Conversations with Collectors: Awakening

Yup.  Its real.

I awoke on a half-deflated air mattress to Derek shaking me and saying – ‘Everythings gonna be alright.  Wake up.  Oh, and hey… she’s got a piece of mine around here somewhere, but i can’t find it.’  Off he went to gaze at everything around him.  Honestly, he was like a kid in a candy store.

Indeed – everything was fine.  My sleepy eyes came into focus and i sat straight up staring at dozens of wood objects – spoons, bowls, forms & function – there were SO many.  It teased the eye to glance sideways.

*blink… blink*

I wandered off toward the only bathroom that i could remember from last nights whirlwind tour.  There was a line… of course.  Too sleepy to find the next one – I stood there in the hallway, opened my eyes a little wider and saw a bunch of simply framed letters on the wall.  I looked closer.  It was a thank you note.  From Ronald Reagan.  Yup – the 40th president of the United States.  And theres one from another president – and another…   multiple Presidents have thanked the Breslers.  Wow.  Obviously, we were being hosted by loyal Americans.

On my way out of the bath, i made a wrong turn.  I found myself inside a personal office.  ‘Whoops…’, I turned around. But as I did… my whirling eye caught sight of a melting clock.  Whaaaa???  Within the sketch, I saw an infinitely weird character holding a melting clock and looking off into the distance.


The signature confirmed it, but i looked closer.  Yup.  Double-Wow.

Did you know, that Salvatore Dali is one of the most ripped off artists in art history?  But there it was – before my very eyes.  I have seen the pencil marks upraised on paper.  Simple sketches from a genius …or a mad man.

So exciting…

And then I took another look around.  There it was… sitting on display in a beautifully furnished office – amongst Dali sketches – a genuine “face” carved by Derek Weidman.  Amongst all the objects about the place – it was like a treasure hunt!  I couldn’t wait to tell Derek where I found it.

Heading back to the hallway, past beautiful baskets and tiny silver works, complimented by the occasional large sculpture, I turned into the kitchen and found Fleur talking with several of the residents.  A scrumptious continental breakfast lay about on the counters and we began to pick Fleur’s brain about her ideas and experience.  While it was a rare experience to be hosted in such a wondrous place as this, we simply wanted to know more from the person who made it so.

We start the day in the Bresler kitchen.

Early Morning; Fleur Bresler in her kitchen.

Fleur discusses some insight behind her discerning eye for the fine arts.

Wonjoo discovers part of the Bresler collection.

Luc and Jay check out works by master artisans.

There is so much to be learned from our elders.

Fleur shows us an example of what it means to actually preserve fine art made of wood. Its not such as easy task - which she takes very seriously. She shared many stories that gleamed with experience and in doing so, she gave us hints and shortcuts to consider as we moved forward in our own careers. In essence, there simply is no substitute for time proven experience. Thank you Fleur. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, your wisdom and your home with us, so that we could learn something beyond text books and youth.

Arrival at the End of a Day: The Bresler Residence

Time was passing quickly.

It was already past 9 o’clock in the evening and we were still rappin’ with the Keebles about art, life… you name it.

Derek checked his watch and spoke up, but we were so… so inspired.  What a day in our lives!

We had met at 8am to beat the Philly rush hour heading south, and soon found ourselves in Adams Morgan to meet the Mason’s;  then – we were driven to the Renwick Gallery, then onto the Keebles, and finally… we found our way to a place of rest for the night; where – sight unseen, we had been kindly invited to stay at The Bresler Residence for the weekend.

* Indeed folks, my last four posts have all been about a single day in our lives… 6/11/2010. *

Arriving an hour late, we feared we might be insulting our host.

Fleur politely greeted us at the door and showed us around enough to figure out where we could sleep.  She then trusted us to find our way, wished us ‘good night’ and walked down the long hallway, toward her bedroom and promptly closed the french doors behind her.

Collectively, we looked at each other in an awkward moment of silence.

* There will be no pictures to commemorate this moment *

Not feeling so sure of ourselves anymore, we were (thankfully) distracted by our sudden surroundings.  Looking around, we found ourselves surrounded by what is, perhaps, the largest collection of wood art anywhere on the planet.  600+ pieces from an extensive collection – featuring artists that have created the worlds finest art made with wood.  Fleur Bresler’s unique collection is a definitive history of creativity, technique, imagination and skill.

Suffice to say for now:  There is a place – 17 floors above Washington D.C. and complimented by many other fine antiquities – that houses a collection which someday soon, may only be visible through the experience of a museum visit.

And there I was, inflating my air mattress to sleep amongst it all, waiting to see what tomorrow brings.

Conversations with Collectors: Stephen & Karen Keeble

The most precious moments come when you least expect it.  Stay ready… because one never truly knows what they are in for…

After our visit at The Renwick Gallery, Steve took us on an impromptu tour of a few D.C. highlights via Embassy Row and the National Cathedral.  Soon after, we arrived at the Keeble home, where we were happily greeted by Karen and introduced to their wonderful world of art.  Walking into the Keeble home gives one a sense of balance and comfort.  Each piece of the myriad of art in their collection has its own place, as if the house was designed with the collection in mind – and indeed, Karen & Steve designed their home to suit their passions and priorities.

After a tour of the Keeble collection, we were treated to a fine American summertime tradition – the Bar-B-Que – featuring burgers and chicken, hot off the grill, along with a fresh garden salad.  It was over this meal that we found some great insight into the world of how a collector thinks, at least from the Keeble’s point of view.  Steve, having retired from the publishing industry, shed some light on how an artist might do better in self promotion.  Through that conversation, we all considered the future of promoting wood art in general; and – how do collectors find information on the artists that inspire them?

Touring fabulous collections of art is certainly inspiring, but this kind of sharing of ideas from experts and artists alike, is what makes for a very special and insightful experience for the ITE residents.

Steve Keeble checks out '#5', from the series “Lunar Landscape” by Luc DeRoo. This trompe l'oeil piece is done especially well; an observer might swear it is made of iron.

Karen and Luc speak with passion about various points of view on the Art of Wood.

Conversations with Collectors: The Renwick Gallery

Stephen Keeble, a friend of the Mason’s and an avid collector along with his wife Karen, met up with us and whisked us away – safely navigating us through the insanity that is – the DC rush hour.  We weaved our way straight down to Pennsylvania Avenue, where The Smithsonian American Art Museum houses the Renwick Gallery, which temporarily, lies quietly behind 3 stories of scafolding.  It was there that we met Nicolas Bell – a bright young scholarly curator at The Renwick, who kindly gave us the privilege of a tour.  He mentioned a lot of great news for the Renwick this year.  To learn more, visit The Renwick Gallery online.

Steve Keeble in the gallery at The Renwick.

Nicolas Bell

Nicolas talks about the past, present and future of Wood Art.

After our tour, we wandered off, and got inspired.

After meandering through the exhibits, we all gathered outside for our next adventure of the day.  Off we went through the streets of DC to meet Karen, and for a tour of their collection.  But before we climbed into the car, Steve – a proud Washingtonian, led us all down the street to the White House for a visit with Obama… well… no, not exactly… (but it had already been an amazing day and I wondered for a moment, how could this get any better?)   And yes, we did take the obligatory photo in front of the White House but instead, I’ll leave you with this parting shot:

'Resevoir Artists' - Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington D.C.


Conversations with Collectors: The Mason Collection

As the group of 6 ITE residents got out of the van, parked in the garage of a fine Washington DC residential building, Jane and Arthur Mason greeted us with big smiles.  Arthur welcomed us through a rather plain garage style doorway – and I admit, I assumed that I would be walking into a hallway, down to a lobby and up an elevator to view a great collection of art.  Instead, instantly, splashes of color from paintings on the wall greeted us and large sculptures had to be navigated as we ascended up the stairs.  My eyes grew wider with every step and before we reached the second floor, we had already stopped several times to hear an anecdote or two about the works we were seeing.

Jane had a fine lunch prepared for the travelers and every bite was served on a piece of art.  After telling a few stories and getting acquainted, Arthur was excited to show us around and we were too.  The Masons began their magnificent collection of wood art in 1986 realizing that fine examples of works in wood from artists around the world needed to be preserved.  Up we went to another floor, and then another, where he opened door after door exposing what he knows to be an important time line of fine art.  Thank you Jane and Arthur Mason for sharing your passion, inspiring us and opening up your home.

Arthur Mason shares the stories behind the pieces in the collection.

Arthur Mason is as passionate about collecting as the artists are about creating.

Conversations with Collectors

One of the greatest traditions of the ITE residency is the exchange of passions and ideas within the world of wood art.  This past weekend we were invited to do just that down in Washington DC with collectors and curators who are experts in the field.  Its been a fun weekend with much to share, but i simply can’t write it all in a single sitting.  For now, I’ll just post one image that pretty much sums it all up.

Inscribed upon the crown atop the Renwick Museum.

Tune in each day this next week for highlights and comments on this latest adventure.

The Wood Dump

Tucked away in a remote corner of Fairmount Park, is a place where all of the trees cut down in the city eventually wind up.  Welcome to the wood dump.  Log piles of cherry, varieties of oaks and pines and many other woods lay strewn about – waiting for Gus to lead the ITE residents into this gold mine of raw material.  Gus, an arborist, a tree surgeon and a wood turner himself, has enjoyed taking ITE residents to the wood dump for years and without him, we’d probably be scrounging for sticks.  Many thanks goes out to Gus and The Fairmount Park commission for opening this resource to our residents.

The Wood Dump, Fairmount Park, Philadelphia


Luc DeRoo finds what he's looking for.

WonJoo Park & Jay Heryet talk about some found objects.

Gus cuts up some prime pieces for Derek.

WooJoo ponders the details

Gus loves to help the ITE residents.

The Bounty

Reflections of Echo Lake

Echo Lake is an annual event that started in 1999 in Bucks County, PA with Dave Hardy, Mark Sfirri and Bil Sticker planning and coordinating the event. The name is in recognition of the model for collaborative creative events, “Emma Lake,” a biennial event in Saskatchewan, founded by artist Michael Hosaluk. The objective at Echo Lake is to bring together a diverse group of artists for several days with few expectations other than people working collaboratively and creatively to make things. New skills and new friends evolve during these intense days together. A fundraising auction at the end of the annual event offers for sale all the pieces made during the event and offsets the associated expenses.

Echo Lake XII took place this past week from June 2nd – June 5th, 2010.  For many years now, its been the traditional ice breaking event for the ITE residents to get to know each other.  Many thanks once again to Joe Seltzer and the entire staff at Bucks County Community College for hosting such a wonderful program!

Collaboration is a key element in the works of art produced in just a few days at the Echo Lake Conferences. Irene Grafert (left) works with fellow echo lake participants to produce art that was later sold at auction to benefit Echo Lake and Scholarships to Bucks County Community College

Derek Weidman

Jay Heryet

Leah Woods (left), an ITE 2009 alum, works with Steve to produce "Steak & Cheese".

Wonjoo Park lays out a concept for a piece shes already thinking of producing this summer at the ITE.

Irene Grafert

Luc DeRoo and Wonjoo Park

On Day One

Orientation Day at the Wood Turning Center is something like going down the rabbit hole into the world of art and inspiration.  As a visual person, I’m going to claim that I’m speechless… or else it would take a day to write all the news we have to share.  Here are a few glimpses into this world that place faces to the cast of characters and shed some light on whats about to happen at the 2010 International Turning Exchange.

But first THE NEWS:  It was announced that Stefano Catalani will be our resident scholar this year!  And this morning we met Jane Swanson and Tara Inman-Bellofatto, who are our guides at The University for the Arts.  Most of all, a very special thank you to everyone who makes this extraordinary program happen!

Ron got us all set up and ready to go

Jane welcomes us to the studio at UArts

Tina & Albert welcome us to the Wood Turning Center

Tara listens in

Luc DeRoo

Irene Grafert

Wonjoo Park

Jay Heryet

Derek Weidman

Dave Huntley