Tag Archives: Artisan

Southern Maker: Julie Guyot

Today’s post is a long time coming.  I met Julie Guyot back when I wrote a little story on her for the Thomasville Townie.  That day, I fell hard for her work.

 Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls

Plus, it helps that she is so adorable and sweet!

Since then, I’ve visited her in her studio at Thomasville Center for the Arts  multiple times, and I’ve been fortunate enough to start calling her a friend while adding a couple of her pieces to my collection.

Thomasville Studio Space,  Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & PearlsCeramics by Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls Ceramic Heart Cake Stand by Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls Ceramic Coffee Mugs by Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls

THE ARTIST

Julie, a resident of nearby Tallahassee, Florida, grew up in rural Illinois and graduated with her BFA in ceramics from Southern Illinois University in 1994. She earned her MFA in studio art from Florida State University in 2008 and has been here, with her husband, Clayton and their two dogs, Lucy and Rudy, ever since. This past October, Julie was selected as TCA’s very first artist in residence. In January, she moved her kiln into the studio space at 209 Remington Avenue (aka Studio 209), where she began hand forming and firing her work, as well as teaching classes and entertaining folks who stop by (aka me).

Julie has walked me through each step of her process on our visits, and I’m constantly in awe that a pile of clay that (really) looks more akin to mud can turn into the creative, bright, colorful creations you see.

Clay, Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls Hand Formed Vase by Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls Hand Formed Vase in its Earliest State, by Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls Hand Formed Vase by Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls Hand Formed Vase by Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls Hand Formed Vases by Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & PearlsJulie forms her pieces from slabs of clay, sometimes using various tools besides her two hands.  Each indentation she makes by pinching here or pulling there, and she either stamps or signs each one.

Ceramic Stamp by Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls

She uses molds for some bowls and plates, for consistency’s sake, but each mold can be modified with a simple addition or subtraction.

 Ceramic Molds, by Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls Bowl and its Mold, by Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls

When it comes to the colors and hand drawn decals that she fires onto each piece, she draws inspiration from stories and pictures of her grandparents, as well as the neons and patterns of her own life experiences in the 80s. It’s clear she is inspired by the natural world as well –honey bees, birds, and colorful florals are an oft recurring theme. Ceramic Plates by Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls Bee Vase by Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls Bee Vase by Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls Dinner Plates by Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls

THE PROCESS

Julie creates her layered look not only by having multiple layers of clay, pigments and glazes (and often incorporating fabric into the final design), but also by having her own drawings, vintage photographs, and other prints transferred onto special decals. The process basically goes like this: each ceramic piece is fired once, called a bisque firing, which removes the water from the clay. Then, Julie layers varying stains and glazes in another round of firings for each one. Finally, she applies her decals and the piece goes through a final round of firing. The end result is quirky yet delicate, retro and modern at the same time.

Hand Drawn Decals on Ceramics, Before Final Firings,  Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls

Coffee Mug Detail, by  Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls

Julie tests pigments and colors out on these little bits of scrap clay.  I’m currently lobbying for them to be turned into business card holders.

Glaze Testing, Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls

It’s pretty amazing how the same pigment can look so different with a glaze and without one.

Same Color, Different Glaze Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls

Once the piece is formed, has had its bisque firing, and has had its colors and glazes fired on, it’s ready for decals.  Julie hand draws them, and then applies them much like a temporary tattoo.

Wet. Slide on. Press the air out.  Repeat.

Applying Hand Drawn Decals to Ceramics, Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls Applying Hand Drawn Decals to Ceramics, Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls Applying Hand Drawn Decals to Ceramics, Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls Applying Hand Drawn Decals to Ceramic Pieces,  Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls Ceramics by  Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls

Then each piece gets fired yet again.  These dark decals you see above will turn lighter after their high heat firing.  See those little hearts sticking out?  They will receive a color decal, which requires a final, lower temperature firing.  Each firing takes a day or two from start to finish and involves preheating the kiln to cooling and removing everything in it.  And she does it five to six times for each piece.  Exhausted yet?  Because after all that, she usually does a Borax wash to age the ceramics, or as Julie says “make them not look so clean.”

Note to Self,  Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls

Applying Hand Drawn Rose Decals to her Ceramics,  Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls Applying Hand Drawn Decals to Ceramic Bowl,  Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls Applying Her Hand Drawn Rose Decals to Her Ceramic Bowl,  Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls Rose Bowl, by  Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls

Julie tells me she is loving the residency at TCA in Studio 209 (which is the old Coca-Cola bottling plant). “I’m enjoying the energy it provides and the building that I work in, with its exposed brick, has started influencing my work.” Julie even drew the rose motif especially for the Thomasville and the Rose Show, which now adorns a series of coffee mugs, cake stands, and cheese boards, (designed with local Sweet Grass Dairy in mind, of course).

THE SHOP

You can find Julie and her work at TCA in Thomasville, but in case you’re not close, Julie also has an Etsy shop, Six Milch Cows.

Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls Photographing Pieces for her Etsy Shop, Six Milch Cows, Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls

 Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls  Julie Guyot, TCA Artist in Residence | Oysters & Pearls

I consider myself so fortunate to have met and gotten to know Julie over the past few weeks.
My hope is that you feel like you have, too.
Drop by her studio on Tuesdays, shop in her Etsy Shop, read her Journal, or follow her on Instagram!

Thomasville Center for the Arts, Artist in Residence Program

Six Milch Cows on Etsy

www.julieguyot.com

Julie Guyot on Instagram

Until Next Time

Southern Makers: Black Swamp

Up next in the O&P Southern Makers Series: Katie Thompson of Black Swamp.

Cypress Spiral Cuff from Black Swamp Co | Oysters & Pearls

I was fortunate enough to stumble across Katie Thompson’s work on Instagram, and I couldn’t get her spiral cuff bracelets out of my head.  Fortunately for me, Katie made me a few to choose from and sent one Cypress cuff (above) and a couple Black Walnut Cuffs (below) my way.  I couldn’t resist photographing them on another Low Country staple: a handcrafted Sweetgrass basket.  The two really make a perfect pairing.

Black Walnut Spiral Cuffs from Black Swamp Co | Oysters & Pearls

Just outside of Charleston, Katie and her husband Joseph live on the edge of Black Swamp, where together they design and build furniture at Joseph Thompson Woodworks.  Katie helps design the furniture and Joseph brings their visions to life.  In the midst of all this wood working, Katie found a way to breathe new life into the exquisite wood shavings left on the floor.  And so, Black Swamp Co. was born.  When I asked Katie about owning her own business she promptly replied, “I get to do what I love with the person I love!”  And each piece of jewelry from Black Swamp is a little labor of love.

Black Walnut Bracelet, Handmade by Katie Thompson at Black Swamp Co | Oysters & Pearls

My mom told me a story about how Black Walnut is so valuable, that once she went on vacation, and she came home to find that a neighboring, enormous Black Walnut tree had been felled in her absence.  Tree theft!  You can understand why though, when you look at how beautiful these Black Walnut cuffs are.  Katie used sapwood for these cuffs, which explains the color variation.

Two Black Walnut Cuff Bracelets, Handmade Outside Charleston, South Carolina by Black Swamp Co | Oysters & Pearls

The Cypress cuff is really special.  A sunken Cypress log washed up out of the swamp behind Katie and Joseph’s house, as if it knew it was destined for more than an eternity in the muck and mire.    After aging and drying out for three years, mine (below) was the first bracelet Katie made with it.

Sunken Cypress is so special because it is old growth Cypress.  Felled up to a century ago, the trees were easily 700 years old at that time.  When these trees were logged in and around the swamps of the Southeast, they were floated downriver to sawmills.  However, many of these logs sunk and were subsequently entombed in the beds of the rivers and swamps for the next century.  “Deadheaders” and “River Loggers” often dive for the submerged old growth Cypress logs and salvage them.  Katie was lucky enough to have one show up at her back door.  And I am lucky enough to have a small piece of it.

Sunken Pecky Cypress Bracelet from Black Swamp Co | Oysters & Pearls

To make the cuffs, Katie uses an ancient technique of steaming the wood, bending it around a form, then letting it dry for 24 hours.  She seals all her wooden jewelry with a water-proof and UV-proof sealant (although she doesn’t recommend wearing any of her pieces to the beach).

Black Walnut Spiral Cuff Bracelet by Black Swamp Co  | Oysters & Pearls

Katie also makes earrings and necklaces from their wood shop’s wood shavings.  Remember when I spotted her at the High Wire Distillery in Charleston?

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Turns out, High Wire is owned by Katie’s family – it’s such a small world!  If you’re in South Carolina, you can find Black Swamp at these fine retailers:

Canvas Salon – Charleston, SC

High Wire Distillery – Charleston, SC

SpaceCraft Studios – Charleston, SC

Cavortress – Mount Pleasant, SC

But thanks to the internet, we can all have a little piece of Black Swamp Co. to call our own.

Handmade Cypress Spiral Cuff by Katie Thompson at Black Swamp Co | Oysters & Pearls

See more of Katie and Joseph’s work at: www.jwtwoodworks.com

Read more from Katie herself on her blog: www.ktthompson.com

And shop Black Swamp Co. for yourself on her website: www.blackswamp.co

Until Next Time

Southern Restoration Furniture’s Marc Ventry

Sunday afternoon, Wheat and I pulled up to an unassuming metal warehouse in downtown Quincy, Florida.  The only indication it wasn’t abandoned was a mailbox labeled “VENTRY,” and a box fan in an open sliding door.  Marc Ventry met us at the steps and led us to his “office:” a 2500 Chevy truck.

Marc Ventry | Oysters & Pearls

Marc pulled from the back of his “office” what we had come here for: a custom-made cutting board just for me, painstakingly built out of heart pine tobacco slats from his family farm.

Extra Large Custom Tobacco Slat Cutting Board by Marc Ventry | Oysters & Pearls

24″ by 24″ inches of gorgeous heart pine, steeped in history.

Custom Tobacco Slat Cutting Board | Oysters & Pearls

In case you’re wondering what tobacco slats are,  or even what heart pine is, let’s have a quick lesson.

Heart pine is the center of a pine tree, which is prized for its hardness, strength, longevity, resistance to rot, and beautiful coloration.  Old heart pine is most often from the center of the enormous long leaf pine trees that once blanketed the South.  Long leaf is a slow growing pine, and once the century old stands were felled for timber, the trees were most often replaced with slash pine, which is quick growing.  Between their short-lived replacements and lack of controlled burning, long leaf pines are pretty hard to find these days, especially in the numbers they once were.  The Nature Conservancy and some private landowners have made a big effort to restore the long leaf and wiregrass ecosystem, especially in my hometown of Bristol, Florida… But that’s another story for another day.

Back to the boards.  This part of North West Florida and South West Georgia was prime shade tobacco farming land back in the day (and some of it still goes on – our good friends at Hopkins Farms still farm tobacco).  Shade tobacco from the area was used as the outer wrapper on cigars.  When the tobacco was harvested, it was strung up on tobacco slats and hung in barns to dry.  Those hundred year old long leaf pines were turned into tobacco slats about eighty years ago, making this wood easily a couple hundred years old today.

Tobacco farming around these parts essentially went the way of the dinosaur by the 1970s, and many farmers turned to tomatoes.  The tobacco slats were repurposed for tomato stakes (or fire kindling), and the tobacco barns were repurposed into furniture and wedding venues.

But fortunately, some farmers just piled the slats up and shut the barn door.  Thus some of these slats are still around, and folks like Marc Ventry are turning these vestiges of farms past into present works of art.

Marc generously allowed us to poke around his workshop, and he even showed us how he makes his cutting boards, step by step.

First, Marc planes each slat down and glues them together with food-grade glue, clamping them together until the glue is dry.

Glued and Clamped Tobacco Slats for Cutting Board | Oysters & Pearls

Once the glue is dry, Marc has the bare bones of a cutting board.

Tobacco Slats Glued Together for Cutting Board | Oysters & Pearls

Beautiful, beautiful bones.

Tobacco Slats, Glued Together for Cutting Board | Oysters & Pearls

Even at this stage, you can tell this is going to be something special.

Edge of Unfinished Tobacco Slat Cutting Board | Oysters & Pearls

Next he runs the entire thing through his planer and cuts it in half crossways.  This way, the finished sides will match up perfectly.  He places more planed tobacco slats perpendicularly between the two sides for reinforcement and to keep it from bowing.  This, in turn, makes the edges the very prettiest part of the boards.

Tobacco Slat Cutting Board, Edge Detail | Oysters & Pearls

On the edge, you can see how the tobacco slats match up on both sides of the board, the wide color and pattern variation between the slats, and the care with which each slat was chosen and placed.
This attention to detail is what sets these cutting boards apart and makes them true works of art, rife with Southern history and family heirloom potential.

Finally, Marc rubs the finished boards down with a homemade mixture of oil and beeswax… from his own bee hives.

I know.

He even has his own line of beeswax products called Nunya Beeswax, which is completely awesome, and includes scented hand balm and chapstick.

Nunya Beeswax | Oysters & Pearls

Fortunately for me, he brought me these to sample.  I have since retired my Burt’s Bees chapstick, and I’ve been carrying one of each of these around with me at all times.  I love that the hand balm is lighter in my purse than a bottle of lotion and poses no risk of spillage.  And the lavender smells divine.

To top it all off, this renaissance man, who is even an organic farmer, builds furniture.  In addition to custom pieces for local furniture haven H&H Furniture in Havana, Florida and private clients, he also builds shabby chic furniture out of his collection of odds and ends and a plethora of old doors.

Old Door, Soon-to-be Shabby Chic Table | Oysters & Pearls

This door is destined to be a glass-covered table, and will eventually be available for sale, along with Nunya Beeswax products and his tobacco slat picture frames at Miss Mandy’s Cottage Living in Tallahassee, Florida.

Custom Tobacco Slat Picture Frame by Marc Ventry | Oysters & Pearls

This is a custom tobacco slat frame built for a customer that Marc happened to have on hand to show us.  A frame (or two, or ten) is next on my list of things to acquire from the Marc Ventry inventory.

Custom Tobacco Slat Picture Frame, Corner Detail | Oysters & Pearls

There has been a slow tip-toeing back to shopping local, back to caring about where our food comes from, back to purchasing high-quality, handmade goods.

Marc is a living, breathing testament to all of the above. We call products like his cutting boards “artisanal” these days because you can’t buy them at a mall.

I’d rather visit a saw-dusty warehouse and have a beer with an “artisan” any day.

Tobacco Slat Cutting Board | Oysters & Pearls

You can find Marc Ventry’s “artisanal” work at these fine local retailers:

Southern Restoration Furniture:
Miss Mandy’s Cottage, Tallahassee, Florida

H&H Furniture & Design, Havana, Florida

Nunya Beeswax:
Native Nurseries, Tallahassee, Florida
The Honey Tree, Tallahassee, Florida
Sew Woodstock, Bearsville, New York
Sweet Grass Dairy Cheese Shop, Thomasville, Georgia
The Queen Bee, Havana, Florida
Shine Jewelry Boutique, Tallahassee, Florida

For custom work inquiries, email Marc at marcventry@gmail.com.
You can purchase his tobacco slat cutting boards, frames, and see more of Marc’s work at www.southernrestorationfurniture.com

You can follow along with Marc’s many adventures on Instagram @marcventure

This is not a sponsored post. I am simply smitten with these uniquely Southern and “artisanal” local goods.

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