Category: Process

Fieldworking: San Toy, Ohio

Google Maps did not take me to San Toy, Ohio. It gave me a general approximation but in the end I had to guess. I saw a street sign that said Santoy Road and I turned. San Toy was a rough coal mining town established by the Sunday Creek Coal Company. At it’s height it had a population of approximately 2500, several saloons, a theater, a baseball team, and by some (apocryphal) accounts, a murder every day.

Construction of Mine No.2 San Toy, The Little Cities Archive
Construction of Mine No.2 San Toy, The Little Cities Archive

San Toy only had two mine shafts aptly named Mine No. 1 and No. 2. In September, 1924, a group of disgruntled miners set Mine No. 1 on fire. Three years later when it was time to renegotiate union contracts Sunday Creek decided it was better to abandon the operation than go through negotiations and pay to upgrade equipment. They opted instead to shut the mine down.

Burning of Mine No. 1 San Toy 1927, The Little Cities Archive
Burning of Mine No. 1 San Toy 1927, The Little Cities Archive

Now the area is covered with no trespassing signs, which I am always more than happy to abide by. I was still able to get some nice images from the roadway. The Jailhouse is the most intact building. It is small and squat and sits just off the main road. It is really difficult to reconcile the historical photographs of clear cut landscape and company houses…

San Toy deserted, 1927, The Little Cities Archive
San Toy deserted, 1927, The Little Cities Archive

…with the overgrown, tucked away landscape of today. There are no views at all, only sight lines to the next tree or beyond that to where the horizon rises sharply into another hill. And it is quiet. There are private residences close by, with in walking distance, but it is still very quiet and sound seems to be muffled.

Foundations and Remaining Buildings, San Toy, Images by Molly Uline-Olmstead
San Toy Jailhouse, Image by Molly Uline-Olmstead

The people who live on the road aren’t officially a part of San Toy. The town was unincorporated in 1931 when a majority of the few remaining residents voted to dissolve it. It had the ignoble distinction of being the town in the United States whose population had decreased the most per capita since the previous census (976 in 1920 to just 128 in 1930). My favorite part of the ghost town is the brick roadway peeking through the more recent pavement on Santoy Road.

San Toy Road, Image by Molly Uline-Olmstead
San Toy Road, Image by Molly Uline-Olmstead

I love this. It is like the past is literally pushing through to the present, demanding to be noticed. The opposite is true of the buildings that remain in the area. While these bricks under foot seem to be a sturdy and stoic reminder of the community that used to be here, the scattered foundations and crumbling walls just off the road are folding back into the landscape, slowly and steadily.


Foundations and Remaining Buildings, San Toy, Images by Molly Uline-Olmstead
Foundations and Remaining Buildings, San Toy, Images by Molly Uline-Olmstead


10,000 Hours 365 Bowls: Thoughts on Making and Creating



Nothing happens unless you showup – Agnes Martin
Imagine – John Lennon
You have to be brave to get older – Bette Davis
Just Do It! – Nike



At a CAW meeting early in the year, we were asked how CAW has affected our artistic lives. Kate Menke bravely stood and intimated that circumstances had kept her from making her art for some time, and she wanted to do ceramics but did not have the appropriate space in which to do it. This blocked her. She spoke of how a CAW member encouraged her to move forward, and so she did. She made one ceramic bowl in her dining room. She was so charged by this she made a daily practice of making one ceramic bowl in her dining room for a year. She amassed 365 bowls, and I was impressed by her story. She had dedication to purpose as well as a need, but she needed a shove to begin and got it from our group. I have added Kate to my list of muses and heroes and she is in company with the likes of painter Agnes Martin.

Agnes Martin is on my list because she chose a difficult path early on in her life. She considered herself to be an abstract expressionist painter, but her work was thought by critics to be minimal, descreet, inward, and, to my way of thinking, silent. Her paintings reflected an interest in Eastern philosophy and religion. Born in 1912 in Canada, she died in 2004 in Taos, New Mexico, where she settled in 1967. She moved away from the New York art world, built her own simple adobe studio, isolated herself by choice, and died at 92. It is said she did not read a newspaper for 50 years. She took a seven year hiatus from painting and distanced herself from the social events that make a typical artist’s life. Agnes bravely chose her road and continued down it making significant use of its ups and downs. In a documentary of her work Agnes said, “Nothing happens in the studio unless you show up.”


Gratitude, Painting, Agnes Martin
Gratitude, Painting, Agnes Martin


Periodically I can be a slacker about going to the studio; I think this can be said of all of us. When this happens, Agnes’ words come to mind… ain’t gonna happen if you are not there… and I go empty-minded into a space that calls out for action, any action. So in blank-mindedness I start cleaning, piddling, picking up bits of this and that and, it never fails, something begins to happen. Sometimes just the studio gets cleaned, but at least I gave it a shot. Showing up is proactive and practice is proactive.

That brings me to Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Outliers, who has brought us the concept of putting in 10,000 hours of work to become great. WHAAAT?

The idea is that 10,000 hours of deliberate pratice will make you world-class in any field. To Gladwell, greatness takes an enormous amount of time. There is no doubt that when you put 10,000 hours into anything you become a master from a technical and skill level, but is that all that matters? Does 10,000 hours really bring you fame and fortune? Does 10,000 hours allow you to make something good or important or interesting? Does 10,000 hours dig deep into your psyche or your soul? Gladwell doesn’t talk about imagination as part of the process; we can only infer that it rises when you work for 10,000 hours at the same thing. Is it possible for all of us to imagine something and then create it? Of course it is. John Lennon instructs us to imagine. Do we have to show up and put in 10,000 hours to make something that exemplifies our imagination or even our lack of one? I don’t think so.

Agnes Martin and the Nike Corporation had the right idea about the importance of being present and just doing it. So did Kate as she practiced in her dining room, making a mess on the dining room table.


Kate Menke, Watch Me
Kate Menke, Watch Me


Certainly one must practice one’s art or craft, but beyond mastery of a skill set, what else is there? What else does one learn from hours of practice? What draws us to a painting or a bowl? What drives us to make things, and if mastery is a matter of practice, then what is it about art that compels a reaction in the viewer aside from the fact there is an object before her? In her own words, here are a few things Kate learned from her practice:

The daily habit of creating a bowl for a year actually transformed me into an artist. Before, I was an art teacher who sometimes made art but I really had no drive or vision for my creation. Establishing this discipline, making the time every day and having an attainable goal awakened the artist in me. Now, I don’t feel complete if I haven’t worked on some aspect of my art every day. It has made me a better artist and I feel less afraid to create and to share with the world. I posted each bowl on Facebook and Instagram and many of my bowls are less than perfect (They we’re made in 15 minutes or less!). I opened up my imperfections to criticism and found that people loved them more for it. Finally, it forced me to seek people and places to encourage my work. If you value your art, dedicate a time and a place for it and don’t let anything get in the way. Working 30 minutes a day adds up quickly and can change your life. Going through the motions of creating allows your brain to expand into really creative places. If you can’t come up with new ideas just keep making something simple things. Eventually your brain will relax and the ideas will flow. Paying attention deliberately for a year and having a physical manifestation of each day allowed me to be thankful in a whole new way. There are a lot of people out there that will encourage your making but you have to put yourself out there.

Art like life is a journey; you pick a road and follow it moving off onto branches as suits your whim. You get older, wiser, and more experienced. As Bette Davis said, “You have to be brave to get old.” She may have  been refering to changes in the body, but I think she was implying you must be brave to keep moving forward, making mistakes, and having successes and failures as you go. In doing so, you begin to make work that has imagination, feeling, depth, and intellect, the qualities that make a truly interesting and great work of art when applied with skill and knowledge of the tools.



Kate Menke, Ceramic Bowls
Kate Menke, Ceramic Bowls


My hat is off to Kate who dared to show up and make one clay bowl a day for 356 days in her dining room, no less. Clay everywhere, perhaps kids and animals making demands, significant others wanting dinner, and the general interuptions of a busy life. One bowl a day. I cannot say I have done that. Whether or not you get your 10,000 hours in, practice moves you forward and that is what it takes to get it done.

One last thing. We all know Nike is a giant corporation and when you Google Nike, involvement in atheltics and corporate information is all that comes up. However, if you Google Nike goddess you will find she was a goddess in ancient Greek religion personifying victory. How interesting Nike chose a woman of power to brand themselves.

So, women of CAW, women of power, go forth in your practice, piddle and muddle, make mistakes in your studios; show up, do it, and become victorious; become Agnes, become Nike, become Kate!


Goddess Nike
Goddess Nike



Fieldworking: Cincinnati Brews

I love beer. Love it. So a brewery tour without a tasting might sound ludicrous. However, the promise of crawling around abandoned lagering caves set into Cincinnati’s seven hills more than makes up for a dry tour.

I used to work at the Ohio History Connection as a coordinator of teacher professional development. As a part of that job I was often tasked with organizing fieldtrips to historically significant parts of Ohio. Beer and brewing, drinking and temperance are deeply intertwined in Ohio’s history and uniquely so in Cincinnati with its German heritage. Cut to me and twenty or so social studies teachers taking in the view of Over the Rhine from the third story window of an abandoned brewery.


View of Over the Rhine from Sohn Brewery, Photograph by Molly Uline-Olmstead

Bits and pieces of these breweries are left all over the Over the Rhine neighborhood and include remnants of ice-houses, bottling buildings, offices, and stables. By its heyday in the late 1890s Cincinnati produced four barrels of beer per resident – almost twice as much beer as any other city in the United States.

These buildings are beautiful, even if they are in rough shape. They feature details that highlight the rich history and symbols of brewing including hops flowers and beer sipping cherubs carved into the brickwork and ironwork beer barrels capping the interior banisters.


Sohn Brewery Brickwork, Photograph by Molly Uline-Olmstead


Sohn Brewery banister, Photograph by Molly Uline-Olmstead

Each one is another example of the Italianate Revival Architecture that made Over the Rhine one of the largest historical districts in the country and one of the most neglected. It is this combination of historical significance and dereliction that makes Over the Rhine so fascinating. The neighborhood follows a common demographic pattern repeated around the Midwest in which European immigrants build and industry and then move out to nicer neighborhoods to be followed by Appalachian immigrants and African Americans coming north in the Great Migration. Two wars, a Great Depression, and a highway system later and the neighborhood is gutted.

In the late 90s and early 00s Cincinnati artists began to move into the area setting up studio spaces and exhibition spaces and in some cases, squatting. Artists know great space. There is a lot of energy around the area now and debates that will be familiar to anyone who has lived in a city where neighborhoods have experienced the irresistible story of boom, bust, and, revitalization, perhaps gentrification. Each of the places we visited with the teachers had the tell-tale signs of art making and the clash of past and present that a thoroughly current white walled gallery or site specific installation placed in a building from the early 1800s can cause.

So Over the Rhine is equal parts raw material for one’s own work and inspiration from one’s contemporaries. To get a taste of what this former brewing mecca has to offer (pun so intended) try visiting during one of their Final Friday Gallery Hops. If you are interested in seeing the breweries first hand check out one of the Cincinnati Brewery Tours.


  • Morgan, Michael D. Over-the-Rhine: When Beer Was King. Charleston: History, 2010. Print.
  • “OTR History.” Over The Rhine Foundation. Over the Rhine Foundation, n.d. Web. 05 Jan. 2016.
  • “Tours of Cincinnati’s Historic Breweries – Part of the Brewing Heritage Trail.” Tours of Cincinnati’s Historic Breweries – Part of the Brewing Heritage Trail. Brewery District Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation, n.d. Web. 05 Jan. 2016.

Fieldworking: New Straitsville, Ohio

I love to make work. As much as I love making, I love the research and fieldwork that goes into the making. I love archives, antique stores, libraries, and museums. I want all their juicy history, secrets, and mysteries. One of my greatest delights is to strike out and find the source, the place. I get this from my dad. One summer he took me to Centralia, Pennsylvania – the site of what is arguably the most famous mine fire in the world. He was just curious but I became obsessed. I was eleven years old and had just learned that the earth could burn under my feet indefinitely. That it could gut that underground and as a result gut an entire community. I was seeing firsthand the evidence of an empire built on non-renewable resources and the shiny diagrams in my 6th grade science textbook showing the process of coal production from dead dinosaur to prosperous society did not track with the abandoned towns, sinkholes, heaps of slag, and hard men and women.

Cut to 2009. I had been living in Ohio for thirteen years when I learned about New Straitsville, Ohio, site of the World’s Greatest Mine Fire. I immediately called my dad – “Did you know?!?!? Ohio has its own mine fire!!!”

My printmaking friend Rachel (also from Pennsylvania coal country) and I piled into my car and we drove southeastward on a route outlined by the incomparable artist and Professor Mary Jo Bole. We ate fried eggs at the counter of a diner on Main Street that had a 6 foot banquet table along its wall covered in mine fire memorabilia and historical pamphlets produced on a photocopier. We hiked up to Robinson Cave, site of the miners’ clandestine union meetings, our eyes ever-peeled for signs of smoke or steam. Since that first visit I have been back a few times – mostly on official business with the Ohio History Connection where I worked from 2009-2015. In 2012 I had the pleasure of dedicating an historical marker to the World’s Greatest Mine Fire near one of the sites where it started in 1884.



Image from “Dedication of Ohio Historical Marker at New Straitsville.” Perry County Tribune


The text of that marker reads:

During the 9-month Hocking Valley Coal Strike beginning in June 1884, tensions between the Columbus & Hocking Coal and Iron Company and striking miners led to violence and destruction. Starting October 11, 1884, unknown men pushed burning mine cars into six mines located around New Straitsville to protest being replaced by “Scab” workers. Mine operators attempted to plug all fissures to no avail. As years passed, ground collapsed under buildings and roadbeds, and mine gases seeped into schools and homes. Residents were evicted and homes demolished. Potatoes baked in the heated soil and roses bloomed in winter. At times, the fire soared 100 feet in the air and could be seen for five miles.

Side 2:

Ripley’s Believe It or Not broadcast a radio report on the fire and local landowners marketed “The World’s Greatest Mine Fire.” Thousands of tourists paid 25 cents to see guides cook eggs over the fire holes and make hot coffee directly from a well. By 1936, the Works Progress Administration tried to create barriers to slow the fire by replacing coal and wood with brick and clay. Journalist Ernie Pyle reported on the fire for NBC Radio and in his syndicated newspaper column. The Wayne National Forest purchased many ruined fire lands in the 1930s. In the 1970s, the State of Ohio shifted a sinking Route 216 to more stable ground. Steaming ground areas stay green and snow-free in the winter. The World’s Greatest Mine Fire Endures.

I have been working on a piece about mine fires over the past few months and needed a refresher and some good photos of the site. I have a great photo I took on my Centralia visit of smoke and steam rising out of the ground, but I didn’t have the right images for New Straitsville. So I packed a lunch and spent my Black Friday with the Little Cities of the Black Diamonds.

My trip was blessed early with good omens. The weather report was revised from rain to sun and my tarot card for the day was the Knight of Pentacles – “Work on a project that is important to you today. You have a very practical mindset that will serve you well. Don’t get caught up in little details–keep on moving and producing. You can come back to refine later.”

The site of the marker is a few miles north of town on Clark Street or Route 93 at the trailhead of a mining reclamation area. Organizations like the Monday Creek Watershed Restoration Group have been working to repair the damage done by so many years of reckless mining and drilling for oil. You can see the oil derricks in this postcard:



New Straitsville Oil Fields.


And evidence of still contaminated water in this photograph I took from a train trestle outside of Glouster, Ohio:



Photo by Molly Uline-Olmstead, 2015

The site has been returned to wetlands status. Imagine the entire area completely clear cut, yellow and red mud replacing the tall grasses, pools and puddles of orange and black contaminated water, and heaps of coal and slag littering the landscape. The ground is still freckled with coal – it is everywhere, black, shiny, and crumbling under your feet. This is the site of Mine No. 5 where those striking miners allegedly set the earth on fire in 1884.



Coal Mine Map, Ca. 1920, Showing Mine Workings in Sections 28-33, Coal Township, including Town of New Straitsville.


It is beautiful now – very quiet, very still.



Photo by Molly Uline-Olmstead, 2015


While I am not certain of the exact location of the mine entrances there are a few clues in the landscape. Near the east end of the clearing there is a rise in the land that has several depressions. The strangest and most noticeable one is filled with earth and giant tree stumps, indicating a back-filled mine shaft. These were the images I wanted to complement my Centralia photo:



Photo by Molly Uline-Olmstead, 2015


If you want to learn more about New Straitsville and the Little Cities of the Black Diamonds region I recommend visiting. The entire region is undergoing a revival thanks to the work of community members, many of them historians and artists. Here is a bibliography to get you started:


Carney, Brenda. “Dedication of Ohio Historical Marker at New Straitsville.” Perry County Tribune. Perry County Tribune, 16 July 2012. Web. 28 Nov. 2015.

Cramer, Ann. “Historic Mine Fire Marker Dedicated.” Region 9 – News & Events. USDA Forest Service, 20 July 2012. Web. 28 Nov. 2015.

“The Little Cities Archive.” The Little Cities Archive. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2015.

“Little Cities of Black Diamonds.” Little Cities of Black Diamonds. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2015.

“New Straitsville Mine Fire Reported in Journal.” The Engineering and Mining Journal (1885): 42. The Little Cities Archive. 09 June 2011. Web. 28 Nov. 2015. <>.

New Straitsville Oil Fields. N.d. Little Cities Archive, Shawnee, Ohio. Little Cities Archive. Web. 28 Nov. 2015. <>.

Perry Co. Auditor. “Coal Mine Map, Ca. 1920, Showing Mine Workings in Sections 28-33, Coal Township, including Town of New Straitsville.” Boom and Bust in the Hocking Valley Coal Fields. N.p., 1920. Web. 28 Nov. 2015. <>.


LANDMARK: Ft. Hayes Tour: Reference Files

Exhibit: February 29 – April 15, 2016
Opening Reception: Thursday, March 3, 6-8pm

Curators: Catherine Bell Smith, Stephanie Rond, Mollie Hannon
Location: Fort Hayes Shot Tower Gallery | 546 Jack Gibbs Blvd, Columbus, OH 43215

Landmark is primarily an exhibition about place – its history and importance. Members of CAW briefly toured Fort Hayes, experiencing the hundreds year old buildings and foundations, uncovering myths and legends, and collecting inspiration to create the many works included in the show. Excavating for inspiration may lead some to consider other aspects of the word landmark, bringing depth and breadth to this benchmark exhibition. Landmark challenges you to consider what serves as a guide or beacon in your life; what is the watershed moment after which everything changed; what stands out in your landscape or marks your boundary; where is your place.

We are looking for substantial pieces to fill the gallery. Please submit artwork that is no smaller than 30”x30”, (or, if working in a series, add-up to at least 30”x30” when they are grouped together)

We would love to have some images of in-progress and finished work for postcard and on-line promotion. Please send to, with “LANDMARK Photos” in the subject line


Tour of site: November 16, 5:30pm (arrive at the Shot Tower Gallery by 5:15)


Important Dates and info for our Members:

Process Meeting: January 7 at Tacocat 7-9p
Title Card:   
Form Due February 12

Drop-off:      February 22-23, 8am-7pm
Install:         February 24-26
Pick-up:       April 18-22, 12-7pm

historic images from the presentation CD.

If you want to know about a specific building, follow the link to the folder structure:


the end!

A Resurgence of Historical Ladies’ Wear: Corsetry with Designer Larissa Boiwka

larissa (1)

Larissa Boiwka (pronounced Boy-eve-kah), a recent recipient of the Greater Columbus Art Council’s grants, and her Wilde Hunt Corsetry came to my attention through a Facebook post on the Art and Artists of 614.  I was totally enthralled by her artistry and amazingly detailed work.  I’ve never had a corset before but her work has sure made me think about that twice! I asked her if she would be interested in being interviewed and, happily, she said yes.

blue and gold corset

Not only did I interview her, but I got to take a great 3D embroidery class from her near the end of April. First, the interview and then a little bit about the class.

Originally from Amherst Ohio, she is both a first and second generation here in the USA…her dad immigrated from the Ukraine and her mother’s family immigrated (great grandparents on her mother’s side) from Germany and England…THAT is an interesting bloodline and could explain her love for history.

Creating came to her through her genes as her mother is an artist and raised Larissa in an environment that fostered creativity, artistry and creation. While her mom doesn’t enjoy sewing much, she taught Larissa the basics at an early age. ‘As far as corsetry is involved, I  am 100% self-taught through a lot of expensive mistakes!’


Like so many other artists I have interviewed, she states:

Yes, I have always been drawn to creating. I have thought about this a lot over the years, and I don’t think that you really get to choose. If you are an artist, you simply are. You can try to defer it, stifle it, but it will always surface. I feel that generally when an artist tries to forego art for another occupation, they end up pretty miserable.  Ask me how I know…ha ha!

Having a degree in anthropology from OSU, she has a passion for historic clothing, ancient cultures, cultural adornments and ethnic costumes that have inspired a lot of her work. ‘Towards the end of my degree I realized that while I am very interested in and inspired by ancient cultures, I did not want to spend my life in academia. I worked as a retail buyer for an art and jewelry gallery after college. It was during that time that I established Wilde Hunt Corsetry in 2007. ‘ She calls her work ‘art corsetry’ since it is a mix of fine art, traditional craft and fashion. Nature, Art Nouveau, antique furniture, ethnic textiles and jewelry, extreme contrasts and beautiful and distinctive women serve as inspiration for her gorgeous creations.


In addition to her own creations, she teaches couture embroidery and beading. She sometimes teaches Couture Embroidery and Beading at the Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD) or at her home studio. Since she believes that it is kind of a dying art form, she thinks it is important to pass on the techniques. Recently, she taught a course in am obscure medieval style of embroidery called Or Nue’ (nuance in gold). It is like painting with silk upon densely laid threads of gold. ‘The detail and subtlety possible in this medium is incredible.’ Unfortuntately, the best artisans in this style died without passing on their skills and so now, just a handful of them internationally practice this form of embroidery, having taught themselves through studying extant examples and trial and error. Fortunate for the Columbus art and fashion scene that Larissa is among them! Read more

Mixed Media At It’s Finest

20150307_120455Are you interested in learning mixed media techniques?  Would you rather learn them in person rather than online or through reading books?  I have got the instructor for you!!!  In March, I was fortunate enough to partake in a wonderful workshop with 10 other lovely ladies under the tutelage of the immensely creative and talented Christine Guillot Ryan at the McConnell Arts Center.

Christine at Chalk the Block last year

We started the two day workshop with an overview of what Christine wanted to teach us with lots of examples of how she incorporates these techniques into her own work.  We were able to see some of her finished pieces on display at the arts center for the Brave exhibition and, wow, was I inspired!  I couldn’t wait to get to work!

Christine's pieces for
Christine’s pieces for “Brave”

Christine first shared some books that she has found helpful to  explore a variety of techniques.  We introduced ourselves, shared our experience in creating mixed media and indicated what we hoped to learn during the workshop.  Each of us were given 2 – 16 x 24 canvas boards and were provided with materials and equipment to experiment with…a very relaxed and intimate atmosphere.

Using plastic wrap with paint

From there, Christine set up a palette of acrylic paints that she typically uses in her pieces and then she discussed the benefits of using acrylics vs. oils.  She explained the need for background, middle ground and foreground for our pieces to give them depth and texture before demonstrating painting the background.  At that point we learned about using bubble wrap, plastic wrap and various other textiles with paint to give the illusion of texture.

Another student incorporating tracing paper
Another student incorporating tracing paper

While the paint on those canvases dried, she discussed manipulation of xeroxing and gave a demonstration of the methods she used for this, particularly when manipulating text.  Everyone got into that! She had a ton of xeroxed images that we could use but we were encouraged to bring items like this to the class when given our materials list.

Using gel medium to apply paper

Time flew by that first day!  Just when I was beginning to really get into it, it was time to pack up for the day but what we learned certainly was fodder for the evening.  I gathered images from magazines, my stash of images, text and more for the next day’s adventures.

Demonstrating spray paint techniqes

Sunday was spectacular particularly because the winter dreariness seemed to have broken; the day was warm and sunny…perfect for our foray into spray painting.  Xeroxing was fun but it couldn’t compare to spray paint for me.  Christine demonstrated the techniques and showed us the materials and paints (mostly, Montana Gold but also paints from Lowe’s and Home Depot) she uses in her work.  Then she left us to play, play, play!  We sprayed on our canvases as well as on tracing paper that could then be used to create layers and more texture on our work.  Attaching these pieces and others using gel medium was also part of the instructions for both days.  She had tons of materials she shared with us like stencils, lace, plastic flowers, 3-d glasses, so much stuff I can’t even begin to describe it all.

Materials to use with spray painting
Materials to use with spray painting

Image transfer was also taught that day and she showed us two different methods for accomplishing this.  Fascinating and, although not extremely difficult, somewhat tricky.  I attempted this but think that I will have to have lots of trials before I’m happy with my results!  We also got to play with pan pastels, again to add depth and texture to our pieces.  Oh, my bank account is gonna be hurting!!!  I fell in love with these too!

During the last 90 minutes of class, Christine showed us how to finish our pieces to make them more permanent with a variety of gel mediums.  Once this demonstration was completed, she asked each of us to share our work the class, explain what we liked best about the class,  took pics of our work and gave us feedback on what we had created.

Students working
Students working

The majority of the ladies in the class stated that they loved the environment mainly because Christine was so supportive, non-judgmental and just plain fun!  I think that everyone there felt that they had learned a lot about mixed media even if they expressed that the were not sure if the would use the techniques in the future.

For me, the instructor (yay, Christine!) made the workshop enjoyable and encouraged movement around the class to talk to other participants, supported and encouraged but didn’t tell us what to do.  She was fun and funny as well as honest and forthright. I am so very glad that I took this because it was just what I needed to get myself out of a creative funk after recovering from surgery.  I would highly recommend taking classes from her and hope to do so again some time in the near future.

The beginnings of one of my pieces

Not only did Christine inspire me that weekend, the things I learned have carried over into the trio of pieces that I am creating for CAW’s upcoming show at Urban Arts Space in May entitled “Remnants”.  As you can see, I incorporated many of the techniques I learned but if you want to see the finished pieces, you will have to make your way downtown in May!

If you are interested in taking a class from Christine, she is hoping to offer another one at McConnell in the fall.  Check their upcoming schedules for dates and times.

Contact info for Christine:

Our Creative Rituals: the music

Music has been a constant in my life since I was an awkward 12 year old girl and my childhood best friend, Ronda, introduced me to Def Leppard and Duran Duran.  In my car, in the shower, the kitchen, at work, in my studio, it’s there.  Always.

Music often transports me to another place, allows me to settle in, exercise my vocal chords and if I’m alone, practice a few dance moves. Music also frames my creative ritual. A typical art day for me means a few steps out to my studio, lights on, heater on, incense lit and music on. What I listen to depends on my mood that day. Sometimes it’s my iPod on shuffle (Dixie Chicks to Led Zeppelin), other times it could be a One Republic album 75 times or Sirius set to alternative 80s or singer songwriters of the 70s. Many times it’s all of the above.

On occasion I try an audio book. It’s usually something funny. Life is too serious therefore everyone needs a little David Sedaris in their life and he reads them which makes them 100 times better. My personal favorites are Me Talk Pretty One Day and Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls.

When I asked friends about their listening & watching habits, this is what I found.

Allison Buenger – Nothing…or NPR, podcasts. This American Life, Radiolab, Invisibilia, Serial.

Stephanie Rond – I don’t watch anything but I do listen. If I have a full studio day full of intense creative thinking I shuffle all the Coldplay albums so I can go in and out of “it”.  I guess his voice and their music puts me into a meditative, inner dialogue state.  If I’m doing more of creative thinking in a productive rather than thinking….I listen to all kinds of music. If I’m doing super mundane stuff, like cutting stencils, I listen to podcasts.

Betsy DeFusco – I never watch anything when I am painting but almost always have music on.  Lately I have been listening to Yoyo Ma playing Bach, because that’s what my studio mate is into.  at first I didn’t like it, but now I love it.  Really helps you get in the zone.  Other days it’s lots of other things, ranging from classical to pop (Taylor Swift fan) to Broadway tunes.  It kind of has to be something I can dance around my studio to.

Amy Leibrand – If I’m shooting in the studio, I listen to moody music; stuff that hits me in the gut tends to get the mind going.  If I’m doing less creative things, like framing or staining, I listen to NPR or podcasts.

Mollie Hannon – When I take actual photos, I don’t listen to anything.  To be honest I’ve never tried it.  When I edit photos I listen to music.  It really depends, but most of the time it’s mixes I make with lots of slow intentional melodic music, like Andrew Bird and Beirut.  When I write I listen to music as well, but it’s usually something more aggressive, with a faster pace.  Finally when I assemble art pieces I don’t listen to anything at all because it’s usually last minute and I’m in a rush and I need to super de-duper focus.

Lisa McLymont – I just flew through watching the Deadwood series while working. Talk radio. For sounds, Meshell Ndegeocello, Cinematic Orchestra, Little Dragon, and Sbtrkt are my go-tos, and Glass Animals is my new ear candy.

I play things when I want to get into a groove. I’ve tried to play different things for different projects, but I don’t like focusing too much on these details when I’d rather be focused on making! This is connected to why I forget to eat while working in the “zone”

Caroline Kraus – I do a lot of driving so music always fills my car. When I’m shooting during a bright sunny day, music from Donovan, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, mixed in with a whole lotta music from Stax Records, Motown, and Muscle Shoals.

In the evening at that beautiful golden hour, things slow down and darken a bit with Junior Kimbroug, Lee Moses, The Xx & of course one of my favorites, The Velvet Underground.

But as the sun takes the light, the music gets darker still. My car fills with the reverb of my favorite band, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Joined with the likes of, The Kills, Black Angels, Iggy & The Stooges, The Oh Sees, The Cramps & Deap Vally.

At home editing, I go between music, podcasts, and movies. It really just depends on which way the wind blows.

Tom Waits, Patti Smith, Ratatat, Thievery Corporation & Spindrift all help me focus down.

I have recently been obsessed with The Harry Dean Stanton, Partly fiction, doc on Netflix. The pacing is great.

Of course the Serial podcast got me through many hours of editing. But I also listen to 99% invisible, Savage Love, Radiolab, SModcast & Every day feminist.

If this post sparked something and you’re curious about the habits and routines (audial and other) of other famous creatives, you might want to check out Daily Rituals: how artists work by Mason Currey published in 2013 by Knopf.

Feeding Creativity

Creativity is like a fat, needy cat. You must nurture it, care for it, and feed it to keep it thriving and healthy. As someone who has experienced a creative lull early in adult life, I know what happens when you let your creativity sit idle. I blame my lull on a variety of factors, including a bad high school art teacher/uninspiring college classes, a lack of creative partners, and general laziness on my part.




Like most people who feel uncreative, I thought that my dearth of creative output was due to some innate lacking. However, in truth, I’d just had it drilled out of me and I needed to do a little work to call it forth again. Really, what I needed was a creative exorcism.


Right before she puked creativity everywhere.


Luckily, at the end of my fourth year of college, as I was nearing graduation with a Bachelors in Journalism, I FREAKED OUT.

Long story short, I started taking studio art classes and began an internship in the Education Department at the Columbus Museum of Art, which eventually turned into a jobby job. I began exploring various media and art concepts, something I was able to do at school and work. I met people who became my collaborators (RIP Art Club).


Art Club, when we were powerful business women.


Slowly, but surely, I became a creative person again! What was really cool was that, though I had switched my focus towards the visual arts, I became more creative in other ways, such as writing. As a journalism student, my writing had been grammatically sound but mind-numbingly boring, even to me.  Now it’s not, I think…

So, now that my brain is “fixed” and I’m creative again, I’m very careful to keep it happy and fed on a regular basis, lest I become a sad, Fox News watching sheeple, with no ideas of my own.


Without creativity, the terrorists have really won.


Here’s how I do it:

  • Never go too long without a project. It’s nice to take a break but if it’s too long, I get antsy. It’s not that I’m a super serious, prolific artist, I just always have something on the horizon.
  • Collaboration! I’m better at going solo now than I was during my creative resurrection, but it still helps. That’s why I joined CAW. Even if we’re not working on a project together, a community of creative minds is inspiring, motivating, and fun.
  • Make life into a creative project. I’ve been planning my wedding lately and I’ve had a really good time making the invitations, coming up with a killer look, and envisioning decorations. I figure, if it’s not fun and creative, why do it?
  • Remember to be creative at my creative job. The longer I’ve worked at CMA, the more administrative duties I’ve had to take on. BORING. So, I have to remind myself to take time for creative ideas because that’s what makes my programs good and that’s what makes my job rule.
  • Healthy patterns. It may sound lame, but I can be the most creative when my house is clean, my fridge is stocked, I’ve exercised, and my other chores are out of the way. I try to keep up good habits between projects, so that it doesn’t get too chaotic when I’m in a frantic time crunch.
  • Constant inspiration. This one is easy because it gives me a good excuse to read a lot of books, watch a lot of movies, listen to a lot of music, and go to a lot of museums. Some of my more unique sources of inspiration are quirky museums and roadside stops, old toys, campy sci-fi, and punk rock aesthetics, just to name a few.


I’ve seen this movie a bajillion times.


At this point, I may not be an amazing artist but I’m totally owning what I am and it feels great. I know I will only get better.

So, I’m curious, how do you FEED your creativity?

Vicki Oster interviews Donna McCarty-Estep

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Donna McCarty-Estep is the driving force behind the collective arts group known as Cap City Creatives, a talented painter and photographer and has become a friend over the last couple of years through our many meetings at art shows and my attending some of CCC’s meetings. I was fortunate to feature her on my blog in August 2013 and I’m psyched to write about her once again on the CAW blog so here goes!

Originally from a small town in southern Ohio’s Highland County (New Petersburg), she has always been drawn to creating art. When she entered college, she chose to major in pre-law but quickly changed to Visual Arts before finally setting on Art Education. Donna made her way to the central portion of the state after graduating from Wilmington College in 2001. She and her best friend decided to get the heck out of small town Ohio so allowed a coin toss to direct their future. Heads was Columbus; tails would be Cincinnati. Guess we know how that turned out!

donna 1

Although she is professionally trained as an art educator with a BA in Art, she has never actually taught in a school setting. After interviewing for several positions, she got a job working for an art and educational dealer and liked it so much that she chose to follow the retail path. She is now the store manager for United Art and Education at Mill Run. As she states: I love working the other side of the teaching coin. I work with teachers and artists on a daily basis and feel that I have made my impact there, all while being able to do my own art as well. Read more

Talking about stories of the past at a new studio with CAW member Mary Ann Crago

Mary Ann Crago just relocated her creative quarters to a newly renovated garage studio. From the inspiration wall to the shelves of bits and baubles to the finished works, the space is pure magic! As I listened to her reflect on past work, it seems that the studio has entered her life at the perfect time. After evolving her practice as a mixed media artist, she now has the space to build and expand her body of assemblage work. With an “installation-ish” piece planned for CAW’s Remnants in May and a solo show at Tacocat in September, this year promises to be one of exploration and pushing boundaries.


After studying at CCAD you continued working at the library and attained your Master’s of Library Science. What brought you back to art?

I had been working on art all along, just not a lot. School and my library job had taken precedence over everything else, but I missed it. When I’m not creating, I’m just not as happy. I had a friend who did festivals and I would go see her at this one festival. I was kind of inspired by it. I remember leaving thinking, I should be doing this too. From that point I pursued that specific festival. I reached out to the organizer and expressed interest. I didn’t think it would happen, but she had a spot because someone had dropped away and I was in the very next summer, which is crazy. So that was some motivation to actually start creating and making some work and it was fabulous. That summer was really great.

Your work evolved from more painterly landscapes (first in watercolor and later in acrylics) to mixed media assemblage. What made you gravitate towards this new way of working?

I was in the same place for a long time with my work, especially with a lot of my paintings. At an Ohio Art League art talk I remember an artist pushing me a little bit in a really supportive way. He just kind of threw the idea out there that maybe I should try something else because what I had been doing for a long time was really safe. It stuck with me. I started exploring and looking at books – reading a lot about creativity in other artists. I’ve always been intrigued by fabric and collage artists. A lot of time people use collage as a way to explore creativity in a way that is less structured. This triggered something in me. So I just started thinking, what if? What if I added some cut paper elements to this painting? What if I would try this or try that? I experimented with gold leaf and with adding little bits and pieces. I drilled into panels and added grommets. I started adding painted panels to boxes or drawers that I would find. It has just evolved from there. I have tried to not worry so much about it being what I was taught in school that art needed to be. It sounds cheesy, but I felt like it was freeing. At some point, I gave myself permission to experiment and to try things. When I was painting I felt much more of a struggle than I feel now with the mixed media pieces. I don’t have these preconceived ideas of what it should look like. I have no idea. I just let it be.


In addition to incorporating all sorts of bits as well as sculpted bird heads, you now scavenge old forgotten photographs to use in your work. How do you pick the photographs?

I try to stay away from extra creepy photographs. I think there is energy around objects, but I definitely think there is energy with photos. I am really drawn to pictures of women and kids. I have the occasional man photo too, but they just aren’t as interesting to me. I have refined what I look for. Early on I would collect or gather any old thing, but as I have started working with them I have a better feel for what I like and don’t like. I like actual photographs, not printed postcards. There is a lightness and darkness in the photos that I am drawn to. When I incorporate dots, the white against those lights and darks is amazing to me. There is something really special about their eyes, too. When I see it, I know it. Sometimes in photographs their eyes will connect with the camera as if it’s not even a photograph. It’s like you are sitting there staring at this person and they’re alive. Things that are atypical like groupings of people or family members are really interesting, especially when there is something odd happening in the picture. For instance, if not everyone is looking where they should be. Sometimes there is information about the person, like their name or the year, but often there isn’t. It is like there’s a story there, but you don’t know what it is. There are no real clues other than the image itself.

One of my favorite things about you is your love of books, which is totally fitting since you are Mary Ann the librarian. Words and narrative have entered your work in a very big way. Is this new?

Yeah I think it’s new. It has always been something that I’ve thought about. Sometimes I have hints of ideas that are just a glimmer of something that hasn’t quite solidified and I don’t know how to make it happen. The word thing has intrigued me for a little while, even when I was painting. Some of the earlier mixed media pieces I would incorporate a lot of numbers, which was a way to start playing with text. The photograph pieces are a perfect scenario for using text or words. Like I mentioned before, these people have stories, but I don’t know what they are. It is fun thing to figure out or create the story for them.


You are going a step further and incorporating the public into the story-telling aspect of your work. You did this by crowd-sourcing ideas for Woman as Truthvia Facebook for your tile in the Woman As ___ exhibit. You also did this at the Upper Arlington Labor Day Arts Festival this past summer. Can you describe your booth?

[Along with my art,] I set up a typewriter and put a photo out. I asked people to come up with their own story or what they thought about the women and kid in the picture. It was amazing. It was really cool to see how people interacted with that photo – what they were thinking and what they saw in that picture. I have goose bumps just now thinking about it.

So the photograph and typed text was the impetus for a piece of art. Have you made it?

Not yet, but I will!


Speaking of festivals, congratulations on your recent first place award at Upper Arlington’s Labor Day Arts Festival! You exhibit in both festivals and more traditional gallery spaces. Does the venue inform your work?

I don’t know that it does. I make the kind of work that I make. I personally like showing in all ways, but enjoy the festival setting more. I like interacting with people and observing them as they are interacting with my pieces. I love selling work. Obviously that’s awesome. It is cool to meet and talk to the people who are taking my art home. My work doesn’t really change depending on where it is. I enjoy both settings, but love knowing where my art is going at festivals.

You will be exhibiting in CAW’s upcoming exhibition Remnants at the Urban Arts Space in May 2015. The theme is perfect for your body of work. What do you have planned?

I have a plan and hopefully it will happen as planned. I want to explore the same path as my recent work with photographs and stories. I have thought a lot about the six degrees of separation. So I will have a big collection of pieces with photographs of people or animals and stories and how they are connected in different ways. I am still figuring out logistically what that will look like. I see red string. I see words. It is a little overwhelming to me when I think about it because it could be pretty massive. So I am trying to figure out how to make it manageable. Maybe there is a smaller set of these finished pieces and one bigger overall piece. Maybe kind of installation-ish which I haven’t really done.

Visit to view more of Mary Ann’s portfolio.

Interview completed by Allison Buenger.

Talking about opposites with CAW member April Sunami

April Sunami’s studio is an attic space full of windows and lots of pieces and parts. Each nook is full of potential tesserae for her mosaicked paintings. Our conversation about her impressive body of work felt like part studio visit and part treasure hunt as she searched to find examples of supplies. With a Master’s in Art History, April weaves together the past and the present in her depictions of women. Their faces are painted in a realistic style surrounded by highly patterned and abstracted veils or hair. Her works are a study in opposites: past and present, rough and smooth, abstraction and figuration, among others.


People familiar with your body of work instantly recognize your style? When did this theme surface in your work?

I’ve been doing this particular body of work for about eight years now. It began with one image of a woman with a stylized face and her hair was all abstracted and going upwards. Something drew me to this theme. When I started it was really this exploration of doing the hair. I was very inspired by Gustav Klimt, and still am. This theme has become a language for me to think about and do other things. Now it is a way to explore materials.

Do the figures represent specific women?

A series of portraits in 2008 were all named after African deities and queens. They weren’t meant to capture anyone’s likeness, but rather the essence of what they protected or stood for. Yemaya was over water. Songi was over wealth. I’ve always been attracted to Greek mythology and with this it was an exercise in capturing the essence of a broad thing such as water, childbirth, wealth. It was also a cultural thing. Everyone knows about Greek goddesses, but no one talks about or knows who the African goddesses are. It was my way of bringing attention and claiming them. I was exhuming those ladies from being buried.

What is the significance of the hair?

The mosaics are representative of hair or body coverings. It is kind of irrelevant if it is a stand in for hair. My preoccupation is combining two disparate elements: the figurative and the abstract. It is mainly hair, but it could be anything. I am attracted to opposites. The formalist elements of exploring pure aesthetics combined with the fact that I use black women as the figures also has some social connotations for me.

You studied Art History at Ohio University. How does your work relate to art history? Why is portraiture important to you?

Art history informs a lot of what I do. I bring that knowledge, but often my work is more intuitive than intellectual. Portraiture is important to me right now. What really speaks to me is the female face. I like doing portraits because it helps tell a story. It is something people can connect to and it’s what I connect to. There is something universal and timeless about the human figure. You see it in all cultures from the beginning of art history. It represents us and we are constantly creating our own image.


When did you start incorporating mixed media elements, like glass, paper and globs of paint paper to your works?

I started experimenting with mixed media in maybe 2008 or 2009. It first started out with incorporating broken automobile glass. I liked the effect of it, so I tried other things. It was about using materials I already had and that were pretty worthless. I figured out ways to make something beautiful out of something broken – junk basically.

Is there a significance in using broken glasses or dishes and making them whole again?

There is a certain element of disappointment when anything gets broken, but repurposing that for something that is aesthetically pleasing feels good.

This ties into your plan for Remnants, the upcoming CAW exhibition at the Urban Arts Space in May 2015. You have a little concept sketch hanging up. Can you describe the project?

This is just in the planning phase, so what may actually happen might be completely different. So far what I have conceptualized are three large paintings using glass and perhaps paper beads made from magazines. I want to incorporate this theme of urban shrines into the work. Urban shrines are something that I see often in my community. Where people have fallen prey to violence, friends and family try to commemorate that person by setting out a display or memorial of bottles. I would like to set up a small installation of bottles it in front of the central piece in this trinity of paintings. In addition [the painted figures] are meant to recall Mary, the Holy Mother. I would like the halo for the central piece to be bullets.

I value how you bridge seemingly disparate themes. You touched on figuration and abstraction, and in your Remnants piece you are bringing together devotion and destruction. What other themes do you see emerging in your new work in 2015?

I have been fascinated recently by sugar skulls. I had the opportunity to work with many Latino artists to construct a traditional cemetery and offer Katrina face paintings to patrons of High Ball last year. I was working with Global Gallery who received a national grant through NEA to incorporate Dia de los Muertos into the event. I was totally inspired by the whole aesthetic of the mash-up between Catholicism and indigenous culture, this cultural fusion of sorts. I hope to get out of the muted palette of last year. All of 2014 my paintings have been sad and blue. I am claiming 2015 as my festive, “go for it” year!


Visit to view more of April’s portfolio.