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. Each piece of art is drawn- by- hand and tells a story about the people and places of the South. She also has gives back to her community through her artwork.[Read more…] about Artist, 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.
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.
My Christmas break usually lasts for about two weeks. It is a time for me to rest and relax with no worries about deadlines. I spend a lot of time with family and it’s typically very low key. My dogs love for me to be at home, because they get the constant attention they so lack when I am at work. This year, however, I decided to cap off the holiday season by taking my dad to the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, Louisiana where Auburn was playing Oklahoma on Jan. 2. Some friends that I sit beside at the Auburn home games had made plans to go to the Sugar Bowl after Auburn’s bowl game was announced. I really didn’t think much about going until I found out I could get tickets to the game cheaper through Stub Hub. Plus I was able to get a relatively reasonable price on a hotel room through Booking.com, so the decision to go was made.
It had been about five years since my last trip to New Orleans. A lot of people don’t particularly like New Orleans because of the 24/7 party atmosphere. I on the other hand, love the city, mainly because of the food, culture and music. I used to visit New Orleans every year, but since Hurricane Katrina I have not visited as often as I would like. The last time I was in New Orleans was in May 2011 around my birthday. I have always wanted to visit the city during the Christmas holidays. I’ve seen photos of the New Orleans hotels decorated for the holidays on social media, so I knew the holiday season would be beautiful. So not only was I going to the game but able to spend time in New Orleans during the holiday.
New Orleans has many historic hotels especially on Canal Street, the main street, and in the French Quarter. My dad and I arrived early in the evening on New Year’s Day. After checking into our hotel in the Garden District, we took the trolley to meet up with our friends at The Roosevelt Hotel. It was one of the hotels that I had seen on social media, the lobby was gorgeous. We had drinks in The Fountain Lounge and then walked to the French Quarter for dinner. We ended up eating at Felix’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar on Iberville Street in the Quarter. The restaurant is known for its charbroiled oysters, and I can testify that they do melt in your mouth. Being my father’s daughter, I struck up a conversation with the table next to me and met a woman who was a cancer survivor. She was vacationing in New Orleans for New Year’s Eve before starting a PR job in Las Vegas with MGM Entertainment. It’s funny how you meet interesting people when traveling. I have vowed to keep in touch with her.
On Monday morning, my dad and I ate breakfast at the Trolley Stop Cafe in the Garden District before meeting up with our friends. (I highly recommend the restaurant!) After we caught up with them, we hung out a while at the Marriott Hotel where the Auburn football team was staying. We saw former players and cheerleaders and, of course, Aubie the Auburn mascot. My dad stayed at the hotel while my friends and I walked around the French Quarter again. We went to see the Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone. Part of the experience at the bar is that it slowly turns around the room. After walking around Bourbon Street we returned to the Marriott and got ready for the game.
The game didn’t turn out exactly as I hoped it would, but the night did. After the game we ended up at the world famous Cafe Du Monde for coffee and beignets. The trip was fun despite Auburn’s loss. Plus I was able to spend time with my dad and my Auburn friends who have become more like family.