If you’re looking for Christmas gifts that show your Alabama state pride, look no further than at artist Sony Clemmons’s folk art. Her whimsical Alabama folk art ornaments, prints and textiles can be found in stores throughout North Alabama. [Read more…] about Sonya Clemmons tells inspiring southern stories through her artwork
This week we’re rewinding episode 27 of the Birmingham Shines podcast featuring Birmingham mixed media artist Susan Shoemaker, who works under the name pencilpress.
As it happens, Susan / @pencilpress / is the featured artist for this month’s Birmingham Artwalk downtown.
Susan markets her work under the pencilpress brand, which connects to her college art studies in printmaking and her love of drawing. And she also presses hard with her pencil. Hence, pencilpress.
Susan is known for her animal-focused art and she explains how she conceives and creates animal drawings, paintings and other works.
Art as Calling, Art as Career
We get into art-as-calling (a little bit) the creative process, art in schools and what it’s like to pursue art while working a full-time day job.
Susan also explains how she gave up art for some years after college, while she worked full time, and then returned when she found that art was something that she could not let go.
Susan also talks about some of the challenges that artists are facing—and they might surprise you. One is the challenge of dealing with bad weather during an outdoor art show. Another stems from the frequent requests that artists receive to donate their work for fundraising campaigns. This is something that the artist community, overall, is facing and working to address.
We also talk about the challenge of pricing and value and perceptions of price, time, value and quality in the context of art AND food.
PencilPress.org (not .com)
Thanks to Chris and Ana Newsome for letting me commandeer a corner table at [the original location of Ollie Irene] at 4 p.m. one November Friday afternoon to record the interview and thanks to the house staff for being so accommodating with the request to turn down the background music a bit. Excited that Ollie Irene will soon be reopening in their new location in Crestline Village.
Last year some of us women who regularly attend SEC (Southeastern Conference) football games were a little perplexed because of the newly implemented clear bag policy at all of stadiums. The SEC implemented the new policy as an extra security measure because of the size of the venues and crowds according to a statement released by the SEC “Football stadiums are the largest venues in the world, therefore fan safety is of the upmost priority” the statement read.
The new policy meant I could no longer carry my cute team –logoed purse into the games. The policy not only stated the bag had to be clear, but it also required that all bags had to be a certain size. I also looked for the regulated bag in team shops around Birmingham and could not find one I liked. I finally settled for and bought a bag I saw at one of the bookstores in Auburn before the first home game. While entering the stadium last year, I saw many women having to check their bags at a tractor- trailer storage unit outside of Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium because they didn’t have the regulated purse or bag to enter.
My experience was not uncommon, and in fact, a similar experience is what led North Alabama entrepreneurs and friends Brittany Trapp and Laura Beth Agee to open their store Purseption. Brittany and Laura have been friends since kindergarten. Brittany attended Auburn and Laura attended Alabama and when they couldn’t find a cute PVC compliant bag when they went shopping, the two began designing their line of bags. Purseption is a line of genuine leather and PVC clear bag policy compliant bags.
“We went out shopping for a cute PVC compliant bag and couldn’t find one,” said Brittany Trapp, Co-Owner of Pursepetion. “We talked about it and thought that there must be other women who faced the same dilemma, so that’s how our company got started.”
According to their brand promise: “PURSEption” gives every stylish girl a style they want to emulate not just on gameday, but everyday. The two get their inspiration for the designs from the people around them, while at the same time, keeping functionality in mind. “We create our designs based on what people have told us they would like to see, our family and friends are our inspiration. Our goal is to create a line women would use not only on gameday, but everyday.” Brittany added.
The two have had a wild ride in their first year of business. The bags are currently a hot commodity. As soon as a bag is designed and made, it sells out. Dillard’s throughout the U.S. also carries the bags in stores and online. You also can purchase Purseption bags through their online store and in a variety of boutiques across the U.S. as well as at several boutiques in Alabama. The bags also meet the compliance policy for NFL games.
“Every entrepreneur needs to believe in themselves and the product or service they are offering,” said Brittany. “We are thrilled with how our business has been received in this first year, and are excited about where we are going in the future. We love what we do and we hope our customers love our bags as much as we do.”
No matter which football team you cheer for, we all can celebrate the fact that we now have a stylish clear bag option we can now purchase. I, for one, love the Brittany style bag and can’t wait to place my order!
Southern Makers an event, which celebrates southern creativity, came to Birmingham for the first time last weekend. Some of the best-of-the best southern artisans, creatives and makers who participated in the event showcased what makes them so special. I am personally thrilled to see a renaissance taking place in our culture where we have events like this that celebrate what makes southerners southern. Sheree Martin of Birmingham Shines and I attended the event to find out why we love celebrating southern culture.
We found unique products at the exhibitor booths that ranged from locally produced honey, to handmade leather goods to an on site barbershop to beautifully hand blown glass.
It was good to see familiar faces like Redland Cotton from Moulton, Alabama, Zkano Organic Socks from Ft. Payne, Alabama, Billy Reid of Florence, Alabama and Alabama Sweet Tea of Montgomery, Alabama. It also was fun to be introduced to new vendors like Lucy’s Inspired, a Birmingham jewelry company selling jewelry that tells a story, George Jones (not that George Jones) the broom maker and Debra Riffe, a linoleum block and woodcut printer.
Alabama breweries also offered samplings of their beers at the show. Breweries and craft beers have offered big entrepreneurial opportunities in Alabama after the law was changed in 2011 lifting restrictions on alcohol content in beer.
Perhaps the most intriguing vendor to me however, was the “Jackalope Queen” by Bunny Lane a New Orleans Taxidermy artist who displayed mutant rabbits dyed pink with unicorn horns. Who remembers the movie Hope Floats? The mother in that movie was a taxidermist whose home had the animals she preserved on display. You have to imagine the art display in that context, but a little more colorful. Bunny’s work can be seen in her gallery on Royal Street in the French Quarter in New Orleans.
For lunch I had a mascarpone grilled cheese with bacon and blueberry jam sandwich from Odette’s a café out of Florence, Alabama. It was wonderfully tasty and I paired it with Alabama’s Sweet Tea. I have wanted to eat at Odette’s every time I am in Florence, but have not had the opportunity.
The highlight of the day was a performance by The Pine Hill Haints of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. I would classify the band as a cross between a Cajun band and a rockabilly band. However, they describe themselves as a honky-tonk country band playing Alabama Ghost Music.
It is inspiring to see such an emphasis and celebration being placed on Southern makers. We too rejoice that we were able to discover a wealth of creativity and entrepreneurial spirit in these makers living in the South.
Every week or almost every week, I try to attend an event in Birmingham. I often wonder if people know how many events take place in this area on a weekly basis.
Last week I attended two theatrical performances that were outstanding. One was ‘Rain, a tribute to the Beatles’ it was similar to a performance I saw in London about five years ago. Performers who looked eerily like the Beatles performed a history of the Beatles music. It was a loud rock n’ roll event, but it kept us all entertained for two and half hours.
Friday I went to a performance of ‘Phantom of the Opera,’ which proved to be as entertaining as it was in London. The actor who played the Phantom was exceptional. There were few changes in the production itself, but overall, it was very well done.
I can truly say if you want something to do in Birmingham, you can find it.