Alicia Williams used to ride horses. Now the North Carolina artist designs and builds heirloom-quality rocking horses.
The artist: Grew up in Michigan, where she started riding horses in the fifth grade and won awards for her charcoal horse drawings. After graduating from Houghton College (NY), she worked in the outdoor adventure and education field for six years before taking a job through AmeriCorps with Habitat for Humanity in Durham, NC, as a construction site supervisor for four years. She also took a few woodworking classes, where she built her first rocking horse.
The company: Heartwood Rocking Horses, based in Asheville, started in 2013. The rocking horses, with their expressive eyes and faces, are carved from native woods and reclaimed lumber and sealed with food-safe, non-petroleum oil and a wax finish. Horses often feature adjustable foot pegs, hand holds and a saddle.
What’s popular: Toddler rocking horse ($400) and the classic rocking horse ($1,600 to $1,800).
Other favorites: Stick horses ($45).
Claim to fame: Exhibiting member of the Piedmont Craftsmen since 2015.
Where to buy: HeartwoodRockingHorses.com.
Kass Wilson is a true faux artist. Wilson, the owner and creative director for WallsTreat Studio, creates subtle and sophisticated finishes for residential and commercial spaces. She’s also a valuable, go-to resource for Atlanta designers.
The artist & owner: Originally from Minnesota, Wilson moved to Atlanta in 1985. With a love of design, Wilson began working with architects and designers selling corporate interior furnishings. In 1992, she was introduced to decorative artistry and began to focus on becoming an inventor of beautiful finishes. Wilson is also the author of the how-to book, “Creative Finishes.”
The company: WallsTreat Studio, started in 1993. The decorative arts studio specializes in architectural finishes and decorative arts services, providing architects and interior designers with creative resources for commercial and residential interiors.
What is a faux finish: Faux is the French word for false or fake, but the term faux finish is often misunderstood. Many times it is used as a general term for different types of decorative artistry, including murals and for simulating natural elements (wood, marble) on a multitude of surfaces.
Unfortunately, many people still think of faux finishes as sponge painting, rag rolling and over-textured walls for the past.
Where to use finishes: On obvious surfaces, such as walls and ceilings, but also on cabinets, columns, mantels, vent hoods and floors.
What finishes do for a space: Provide balance, disguise imperfections, enhance architecture, unify a color, and add an element of drama.
People would be surprised to learn:
- Today’s finishes can incorporate glass beads, sheets of mica, glitter and reflective materials, foils, and interesting patterns.
- There are finishes for contemporary, transitional and eclectic styles as well traditional.
- Natural elements, such as marble, granite, wood grains, leather skins, concrete and metals (galvanized steel, aged copper, pewter, and gold leaf) can be simulated.
“True ‘faux artists’ are masters of disguise in their ability to mimic these natural elements,” said Wilson. “In the end, you must see it, feel it and touch it to believe it is not real.”
Biggest mistake I have made: In my first project (almost 20 years ago), I painted columns to resemble marble. I stood back and realized that the angle of the veining made the columns look like barber poles.
… and mistakes homeowners make: Watching a 20-minute demonstration and believing that applying a finish is an easy, do-it-yourself project.
Also, thinking that a finish should be the first design element they should select. Instead, a finish should be the last element specified, inspired by the colors, patterns, styles and features in the space, such as area rugs, flooring and window treatments.
Design pet peeve: Being called in to fix a project done by someone else. This is most common with cabinet finishes that are failing.
New or re-emerging design looks I like: Patterns and reflective products.
… and looks I want to see go: The heavy, Old World Tuscan look with tones of yellow and thick textures. Also, perfect stripes on a wall.
What’s next: Refinishing cabinets, using the preferred method of a sprayed catalyzed lacquered finish (like a factory finish).
Find Kass Wilson and WallsTreat Studio at:
- Website: kasswilson.com
- Facebook: WallsTreat Studio
Matt Wilson’s goal as an artist is to make metal artwork unlike anything you have seen, while at the same time using everyday materials that are instantly recognizable.
The artist: Born and raised in Greenville, SC, Wilson attended the Fine Arts Center of Greenville, a special art school in his senior year of high school and later studied drawing and painting at Winthrop University. In 2006, he left college and moved to Charleston, ready to try a new medium. Wilson, who wanted to learn how to weld, interviewed at Detyens Shipyards and became its resident artist. As a “thank you for your business,” he makes metal models of the ships that come to be serviced.
The company: Airtight Artwork, based in Charleston, started in 2013. Wilson uses organic and recycled materials, such as utensils, scrap metal and reclaimed wood to create his upcycled sculptures.
The company name: Airtight was Wilson’s nickname in college. He was shy, quiet and a man of few words.
The materials: Scrap metal, utensils, driftwood and reclaimed wood. He finds cutlery at thrift stores and yard sales.
What’s popular: Birds ($150 and up). The more detailed the piece, the higher the price.
Other favorites: Shrimp ($450); fish (around $400); and owls ($300 and up).
Fun (or unusual) requests: Space guns and harmonica holders. Also commissions, such as an Apache helicopter, a pole vaulter made of old dental tools and an octopus (using an old camera lens for an eye.)
Claim to fame/awards: “Best in Sculpture” at the 2016 Piccolo Spoleto juried art exhibition. Also nominated for “Best Local Visual Artist” in the Charleston City Paper for 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Florida artist Julie Keaten-Reed uses an ancient Asian brush and ink style to create her contemporary paintings.
The artist/designer: Keaten-Reed grew up in Wyoming and graduated from the University of Wyoming and earned a master’s degree in English at San Francisco state University, where she began her career as an English instructor. In 1994, she moved to Japan to work as an English lecturer for five years. In 1999, she began to paint. She now lives in Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla.
The goods: In her work on paper and canvas, she uses traditional sumi ink and watercolor, or oil paint for thoughtful color accents.
What’s popular: Trees, such as windswept trees on rocks or hills, or her ecstatic blue tree. Prices range from $850 to $7,200, depending on the size.
Other favorites: Paintings that incorporate critters among leaves and branches, such as a delicate hummingbird ($850) or a kingfisher on a willow branch ($1,500).
Fun requests: To install her work (with her husband, Russ) in clients’ homes after long art shows. She enjoys seeing the piece in its new home — and learning more about the buyers.
Atlanta connections: Her parents graduated from Georgia Tech. Also her grandmother, the late Carley “Tedi” Craig, worked in Atlanta as a painter and teacher for many years after beginning her career as a sketch artist in California and then working for 25 years in Hollywood fashion design.
Where to buy: juliekeatenreed.com. In Atlanta, at the Atlanta Dogwood Festival (April 7-9) in Piedmont Park (dogwood.org).
Alice Ballard’s sculptural ceramic art is inspired by natural forms and nature’s life cycles.
The artist: Born in Florence, SC, Ballard grew an Air Force brat and lived all over the world, including three years in Paris. She earned a master’s degree in painting at the University of Michigan and studied ceramics in summer workshops at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina. A working artist, she works as an instructor too. In 1996, she moved from Alaska to Greenville, SC, where she lives and works.
What’s popular: Wall Pods, in groups of three and up to 15 ($1,500 per pod and discounts for large numbers). Also the smaller meditation bowls ($145 to $295), pinched from a small handful of clay.
Other favorites: Half pods ($950 to $1,500); tree totems ($3,500 to $7,500), her largest and most complex ceramic works.
Fun (or unusual) request: Rob Connoley, a nationally acclaimed chef and cookbook author (Acorns & Cattails) asked Ballard to make some presentation bowls for his new restaurant in St. Louis after seeing her meditation bowls at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans.
Big break: A review of my 15-Pod Triangle in the American Craft Magazine led to the commission of a similar 15-Pod Triangle for the Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary, NC.
Claim to fame: The purchase of “White Onion V11” for the Renwick, part of the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum. Also two artist fellowships (one just last year) from the South Carolina Art Commission.
What’s new: A new group of tree totems and drawings for a solo show at The Bascom Center for Visual Arts in Highlands, NC (Sept. 2 through Dec. 2). Also a nine-woman show at Clemson University, starting Nov. 1.
Where to buy: aliceballard.com.
Ceramic artist Claire Parrish is drawn to pottery for its beauty and function.
The artist: Parrish grew up in the Atlanta area, and took an interest in ceramics as a student at Atlanta’s Marist School. At the University of Georgia, she earned degrees in ceramics and in art education. In 2015, she moved to Richmond, Va., and started Claire Parrish Pottery.
The goods: One-of-a kind, handcrafted pottery for the table, kitchen, and home. Popular colors include white iron, warm whites and emerald green.
What is popular: Ice buckets ($72), which include an under plate for condensation; berry washers ($38 to $40); and vases ($32 to $75) in various heights, shapes and detail.
Other favorites: Hanging planters ($32 to $36), with or without drainage holes; serving bowls ($54 to $75); and pitchers ($48 to $78).
Surprise hit: Wedding registries, with tailor-made pieces, ranging from full-place settings to serving and decorative pieces.
Where to buy: www.claireparrishpottery.com. In Atlanta, at Citizen Supply, 675 Ponce de Leon Ave., on the second floor of Ponce City Market.
Kate Roebuck’s paintings of nature and everyday life are largely influenced by her study of textile design.
The artist: Originally from Pittsburgh, Penn., she studied textile design at the University of Georgia (graduated in 2009) and worked for Athens-based Hable Construction for five years before branching out on her own and starting Kate Roebuck Studio in 2014. Roebuck now lives and works in Chattanooga.
What’s popular: Black and white ink drawings and abstract water colors ($40 to $3,600).
Big breaks: Studying at UGA with textile designer and artist Clay McLaurin; working with Hable Construction founders and sisters Susan and Katharine Hable; and regular meetings with fine artist Carlyle Wolfe.
Claim to fame: Have partnered with retailers, such as One Kings Lane; Chairish, Ban.do; Crate & Barrel; Uprise Art; and Artfully Walls.
Where to buy: www.kateroebuckstudio.com. In Atlanta, at Miko + Boone Home, 41 Oak St., in Roswell (mikoandboonehome.com) and Crate & Barrel.