Sunday, April 20, 2014

31 Days of Thanks Day 27 Artists who inspired me part II

31 Days of Thanks Day 27

I've learned a lot from many different artists. Some by painting with them, some just by reading their books.

When we first came to New Bern I met Ruth Heppler and we painted together one night a week for several years. Eventually we got too busy at Carolina Creations and I didn't have time. I was working in watercolors while Ruth worked in oils but making time to paint each week was important and I continue to paint each week to this day. Not every day but every week.

One of the artists I know that does paint every day is Mike Rooney.

Carolina Creations was one of the first galleries to ever represent Mike Rooney. I still remember the first day he came in to show me his work. He was so nervous, shy, and talented!

Mike had been working as a sign painter and wanted to spend more time doing fine art.

After a couple years Mike was having great success with his work, quit his day job and began to paint full time.

By this time I'd become accomplished with watercolors and with my glazes on clay but was now interested in exploring oils.

So we hosted a 3 day plein air painting workshop with Mike and my exploration of oil painting began. These are a couple of the paintings I did after taking workshops.

My goal for working is oils is to loosen up!

Since then we have hosted several more workshops with him and at every one I learn something more.

Mike now spends his time traveling from Key West to Cape Cod, showing his work and teaching classes.

I went to Asheville to go to a workshop with Ken Auster. He's the guy that did all the chef paintings in Ruby Tuesdays. What I learned from him is that I don't know how to apply oil paint. "It's called painting not scrubbing." That might sound like a mean thing to say but it was and still is huge for me. I realize that is most of my problem with oil painting, I'm too heavy handed with the brush. So now whenever I start to work in oils I remember him saying that.

He is messy, I am too! He said 'all my clothes either have paint on them or will have paint on them,' I'm right there with him.

His paintings have a lot of drama, which I like, and he does a lot of architecture, which I love to do too. I still haven't loosened up as much as I would like but I'm working on it.

This is a painting I did when I came home from that thinking about some of the things he talked about.

Thank you Mike and Ken for your inspiration!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Another Spring in New Bern

We never tire of our adopted town. We will have been in New Bern for 25 years the end of May and April is my favorite month. The first year we missed the beautiful spring flowers and were blown away the following year when we saw them all.

I'm sure along the way a few of these will become paintings!

- Jan Francoeur

Sunday, April 13, 2014

31 Days of Thanks Day 26 Our New Space

31 Days of Thanks Day 26

Not really having any experience or education in business, everything we've learned has been by doing, so we listen to advice and read everything we can.

One of the guys (John) we were buying radio advertising from (his retirement job) said that he had a business of his own for 30+ but the only reason he was able to retire was because he owned his real estate. We had tried to purchase a building in downtown 7 years before but the price and the appraisal did not match up, of course this was when our Downtown did not look like it does today. His comment got us thinking about it again in 2001.

The old Chinese restaurant/Metropolitan Club had been gutted (the peoples plan for it never got it off the ground) and sitting empty for a couple years. It was way bigger than we needed but the downstaris would be perfect for us.

Yes it looked a little scary but its a great space.

We were told that the people we were renting from needed the building we were in so we really needed to find a new place for Carolina Creations.

The people wanted way more than the going rate, it would need A LOT of money to renovate. So we started talking to a local architect about buying the place together. While trying to come to an agreement on the price, we met a neighbor on the sidewalk (Charles) and he said "you ought to buy that building", we said we were trying to but they wanted too much money and we weren't getting anywhere. He said "Make them an offer and say it's good until the end of the month."  So that's what we did, and they took the offer!

But then we lost the guy who was going to go in with us who would know how to develop the building into a commercial condo, which we knew nothing about.

While we were panicking wondering what to do another friend said go talk to M. Which we did.

Whew!! Yes he was interested so we bought the building together, we made it into a commercial condo, we own 1/3 he owns 2/3, and here we are 11 years later. It was a good move for us and, like with our last location, as our space grew so did our business.

We love our space!

Thank you John, Charles, Dan, Marvin for planting the seeds and helping us see them grow.

- Jan Francoeur

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Hand blown glass at Carolina Creations

We always have a large selection of hand blown glass but right now we have even more!!

Just got new from Bernie, Michael Hudson, Paul Bendzunas, Brenda Griffith, Glass Eye, Ingrid Hanson. 
Glass blowing is an amazing art and we're honored to represent these accomplished glass blowers at Carolina Creations!!

Sunday, April 06, 2014

31 Days of Thanks Day 25 CRAFT

31 Days of Thanks Day 25

In 1998 we joined an organization that totally changed our business. We joined the CRAFT Retailers Association and met other gallery owners from across the country.

We had never before had anyone to talk to about our business who really understood the challenges of running a gallery featuring hand crafted items, made in the USA working with artists, and so on.
Craft Retailers & Artist for Tomorrow


Through the years these folks have become like family. We see each other as much as 5 or 6 times a year (unfortunately more than I see my own family). I ended up on the board of the organization and converse with one of the people I met through CRAFT every week on one issue or the other 16 years later.

Our group started a week long celebration throughout the US celebrating American Craft. This will be it's 5th year. It's called American Craft Week.
Our group presents educational workshops at shows across the country. I've done presentations on blogging and other topics, as well as set on panels addressing issues we all have running a gallery.

I helped set up our organizations website, wrote a monthly newsletter, and so on.

We would share artists with each other, be available to assist with issues, share rooms at shows.

I got a nice award from the group for my contributions.

So thank you to Sandra, Anna, Karen, David, Anne, Diane, Donna, Don, Deb, Laurie, Rani, Bob, for your ideas, commaradry, encouragement, selfless sharing, lending a shoulder, and everything else. You have all helped us make Carolina Creations better.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Love Oxide Pottery

This winter we met Joe Monk, Chatham Monk, and Justin Rice and just loved their work!

Their technique is called scraffito. Joe, Chatham and Justin work with porcelain. When the piece is leather hard they coat it with several coats of velvet underglaze then carve away everything they want to leave white.
They fire the pieces then apply a clear glaze and fire again.
Our pieces are all wired to be hung but they can also sit on the table, food safe.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

31 Days of Thanks Day 24 out on our own renting space

31 Days of Thanks Day 24 out on our own renting space

Once Michael and I started doing pottery we quickly outgrew our space and when it was time to renew our lease on Middle Street we decided we needed to move into our own space.

It was a little scary for us, our rent increased by ten fold and we would have to hire employees, yikes!!

I remember running into my friend Bruce on the street and told him what we were doing, he said "what if it doesn't work out?" I said "there is no plan B" and kept walking.

As it turned out we didn't need a plan B.

We started carrying other peoples work as well as our own. Our thought was build a business that we can sell someday when its time to retire. If it was only our work and we were no longer in the picture there would be nothing to sell.

Most of the other shops like ours took things on consignment, we started purchasing fine crafts from other professional artists. Just like most retail businesses do. That way we could control the quality of the work we carried.

When we started looking for a new space we were thinking about buying. At the time real estate in our Downtown was not a good bet according to the banks we talked to. (boy things have changed!) They said the properties were over priced. I heard about a space becoming available on Pollock Street. So called Lonnie and said I wanted to see it.

He said someone else was coming from Swansboro to look at it that afternoon. But he would show it to me. Michael was somewhere, don't remember where, and this was before cell phones. When I saw it I said right away, "we'll take it". He said he would rather rent to us because we had a track record, than the unknown people in Swansboro.

So we rented it in August but did not move until after Christmas. It gave us time to get enough art to fill it, to revamp it, and transition.

I felt like we were stepping off a cliff but it was a good move! We evolved and grew.

I always felt like that was one of our strengths, keep evolving and tweeking, while keeping our core the same.

Who am I thanking here? All the people who supported us and followed us around the corner!

- Jan Francoeur

Sunday, March 23, 2014

31 Days of Thanks Day 23 Clay Sculpture

31 Days of Thanks Day 23 Insight into who has influenced us, our art, and our business throughout the years.

My friend and whimsical sculptor extraoridnairre Justine invited me to work with her one day. I found that I love sculpting!

I haven't had a lot of time to do it unfortunately so haven't come up with a consistent style but some day.....

Another person that encouraged me to do it is Steve Fabrico, he's the guy who did the big totem sculpture over by the Double Tree. We carry his work at Carolina Creations and I had the pleasure of going to his studio in NY and seeing how he works. Just to cement what I learned in my brain I made this sculpture which is at the corner of our driveway. Its about 5 feet tall.

Every person you work with contributes another piece to the puzzle.

I did this piece after watching Peter King work. He does amazing architectural pieces, fireplace surrounds, gates and more. This piece is quite large, 4 x 5' and hangs outside the door of our house.

And lastly I was inspired to start doing these wall hangings after seeing something on the internet. Unfortunately I can't say where it came from. I think it was on an interior design site so can't give anyone credit. Of course mine looks nothing like theirs but it got my wheels turning.

So thank you Justine, Steve, Peter and Unknown person!

-Jan Francoeur

Thursday, March 20, 2014

New Paintings by Janet Dixon

We always thrilled when we get new work from our artists.

New Bern artist Janet Dixon has just brought in some great ones!

Janet has traditionally painted in watercolor but has been working in oils the past couple of years. She does a beautiful job in both!
Click on image for details - will open in a new window


Sunday, March 16, 2014

31 Days of Thanks Day 20 I Would Like to Help

31 Days of Thanks Insight into who has influenced us, our art, and our business throughout the years.

One day while making tiles Michael said I'd like to help!

So he started helping me roll the tiles.

Then I said why don't you learn how to throw? He said I think I will.

So he took a class from Elizabeth Priddy then Steve Jepson, and off he went!

Our first series of functional pottery was fruits and vegetables, a spin off of the tiles.

I don't have many photos of that work, although I do still do it occasionally.

Michael would throw the pieces, I would decorate and glaze, Michael would load the kilns.

We started with one medium size kiln and now have 4!

Through the years our styles and themes have evolved.

Sometimes I hand build pieces and decorate them with New Bern themes. Our pieces have been awarded to dignitaries from Europe and Africa, mayors, aldermen, County commissioners and so on!

Sometimes gardens and a house are my theme. Earlier in this series I talked about my calligraphy, well it has really come in handy on our pottery too.

Some of the words I put on our pieces are my own words, some are famous quotes.

One day a customer named Martha said "My niece is getting married would you put their names and date on a piece? Ding!!  Since then I've personalized hundreds of pieces with bridal, anniversary, retirement, etc dates and names.

Again the inspiration and idea for these came from our customers, Martha and others, and my friend Cecelia.

- Jan Francoeur