Alabama Craft: Tradition and Innovation

All this month Alabama Public Television (APT) will finally be airing their original documentary film Alabama Craft: Tradition and Innovation, which will feature one of our members, potter Charles Smith.
The first airing will be this Thursday, April 9th at 7 pm. For a more complete program schedule for this program, please check out their site. Well done, Charles!

Thank you

Thank you to everyone who came out to make our show a success. Look for more info in the coming months for our next event.

All the best for the New Year from the Coastal Artisans!

Won't You Join Us on Dec 6th?

We are pleased to be presenting our Third Annual Christmas Art Show and Sale, where we will be showcasing our eclectic mix of fine art and fine craft at the Mobile Botanical Gardens located at 5151 Museum Drive, Saturday, December 6, from 9 am to 4 pm.

Not to be confused with Bellingrath Gardens, the MOBILE BOTANICAL GARDENS is nestled in the heart of The Village of Springhill across from Langhan Park and the Mobile Museum of Art. (see map & directions below or, if you prefer view the Google Map)

Our one day event is held in conjunction with The Master Gardeners' Annual Greenery and The Botanical Gardens' Annual Poinsettia Sales. The Master Gardeners, who are always ready to share their expertise, play an instrumental role in making the Gardens as beautiful as it is.
Their handmade fresh garlands, centerpieces, and other seasonal greenery, are most professionally executed and surprisingly reasonably priced. And did you know that there are over 50 varieties of poinsettias, and that just about every one can be found on sale at the Mobile Botanical Gardens that weekend?

Directions to the Botanical Gardens
: (courtesy of the Botanical Gardens)

1. On I-10, take I-65 North
2. Take Springhill Exit (5A), turn left
3. Go over Spring Hill. At the bottom of hill, Langan Park will be ahead.
4. Turn left at traffic light onto Pfc. John New Drive.
5. This dead-ends almost immediately onto Museum Drive. Turn right.
6. Pass the Mobile Museum of Art on the right, then look for the Gardens entrance on the left.
7. Turn left to enter the Gardens.

(NB: Map shown is not to scale)

For more information about our event and group, please contact:
Charles Smith (251) 432-3705 or
Anne Webb (251) 965-6661

We look forward to seeing you there for a day of art, greenery, and holiday cheer!

Kurtis N Thomas, Serigraphy (Fine Art Screenprinting) - Mobile AL

"When I was in college, earning a BFA degree in art, I asked one of the professors why he made art. Waiting in anticipation of his answer, I was expecting some deep philosophical reasons. I will never forget his answer. He said, “I make art because I like to make art.” Over the years I have come to realize that his answer was a deep and insightful reason to create art. I make art because I like to. I believe God made people in His image. God is creative and thus, we are creative."

Kurtis Thomas was born on 3/26/55 in Fresno, California, and has resided in Mobile since the age of ten. He lives with his wife Brenda, daughter Karen, and three cats. He received his BFA from the University of South Alabama in 1977 with a major in commercial art and minor in painting. He then spent several years as advertising art director for a chain of regional home centers. In 1981 Thomas began to exhibit his artwork as a professional artist. His artwork has been shown at reputable galleries and juried art shows across the country. He has work in private and corporate collections in the United States, Japan, England, Australia, and Canada. He has received many awards and prizes for his artwork.

In 2001, Thomas had the opportunity to join the curatorial staff at the newly renovated Mobile Museum of Art. After serving as an art exhibition technician, Thomas became the head registrar at the museum.

Thomas is proficient in drawing and painting in all types of mediums, but his public reputation is built on the fine quality serigraphs he has created by hand since 1981.
"Serigraphy... requires one to think in terms of mass and color instead of just thinking linear. "
Serigraphy, or silkscreen printing, is a stenciling technique which produces fine art, limited edition prints which are signed and numbered by the artist. From the initial idea to the drawing, making the stencils, to hand application of the ink to paper, Thomas performs each step of the process by hand. After completion of an edition, all stencils for that edition are destroyed. This ensures that each print is truly a unique, limited edition piece of art. In today's age of automated technology and photomechanical reproduction, this kind of fine art printing created entirely by the artist has truly become a rarity.

Thomas has an imaginative style and unusual, delightful perspective that can place ordinary (or not-so-ordinary) subjects in a world just a few steps removed from reality. These walks into the "looking glass" are always composed with a serious eye for the best design possible, and may require from 20 to 80 stencils.

While most silkscreen artists use only a few stencils with large areas of flat color, Thomas strives for texture, form, value and a wide range of colors achieved only by the use of multiple stencils and stenciling techniques. This results in a true "painterly" effect, and over the years has given him the reputation of a master in his field.

Subject matter includes landscapes, water scenes, birds, houses, flowers, fish, cats, and the Christmas story. His whimsical cat prints get the most vocal response from viewers, as almost everyone recognizes his own feline companion in at least one. But his Christmas prints have also attracted a large following of collectors. In 1981, Thomas created his first Christmas silkscreen print, "O Night Divine," which depicted Mary and Joseph traveling through a snowy forest at night on the way to Bethlehem. He created from one to three new Christmas prints annually through the year 2000, always basing them on the Biblical story of Christ's birth.

Kurtis Thomas has a personal goal of always doing the very best work possible while looking for new ways to grow and new subjects to explore. He feels his work has improved by studying several artists he admires, such as Thomas Hart Benton, Albert Pinkham Ryder, Henri Rousseau and Paul Klee.

He has often been recognized for his unique mastery of the silkscreen medium, but says, "While the recognition and awards are nice, I think the most important things to me are my own personal satisfaction in the work, achieving the standards I set for myself, and the enjoyment of the people who buy the work and look at it every day. They are telling me they want quality work and appreciate it, and that means a lot to me."

Charles Smith, Pottery - Mobile AL

Charles Smith - PotterCharles Smith is a well-known and well-liked Mobile, AL, potter who began his career in the early 1970’s: “I began studying art after a tour of duty in Vietnam, the trauma surrounding the war made me want to pursue the arts.”

Smith matured his interest in the arts by earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Art Education with a minor in Pottery from Jackson State University in Jackson, MS. There he served as a Teacher Assistant to the late professor Marcus Douyon. Smith credits Douyon with providing a solid foundation of artisic discipline, skill and vision that would help him grow into the artist he is today.

In 1977, he was hired by the City of Mobile as a resident artist, during which time he painted murals and taught art in city parks and recreation centers. Since that time, Smith has won some 25 first place or Best of Show awards for his work. His work was included in the traveling exhibit: “Uncommon Beauty in Common Objects: The Legacy of African American Craft Art.” He has exhibited all over the country, including the National Museum of American Art in the
Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, and the American Craft Museum in New York City. His most recent work uses bold colors such as black and tan.

“I’ve been doing this for several years now, and in that time my work has evolved remendously, but it has not changed all that much. Art for me has been a maturing process, not a series of radical departures.”

Smith said he is always attentive to the technical aspects of clay and glazes, considering their limitation, and at the same time, employing the unimagined possibilities they hold. His forms are classic, and his glazes are sophisticated in color and application.

Charles uses cone 7 stoneware and decorated each piece using a carved-and-sgraffito technique. The style is derived from realistic and Art Nouveau forms, mixed with and interspersed with abstract animal imagery.

While the size and shape of each pieces is unique, it is – and always has been – the hand-carved surface that distinguished his work. Designs used today originated in design elements first explored in the late 1970’s. “They are the shapes and patterns of nature, and until Mother Nature finds it necessary to rediscover herself, I’ll remain content following her lead.”

Visit Charles Smith's web site:

Lillie Mack & Marilyn Gordon, Fiber & Design Arts:Fashion - Blackbelt Designs, York AL

In the heart of the black belt of the Deep South, on the western edge of Alabama and just a few miles from Mississippi, sits the small town of York. York, population 2,854, is in Sumter County, population under 15,000 and listed as one of the poorest counties in Alabama.

August 1956 a female was born who never embraced the idea of being poor. She was well aware there was never much money to spend in stores but there was always hand-me-down clothing and leftover scraps to rework and/or play with creating something new, functional, and
usually different than her peers.

Lillie Jean Mack , the second oldest of 7 children, learned to sew by observing her mother. Often she would remake an adult’s dress into two child size dresses. Feed sacks and flour sacks were a source of new fabric to sew with.

"Although two of my sisters also sewed, I was the one that helped to clothe the family. We had no commercial patterns so I learned to eye the body, cut the garment, sew & fit on a live mannequin – the person who would be wearing the item."

After High School and the birth of her eldest child, Lillie began working at the local apparel factory. Twenty six years later, the factories moved to Mexico and she was without a job. Sewing for family members did not fulfill her need to sew and create what she visualized, so she began making quilts, lap robes, and craft items to sell.
All these years of designing and sewing from salvaged materials and I never realized I did anything differently from other sewers. In fact, I felt others were more skilled since I could not work from a pattern. "

This soon changed when she joined Blackbelt Designs, a new fulltime fiber arts workshop that was starting in York sponsored by the Coleman Center for Arts and Culture.

"The same year I joined Black Belt Designs as a volunteer, we visited Kentuck Festival of the Arts, Northport, Alabama. Previous to this excursion I thought art was something people hung on the wall. I had an epiphany that changed the way I viewed my passion, and myself, as I walked the aisles. This exposure to quality arts and crafts awakened me to possibilities. At age forty six, a wife, a mother, and a grandmother I discovered what I had been doing for forty years to clothe family and decorate my home was admired by many people.

Now, I recycle denim jeans into designer jackets. I totally rip the jeans and incorporate unfaded areas into the design of the jackets.

Another fabric of choice is mudcloth from Mali. When people ask why mudcloth, my reply is “I use the African made fabric because it epitomizes what I believe. One can make something beautiful from what they find around them”.

Lillie is listed as one of Alabama’s outstanding artists on

Some of her other recognition includes:
Arts & Humanities Council of Tuscaloosa, AL juried show - honorable mention.
Sumter County, AL Fine Arts juried show - 2nd place
Invited exhibitor Kentuck Arts & Crafts, Northport, AL
Invited exhibitor Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
Design Arts Fellowship with the Alabama State Arts Council

For more information, please visit their new web site:

Anne Webb, Pottery - Magnolia Springs AL

Stoneware Yunomi teabowl
A native of Canada, Anne relocated in 2000 from Ontario to coastal Alabama, where she currently shares a studio with Lowell Webb.

She discovered the joy of working with clay in 1993 when she signed up for a pottery introduction class as a diversion from her day job. Ever since university, she had been looking for something that was intrinsically satisfying, and it appeared clay was it -- the connection was immediate, and she hasn't looked back since.

Mostly self-taught, Anne prefers to work on the potter's wheel.
"The clean, graceful forms that one can achieve on the wheel can equally stand on their own without adornment, or provide a good foundation for most any decoration, whether it be a simple glaze, free form brushwork, or carved design."

Anne makes both high-fired functional ware as well as one-of-a-kind art pottery. She draws design inspiration from the world around her here on the Gulf Coast, and is strongly influenced by the aesthetic and spirit of Asian and Celtic design, as well as that of the Art Nouveau Period.

"Pottery has a distinct human connection. It is a tradition strongly rooted throughout human history, transcending both cultural and chronological lines. Revisiting works from the past is a celebration of our diversity, giving us a reference point as both artists and human beings. "

Visit the Webb Pottery website:
and blog at:

Jaclyn Benedict, Unique Handcrafted Fine Jewelry - Mobile AL

In 1974, when Jaclyn was in her sophomore year at the University of South Alabama, she happened to look through a doorway into a new art class being offered by Lloyd Patton. The class was metal smithing. She dropped her handful of clay and never looked back.

Jaclyn spent two years under Mr. Patton’s tutelage, studying jewelry design and the many varied techniques of working with precious metals. Over the years, she has increased her knowledge by talking to other artists and taking classes from such sources as master wire wrapper Preston Luther, Fairhope artist Betsy Sable and the William Holland School of Lapidary Arts. Jaclyn’s pieces of wearable art are created by but are not limited to hand building, wax carving and casting and wire wrapping all done in silver and/or gold.

Colored stones also fascinate Jaclyn. She began experimenting with and using many different and unusual types of gem material in her pieces. “I like my jewelry to reflect the personality of the wearer. I prefer my stones to be freeform and the finished piece to certainly not be something you would find in a jewelry store.” Jaclyn has traveled across the United States visiting sites where she has been able to dig gem material and has been in numerous Gem & Mineral Shows. She travels to Tucson, Arizona each year for the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show.

Jaclyn began participating in juried art shows in 1989. She has won numerous awards, including Best-of-Show. She has been a member of the Cathedral Square Gallery, Mobile, Alabama’s only artist’s co-op, since 1998.

Scott A. Blackwell, Cajun Art & Design - Waveland MS

"When i ate my first crayon as a kid, I knew I wanted to be an artist."

Scott Blackwell... A Contemporary Humorist, with a Cajun and Carribean Twist, who takes art seriously, but with a big dose of humor and color.
Scott takes his work to another level of depth using vibrant colors and textures to produce his wacky world of original and limited edition pieces. His mediums consist of acrylic paint, gypsum cement, found objects and new building products found at local hardware stores. His original paintings are on canvas with a technique he designed to create a look as though it were a tile.

Scott grew up on the Anna Maria Island, Florida, attended Ringling School of Art and achieved a BFA from the University of Southwestern Louisiana in Lafayette, Louisiana. Scott has moved back and forth from Florida to Louisiana several times after graduation. His heritage, being half Cajun, made him settle in a little town called LaPlace on the outskirts of New Orleans. After ten years he relocated to Waveland, Mississippi, where he lives close to the Gulf beaches and the bayous.
"My mentors were always Salvador Dali, Peter Paul Rubens, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Gary Larson's "the Far side"." Scott's inspiration comes from the beaches, his Louisiana heritage, and a good roaring fire.

Scott's works are currently sold in galleries in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Michigan. and have been sold to private collectors in 24 different countries.

He has been included in many group shows around the country, including the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans (1993), The New Orleans Museum of Art (1991), and in 1993 he was featured in the show Real New Orleans on Channel 26 TV. He was also Featured Artist at the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center (Bear Creek Bluegrass Festival) Children's Museum, Gulfport, MS (2005), and at Jubilee CityFest, Montgomery AL (2005)

Scott can now be reached at:
Mombo Graphics, 436 Sandy St., Waveland MS

Robert "Spike" Cloninger, Fine Lathe Turned Vessels - Fairhope AL

Spike Cloninger
I am making wooden vessels - bowls, urns, vases, goblets - hand turned on a lathe, or hand carved, or both. My medium is wood that I harvest directly from tree or stump.

The wood that I work with is of no value to more conventional woodworkers. The twisted and gnarled crotches, burls and roots that I use are left in the forestCloninger wood-turned vessel by harvesters of lumber and pulp. Even firewood gatherers disdain the pieces that I routinely seek. The odd shaped, unwieldy, chunks that won’t split and won’t stack and won’t fit in the fireplace - these are the treasures to which I am attentive, and which come under my hand.

Most of the vessels that I make are turned from “green” (unseasoned) wood, straight from a log, burl or gnarly stump. It is the nature of such wood to continue to “move” a bit after they are turned, which accounts for the out-of-round and/or textured aspect of many of these vessels. If, while turning, I uncover an insect or larvae path, I try to incorporate it into the surface of the finished piece. I will sometime leave the marks of woodpecker activity on the surface of the vessel - the signature of the artisan who made a living in the tree before I have.

Cloninger turned vesselMy wood yards are the log jambs and the swamps of our coastal rivers. Magnolia and Holly and the roots and burls of Eastern White Cedar, Swamp Gum and Oak are abundantly available. Hurricane debris is another of my sources, delivered on a regular basis here on the Gulf Coast. When I weary of working with local woods, I gather a pick-up truck- load of choice pieces and journey to the Carolinas to barter with other wood turners for Maple and Cherry burl, or to Texas to swap for Mesquite.

Thus my environment is my stock in trade, and my relationship to the rivers, and bayshores I live near is no less important in my art - both Cloninger turned vesselphysically and spiritually - than the relationship of my hands and eyes to the spinning workpiece.

From river, forest, bay and swamp to the music-filled coolness of my small shop - my days are spun in wood.

~ Robert Cloninger ~

Lowell Webb, Pottery - Magnolia Springs AL

Lowell WebbWorking with clay has been a love of Lowell's since his childhood. He first discovered clay on his own when he was about 5, while playing near his family's home in Fort Walton, Florida. When he was about 11, he happened to see a folk potter giving a throwing demonstration at a local shopping mall. Octopus Amphora with Stand - Lowell WebbThis really caught Lowell's attention and focus, and he went home and fashioned a crude kickwheel with "an old bicycle rim, some wood, some brick, and whatever else I could find. That was my first wheel and that's what I first learned to throw on."

After taking his first pottery class when he was 21, he met Florida potter Charlie Brown, who really opened Lowell's eyes to the raku firing process. Later, Lowell attended Memphis Academy of Art and from there, transferred into the sculpture program at Memphis State.
"I actually moved to southern Alabama in the 1980's because of the abundance of high-quality native clay, as well as the rich pottery tradition, ranging from that of Native Americans to the potteries of the last century."

On Becoming a Mermaid - Lowell WebbSince moving to Baldwin County, he has taught at Fairhope's Eastern Shore Art Center, and has given many people private lessons out of his old studio in Silverhill, Al. He co-owned and operated Twinkleberry Pottery, producing raku, primitive-fired, and stoneware pottery. In 2000 he relocated to his present location in Magnolia Springs.

God's Eye - Lowell WebbLowell is currently working on a body of work he calls "artificial artifacts". As the name suggests, these artifacts aren't meant to be an imitation of actual ancient finds, merely reminiscent of them. His pieces provoke thought and distant memories of long lost cultures, as we envision the possibility of who might have made or used them and what hands they may have passed through. These clay pieces have a story to tell, even if only from a distant place in our imagination.

Visit the Webb Pottery website:

William Colburn, Sculpture - Fairhope AL

William F Colburn, Jr. was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and currently resides and works in Fairhope.
Following in his father's footsteps, he began welding at a very young age and over the last 15 years has successfully worked at establishing a business all his own, producing unique and creative metal sculptures. His work includes Artistic Studio Furniture, indoor and outdoor sculpture, as well as structural and accent architectural pieces.

William has exhibited in many States throughout the U.S. and continues to travel the nation, participating in art festivals primarily during the spring and summer months. Since 2000, he has won numerous arts and festival awards and gained recognition in the iron and metal art industry. William's work has also been marketed by art and home design catalogs such as Sundance and Crow's Nest Trading Company.

Each and every piece of William Colburn’s fabricated iron and steel sculpture is created by the artist in his private studio. Metal is cut using a plasma or gas fueled torch, shaped over a forge, and weld fabricated. Other projects involve individually casting molten metal using sand-cast molds of William’s own design. Brass, aluminum, and natural stones are incorporated into many of his projects.

Tools used in the process include hand held torches, a coal-fired forge, mig and tig welders, and various hand held hammers. No commercial or automated equipment is used in any phase of the creation or design process.

Celia Dionne, Fiber / Weaving - Foley AL

Handwoven Trans-Seasonal Wraps & Scarves

Originally known for rag weaving and hand spinning in Tennessee, Celia Dionne has been exhibiting prize winning “Fun Wraps” since moving to Alabama in 1994.

She weaves these shawls and triangle-based garments on triangular frame looms of various sizes. "Weaving this way is a pure tactile experience for there is no mechanical manipulation of the warp or weft as with a floor loom. I finger weave on the frame and the warp and weft are the same yarn but intertwined. Each triangle is woven individually, then I apply a fringe and/or finish the edges."

Celia earned a BA from Sophie Newcomb College of Tulane University and a teaching certificate from Washington University in St. Louis. Her formal education and teaching experiences included Classical Flute, French and English as a Second Language, yet she had always wanted to learn to weave.

In the 70’s Celia met Ruth Truett, demonstrating weaving on the porch of a historic home in Nashville. She decided to take a basic weaving class from Ms Truett, then joined a weaving guild. More skills were acquired through workshops.

In 1983 Celia opened a weaving and spinning shop in Franklin, TN, called CLARA’S LOOM, which is still the name of her studio, now located in Bon Secour.

"After frequent trips with my husband to Washington, DC it became clear that I wanted to do some weaving in off time in the hotels. We saw a triangle loom in a shop window and decided to try this technique. He had to read me the instructions over and over until I got it. The loom disassembles and became part of my travel gear.

Part of the skill of handweaving is tension control. Floor looms have tension devices that must be mastered. Frame looms have none…just the weaver. I place every yarn manually in the items I create. By using color and texture I hope to please your eye and hand.

To learn more about Celia Dionne, her creations, and her Fiber Studio & Art Gallery, Clara's Loom, please visit her web site:

Janet Hinton, Photography, Drawing, Printmaking - Ozark AL

Janet Helene Hinton grew up in Attalla, Alabama and earned her MFA degree from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, majoring in printmaking with minor concentrations in painting and ceramics. She is on the art faculty at Wallace Community College in Dothan, Alabama, where she enjoys teaching both studio and art history courses.

Hinton has worked in both nonobjective and realistic styles and in several media, including painting, printmaking, drawing and photography. The elements of design are important to her as well as the message given to the viewer.

Her recent subjects are from real life, primarily landscapes, architecture and figures. Hinton has traveled widely in Europe and has led groups on art tours. Some of her subjects are from those travels as well as from travels around the

Hinton has had ten solo exhibitions in the south, has been in juried exhibitions and festivals throughout the eastern U.S., where she has won many awards. Her works are in public, private and corporate collections and she accepts commissions.

Hinton maintains a studio at her home in Ozark, Alabama.
e-mail address:

Bethany Metzger, Decorative Floorcloths - Mobile AL

Degree in Art from the University of Alabama during the Paleolithic Period.

In 1990, began an art partnership with Lucy Clark and created punched metal luminaries on mosaic bases. This proved too difficult to continue due to weight and sharp edges.

Continual collaboration with Clark in the lucrative floorcloth market. Merging form and function, we create unexpected decorative punctuation. Art for the floor.

Floorcloths are highly durable, easy to maintain, and are a very old art form. Our floorcloths are non-traditional, fun, and festive, often very contemporary.

Maria Spies, Pottery - Silverhill AL

Maria Spies has worked as an independent ceramic artist since 1973. Originally from Mobile, she has studied with many national and international artists but most of her time has been spent in her own studio working and developing her own styles and skills.

Maria’s work appears in many galleries and collections throughout the country. Teaching others through classes and workshops has also been an important part of her career. This has kept her in touch with students and helped them to develop a respect for the ceramic arts.

Maria has also been active with non-profit organizations throughout her career serving different positions as an officer, board member and volunteer. She has chaired and juried numerous shows and exhibitions. Recently awarded Best of Show at Mobile’s Arts Alive 2008.

To find more out about Maria, please visit her website:

Frank Ledbetter, Sculpture - AL

Metal Artist Frank Ledbetter creates functional metal art using stainless steel, carbon steel and aluminum. Because his Dad always had a metal shop in the backyard, he grew up around steel fabrication and welding. After serving in the Marine Corps from 1971 to 1974, he began his own metal fabrication company in 1976. Frank has always been interested in art, but his business kept him too busy to pursue it.

In 2001, after 27 years in the business and fighting burnout, he sold out to an investor. After a year he moved from Alabama to Florida, and did miscellaneous jobs in the building trade. During this time, he bought a welding machine and started playing around and is now creating full time.

Frank has since moved back to Alabama and currently has his studio in Theodore. It gives him a lot of pleasure to see people's faces light up when they see something he has created. His passion is to work with people who have ideas for things they want and to make it happen for them.

Besides functional art, Frank has also expanded into sculptures, wall art and fun art.

To find out more about Frank and his work, please visit his web site: