BY CHRISTIE DEL AMO JOHNSON
There are plenty of virtuous reasons to buy locally made stuff—you’re investing in Middle Georgia, possibly helping the environment, and supporting an almost lost tradition. And quality. Don’t forget quality. From handcrafted wood bowls to artwork made of glass, the products we’ve ferreted out aren’t just made by hand; they’re made well. The pieces are beautiful enough to be displayed, but as many of these artisans will tell you, don’t be afraid to put their work to good use.
One-of-a-kind decor objects from local artisans
A Touch of Glass—Celia Meech-Henigman has been working with glass for over 25 years. She says it has fascinated her since she was a child in France. She loved to stare at the beautifully ornate stained glass in churches throughout Europe. She began pursuing the art of glass in the early 1980s, studying with some of the best in the field. “I have never felt as intimate about a medium as I feel about glass,” she says. “It moves me because it is temperamental in its own right. It starts out as sand prior to heating and ends up translucent!” Celia opened ATG Studio in Forsyth and has restored and created original glass works for The Cloister Resort, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and Martha Bowman United Methodist among others. Most recently, she was awarded a scholarship to study in England and has also been requested to study in Italy at a commission studio. Her work can also be seen at www.atgstudio.com.
Ken Folmar—Ken Folmar spends his days as a chemical engineer, but at night he turns ordinary pieces of wood into works of art. He has been turning wood since he was twelve. Folmar even harvests the wood for 95-percent of his pieces from woodlands in Wilkinson, Twiggs, Jones and Bibb counties. He’s constructed bowls, vases, tables and chairs. “When I start working a piece of wood, I don’t know what its going to be. Once I lay it down and look at the grain, then I figure it out,” he says. He especially likes to work with tree burrells, or the pieces of wood that grow on the side of a tree almost like a cancer. Folmar creates each piece by hand, carefully spinning the wood while holding a chisel to shape it. He’s made many of his tools himself. You can view some of Folmar’s work at www.expressionsinwoodbykenfolmar.com.
FRESH FROM THE OVEN:
Homespun ceramic vessels that can light up a room and keep your tea warm, too
John Skelton Pottery—John Skelton was on the road to becoming a psychologist when he had his first run-in with pottery. He says from the moment he took his first class, he was hooked. From then on, he became dedicated to his craft studying the art form at Mercer University and in Minnesota. He creates most of his pieces using porcelain and white stoneware and uses two different firing processes; wood firing and reduction. Skelton decorates his creations with wood stamps, found objects and a unique erosion technique he developed in graduate school. The Macon potter is heavily influenced by East Asian and Middle Eastern pots and is dedicated to functional, utilitarian pottery. “The most exciting to me is when I’ve been to someone’s house that has my work, and we end up using my pots in service,” says Skelton. His portfolio includes platters, tumblers, vases, teapots and his newest endeavor, Japanese lunchboxes or stacked boxes. To find out more about Skelton’s work, visit his website www.johnskeltonpottery.com
Merritt Pottery—Mark and Coni Merritt will tell you their work is about tradition. Mark is a sixth generation Crawford County potter, who turned his wife onto the craft when they got married. At Merritt Pottery in Lizella, Mark will design and mold the pieces while Coni glazes and decorates them. “When you open the kiln its like Christmas, you may like it or you may not. What happens in the kiln happens in the kiln. We just enjoy working on it as a couple,” says Coni. The Merritts are known for the utilitarian pieces including pitchers, vases and “face” jugs. They’re also using their craft to give back to the Crawford County community. Every year, in November, they host a pottery show in Roberta to bring artisans to the area. To find out more about their work, you can e-mail the Merritts at email@example.com.
LADY OF THE LAKE
Ernie Mills’ Decoys—Ernie Mills started carving decoys more than 65-years ago as a child with his father who was an avid hunter and fisherman. At 76, he has become nationally recognized for his craftsmanship. Mills uses a hatchet to hand-chop each one. He says there are probably only about 100 other people in the nation who design them in that way. His ornate decoys can be found on display during the Smithsonian’s Folklife Festival. Mills says he’s carved dozens of decoys, both decorative and working, over the years. He says one that stands out was a full-sized Canadian goose decoy he carved for a fundraiser with Ducks Unlimited. The wings alone were 5 and ½ feet across. Mills also had his work displayed at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Most recently, the Perry artisan was nominated for the 2010 National Endowment of the Arts’ “National Heritage Fellowship.” Mills says after spending decades making decoys for others, he’s now trying to build up his own collection.
Celtic Custom Leather—Felton Wilkes started handcrafting items out of leather in 1972 as a way to keep him occupied while in the military. “I had to have something to do at night to keep me out of trouble,” he jokes. His first piece was a checkbook for his father. Wilkes is proud to say “it’s still usable.” From there he began designing bible covers, pocketbooks, and purses among other items. Wilkes hand cuts each piece of material, packs it, and then uses a swivel knife to cut intricate designs into the leather. The craft helps him relax, but people who own his pieces say they’re works of art. To find out more about Wilkes’ leather creations, you can contact him at 478/747-2298.#