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Women of Woodworking – Kelly Meagher, Northwest Arkansas

4 Jun

unnamed-1Kelly Meagher is wood burner and stay at home mom living in Northwest Arkansas. She specializes in botanical wall hangings, and has a unique and interesting story behind her path to woodworking.

Meagher grew up in Mexico with parents working in missions working to help support those trying to leave the drug trade. Her father opened a carpentry shop to provide opportunities to those men seeking a better life.

“Everything in our home, from the cabinets, to the beds, to the dressers were built by my dad. I remember being fascinated with watching him turn raw slabs of wood into beautiful pieces of furniture. To be able to envision an end piece out of nothing, and then be able to execute it was amazing to me – and beautiful,” says Meagher.

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When Meagher became a senior in high school, her and her father embarked on their first joint project together, a hope chest. Meagher shares “I loved every moment of it. I don’t think at the time I ever imagined myself being a wood worker, but I definitely can look back at the moments I spent with him in his woodshop, and know that that was clearly where I fell in love with using wood as a medium.”

Later on, Meagher stumbled onto the wood burning technique she now focuses on. Eight months pregnant with her son, she wasn’t happy with any of the decorations she found while working to decorate her new home. She decided to play around with her husband’s wood burner, and immediately fell in love with her creations. A few months later, Meagher decided to open up her now thriving Etsy shop, Of Thistle and Thyme.

As far as considering whether or not her gender has affected her experience in woodworking, Meagher does not think it has since she is stay at home mom and hasn’t ventured to much into the woodworking community. As far as her clients go, Meagher explains “I’ve noticed that about 90 percent of my customers are women – and I intentionally have tried to reach women as my audience on social media – mainly because my shop is home décor and specifically botanical and floral in detail – so more feminine in nature.” But while her clients at mostly women, Meagher shares that males are more likely to reach out to ask questions about her tools or process, even though they may not be the ones actually buying her product.

Meagher continues to explore her botanical work and admits that there is an inherently feminine direction of her designs. “My first wood burned pieces were ones I made for my own home. And after making them, I fell in love with them and thought they would sell well. So from the beginning I saw my product as home décor, which generally is a more feminine interest – at least at the level of where I’m at in my shop.”

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Meagher’s favorite pieces are always the newest one she makes, but she’s been particularly fond of the food pieces she’s made, especially her artichoke design. Meagher gets her designs from the illustrations of early botanists and traces them onto the wood. Meagher shares more about her process, sharing that “When it comes to design, a lot of thought goes into which prints I choose, and how I edit them when I’m tracing. My goal is always to give my wall hangings a simplistic feel that still feels full or sufficient. And then, really, choosing the right piece of wood to work with is critical. Some grains of wood can really mess with the print and distract from it, and some grains make it impossible to even wood burn a clean image. So my work is very much pairing the right image onto the right piece of wood.“

Meagher has some exciting new plans coming up for brides-to-be and also more floral arrangements. “In the very near future I’ll be offering customized bridal bouquets where I’ll be taking custom orders to wood burn images of individual bouquets for brides. And later this year, I’ll be launching poster size wood burnings of collages of whole flower species. I’m still working out the details on this which is why it’ll come out later this year, but I would say it’s the one things I’m most pumped about.”

For the future of Women in Woodworking Meagher has an optimistic outlook. “I have high hopes for women in woodworking. I think the lines aren’t drawn as tightly as they used to be, and I believe in the near future we’ll see more and more women taking it up as a trade. Women are creative and innovative, and more and more the gender role of trades is changing. It won’t take long for women to see that wood is an awesome medium to work with.”

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Specifically for those looking to start their business and are considering Etsy as their initial platform, Meagher was kind enough to share details of her experiences to those interested. “I originally started my shop with both its own website as well as a store on Etsy. But after a few months I saw a clear advantage to having an Etsy shop with an already established audience versus trying to generate traffic to my own website. The thing about having a trade of any kind, is that not only are you working at your trade, but if you’re boot strapping it like I have, you’re suddenly a photographer, marketer, business developer, and customer service person. It’s a lot to take on, especially if what you really love to do is just create. I’ve found Etsy to be an awesome answer to a big portion of that pressure. They already have an established audience who are looking for handmade products, and I’ve simply have to tap into it. It’s saved me a lot of leg work.

I will say I’ve had a hard time getting traffic to my shop, simply because people aren’t really looking for wood burnings. It’s an old fashioned trade, and while it’s one I’m trying to bring back into modern decor, it’s still not something people are looking for. Very rarely has anyone found my shop by searching for wood burnings. It just hasn’t happened. So while Etsy still provides views from casual browsers, I’ve found that the majority of my actual customers have come from my Instagram account. My social media accounts paired with the familiar Etsy backdrop has been a great pairing for my shop.”

Etsy has provided so many artists and new business owners with the opportunity to explore their passions and turn them into a real job, and a real business. It’s been a pleasure to see someone able to use the platform to develop and grow their craft while simultaneously being able to reach thousands, if not millions of people to help build that foundation.

You can check out Meagher’s Etsy store Of Thistle and Thyme, and be sure to connect with her on Instagram at @ofthistleandthyme and also on Facebook at facebook.com/ofthistleandthyme.

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Women of Woodworking – Jimmi Wingert, Los Angeles Area

18 Feb

unnamedIf there is one thing you can count on, it’s that Jimmi Wingert ’s work will rise to the occasion. Skill and imagination dance off of Wingert’s fingertips as a custom inlay artist and the result is nothing short of dazzling. Her intricate hand-cut inlays are not only made with beautiful materials such as mother of pearl, the delicacy of the designs is what really captivates you as you see tens of tiny little pieces all perfectly arranged to create an equally as beautiful scene. Then, put that scene on a stunningly handmade musical instrument someone else has dedicated themselves to creating and are placing in her capable hands, and you’ll be on Wingert’s level.

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Chickadee fretboard, Ed Claxton Guitars

Wingert had a different viewpoint of woodworking than the majority of us growing up. She had the opportunity to watch her mother develop her own passion for woodworking as a luthier. “I watched her build her shop, tools/jigs and career with not much more than the help of library books and determination,” says Wingert.

Although she wasn’t initially taken with woodworking, Wingert credits a commissioned piece her mother received from Larry Robinson as her initial spark of inspiration. “Larry had done a beautiful inlay representation of Hokusai’s Great Wave on a fretboard. I had seen many traditional inlays before, but never had I seen an inlay that made me think of it as an art form on its own, the guitar being the canvas,” shares Wingert. She began studying Robinson’s The Art of Inlay books and videos. She worked at her craft and eventually overcame her hesitations to work on handmade guitars that already had many hours and more invested in them by others.

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Four Seasons headstock, Wingert Guitars

Wingert doesn’t feel that she’s experienced much gender bias within the craft, partly due to her masculine name. “Over the years I have definitely surprised a few clients over the phone, I was not what they were expecting, but they weren’t upset by it.” She also credits the mostly male luthier community for welcoming her with open arms. “I’ve worked with a lot of amazing builders, but my mom being the only woman so far. Everything has been positive and I credit my mom for paving the way. She set the example that I really could do anything I wanted and she even made me question my own preconceptions of what women are capable of.”

Wingert does think that her gender has played a role in developing her work. She credits her good listening skills as a “feminine strong point” and believes in enables her to connect with her clients better, even if they are struggling to convey what they want from her work. Delving even further into her own style, Wingert says “My work does look feminine and I’m not entirely sure how much of that is me. You would be surprised by how many men request flowers and even, specifically, pink flowers.”

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Woman and Vines, Kinnaird Guitars

Wingert’s favorite piece is one of her most recent, Woman and Vines, “…usually my favorite piece is whatever I just finished. I try to push myself to do more/take more risks with each piece.” Wingert also shared that she’s also had some inquires about putting her work on some furniture pieces recently and she is looking forward to the challenge. “It’s exciting to me because I’ve almost exclusively worked on instruments, which have limited space to work within. It will be nice to do something different for a change.”

You can view more of Wingert’s work on jimmywingertinlay.com and follow her on Instagram @jimmiwingertinlay

Women of Woodworking – Sarah Marriage, Hoboken, NJ

28 Jan

unnamed-6Sarah Marriage didn’t always know she was meant to be a woodworker. Like most of us the craft sort of found her. In Sarah’s case it was after attending Princeton for architecture as an undergrad. Also like most of us, she yearned to actually make something. Marriage quotes architectural theorist Robin Evans as one of her main inspirations towards becoming an artist, “Architects don’t make buildings; they make drawings of buildings.”

Marriage wanted to design and make something herself using the human scale that inspired her so. She wanted to know that her materials were ethically harvested or produced and that “the other labor with whom I collaborated was treated as well as I treat myself.”

Furniture became her new focus. She moved back to Alaska, got a day job and an apartment and set up her shop in her parent’s heated garage. She didn’t know how to build furniture, but she was going to learn.

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She started off by purchasing “throw-away furniture from Anchorage thrift stores” that she would take apart and and reassemble according to her own design. Hours were spent in bookstores reading anything she could get her hands on to strengthen her knowledge. One day she picked up a book by James Krenov, and his words secured her desire to continue on with furniture making.

Marriage returned to the northeast where she resided in New York City as she worked for Guy Nordenson and Associates Structural Engineers. She then spent a year with her brother and his wife in Baltimore as they rehabilitated their 19th century town home. She also applied to the College of the Redwoods during this time, nearly a decade after first discovering her passion for furniture making. She spent two years there in California and then headed back east where she now shares a shop in Hoboken, NJ with other talented makers, including Thomas Hucker and cuddly Frank the shop cat.

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Marriage pointed out that “in any zone, it seems people have different expectations of men and women,” but also mentioned the different paths that are often taken between the sexes within the craft. “A lot of female woodworkers, including myself, came into our field through art and design education. The traditional pathway to furniture maker, beginning as unskilled labor and working one’s way up through the field to master woodworker: this is typically (not always but typically) a path unavailable to women,” noting that the number of women in the field who started in the traditional shop route are much lower than women who went the academic route.

“Gender isn’t an issue,” says Marriage when she is in the shop or at a school. In other realms of the industry, perhaps a lumber yard, treatment can be much different. “Two weeks ago I went to a new lumber place with another female furniture maker. The first person who interacted with us, as we walked into the yard said “Woah woah where are you goin’?,” thinking we were lost.”

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She also isn’t afraid to point out that she does accept the extra help when needed, “I have a bad back, and will take as much help as I can when it comes to lifting large planks, but beyond that the help is usually unnecessary, and wouldn’t be offered to a man, and at the end of the day I just want to be treated like the competent woodworker who I am.”

Despite a few negatives encounters over the years Marriage feels like her experiences have been beneficial and mostly for the better. “Over all, I think that I have been lucky. I’ve had predominantly positive experiences. I’ve been put in a handful of rather uncomfortable situations, but I’ve never had anyone actively work against me because of my gender, and often I find that there are strong advocates out there in the world for women woodworkers. We’re also pretty good at sticking together.”

While Marriage doesn’t feel like she currently explores gender within her own art, she is interested in expanding ideas of how we determine the gender roles we try to assign within the styles of our work. “I find it fascinating when I am showing my work in a public setting, like an exhibition opening, that people will discuss the furniture itself in gender terms. ‘That’s beautiful, but that wouldn’t work for me… it’s a lady’s desk, right?’ These kinds of comments happen a lot. People seem to seek out gender in objects (‘is this a his-and-hers set?’), and I encourage broadening those expectations (‘it could be his-and-hers, or hers-and-hers, or his-and-his, or just completely unpaired!’).”

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For the future of women in woodworking Marriage thinks growth, reflection, and hard work are the key. “I would like to see more female woodworkers. To me, that’s the crux” she says. “If there were more female woodworkers the field would be more welcoming to female woodworkers. Of course that’s a chicken-egg situation, so I think the next steps are about both encouraging girls to consider pursuing our field and also looking at our own biases, our own expectations of what people are capable of or might be interested in and working to change those expectations at the same time.”

Marriage has an array of events and projects coming up. She’ll be featured at the prestigious American Craft Council Baltimore Show February 20 – 22nd as part of their HipPop program that features emerging artists. She’ll also be serving as the technical assistant to Jennifer Anderson during the “Environment as Muse” furniture course at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts this summer.

Marriage is also a writer within the craft. She is the co-editor and co-founder, along with Luke Cissell and Cara Sheffler, of Works & Days Quarterly, “an online quarterly of arts, letters, music, and no small amount of craft.” While still in school she published her essay A Call to Practice about learning to be a woodworker.

You can find Sarah Marriage on Instagram at @sarah_marriage or on Facebook too. You can also visit her website at sarahmarriage.com

View the landing page and other interviews for the Women of Woodworking series here.

Ketchup 2014 Part I

24 Jan

Happy New Year Everyone!

Since I haven’t posted to my blog since November, it’s safe to say the past few months were a total blur and as well as a blast. I did manage to snap a few photos and explore some awesome new things since November, so here is Part I of the great Katie Thompson Ketchup of 2014.

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I recently started a new series of “wood paintings” using my beloved wood shavings. I developed this technique from my Art with a BANGS project in which I first used the process on a pair of tennis shoes.

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We celebrated a wonderful Thanksgiving with our families and had a lot to be grateful for. We enjoyed a week of “rest” before Joseph and I headed off to…..

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Chicago! One of my favorite places in the world. Joseph and I exhibited our Joseph Thompson Woodworks designs at the One of a Kind Show at the Merchandise Mart again this year.

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We did manage to sneak away to find some fun and inspiration during our visit. We enjoyed a comedic performance over a cold beer at the famous Second City, and upon our arrival we were promptly placed in the front row and both heckled accordingly by the comics. Our faces hurt for the next 24 hours from laughing so hard.

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We also saw some really interesting wooden items during our stay. A delightful visit to our space at the show wore this amazing Big Leaf Maple Burl vintage top hat:

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Also spotted at The Field Museum was this breathtaking woven shawl made from tree bark. It was exhibited back at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.

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While at the Field Museum we also enjoyed an exhibition of rising contemporary Native American artist Bunky Echo-Hawk’s work, “Modern Warrior.”

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Other highlights of the trip included a magnificent meal at Chicago’s new Peruvian delight, Tanta. The Clasico Ceviche was amazingly balanced (I actually ENJOYED eating a habanero pepper) and the service was outstanding. Also on the walls are some amazing work by the talented contemporary muralist Jeff Zimmerman.

Upon our return, we dashed down to SpaceCraft Studios in Charleston for the Avondale Holiday Winterfest. While torrential rains shook the event up, we made the best of it and had a blast meeting new local makers and sharing some Black Swamp jewelry.

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I also had the pleasure of making a quick day trip with friends to Columbia, SC to enjoy Annie Leibowitz’s “Pilgrimage” exhibition at the Columbia Museum of Art (no photos were allowed, sadly.) We also enjoyed a unforgettably delicious and locally sourced lunch at Motor Supply Co. Bistro.

Finally, the Christmas holiday arrived and Joseph and I enjoyed out very first Christmas tree together. After speaking with friends who have purchased potted trees for years, we decided to get a potted Deodara Cedar from a local grower for our Christmas tree. We bought our first set of vintage recycled Christmas ornaments from maker Beth Dalton of Charleston, and will be planting the tree before winter is over so we can enjoy our first holiday together in our new place for years to come.

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Phew! That was quite a few weeks. I’ll be back to share updates from the new year next.

Art with a BANGS Show

11 Nov

Joseph and I had the awesome opportunity to participate in a recent group show Art with a BANGS at Redux Studios in Charleston, SC. Produced also by our friends at Gris Galerie and the Charleston Shop Curator, a small group of artists were enlisted to customize a pair of BANGS shoes to be auctioned off for charity.

BANGS Shoes is an amazing tennis shoe brand Founded by Charleston Local Hannah Davis. BANGS’ slogan is to Stand on Issues, with sales from each shoe going to different types of nonprofits focused on empowerment in their respective fields (education, etc.)

2013-09-23 19.47.33What our pair originally looked like.

Including a DJ, the event also featured a special SpaceCraft Studios sponsored area where attendees customized their own pair of BANGS on site.

This project was especially fun and challenging. I enjoyed combining ideas and techniques generated by my accessories line with a slice of contemporary art and fashion using my favorite medium at the moment, wood shavings.

I also enjoyed returning to Redux to show my work for the first time. I had the great opportunity to intern at Redux during my last summer at the College of Charleston. In the blistering heat of July in that old piano warehouse in Downtown Charleston I learned so much about the fundamentals of managing a nonprofit arts organization. I also gained experiences and insight into studio practices of various types that helped formulate my own fundamentals as a designer and maker. I couldn’t help but get nostalgic when I stopped in to drop off our work for the show.

2013-10-06 21.05.31The finished product.

The shoes ended up being a hit at the silent auction! Several bids were made before we left, so I am happy that the shoes brought in money for a great cause. We also hung a piece from our Joseph Thompson Woodworks Sunken Pecky Cypress series, and a new Black Swamp necklace design made it’s debut as well.

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There were also some other amazing artists and dear friends in the show, including Johnny Pundt, Sarah Stewart, Greg Colleton, Greg Hart, Patch Whiskey, Flooded Streets, Michelle Jewell of Finkelsteins Center, Becca Barnet, Allison Merrick of SpaceCraft Studios, and more.

2013-10-12 18.56.32Sarah Stewart

2013-10-12 18.56.47Becca Barnet

Thank you again to Elizabeth and Greg at Gris Galerie, the amazing Stacey and the team at Redux, BANGS Shoes and the Charleston Shop Curator for having us! We had such a great time and were pumped to be included with such an amazing group of artists and makers.

Events and New Work – September 2013

29 Aug

As a busy summer draws to a close and Labor day nears, I wanted to take a minute to share some upcoming events and also new work from the past month or so.

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As many of you already know I recently launched Black Swamp in June. Black Swamp is a naturally inspired accessories line that features my jewelry creations using recycled wood shavings from our furniture designs for Joseph Thompson Woodworks, as well as copper, sterling silver, brass and other fine materials. As of now my designs are available through my online store, blackswamp.co.

Photo by Jen Ray for Black Swamp.

Photo by Jen Ray for Black Swamp.

Black Swamp received some great press over the summer with an inclusion in Charleston Magazine’s print issue for August 2013 as well as a divine feature by Elizabeth Bowers for CHARLIE Magazine in July.

I also had the opportunity to shoot this amazing portrait for Black Swamp with Joseph Nienstedt of JWNPhoto a few weeks ago!

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I told you it was a busy summer! And I’m just getting started.

Next weekend, I am thrilled for Black Swamp and Joseph Thompson Woodworks to team up with Gris Galerie for the OPEN Arts Expo at the College of Charleston Cistern Sunday September 8th from 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

This will be Black Swamp’s first event ever! I am so pleased for my designs to be making their official debut in Charleston. In addition to Black Swamp baubles, we’ll be bringing a few furniture, decor and wall hanging pieces for Joseph Thompson Woodworks. Click over to our Current Work page on our website or our Etsy shop to get a sneak peek at a few items that might make an appearance.

Again, I couldn’t be happier to hang out with our hometown crowd and show some new designs for the very first time! The support we’ve received from our home base has been incredible, and we can’t wait to celebrate in gratitude with you!

In other news, for those that do not know I am also the Membership Coordinator for a local SC Community Supported Agriculture program, Pinckney’s Produce. We’re gearing up to start our fall harvest season Tuesday, September 17th. If you’re in the Lowcountry or Midlands of SC and are interested in having over 45 different varieties of fresh, local SC grown produce delivered to a convenient location once a week for three months, then definitely give Pinckney’s a look! We have a great food community growing across the state, come be a part of something fun and tasty with me.

Phew! Okay. Just looking at what lies ahead this month has got me tired! I am looking forward to an exciting and busy month ahead. Thanks for all of the support, and I hope to see a few of you out and about over the next few weeks!

Layers of Lisa Bick

19 Feb

Everyone has a story to tell. What sets the different tales we tell apart is obviously 1. by how interesting the stories are and 2. How well we are able to tell that story. When it comes to artists their stories are best told by looking at what that person creates. Each brushstroke, angle of a shot in a photograph, even a character’s costume in a movie can be major players in the role of expressing their creator’s tale.

Dolci pericolosi
Encaustic and mixed media on panel. 18″ x 18″

There is little doubt that encaustic artist Lisa Bick’s story is best told through her paintings. When you first see a piece of Lisa’s the story just starts unfolding in front of you, unraveling like a magical thread that glows as it comes to life through the senses. And if you have the pleasure of speaking with her about the piece she will tell you about every little fiber of the painting, the motion of her strokes and the efforts behind the pieces. Her face will light up, her voice becomes almost musical and passion exudes from her.

Originally from Washington D.C., Lisa now resides in Zionsville, Indiana. Lisa credits her childhood of wandering the National Gallery of Art, the Renwick, and many others in D.C. with inspiring her to become an artist. After graduating from Indiana University with a Fine Arts degree focusing on textiles, Lisa has woven her love for textiles and photography together using encaustic painting as a medium.

Lisa Bick - Helene

Helene
Encaustic and photograph on panel. 24″ x 18″

Encaustic painting is an ancient practice, and works are created by using melted beeswax with a combination of pigments to create layers and layers of wax as the “paint” in a piece.  The many layers of wax combined with other materials create a fantastic texture that allows the artists to create an enjoyable tactile as well as visual experience for the observer.

What captivated me the most about Lisa’s work was that she doesn’t hold back any details in her “story.” She intertwines her world travels, spiritual experiences and intimate moments of her life into each piece. She is not afraid to expose those personal feelings to the world, rather she encourages people to interact with them. She lays them delicately on the canvas, and allows observers to touch them, experience their textures and also tells them a magnificently beautiful yet simple inspiration behind every stroke, every piece of cloth or photograph.

VaranasiEncaustic on Panel 16" x 16"

Varanasi
Encaustic on Panel 16″ x 16″

For instance, Varanasi (image above) depicts Lisa’s inspirations from her travels to India. The poles represent the boaters in Ganges, transporting their goods up and down the river. The white cloth in the upper right is a piece of fabric from India that Lisa brought back with her. Lisa shared that she was inspired by the life, death, and filth that fills the Ganges and serves as a invaluable resource for so many. Hearing about the poignant moment that inspired this painting from Lisa herself as she traveled up the Ganges seeing women and children bathe and wash their clothes in the river has made this piece a personal favorite of mine.

Lisa Bick - Leaning Into The Afternoon

Leaning into the Afternoon (2012)
Encaustic on panel. 20″ x 16″

About Leaning into the Afternoon Lisa shares that “A part of a Pablo Neruda poem is written into the side. It says something about ‘casting my nets into your oceanic eyes.'” A former significant other of Lisa’s “had eyes the color of the Caribbean Sea. It was all about him.”

Vivaldi (2012)Encaustic, paper and oil on panel. 36" x 16"

Vivaldi (2012)
Encaustic, paper and oil on panel. 36″ x 16″

Another spectacular piece of Lisa’s is Vivaldi, with an incredibly personal influence. “My dad played Vivaldi the whole time I was growing up. He loved it. In it are scribed important dates to me….I have hung it in my house. It is an important piece to me. The cross is outlined clay tools that I use for scratching into wax and a cross symbolizes the strength needed to move on alone. Always alone.”

Lisa is currently working on a new set of paintings, mainly triptychs while preparing for a prestigious show at Encore Sotheby’s International Realty in Indianapolis. The opening reception at Sotheby’s is March 14th from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at 9510 North Meridian Street, Suite 200 Indianapolis, IN 46260-1315

In the meantime, you can see more of Lisa’s work at LisaBick.com, or you can interact with her on Facebook and Twitter where she provides some wonderful behind-the-scenes photos of her process quite often.