Since summer 2018, encore and Coworx have hosted six art shows in The Cargo District, and highlighted more than a dozen local talents in various media. At the beginning of 2020, when Coworx community manager Ashley Arnold and I sat down to discuss the first show of the year, two things sprang to mind: Valentine’s Day and feminine artistry. With Arnold’s expertise hosting markets and workshops for Artisan Locale since November 2016 (Bloom Boom, Handmade Holiday), we combined the two to create an exciting February 7 show, “Art Crush”—an exhibit and market featuring all-female artists.
“We have so many creative and talented entrepreneurs here in Wilmington, and it is an honor to support their efforts and help them succeed in anyway I can!” Arnold says of selecting our core artists. Jamie Lohr, Kara Kopp, Suzy Walter, Nicole Band, Kelsey Howard, and Molly Mitchell-Curnyn will have work on the walls of Coworx through mid April, all of which will be for sale at “Art Crush.”
“Many of their works evoke a feeling of love, erotica, strength,” Arnold says. “They highlight the fact that females have the power to be both strong and vulnerable at the same time and how we should celebrate and take pride in that fact.”
As well as exhibiting their art, many artists will sell other wares their brand focuses on. Plus, “Art Crush” will welcome other vendors, like River Organics (organic beauty products), Cravings (vegan-based sweets) and Foxhound Flowers (dried arrangements).
“All of the vendors are female boss babes in their own right,” Arnold says. “They offer unique, reasonably priced gifts geared toward Valentine’s Day. Whether you choose self-love or share this day with a significant other, you’ll find something that sparks joy!”
We interviewed the artists about the show for readers to get a little insight into what to expect out of “Art Crush.” In addition to free beer from Waterline, free wine from Mon Ame, and free snacks from Whole Foods, plus jams from Gravity Records, The Cargo District’s popular community event highlights some of the best creative minds in ILM.
“I’m a firm believer that prioritizing your passions allows you to find the happiest and most authentic versions of yourself,” local artist Jamie Lohr says. For four years Lohr has been running Rooted, a name-brand art company that focuses on whimsical acrylic and ink paintings, made on wood and canvas.
Lohr balances her passion and daytime workload as a manager of Ogden’s Planet Fitness carefully. She hopes art will become her career, but first she wants to explore her passions wholly. “I’ve come to learn, in order to balance the two without stress, it has to be a dance, not a fight,” Lohr eloquently states. “I often spend my days off locked in my studio and fully covered in paint.”
The work she doles out includes everything she loves most: the sun, the moon, all things botanical, the female figure, animals. She fully immerses herself into daydreaming, creating, all to guide her output.
“Creating helps with my mental health,” Lohr says. “It allows me time to fully sit and meditate on the piece I am working on and truly be present. Growing this part of myself, and sharing with others to slow down and appreciate what is right in front of them is truly what inspires me.”
Self-taught, Lohr will feature six pieces in “Art Crush,” ranging in size (16-inches-by -16-inches and up) and price ($290 plus). ”Monstera Moon Mama” stands out among her favorite. The diptych showcases a lady, whose skin cracks as a large-leaf from a Monstera plant sprouts from her head. “This is to symbolize how growth must come from within,” Lohr explains. “I started to sketch this piece with pencil on canvas as I was going through some internal battles with my external world. . . . I started to add plants growing from within the woman’s body to truly represent that, in order to have the change we need in this life, we need to turn internally and do the work that is needed in order to grow within.”
To continue her path to truth, Lohr wants to garner experience. “Art Crush” is her first show, though she has numerous markets planned for 2020, plus she will focus on her online market to create new inventory.
“The challenge with art is finding time,” she explains. “Whether that’s doing custom orders, creating inventory for online releases or upcoming markets, or even finding the time to create pieces for my own space.”
Realizing and conceptualizing an idea that’s been swishing around her mind for a while will be her next goal: She wants to travel to various bodies of water and create art using the water, plus recycled wood from trees in the area and foliage surrounding her.
“I also would love to open my own plant nursery/art/yoga studio, which is where the name of my business comes into play, Rooted,” Lohr says. She will be selling smaller pieces on salvaged wood slices, patches, and assorted house plants at the market.
“I want a space where I am completely Rooted in my own passions,” Lohr says. “After all, I’m a firm believer that prioritizing your passions allow you to find happiest and the most authentic version of yourself.”
For Kara Kopp, pursuing art basically was a given. One grandmother was a celebrated still-life artist, while the other made quilts and clothing. “Both had a huge influence on my development,” says Kopp, who designs bedding for Target. “My father also has a strong background in color-and-ink drawing.”
A graduate of Savannah College of Arts and Design, with a focus on fibers (textile art), Kopp has been designing for the well-known brand for 13 years. She also has been running her own K.Ko Studio for three years, which has refined her passion for dyeing and color.
“At Target I design to a specific brand, quality and lifestyle,” she admits. “K.Ko helps me branch out creatively and design to my own aesthetic. It’s great to balance designing for the masses with creating one-of-a-kind pieces on a smaller scale.”
Her work comes from scraps of white fabric she saves from other works. The scraps essentially provide a blank canvas for her hand-dyed creations. It is part of her goal to create sustainable art.
“I strive to have a no-waste business,” Kopp tells. “I always love the levels of colors that a single dyebath can create; the dye will take differently on the different fiber contents.”
She will feature six tactile wall hangings in “Art Crush,” ranging in price from $85-$250. Her works are earthy designs, with muted palettes, and are the first folks will see upon entering Coworx.
“First, I gather the palette of fabric scraps together—generally in a giant pile on the floor—then make a quick layout in my head of the general flow,” she says. “Finally, I cut, tear, tie and knot the fabrics—changing direction as the piece comes together. It is a wonderful, slow and meditative process, and fun to watch the piece grow and change, with color combinations that remind me of the embers of a fire at dusk, filled with shades of blues, ochres, warm corals and orange.”
She balances her full-time job and K.Ko Studio with rearing three young kids—so life can be a bit of a challenge. Add in the numerous markets she partakes in annually—including the upcoming Made in NC show at the Brooklyn Arts Center in March—and the artist is never shy of inspiration. Her work at “Art Crush” will be for sale, along with modern and coastal-inspired jewelry and essential oil perfumes.
Dirty Little Love Notes
Suzy Walter’s embroideries aren’t like her grandma’s from yesteryear. Instead of uplifting homey phrases, like “Home is Where the Heart Is,” Walter showcases sexy and cute images, like a naked woman hanging over a chair (see encore’s cover), or abstract faces fanciful faces of whimsy, or even someone doing yoga with a cat walking under them. Still, her influence arose from generations of embroidery artists before her.
“A couple Christmases ago, I was back home in Pennsylvania and my grandma gave me her stash of embroidery materials,” Walter says. “I had been into modern takes of an old-fashioned art form but had never tried making them myself. My grandmother passed down everything I needed to give it a shot: vintage fabric and hoops, huge bags full of embroidery floss and needles. I’ve actually used the same needle to make every one of my embroideries.”
She will feature 25 pieces in “Art Crush,” with prices from $15 to $100. Walter will hang the largest embroidery she’s ever created on a 10-inch diameter hoop. It’s the one she is most excited about.
“I used vintage floral fabric—my favorite and most popular,” Walter says. “First, I cut the fabric to size to fit the hoop, stretch it and tighten the hoop until it’s taut. Then I use a water-soluble pen to sketch out a design and start stitching.”
Though normally she restrains her use of embroidery floss to a couple of strands—as to ensure clean and crisp lines—the largest hoop contains hundreds—to look like cascading “hair.” “They can actually move and have a life of their own on the piece,” Walter explains. “That was the most time-consuming part, but it’s also what makes it my favorite.”
After cinching the fabric, she covers the back with cut felt to keep the stitches in place and protected. Then, she sprays a mist of water onto the embroidery to dissolve the soluble ink from her hand-drawn creations.
For a little over two years, Walter has found respite in doing this style of art work. It’s become part of her routine to relax—therapy from her day job with local greeting card company, Tay Ham. “The repetition of all the stitches allows my mind to wander while my hands are busy,” she says.
Aside from embroidering, Walter has been making miniature cards with dirty messages on them for six years. She also stitches messages in cursive on white tees, some with simple phrases like “no worries” on the neck seam or another with tropical leaves covering the breasts. Each message, each piece of work represents the fun and sultry sides of life. However, there’s a sense of minimalistic magnitude as well. “They require a lot of patience, but that meshes really well with who I am,” Walter says. And seeing the work find life in another’s home isn’t without merit. “I just really love the idea of my home and other’s homes full of special handmade pieces that have a story behind them,” Walter says.
Walter’s Dirty Little Love Notes and embroideries can be found at pop ups every few months, including The Big Paw Project and There’s Something To Do. She has her own Etsy shop and sells work at boutiques around the country, including at downtown Wilmington’s own Edge of Urge.
Reclaimed wood. Glue. Nails. All the elements come together in fascinating geometric shapes. Some even make scenes, like a mountain peaks covered in snow, with the moon shining above. For Nicole Band, Solstice Woodworks encompasses her newfound love for art, environment and tools.
“It all started in June of 2017 when I first borrowed a neighbor’s circular saw,” she says. “Being self-taught, the learning curve continues as I expand the types of tools used to create these pieces. Power tools deserve respect, and gaining the knowledge and safety skills associated with each tool is critical.”
Most pieces created have been rectangular, often measuring fairly large at 21.5-inches-by-33.5-inches. Most recently, however, she has made smaller, circular ones. Both will be for sale at “Art Crush.”
“Art has shown up in different ways throughout my life—whether doodling and drawing as a child or woodworking as an adult,” she says. “It’s always provided me with a creative outlet. My current style is heavily influenced by the raw materials I use, as well as the natural world around us.”
Though Band has an environmental science degree from UNCW, she works full-time as an artist but finds inspiration from her studies and the sustainability movement. She uses lumber from remodels, salvage stores, and even gets scraps from friends and neighbors, so no wood goes to waste.
“Like all pieces ‘The Midnight Mountain’ began with a plywood backer,” Band explains. “After prepping the wood, I cut out the entire design, painted the individual pieces, glued them to the backer, and finally trimmed and framed. The colors you see in both the sky and mountains were created using an environmentally friendly milk-paint powder, which doesn’t off-gas like normal wood stain.”
Band will exhibit six large pieces on Coworx brick walls, varied in color, style and design, with prices from $175 to $300. Aside from smaller woodworks, she also will have key racks she says are “perfect for a gallery wall or entryway.”
“Art Crush” is one of nine markets Solstice Woodworks will participate in for 2020, which will include one at Flying Machine Brewery on February 9 and art Brooklyn Art Center on February 22-23. Band has plans to evolve the brand and daydreams with her husband how to thrive as a full-time artist.
“I love to scheme up all of life’s possibilities,” she says. “I aspire to create a simple life I enjoy living, and to always continue moving in that direction. It’s in the moments of rest that you allow yourself to open up to new ideas and new perspectives.”
Though most locals may recognize Molly Mitchell-Curnyn from her family’s richly decadent CheeseSmith Food Truck, before she was creating gourmet grilled cheeses, she was showcasing colorfully soothing art works made with alcohol ink. They highly-pigmented and fast-drying medium creates swirls of color and movement. Though Mitchell-Curnyn originally enjoyed doing portraiture and realistic art in high school, she has since found freedom in doing abstracts.
“In my current style I’ve been selling pieces for about three years, basically since my husband and I moved to Wilmington,” Mitchell-Curnyn tells. “Before we moved, we lived on motor yachts, working as yacht crew. While it was an awesome experience, there wasn’t any space for me to do art.”
Time is even more precious nowadays, with Mitchell-Curnyn running CheeseSmith and rearing a new child. Yet, she has grown to appreciate the importance of making sure her art is out into the world, and is easing her way into creating once again.
She will feature five pieces at “Art Crush,” showcasing some of her largest, 24-inches-by-30-inches to 36-inches-by-48-inches., Prices are reasonably set at $150 to 250. “All pieces have vivid colors and are influenced by newly budding flowers,” she says.
“Surge” stands out as a favorite because it really shows the beauty and action of the ink. It’s not an easy medium to control, according to the artist. “It’s really just a process that evolves as I go along. I start each piece with a blank white primed canvas, and most of the time I don’t really have a plan on what I’m going to create. Nature is definitely my largest inspiration, I love the vivid colors of flowers and how intricate they can be.”
While Mitchell has been on hiatus from exhibits and markets—her last one was at Flytrap in 2018—she’s looking ahead to a fresh 2020. “I’m going to do a lot more art, so keep a look out for me! There’s lots to come!”
Kelsey Howard Art
Animals, fairies and faces used to be the focus of Kelsey Howard’s art as a young woman. With age came maturity, not only in mindset but in creative output. Her interests evolved into anatomical drawing (she even considered doing medical illustration) and becoming more adept at constructing realistic faces. Today, those interests still shine through, if a little more loosely and with bright colors as seen in her acrylic and gouache paintings.
With a bachelor’s in studio art, concentrating on painting, and minor in biology, from Elon, not to mention a bachelor’s of science from UNC-Greensboro, Howard is a registered nurse by day and an artist by night. For three years now, she has been painting everyday for a minimum of 30 minutes. The learning curve, she says, comes from consistently pushing to make progress, whether on new work or in technique.
“I would love to have more time dedicated to making art in the future, but nursing also gives me a lot of meaning in my life,” Howard tells. “We will see where the future takes me.”
This week it will take her work to “Art Crush,” where she will exhibit six of her paintings on paper. From 16-inches-by-20-inches to 22-inches-by-30-inches, the works are priced from $160 to $360. “My goal for 2020 was to paint bigger, and the [larger] pieces are the biggest I have done in years,” she tells. “I feel like I can flow more on a larger piece of paper. I am pushing myself to try and get my work published in more magazines. I would also like to create more collections.”
Her colorful ladies come adorned with vivid hues and accessories, like flowers in their hair, large hoop earrings or turbans. Sometimes what Howard has planned, however, isn’t always the final outcome. “Blue Striped Dress,” for instance, started out as being minimalistic.
“But I felt like it wasn’t moving in the right direction,” she tells. “I ended up painting over the previous face and letting it sit for a couple of days before picking it back up.”
Impressionistic and Fauvist painters impress her mostly: Matisse, Cezanne, Picasso. “They make me want to paint portraits that are more colorful, wild, and abstract,” she admits. “I didn’t expect to have such a passion and energy for painting the way I have. I’ve learned if you want to get good at something, you have to do it all the time. Make bad art, make good art, just make art.”