Visual artists’ workspaces create inspiration. Step inside the studios of several local makers who are actively contributing to Toledo’s rich art scene.
by Athena Cocoves
Bozarts shouts out at South St. Clair Street near the Farmers’ Market— the bright blue building, covered in patchworked paint, graffiti and speckled brick immediately announces itself as non-traditional.
Approaching the entrance, I was greeted by an excited dog and his relaxed owner and resident artist, Jerry Gray. Bozarts’ interior is eclectic with large, open spaces. Gray’s warm and kind personality resonates throughout.
“This is not a sterile environment,” Gray said, laughing. “I don’t want someone to get the feeling ‘Be careful! Don’t touch anything.’ We are laid-back and want everyone to feel comfortable and enjoy themselves.”
Tucked in every part of the large warehouse are the works of friends, Gray and peculiar objects. Surprises range from a wall covered completely with years of stickers and spray paint to a professional, impressive woodshop.
Gray’s work is modestly displayed in a small space in the sizable area. Other walls, painted white, were covered with the experimental and humorous art of his friend, Josh Byers, whose solo show “Raised on Lead Pain(t)” was ending that day.
Since Bozarts’ opening in July 2009, Jerry Gray and his studio partner Tony McCarty have put on countless shows, featuring the art of friends and local artists. Opened with the intention of creating a space where Toledo makers could meet each other and demonstrate their talents in a “fluid and easy” atmosphere, key components, according to the artist, are “clean walls and good lighting. Everything else falls into place.”
“It came down to allowing the artist being able to create their own environment for their work to be displayed,” Gray explained. Informal, relaxed and flexible is the name of the game. “The best thing that has happened is connecting myself and friends with the local community… [creating] a melting pot of different people doing different things.”
Dani Herrera: paperDENIMart
by Molly Davis
The Herrera’s three-bedroom townhome in North Toledo doubles as a full-time studio space for Dani, part-time studio for her husband, Jose, and a warm and inviting home for their two children—and five birds.
Dani Herrera creates pieces and portraits from recycled materials, including old clothes, newspaper, dryer lint and occasionally human hair. Jose makes “friendly monsters and aliens” from clay, then paints them, giving them life.
Dani said the best part of working from home is that she can do laundry and cook, but working from home has its downside. “I never stop,” she said with a laugh. The kids have mandated ‘work-free weekends,’ since Dani is always working during the week.
For both Dani and Jose, their talent has lead to displays at various art shows around Toledo, but their creativity can also be seen in their workspace.
Everyone is welcome in the Herreras’ home, including the taxidermy they have collected—a coyote, a squirrel and a boar’s head. But these are not your average stuffed dead animals. The boar’s head is quite dapper, sporting a gentleman’s top hat, monocle and bow tie; the squirrel is ready for proper tea with pearls, brown ringlets under her squirrel-sized straw hat, and a tea cup and saucer in her paws; and the coyote is ready for a part in the next Western with a cowboy hat, vest and western doll passenger. “I like to give them life back,” Dani said, “I think it speaks to personality.” As strange as it sounds, it makes the house feel more alive.
Dani has also compiled an apothecary corner, complete with vintage medicine bottles, an array of bugs and medical tools.
The Herreras have a collection of art covering an entire wall of their living room, mostly from local artists.
They both worked from the basement until recently. Dani had brain surgery last June, and moved her workspace upstairs to the master bedroom for the fresh air and natural light. She says she likes working by a window, but has to keep the space orderly, as it still functions as a bedroom. She feels more of a connection with her kids, too, since she is no longer secluded in the basement.
Dani and Jose’s art can be seen at the monthly Uptown Art Walks during warm weather, many local galleries and most Handmade Toledo events. Check out their work at facebook.com/pages/paperDENIMart.
Ann Tubbs: Pottery Studio
by Athena Cocoves
The first thing Ann Tubbs showed me in her home studio in Ottawa Lake, Michigan was a French press filled with dark coffee. “I also have honey, cream…anything you’d like,” she offered.
Drinking out of one of her handmade mugs, I admired her studio. Her warm welcome and kind personality is reflected throughout her workspace. Packed with small plates, serving dishes, tiny cups and masks, Tubbs’ studio is filled with her history and aesthetic.
While her studio is hardly 20 feet from her home, the sanctuary of pottery and pigment has thrived for 34 years without running water through her careful practice. “I’ve thought about getting water, but I’m not a factory. I’m a studio. I want to throw away as little as possible,” she explained.
To do this, she plans her work efficiently and loves the technical aspects of her art. While some artists cringe at the particulars of maintenance, Tubbs flourishes in it and abides by methodical and deliberate practice.
Every day, the artist enters her studio around 10am. She said that her day is broken into three parts: one with her family, friends and dog, and the other two are spent in the studio. “I practice a lot. Constantly. It’s like playing the piano,” she explained.
She loves the “challenging” aspect of the craft’s chemistry, as well as the experimentation. It took her three years to settle on the clay body and glaze she works with now.
Pictures of her family sit next to expensive pieces of functional pottery. Delicate painted flowers lay next to piles of books. Small drawings rest on top of cassette tapes. Organic yogurt containers are strategically placed, filled with water, pigment and glazes. The entire studio is dynamic.
“You want reference points that are, in a sense, archival,” Tubbs said. She paused, showing me a beautiful, experimental mask done early in her career. “It looks awkward,” she laughed, “but has a ton of raw energy.”
“There is no ‘writer’s block’ [in here], because there is so much to do all the time,” the artist said with a smile. Sketch, prepare clay, mix the clay, form the piece, dry in part, refine, dry more, fire, glaze, paint, fire more. Rest. Repeat.
For her, it is the process that she loves the most. “My island [is] my studio, filled with the most wonderful things—brushes, colors, glazes, clay—and when I go off to a fair, with my little bag of things, I sell a few, and then come back, again, to my most special place, where I love to be. What I like about working [is] more about the making than the already made.”
Doug Kampfer and Jeremy Link: Graphite Design & Build
by Kelly Thompson
A large warehouse sits on North Huron Street, easy to drive by without noticing, as the only indicator of its existence is the number 15 on the front. Once inside, you realize this isn’t an ordinary studio—it’s a makerspace. And the forms produced aren’t made with paintbrush and paint, clay or canvas, but instead with tools like hard foam, hot wires and wood.
Doug Kampfer and Jeremy Link are the minds—and hands—behind Graphite Design and Build, a studio that practices repurposed design and layout evidenced by the unique items they produce. Take, for example, the 17-foot-tall Quetzalcoatlus that was built for the Toledo Zoo last year, or the 15-foot-long Great White shark they’re currently building for the new Zoo aquarium. From the counter at Bleak House Coffee on Adams St. to their dinosaurs at Imagination Station, they do exactly what their name implies—they design, and they build.
When we arrived at the studio, Kampfer was ardently working on the large model of the soon-to-be shark, sculpting its rough outline from a large block of foam. “This is how they make sets in Hollywood,” he said, as he chiseled away at the hard foam structure. The space, conducive to this type of work, is organized according to project. One side room contains a woodworking bench; another section of the space boasts welding helmets, hanging like an installation all their own.
Much of the work is imaginative and colorful, evoking a childlike interest, and this is reflected in the space’s decor. Large reclaimed signs hang on the walls; a fake tree and an inviting yellow couch sit in one corner. But the projects require a great deal of planning, and creating to-scale statues of these creatures requires learning about their anatomy. Kampfer took the time to show us how they designed the shark’s hinged jaw, positioning it to accurately represent the biology of a shark, but “without being too scary.”
The mission of Graphite Design and Build is to “turn ideas of any size into objects,” and their perfect blend of creativity and function consistently makes each project a success.
Olive Street Studios
by David Yonke
Olive Street Studios is a rambling, cluttered and thoroughly inspired bastion of creativity tucked away in a corner of downtown Toledo. It’s not on Olive St., although that East Side byway is where the studio was founded in 1990. Since 2000, the bustling artist community has been set inside an 8,000-square-foot industrial building on Ottawa St., between the Oliver House and the Anthony Wayne Bridge
The former warehouse has been reconfigured into a maze of studios and rooms set off by brick and drywall, chain link, concrete floors, vehicle ramps and garage doors. The industrial backdrop is brightened by bursts of color and dashes of creativity that fill every nook and cranny.
A giant gold-faced jester’s head looks down from on high, bearing something between a grin and a grimace on its face. Atop the partial wall next to the joker is a gray figure leaning on a pole, kind of a papier-mache Huck Finn on a raft.
Rachel McCartney is one of the newer members of Olive St. Studios. After living in different areas of the country, she decided to move to Toledo a couple of years ago because the cost of living is moderate and the city is accommodating to artists. Other artists now working at Olive St. are Will McCullough, Brian Juchartz, Jessica Besterman, J.C. Christy, Carl Porecca, Scott Ziegler, and Dan Lund. Every room and studio is a different world, reflecting the eclectic styles and preferred mediums of the artists.
Richard Reed, a well known and highly regarded local painter who works mostly in oils, creating art that gives viewers something to think about. “I like to create images that ask questions,” he said.
One of his smaller paintings, “Pandemonium Express,” gives a distorted view of a passing train; a 4-by-8-foot painting on masonite depicts an old car hunkering along on a dark country road; his oversized portrait of friend and fellow artist Marty Reichenthal, a Papa Hemingway look-alike, peers down from atop a brick wall.
“This studio is my badge of neurosis,” Reed said with a laugh.
There are eight artists now based at Olive St., where they not only pursue painting, sculpting and mixed media in their individual quarters, but have also forged the bonds of a community. Every Wednesday night, the artists, friends and visitors gather for an informal time of food, spirits and conversation. — DY
Read more about it online at facebook.com/OliveStreetStudios.
Gathered Art Gallery
by Athena Cocoves
When I entered Gathered Art Gallery and Studios, I was met by a space filled with high quality, fine glasswork. Nestled inside a 100-year-old downtown building, the gallery boasts sculptural and functional pieces made by local artists, co-owners of the studio, Adam Goldberg, Eli Lipman and Mike Stevens. An open doorway on the left welcomed me to their hot shop, where the molten magic happens.
As I walked into their studio, Goldberg and Stevens were at work creating brew mugs. The two work together easily—their relationship the result of collaboration that started at Bowling Green State University. Tom Schaefer of the Black Cloister Brewing Company stood back from the furnace, watching the two create commissioned glasses for the future Black Cloister “Mug Club.” The three discussed the style and negotiated color and shapes as Adam and Mike demonstrated their artistic flexibility.
In barely 15 minutes, the pair turned molten glass into a stylish mug. Tom appeared pleased, and they continued discussing the project. The new mug was safely tucked into the kiln, where it slowly cooled. “It’s like Christmas every day when you open that kiln,” Eli said. “There’s a lot of anticipation to see the final product.”
Gathered Art Gallery opened in June of 2012 and the three young owners have many reasons to raise a glass. Active in the community, they host events, opening up the shop to classes, workshops and demos while creating works of their own. The infinitive of the studio name, to gather, Lipman explained to me, is both a method of collecting glass and a coming-together of people.
Glassworking requires collaborative engagement and active movement. You can’t compromise with glass. The medium forces physicality, and the danger of high temperature material and tools pushes the artist to focus his attention.
“You cannot touch the material with your hands. You have to use tools, and it is fun to practice how to manipulate it, harmonize color, fluidity and transparency,” Goldberg said. “You use your whole self, moving around, working as a team, collaborating while depending on each other.”
Gathered’s studio teamwork appeared as a finely tuned dynamic. Goldberg and Stevens studied 3-D art together at BGSU, and both have a history of glasswork prior to college. “I started in high school and fell in love with it. [Now] I’m doing what I want in life, which is great,” Stevens explained.
Lipman brings a technical background to the team. After taking a few classes at the Toledo Museum of Art during high school, he studied Scientific Glass Technology at Salem College in New Jersey.
Different but equally passionate backgrounds allow for rich collaboration and creative development in the studio. They all work together to create and tweak designs and rely on each other during production. All three have similar styles, which focuses their efforts on production than compromise. While they rarely have stylistic disagreements, Lipman admitted, “with three people, there is always a tiebreaker. That’s the real plus to our team.”