May 3, 2017

The Palette is available to all interested with an e-Subscription

In this issue:

Wilco Distributors, Hot Wire Foam Factory win EVAs
An Andersonville shopkeeper redefines retail therapy
Ruth Ann Border Making a Visible Difference
Students mix art and science as they explore the solar system
Artist encourages students to embrace diversity
Local artist produces work with an interesting twist
Discover Your Inner High Artist With ‘Puff, Pass & Paint’ Classes
Chalk artists decorate downtown square with cool art
The fine price of fine art




Wilco Distributors, Hot Wire Foam Factory win EVAs

LOMPOC, CA: The City of Lompoc’s Economic Development Committee is proud to announce Wilco Distributors and Hot Wire Foam Factory as the latest recipients of its Economic Vitality Award (EVA). Both local manufacturers in town, the recipients are recognized for their dedication and involvement in this industry in Lompoc.

Wilco Distributors is a longtime Lompoc business which has weathered economic downturns. In 1971, Don Willis started Wilco in his garage in Iowa as a way to help people mitigate pesky rodents.

In 1978, he moved the business to Lompoc, which provided Wilco with expanded manufacturing and warehousing capabilities. Shortly after the move, business quickly took off and now serves a variety of customers including rodent control for homeowners’ lawns and gardens, as well as fields, vineyards and golf courses.

In 2000, after 22 years, the business outgrew that particular facility. Wilco Distributors moved their business across the street to a larger facility, at 1200 W. Laurel Ave. Wilco helps homeowners and professionals deal with pocket gophers, ground squirrels, prairie dogs, rats, mice, moles, voles and more. The business' products include professional and homeowner baits, applicators, traps for rodents and bait stations. Its reach spans nationally, west of the Mississippi, and it all happens right here in Lompoc.

Now owned by Blake Hazen, Wilco has always been a booster for the Future Farmers of America (FFA) and the 4-H Clubs in the Lompoc Valley, and is one of the city’s largest supporters of those groups at the Santa Barbara County Fair livestock auction.

Since 1980, Wilco Distributors, Inc. has been a sponsor for the Santa Barbara County Fair and the Muscular Dystrophy Association. It is a unique manufacturing business in our community, recognized by the Economic Development Committee as a valuable addition to our business community.

Another unique business in Lompoc was also recognized for an Economic Vitality Award. In business since 1991, Hot Wire Foam Factory manufactures craft, professional and industrial foam cutting tools, supplies and accessories.

In 1987, Tony Natal designed and built a unique foam cutting tool to make foam gliders for his young grandson. Rather than sawing through Styrofoam, he developed a tool that melted a thin clean slice through the foam, eliminating the use of serrated blades that made a mess of tiny foam particles that stuck to everything. In 1988, Tony designed a foam cutting tool for his son David Natal to make lightweight scenery for clay animation sets. In 1991, David asked Tony to create a set of foam cutting tools for miniature terrain making that he could manufacture and market. The new company was given the name Hot Wire Foam Factory.

Hot Wire Foam Factory’s lightweight, earth-friendly, durable and cost-efficient foam is perfect for projects like foam art, foam props and backdrops, foam modeling, holiday foam decorations, foam signs and displays, foam craft projects and home décor, as well as industrial and commercial foam projects.

The company's professional quality foam cutting tools make cutting EPS foam (polystyrene foam and Styrofoam) fast, fun and easy. Since 1991, it has been manufacturing hot wire cutters and foam cutting machines.

Hot Wire Foam Factory supplies hot wire foam sculpting tools, a Crafter’s Hot Knife, two Pro Hot Knives, and a new Industrial Hot Knife. It's Freehand Router has a shapeable foam cutting hot wire. The foam Engraving tool is perfect for detailing your foam sculpture. You can quickly cut down your big blocks of foam with their two- to four-foot adjustable hot wire Bow Cutter. They offer two versatile Foam Cutting Tables. Their spray-on and brush-on foam glues are the best on the market. Protect and beautify your foam projects with their versatile foam coatings.

All of Hot Wire Foam Factory’s products are available through their website,

Its website features free videos and an impressive gallery of projects.

To stay updated on the EDC’s progress throughout the year, like the “Lompoc Economic Development Committee” page on Facebook. Lompoc Record


An Andersonville shopkeeper redefines retail therapy
At Martha Mae, Jean Cate fights her demons by inviting customers into a total work of art.

CHICAGO, IL: The first thing you notice about Martha Mae: Art Supplies & Beautiful Things is the light. Jean Cate's small shop, near the northeast corner of Clark and Balmoral in Andersonville, is unlike its neighboring storefronts. It doesn't have a dark awning; its windows aren't obscured by lettering or decorations; there's no elaborate display of the wares sold inside. If you took away all the stuff for sale—the row of heavy art books, the brass rulers and pencil sharpeners, the handmade scissors, the wooden animal models, the mason jars of paintbrushes and sponges, the boxes of retro paperclips, the notebooks and sketchbooks and desk pads, the porcelain pallets and the colored pencils, the little bundles of erasers and all the framed etchings and watercolors on the walls—what you'd have left would look like someone's sparse but inviting home, or an artisan's workshop. It's an airy, long space with a huge skylight and a hardwood floor. The daylight streams in unobstructed.

There are three tables made of blond wood. There are wide utility shelves painted in Pepto-Bismol pink, the same color as the bricks on the storefront's facade. There's a veritable zoo of taxidermied animals, including a shiny armadillo, a miniature warthog, and a stately pheasant peering out from some dried reeds.

From the entrance to the back, the shop is a kind of reverse journey from finished pieces of art to their conception in Cate's mind. At the front everything is white, brass, or blond wood, with hits of color from a few ceramic vases and notebook covers. A formation of scissors with crane-shaped handles flies skyward on a wall next to Cate's gold-framed pencil drawings of shrews. Elegant brass staplers share a table with glass and cork pencil sharpeners shaped like the bottom half of a duck. In the middle section are most of the art supplies and tools—endless types of paintbrushes, oil paints, and watercolors; little foldable stools for plein air painting and portable easels. Proceeding further, there's Cate's workshop, a space for crafting where she keeps big sheets of Japanese paper in narrow wood drawers and a light box to photograph items for her future online shop. In the back there's a utility sink, a kiln, a couple of pottery wheels, and shelves of unused props and yet-to-be fired ceramics.

And of course, there's Cate herself, dressed in a round, calf-length black skirt and a white shirt with a red necktie, which matches the one on her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Martha Mae, the namesake of the shop.

As a shopkeeper Cate, 26, is a friendly and unimposing presence. She doesn't seem too eager to sell you anything, but she also doesn't make you feel unwelcome for simply browsing. She has a round, full face reminiscent of the peasant women in Dutch Renaissance paintings. She wears her light brown hair pinned up in a tiny bun and has round, pink eyeglasses. On Sunday, or "game day" as she calls it due to the high volume of shoppers, she wears her uniformiest of uniforms: a white shirt or shirtdress with a necktie. On weekdays she can be found in vintage ensembles of wide-legged trousers and silk blouses or two-piece dress sets. Outside the shop, Cate's getup resembles 1960s society-lady cosplay, but at Martha Mae the clothes are costumes for a daily, six-hour performance, worn to enhance the visitor's visual experience of retail perfection.

Still, Cate's full of contrasting impulses and behaviors. She's reserved but has strong opinions. She's introverted and sensitive, yet hates being told what to do and is uninterested in others' approval. She's attuned to her customers' tastes and loves talking about her products, but having to interact with people is a daily nightmare. Her well-manicured look is pleasantly at odds with her casual mannerisms and hearty, explosive laughter. She'll carefully wrap people's purchases in Japanese paper, tie each box with thin cotton string, and finish off the knots with minuscule golden bells—then she'll take a giant swig from a half-gallon bottle of GT's Kombucha.

There are lots of art-supply sellers and stationery merchants around Chicago, in Andersonville even, but none run stores that feel habitable. The typical art-supply shop is a warehouse crammed to the ceiling with specialized items, a Home Depot replica where nothing but the price tag differentiates high-end Swiss colored pencils from the store-brand variety next to them. The intent is to create a sense of abundance, but most of the time the shops just look like bad housekeeping. Whatever the commercial benefit of displaying merchandise in this way, being in these spaces is fatiguing.

But ceramicist Andrew Jessup, whose work is on sale at the shop, says that walking into Martha Mae "is like walking into a painting, a very well-curated painting."

Recently, Allison Williams, who runs the New York City-based Wms & Co. and supplies sterling-silver bookmarks and self-inking stampers to Martha Mae, was passing through town and visited the shop for the first time. She told me she doesn't usually bother checking in on the retailers selling her wares, but this place looked unusual.

"I'm seeing so much that I don't see anywhere else," she said after at least a half hour of careful browsing. "Such a nice juxtaposition . . . and I also love the maker tools with the made, both the ceramics that are made and the clay."

Williams, whose day job involves branding for fashion-retail companies, spends a lot of time analyzing stores. She told me Cate's is unlike anything she's ever seen, even in New York. "It's closest to maybe Amsterdam or Copenhagen," she said. "For America, I know nothing close to this. And I don't just say that . . . not even close." She walked around some more, then noted, "There's a real sense of the artist's hands here."

In 1849, in his essays "Art and Revolution" and "The Artwork of the Future," the German composer Richard Wagner explored the concept of Gesamtkunstwerk, or the "total work of art." For him it summed up a vision of a perfect future society, wholly dedicated to art. But Wagner's contemporaries took the term to mean an ideal artistic composition, and the popular understanding of Gesamtkunstwerk became linked to Wagner's operas—grandiose, epic narratives brought to life through an immersive fusion of music, acting, costumes, scenery, and movement.

As we discuss her interest in opera, Cate's eyes light up when I bring up the term. "That whole concept is kind of behind the shop," she says, grinning.

Retail spaces require planning a psychological and physical experience, she explains, and creating a "dance" between her mind and the customer's. "You're essentially mapping out the choreography that these unknown strangers will have."

While Cate's not the only one in Chicago who's selling Blackwing pencils, much beloved by New Yorker copy editors and cartoonists, she may be the only shopkeeper whose display choices are integral to the desire to buy them—the pencils' white boxes are arranged in three perfect rows on a dark wood shelf. At Martha Mae there's no clutter, no attempt to create a feeling of affordability through bulk, but also no pretentious glass cases designed to make objects seem luxurious and rare. That's because selling stuff isn't Cate's primary goal. "The main priority is so it's beautiful and that it's a space of wonderment, and that it's well designed," she says. "I only buy things I like and think are really good, because if the business goes under I can just keep it or give them all as gifts."

Cate carefully organizes negative space so the eyes can rest between examining objects. Each item is displayed with enough room around it so that it looks unique, even if it's next to another one of its own kind. This arrangement sharpens visitors' ability to see and makes them more observant. There's no shuffle to get lost in, no bins, no Plexiglass lazy Susan towers. People want to touch these things and there are no barriers to doing so.

Cate's also keen on the idea that people buy things because of the emotions they experience in a store, aroused both by the objects on sale and the atmosphere. "When I'm making displays and setting things up, I think about how [customers] react and interact with it," she says. "And so I purposely put things so that you're constantly discovering." Cate thinks the soul music and old-school hip-hop she plays also help people feel more at ease, more likely to connect with their inner selves and with the things on display.

The shop and Cate's open, unimposing demeanor persuade people to relish in their inner snob without fear or judgment or oversharing. "I just have no tolerance for cheap-ass pencil sharpeners," I once overheard a man declare, as he eagerly examined one of at least five types of sharpeners snuggled in a wooden box. Mirroring his enthusiasm, Cate explained how the wood and the lead would be cut differently depending on which one he chose.

On a typical day, Cate wakes up at around 8:30 AM and immediately begins "answering e-mails and freaking out about stuff," she says. The shop is open from noon to 6 PM Wednesday through Sunday, but even when she's closed or it's her "weekend," Cate spends almost every waking minute thinking about or working at Martha Mae—obsessing over new inventory, refining the displays, creating paintings or drawings for the walls. "It's so nice to have the space to create my own universe," she says. It's all-consuming, but in a good way.

The life of a shopkeeper is filled with dramas large and small—conflicts, arguments, haggling. In a typical week, Cate may be battling with a neighboring business to stop filling her Dumpster with their old, rotting lumber; or she may have to deal with repairing her glass door, which some drunk Saint Patrick's Day reveler shattered with a kick; or she may have to pay extra to a window cleaner to scrape dried soup and potting soil from her front windows, angrily smeared there by another window cleaner whom she had to let go for doing a bad job in the first place. Then there's companies who want to charge absurd amounts of money for shipping merchandise, and people who come in angling to have their handicrafts put on sale, and shoplifters, and the crush of weekend postbrunch visitors who touch everything but buy nothing, sending Cate on a tidying frenzy.

And while all of this might amount to the typical stresses of small-business ownership for some, for Cate each challenge can take on epic proportions and comes with a heavy mental toll. "People scare me," she says. "Or they overwhelm me." The primary question in her head each time she talks to a customer is "How can I survive this encounter?"

Martha Mae isn't just a reflection of her personality but the projection of an aspiration; the shop isn't so much who she is as who she wants to be. As she puts it, Martha Mae is "kind of a big experiment. Like, can I be a social being?"

Six years ago Cate was barely able to function. She was a student at School of the Art Institute of Chicago, receiving positive critiques of her work but so depressed that she was hardly able to leave her apartment. She contemplated suicide. Coming to college in Chicago from her native Los Angeles was supposed to be an escape, but instead she became trapped in her own mind.

"I just felt so strange, and weird, and almost subhuman," she recalls.

At the end of her first semester at SAIC she was so suicidal that she checked herself into a hospital and was kept there for several days. The same thing happened in the spring. "It was really intense—my depression and the suicidal thoughts and yearning for escape."

One of Cate's closest friends, Nora Mapp, says that in college Cate was almost "a recluse" and that it was hard to see her have such a difficult time leaving her apartment and interacting with other people. After all, some of Cate's favorite things were to paint landscapes and animal specimens at busy museums.

"The way her inside space has worked with the outside world—the boundaries between inside and outside have been aggressively at war for her," Mapp says. "She's a really remarkable combination of qualities—she's very generous and has an amazing warm smile, and at the same time, I know she really struggles with other people."

Cate says that throughout those years she was also on a cocktail of medications for anxiety, sleep issues, and depression. Each came with its own side effects; often they left her feeling dazed and unsure as to whether she was experiencing her symptoms or the side effects. She had no idea how to build a structured routine and take care of herself; she'd never been around any adults who set that example.

Cate is the fourth of five siblings. Her father came from a wealthy family—his parents made some lucrative purchases of beachfront apartment buildings after WWII—but earned a modest living as a piano tuner. Her mother was a teacher for visually impaired children. They were in their mid-40s when she was born and not in great health. Cate says that from a young age she had to be aware of their physical limitations—bad knees, fatigue, other health problems.

"I always had an instinctual thing, to take care of other people first, starting with my parents," she says. "Especially with my mom—I was really close to my mom growing up."

When Cate was eight years old, her mother developed a chronic health condition that persisted for years and left Cate and her younger sister on their own for much of the time. She didn't want to get into specifics to respect her mother's privacy, but she says the illness made family life chaotic and unpredictable.

Cate describes her family as introverted. "We were all like little islands," she recalls. But her mom's illness created even more barriers. People didn't talk about what was really going on. In these circumstances, she says, it was easier to connect with people through the objects they enjoyed. "A lot of the time, I felt like getting to know people and appreciating them through their things was safer than, you know, asking them direct questions," Cate says. "Because you never knew what was going to happen—you could upset somebody or spur on something."

Her mom also encouraged her interest in the arts. "She gave me the idea that in art, you can do whatever you want, and it's OK," Cate says. "It was a safe space to communicate."

As a teen, Cate says she had to provide a great deal of emotional support, particularly for her mom and younger sister, and that it left her "extremely depressed and dysfunctional." Their father seemed unable to figure out exactly how to handle the kids without his wife's help, especially after they divorced and she moved out of the house.

The adult troubles and emotional responsibilities of her home life also made Cate feel isolated from her peers. Nor did she identify with characters in books or think about a future adult life. "I didn't think I would grow up," she says. "I couldn't think that far ahead. I was like, How am I even going to get through the next day, month, year?"

Cate says that she did manage to develop some friendships, but she was never sure why people were interested in her. "I'd shower them with gifts that I would make, to thank them for being my friend, because I just couldn't understand why anyone would want to hang out with me," she says. "There was no inherent sense of self-worth or self-esteem. It was like I needed to make these things to be worth something."

In 2011, while Cate was attending SAIC, her depression worsened. Her therapist said Cate couldn't see her anymore unless she checked into a hospital once again. But Cate didn't want to repeat that experience; she didn't think it really helped last time and it left her feeling trapped and out of control.

She had been walking by a Lincoln Park pet store for months, observing the puppies in isolated pink cubes on the walls. One day she walked in and instantly bonded with a white-and-orange spaniel.
"I needed something to take care of that would therefore make me take care of myself," she says, "because this other thing was reliant upon me." She named the dog Martha Mae, and they became inseparable.

Cate eventually finished college and in fall 2015 she partnered with a fellow classmate to open a pottery studio in Andersonville. They started up with the help of a $40,000 loan from Cate's father. But the studio wasn't working as a business, and the partnership quickly soured. Cate bought out the classmate and decided to make the space into a shop. When it came time to naming it, dedicating it to Martha Mae seemed only right, she says, "like a tribute for keeping me going and saving my life."

Despite the stresses of the business, Cate says the experience of being a shopkeeper has been overwhelmingly positive. Since opening Martha Mae her mental health has improved significantly and she's been able to go off her medications. Cate thinks the key has been building a life around a liminal, public-private space filled with objects she loves that are organized through her favorite activities—curation, creation, focusing on small details, and showing her own artwork. Creating Martha Mae has provided Cate with a way to live simultaneously in her own space and among other people. Walking into work every day means entering her best self.

"This was my only shot to have a semipublic life, to share myself with other people and also to be a part of other people's lives," she says. There are some regulars: a ceramics collector who buys a few of Jessup's pieces at a time with cash, a local pamphlet distributor who always brings a Milk-Bone for Martha, and several families who consistently come in to buy gifts, their adolescent sons leaving tiny paper cranes for Cate. Mostly, the clientele are artists who come in for tools and casual shoppers who wander in accidentally.

"I like the shopkeeper-customer dynamic, because it's so clean," Cate says. "I can have these nice, easy, sort of shallow but pleasant conversations with my customers. I feel like as human beings we need a certain amount of that—just pleasantness. There are no emotional entanglements. We only really exist in this space."

The people closest to her have noted her personal transformation. "There's something about the shop that's really an act of courage on her part and the force of her belief both in the objects and their makers, and also wanting to inspire other people to make—that's something that she can fight for, something worth going to every day," Mapp says. "I think it's also a profound relief to her, after years of not knowing how she would make a place for herself in the world."

As she wraps up a day in the shop, Cate might walk around with a small paintbrush and a can of white paint to touch up nearly imperceptible holes in the walls, left by the brass thumbtacks she uses to attach typewritten price tags and product descriptions. She might rearrange some inventory, swapping a row of wooden cats and dogs frolicking across the top of a shelf for some elegant nickel plant misters. Up until now, Cate's reinvested her $20,000 in monthly profits into her overhead and buying more merchandise, but she thinks that soon she'll have enough stuff and will be able to start paying herself. Looking around on a recent evening Cate said, satisfied, "I think I'm finally coming to terms that maybe it's good enough." Reader


Ruth Ann Border Making a Visible Difference

FLAGSTAFF, AZ: Ruth Ann Border, owner of Visible Difference, thinks of her Flagstaff art supply store as a ship.

“I am the captain, the crew, the clean up and I’m fueling the boilers.”

She stays busy.

Visible Difference opened in the mid-70s. Border bought it in 2005.

“I decided to keep the name,” she said. “It has been at this location for 40 years and it is the only art supply store in Northern Arizona, which is a humongous area. We wanted to retain that distinction.”

Border obtained ownership just before what she calls “the-not-so-Great Recession.”

“When the economy tanks, art is the first thing to go,”

And to make matters worse, it was a time in her life that can be described in rafter terms as “white water.”

The recession started to take its toll and her partner, Michael Kabotie, died from flu complications in 2009.

She met Michael while she was working at the Museum of Northern Arizona where he was working on a mural called “The Journey of the Human Spirit.”

With Michael gone and the recession bearing down, Border had to make a decision.

“It boiled down to me turning this ship around. I had to decide to let it go or hang in there. I decided to hang in there,” she said.

“I came pretty close to calling it quits.”

Her customers begged her stay open.

When a little art store in Sedona closed, she knew she had to hang tight.

At times, she still does not know how she survived, other than eating a lot of beans and rice.

“It’s the beauty of the human spirit. I had to come up with a new plan. You have two choices. You can go back or go forward. I didn’t like the thought of succumbing. It is hard to turn a ship around by yourself. I have weathered a lot of hurricanes. You can’t just close up. I couldn’t let the ship sink.”

She said she is still getting the shop back to its former self and has added a framing service and art classes for adults.

Her biggest competition is the Internet.

“It’s not a level playing field,” she said. “The Internet has impacted little businesses in a big way.

“Small business is the backbone of this country, the mom and pop shops, the brick and mortar that survived [the recession] because of the tenacity of the owner.”

An Arizona native, Border was born and raised with Papago Park as her backyard.

“We could ride our bikes for five miles and be gone all day.”

Border attended East Phoenix High School and pursued a college degree in art which she earned from NAU. Out of college, she created graphic art for several publications. She missed fine art and opened her own studio, Del Rio Studio and Gallery in 1999. She worked at the museum part time and headed the Flagstaff Artists Coalition from 1999 to 2003.

“To this day, people come in and say, ‘I can’t believe this place is still here,’” she said. “I am the third owner and hopefully I can pass the baton to someone who has the passion to do what I have done.”

Gretchen Lopez, an artist and veteran art teacher who also teaches at Visible Difference, said Border works tirelessly to keep art and art supplies front and center. “I have been going into her shop for several years. We talked about starting small classes there. The wonderful part about Ruth Ann is she is open about sharing art with the community. It’s a wonder how she can keep everything going.”

Where do you see your business in the next five years?

“In someone else’s capable hands, I might have a hand in it, but in five years, I will be 66.”

What is your favorite snack?

“Hummus and chips.”

When was the last time you laughed really hard?

“Yesterday. I had a friend show up and say I just saved someone’s life. It was her husband and she wanted to strangle him. She came here instead.”

What advice would you give someone who wants to own a small business?

“Love what you do.”

“What is your super power and when do you use it?

“Every day when we roll out of bed, you have to pick an attitude and so you pick a good one.” Flagstaff Business News


Students mix art and science as they explore the solar system

HENDERSONVILLE, NC: It's a big world out there, but some students in Henderson County were able to squeeze it into a tiny shoebox.

Some third graders are busy with a science project.

First they researched information about all of the planets, and then they created a solar system model that fits neatly into a shoebox.

The solar system diorama is to scale, and includes all of the 8 planets in the correct order.

The hands-on project incorporates a number of different subjects in one assignment, said Mrs. Wilcox, a Hendersonville Elementary science teacher.

"We're trying to get STEAM accreditation..So that's a big piece, bringing the technology and the arts, ad math and everything into our classroom," she said. STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

"I thought it was really fun, because I got to design my planets and I got to make them how I wanted them to look," said Ellery, a third-grader.

Students use iPads to put together a video about their solar system. The edited segment includes important information about each one of the planets.

The students even included music with their video .

Mrs. Wilcox worked closely with the school's art department on this planet project.

Hendersonville Elementary got a grant from the Fine Arts Center in Tryon to cover the cost of much of the art supplies used in the project. WLOS


Artist encourages students to embrace diversity

MCCC’s visiting artist encouraged students to pursue variety and flexibility in their art.

Chicago artist Sharon Bladholm said it is important to be diverse as an artist because each material teaches something about the other materials.

Her expertise includes cast glass, bronze, and ceramic in the sculptural realm, as well as stained glass, printmaking and works on paper.

Bladholm is featured on campus during the month of April. She visited art classes, lectured, and set up a public display of her art in the library.

At her lecture on April 5, she intertwined art, science, nature and conservation topics through stories and pictures.

She discussed the evolution of her career and her participation as an artist on scientific expeditions to isolated areas of South America and other remote areas.

“Basically, my whole life has been a synthesis of art, science, nature, and conservation starting from a very young age,” she said.

She grew up freely roaming 40 acres of woods in Wisconsin and traveling the states with her family in a Volkswagen van.

She also had access to abundant art supplies because her father was an artist.

Bladholm’s work is the interface of people with the natural world, integrating the sciences of anthropology with biology and botany from the plant world.

On a trip to Chiapas, Mexico, she fell in love with the rainforest. She loved the diversity of the plants.

“I am definitely not a minimalist. Rainforests are not a minimal kind of place,” she said. “You have the most abundance of different species, so that has been a reoccurring theme in my artwork and life.”

She said nature and art are inseparable. They are the twin roots of her life and artistic development. Her artwork is in service to the environmental issues people face today.

Bladholm has participated on expeditions with The Field Museum in Chicago, Conservation International and the Andes to Amazon Biodiversity Program to the Brazilian, Venezuelan and Peruvian Amazon, documenting the life of the Yanomami people through her art, and exploring conservation of endangered plant and animal species in isolated communities.

The participants of these expeditions found dozens of new species of plants and animals, and Bladholm documented their findings through her artwork and occasionally photography.

She has run Opal Glass Studios in Chicago since 1983, and she continues to complete many important commissions and show her work in galleries and museums.

She also creates public art such as installations at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Bordeaux, France and the Garfield Park Conservatory, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

This year, she is working on a public art piece for greater Chicago’s Openlands Lakeshore Preserve, which is one of the oldest metropolitan conservation organizations in the nation.

She is also creating new works of art based on her involvement with the Andes to Amazon Biodiversity Program in 2009.

Bladholm said she would like to see more of her work in conservatories because then her artwork would look like it is in a natural environment.

All of her artwork is symbolic. Each piece reflects the interface of humanity and nature.

She said she is inspired by science. She is an avid reader, and many of the books she reads are science related.

“Balancing heart and brain,” which is on display in the library, symbolizes the fine line between choosing with heart or brain.

“Of course we should be using our brains and thinking with our brains, but maybe tempered with the wisdom of the heart,” Bladholm said.

When people think with their heart, they are thinking seven generations ahead, like Native Americans.

“I really believe we should be thinking with our hearts, and there would be less environmental destruction,” she said.

More samples of Bladholm’s work can be found on her website at The Agora


Local artist produces work with an interesting twist
Stephen Maxam’s colorful, flowing paintings resemble galaxies and granite.

When he’s working on one of his paintings, Stephen Maxam’s studio looks like a scene from Breaking Bad.

Unlike the show, however, the full face respirator, gloves and tarps are only used to protect him from the fumes of his art materials.

Maxam creates mesmerizing multimedia paintings. Working with epoxy — a medium commonly used as a protective coating — his paintings look like a colorful cross between galactic photographs and granite countertops.

How does he create his art? For now, the self-titled “abstract naturalist painter” said he’s keeping the tricks of his trade secret.

With little helpful information available about the relatively uncommon medium, he said he’s had to figure it out for himself.

"I discover new things every time I use it, and anytime I try something new I usually find a new effect,” Maxam said. “A lot of things are accidental.”

When working on projects, he’ll spend from 20 to 50 hours a week in his self-ventilated studio, which takes the toxic air outside and brings fresh air indoors. In the winter months, he wears around seven layers so he can keep working in the cold.

It’s from this practice and experimentation that he’s honed the ability to create his art.

"You can pour things into [epoxy], you can pour it on top of things, you can mix it with things and pour it, pretty much anything,” he explained. “You can add random things that aren't paint and see what happens.

"You, as the creator, have a certain amount of power over the composition, but only a certain amount,” Maxam said. “You're guiding it, but also being influenced by the path it takes.”

Previously working with predominately ink and pen, Maxam stumbled across epoxy after a friend showed him an epoxy-covered leaf. From that simple introduction, he started looking into how he could use it artistically.

The 21-year-old said he draws inspiration from nature, his own emotions and the events that are happening in the world around him.

After Philando Castile was killed last July, he created his first black-and-white piece.

"I was trying to make sense of this divide, which is more abstract and a gray area,” he said. “You're trying to internally make yourself sane. I was here receiving all this energy, trying to interpret it."

No matter the color scheme or inspiration, Maxam’s style isn’t common, and his experimentation is something that Verra Blough, who works at the St. Paul art supply store Wet Paint, said she loves about his art.

“I’m a believer in experimentation,” Blough said. Impressed with Maxam’s work, she said that sometimes art like his can only be created by “jumping in.”

Those in the art world aren’t the only ones who enjoy Maxam’s paintings. His work is currently on display at Urban Growler Brewing Company, where the colorful swirls and layers provide a nice contrast to the building’s interior brick walls.

Alex Mongin, a friend of Maxam who works at the brewery, said his art is perfect for the space, especially since he’s from the area.

“We’re super engrained in the community, and we want locals to be represented,” Mongin said.

Maxam’s pieces, including “Pink Matter,” “Intangible Perfection” and “Ultraviolet Icebergs” were installed in the beginning of April.

Looking forward, Maxam is hoping to continue featuring his work in galleries, experiment with creating furniture and host his own solo showing. But for now, he’s still enjoying creating and learning from his own art.

“Any different kind of idea that you have can yield a different result,” Maxam said. “There's an evolution occurring as you're creating because you have to just go with the flow.” Minnesota Daily


Discover Your Inner High Artist With ‘Puff, Pass & Paint’ Classes
Forget “paint and sip” and check out this 4/20-friendly alternative.

For some, marijuana can feel like a magical elixir, particularly when it comes to making art. Getting high can help alleviate stress and self-doubt, get the creative juices flowing and awaken budding artists to the the tactile excitement of making work, instead of worrying about the final product.

This is the reasoning behind “Puff, Pass & Paint,” a “4/20 friendly art class” now offered in cities in Colorado, Oregon, Washington D.C., Nevada and California ― all of which have legalized cannabis. The weed wizard behind this exceedingly chill vision is Denver-based artist Heidi Keyes.

Keyes leads two-hour art-making sessions for a maximum of 20 students at a time, all of whom must be at least 21 years old. She guides her students through a series of choreographed painting steps, in the style of “paint and sip” classes like Pinot’s Palette. Yet experimentation and play are highly encouraged; artists are not required to strictly following Keyes’ lead.

Participants are also not required to smoke, but the class offers a safe space for them to light up if they so desire. For some unfamiliar with their creative intuition, a few hits can help put the mind at ease. “Cannabis helps us break out of our shells and rediscover the childlike wonder that exists in making art,” Keyes explained to The Creators Project, “in using our hands to paint and write and draw and play with clay.”

According to The Creators Project, there is no typical “Puff, Pass & Paint” student. The classes usually draw experienced stoners and weed newbies alike, some people in their 20s and some in their 80s.

Keyes has donated vouchers for the class to veterans groups and other communities in need. “Just a couple of weeks ago, in San Francisco, a veteran had been gifted a spot,” Keyes said. “And he came up to me afterwards with tears in his eyes to tell me that this was the first time he had felt relaxed since he returned from combat. This isn’t just a class or a business for me — it’s a movement.”

Ultimately, the class’ mellow and blissful atmosphere fights stigmas often associated with weed, showing how the plant’s effects can be healing, stimulating and absorbing ― not all that different from the experience of making art. The Huffington Post


Chalk artists decorate downtown square with cool art

OSKALOOSA, IA: Clusters of people were gathered around the Downtown Oskaloosa Bandstand just after noon on a bright and brisk Earth Day, April 22. Many were crouched or on their hands and knees on the pavement of the square, clutching pieces of chalk or pastels and creating art.

Between noon and 2 p.m. on Saturday, members of the community and the William Penn University Media Club turned out for Chalk the Walk. Artists of all ages 'purchased" squares of pavement to decorate with colorful chalk creations.

Miranda Keeler, news director for the club, said the group decided to handle the Chalk the Walk event this year. For the previous three years, it had been run by the William Penn University (WPU) campus radio station, KIGC.

"We kind of adopted it this year and decided to change from the elementary school where it originally was the last couple years to here on the square to get a little more community involvement, have some more people come out and just enjoy it," she said. "We have perfect weather today, so that's awesome."

All donations and proceeds gathered by the club will go directly to Operation Backpack, Keeler said. Additionally, donations are being accepted at the university into next week.

Operation Backpack, according to the United Way of Mahaska website, is a program to help provide local school children with school supplies.

Rolland Guild, a local professional artist, worked hard on his art from the beginning of the event. He occasionally glanced up from his pavement drawing of the Statue of Liberty to a reference image he was working from.

"I'm with my family, grandson, [my] son. I've been doing this for three years now," he said. "[The best part] is meeting people, talking to people, getting them interested in art."

The McKee family was nearby, working on their own images.

"We enjoy coming to Chalk the Walk," Julie McKee said. "I'm glad to see it on the square this year. It's fun to make art, whatever it looks like, it's fun to make it."

Keeler said this is inaugural year for the media club, which is comprised of video, newspaper, writing, public relations and radio. Currently, there are around 40 members and she hopes the club will continue to grow.

"We've grown significantly and decided that this would be our community service project and a good way for us to give back to the Oskaloosa community as well as a good agency here in town, the United Way of Mahaska County, as well as FACE [Fine Arts and Cultural Events]," Keeler said. "We felt like the digital communications program didn't have an appropriate club and there wasn't anything for us to join on campus as an extracurricular that fit our needs, so we decided to design the media club, and this was a trial and error year."

Journalism and Media Program Professor Matt Wagner said the media club wanted to try it at the square this year to see if it would gain more visibility, rather than at Oskaloosa Elementary School as in the past.

"It's a challenge. Part of it's fundraising. It's a good experience for them to learn how to promote and market ideas and stuff too," Wagner said. "And it gives me an excuse to play with chalk, I don't get to do that as an adult very much any more."

Wagner gestured toward an outline of Star Wars villain Darth Vader dressed as William Penn University's mascot, "Willie P."

Digital Communications Program Advisor Amanda DeVore was in the midst of drawing a colorful lion.

"I'm out here today to kind of have fun and help out our club," she said. "I think it's great when students want to do something that makes an impact, so I was definitely all for helping them out."

Keeler said she was happy to have people come to the event.

"And to be able to talk to people out here in the community and get to know them," she said. "I'm just grateful to have the opportunity to have it here on the square." The Oskaloosa Herald


The fine price of fine art

EL PASO, TX: As a studio art major, senior Kymea Staten said she constantly bought expensive hardware store tools and art paper until she decided to change majors.

“I changed my major because of how expensive it was,” Staten said. “You never really know what you’re gonna need because a syllabus in art classes often changes and it can be frustrating. There have been times where I have spent over $60 on a single assignment.”

Staten, now an art history major, said the price of the supplies caused her to feel stressed and embarrassed after not being able to purchase them.

“There were times when I wasn’t able to afford some of my supplies and as a result, I would fall behind in my classes. I became extremely stressed and overwhelmed,” Staten said. “It’s embarrassing to not go to class because you can’t work on assignments simply because you can’t afford it.”

During one semester, Staten spent approximately $600 in supplies for her art courses affecting more than just her bank account.

“It resulted in eating a very poor diet and making sacrifices that didn’t always feel necessary,” Staten said.

David Griffin, chair of the Department of Art, said he is aware of what students have to go through as they take courses in the art department.

“It’s the same thing when I was a student,” Griffin said. “We, as faculty, are aware of this problem and we try to help and suggest solutions and possible substitutions for those materials that students will use. Just because you use lower quality materials that doesn’t necessarily mean your art won’t be good.

If you’re creative and you’re really good, then you can make those materials work just as good as you would do with high-end art materials.”

Griffin said during this upcoming fall semester, course fees for design one and two, drawing one and two and life drawing one will be raised. He said some of the fees have not been raised in more than 20 years and the money raised from this will allow some professors to help out their students.

“I just raised three or four (course fees) that hadn’t been raised for quite a while,” Griffin said. “After I buy the materials, I will be able to supply them without having the students go out and buy them on their own. I teach one of those classes and I will know exactly what they need to create what I’m asking for.”

Griffin said there is a nationwide problem in funds for liberal arts majors.

“That’s the big push between STEAM and STEM, the A for arts is missing,” Griffin said. “The designer of every product is important for humanity because they have the ability to connect with people. This is why I would like to see more funding for art students.”

Griffin said art students are learning the techniques they need to be good artists and as they progress they will gain confidence and start to understand what kind of materials are better to work in and in what medium. He said this will then allow students to understand how the right balance between making art and spending money.

“You have to be creative, you have to think and problem solve around these things,” Griffin said. “Your assignment is to build a piece of art and critically think about the pieces and the materials you’re using, and use them wisely and economically enough so that you don’t break your own personal finances.”
Griffin said students should take advantage of grants and scholarships as they are offered. Griffin said these are competitive scholarships, where students have to demonstrate a unique technique and sense of art.

“These scholarships are hard to obtain, but if you are going through a difficult economic moment and you still want to want to major in art you should apply,” Griffin said.

Griffin said there is a perception that art majors won’t be making a living once they graduate, a perception he said can be overcome if art students look for unique ideas and career choices.

“Is the student really clever enough to double major in business or painting and go out and open their own studio?” Griffin said. “That is networking, that’s making yourself open to possibilities to the doors that open. I know it’s hard to double major, but there are ways in which art students can find the resources to find money after graduation.”

Griffin also said students should reconsider if they are majoring in art if they are not willing to make these sacrifices.

“Is making a living in the arts easy? No, it’s not,” Griffin said. “Art is hard and art is going to cost you money, time, and you have to really devote yourself to it.” The Prospector