The WNC Design Guide, launched by sculptural-basket artist Matt Tommey a year ago, is already a fresh concept: 24 high-level artisans were distinguished from a region teeming with them, their work tightly curated into a print and online resource. The guide is aimed at culturally conscious homeowners — those wanting to tap the local maker scene in a meaningful way when designing their spaces, but not sure where to begin looking for art pieces, or how.
An upcoming show at the Studios at Flat Rock goes even a little further, spinning a third dimension into the project. In featuring roughly half of the Design Guide artists, the exhibit unites patrons with the artisans whose work they’ve come to know.
Studios at Flat Rock owner Suzanne Camarata Ball wants to make shopping for artwork a more engaged, less static process. Instead of being just a transaction, the artist-collector exchange should invite a dynamic relationship, she believes. Having artists on hand to talk to potential clients is akin to the idea of a meandering studio stroll — but if the makers all happen to be under one roof, then the maps, walking, and planning can be dispensed with.
The Flat Rock show “allows us to continue the conversation [of the Design Guide],” says Tommey, who will also be among the 12 featured artists, before he goes on to exhibit at Fibre Australia later in the spring. “It’s a new community of art lovers.”
Another member of wide renown is Philip DeAngelo of Broken Road Studio in the River Arts District. DeAngelo’s elemental, beautifully deconstructed landscapes are so popular he has gained front-page attention from nearly every local outlet in print media. Last month, he was invited to participate at the Open Doors of Asheville Art Affair 2016, an art-auction charitable fundraiser that features regional, national, and international talent.
Sculptural lamp maker Maggie Minor, showcased in Bold Life’s sister publication Carolina Home + Garden last season, is a constant experimenter, though her work is primarily informed by the ancient figurations of tribal art. Stylized furniture maker Robb Helmkamp crafts everything from magnificent custom beds down to highly whimsical fly swatters. Ceramic artist Cassie Butcher calls her mysterious clay totems “souls” — foregoing anything as pedestrian as recognizable facial features, she uses passionate infusions of color and emotion to create her population of sculpted beings. The artist’s fans even look for her “soul” population to grow, anticipating each new character.
If there’s anything that unites the WNC Design Guide makers, it’s an urge toward color and vibrancy — a sophisticated playfulness. Zirconia birdhouse maker Walt Cottingham goes in big for natural and recycled materials. In some creations, the grain of the chosen wood appears swooped into a smile. Little rusted hinges look happy to have been rescued.
These are not the sterile objets d’art that might have populated art collections in another time — the blank crystal egg above the fireplace, the cold canvas showing a faraway, unvisited landscape.
Today, involvement is crucial.
“In my parents’ generation, the artist-client relationship wasn’t so important,” muses Ball. “I also feel like collecting art wasn’t seen as accessible to all. But that has changed.”
The WNC Design Guide Show at The Studios at Flat Rock (2702-A Greenville Hwy.) will be open during normal gallery hours (Wednesday through Saturday, 10am-5pm), and by appointment. On April 8, the gallery will remain open until 8pm. Special events include an Artists’ Talk on Saturday, April 30 at 3pm. Closing reception is May 12 from 6-8pm. www.wncdesignguide.com. www.studiosflatrock.com.