari Zelson Robertson — clay
Gina Wells — metals, jewelry.

To Learn More

For more information, visit the gallery’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/Fibonacci321 or contact Kari Zelson Robertson at fibart321@gmail.com or 777-0612.

Gabrielle Hovendon is a former Watertown Daily Times reporter and a freelance writer studying for her Ph.D. at the University of Georgia, Athens. Contact her at ghovendon@gmail.com.

Spring 2015 Feature Story: North Country Quilting Guild

A stitch in time

North Country Quilting Guild members, from left, include Harriet McMillan, Laura Davis, Dot Foley-Persons, Patty Randall and Laura Little. The guild began in 1985 as a class at the Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library, Watertown. Photo by Norm Johnston, NNY Living.

North Country Quilting Guild members, from left, include Harriet McMillan, Laura Davis, Dot Foley-Persons, Patty Randall and Laura Little. The guild began in 1985 as a class at the Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library, Watertown. Photo by Norm Johnston, NNY Living.

North Country Quilting Guild marks 30-year anniversary

By Lorna Oppedisano, NNY Living 

Every quilt tells a story. Stitched into those three layers of fiber are the details of an artist’s life. [Read more…]

Winter 2015 Arts: Snow sculpting

On Mother Nature’s canvas

By Norah Machia

Titled "Family Ties," this elephant sculpture by Jerry Merrill was completed in Quebec in 2007. "The rear of the mom and baby holding tails is one of my favorites," Mr. Merrill said.

Titled “Family Ties,” this elephant sculpture by Jerry Merrill was completed in Quebec in 2007. “The rear of the mom and baby holding tails is one of my favorites,” Mr. Merrill said.

Snow sculptors have traveled the world to carve art

Klaus Ebeling and Jerry Merrill just can’t seem to slow down when it comes to the art of snow sculpting. [Read more…]

Five Things Friday – October 17

5thingsfriday-logoREDHappy Friday! With only two weeks left until Halloween, and winter lingering somewhere around the corner, the north country has a few last fair weather hurrahs in store for us this weekend. If you’ve already had enough of the cool weather for the season (it’s OK to admit it – we already miss summer too!), we’ve got a handful of indoor happenings as well! There’s something for everyone this weekend. And don’t forget to scroll to the bottom of the page and take a look at the map of what’s going on! Check it out… [Read more…]

Following his own script

Aspiring screenwriter Bryan W. Stumpf of Ellisburg talks about his  craft recently at Starbucks in Watertown. Norm Johnston / NNY Living

Aspiring screenwriter Bryan W. Stumpf of Ellisburg talks about his
craft recently at Starbucks in Watertown. Norm Johnston / NNY Living

Screenwriter from Ellisburg hopes to set career in motion [Read more…]

On the long path to become a ‘Better U’

Chelsea A. Bango walks  on the treadmill at her Watertown apartment complex. Ms. Bango has recently become involved with 5k races as a result of her participation in the 12-week American Heart Association north country BetterU campaign. Amanda Morrison / NNY Living

Chelsea A. Bango walks
on the treadmill at her Watertown apartment complex. Ms. Bango has recently become involved with 5k races as a result of her participation in the 12-week American Heart Association north country BetterU campaign. Amanda Morrison / NNY Living

North country women commit to heart health, see results [Read more…]

NNY crafters see opportunity in Etsy’s new definition of ‘handmade’

Thelma L. Hamilton of Watertown is a maker of painted ornaments who does about 20 percent of her business on Etsy, the online craft sales site. Justin Sorensen / Watertown Daily Times

Thelma L. Hamilton of Watertown is a maker of painted ornaments who does about 20 percent of her business on Etsy, the online craft sales site. Justin Sorensen / Watertown Daily Times

Etsy, the handmade and vintage e-commerce site that has nearly a million sellers of everything from wool scarves to soap, has struggled with its identity as a mecca for small-scale artisans for its nearly decade-long existence. The struggle was captured in a terms of a service policy that grew to 14,000 words in an attempt to enumerate all of the gray areas in what qualified as “handmade.” Then, in September, Etsy changed its guidelines, allowing sellers to hire help for production or shipping, and even to forge partnerships with manufacturers.

The change has generated some anxiety among artisans who want to preserve the site’s small-scale, human-driven provenance and raised fears that larger sellers would infiltrate, taking a cut of these crafters’ livelihood.

But many sellers, including a number of north country merchants, believe the changes will help creative businesses grow and will perhaps change little about the site, which is expected to exceed $1 billion in total annual transactions this year.

“I think if it’s handmade it’s not going to be an issue,” said Thelma L. Hamilton, who has been hand-crafting holiday ornaments from her Watertown home for more than 20 years. “We’re already competing with worldwide merchants.” [Read more…]

Forging a masterpiece

Black smith John Scarlett uses sandpaper in the finishing work after sculpting a leaf out of steel in his workshop at his home in Rossie. Photo by Melanie Kimbler-Lago/ NNY Business

 Iron craftsman John Scarlett to headline TI Arts Center exhibit [Read more…]

Summer lineup at the Clayton Opera House

Comedian Rob Schneider kicks off the summer season at the Clayton Opera House on June 20. Photo courtesy Neil Visel Photography.

CLAYTON — When officials at the Thousand Islands Performing Arts Fund were planning the summer 2013 season for the Clayton Opera House, some good-natured debate broke out.

“Each year, the shows seem to be getting bigger with more national names,” said TIPAF Executive Director Joseph M. Gleason. “There was some debate whether we wanted to continue that or stick with smaller shows and more of them.”

A compromise was struck. [Read more…]