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The Arthropologist

In praise of makers: Where Houston artists become artisans

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Nancy, artsy craftsy, October 2012, Hickok-Grab Bag
Cindy Hickok, Hickok-Grab Bag from Mixed Bags, fiber (machine embroidery) Photo by Rick Wells
Nancy, artsy craftsy, October 2012, Houston Ballet dancer and designer Jordan Reed in her Green Goddess design
Houston Ballet dancer and designer Jordan Reed in her "Green Goddess" design Photo courtesy of Jordan Reed
Nancy, artsy craftsy, October 2012, WHAM Preview Party, crowd, venue
The crowd at the WHAM preview party last year Photo by Pin Lim/Forest Photography
Nancy, artsy craftsy, Ann Westby's Wire Wrapped Hoop Earrings
Ann Westby's wire-wrapped hoop earrings Photo courtesy of Petals & Metals
Nancy, In Praise of the Makers, November 2012, Camella Clements
Camella Clements Photo by Anne Marie D’Arcy
Nancy, artsy craftsy, October 2012, Elizabeth DeLyria, Driftwood Burl with Beach Stones
Elizabeth DeLyria's Driftwood Burl with Beach Stones Photo by Elizabeth DeLyria
Nancy, artsy craftsy, October 2012, Hickok-Grab Bag
Nancy, artsy craftsy, October 2012, Houston Ballet dancer and designer Jordan Reed in her Green Goddess design
Nancy, artsy craftsy, October 2012, WHAM Preview Party, crowd, venue
Nancy, artsy craftsy, Ann Westby's Wire Wrapped Hoop Earrings
Nancy, In Praise of the Makers, November 2012, Camella Clements
Nancy, artsy craftsy, October 2012, Elizabeth DeLyria, Driftwood Burl with Beach Stones
News_NEW HEAD SHOT_Nancy Wozny_column mug

It all started with a red lace dress. "Where did you get that?" I asked Houston Ballet dancer Jordan Reed. "I made it," she replied.

Immediate jealousy set it. Reed is not only a gorgeous dancer, but a successful entrepreneur with an Etsy store, where she sells her sleek dancewear and chic outfits.

I was born without the craft gene, unlicensed to operate even a glue gun. There was never a question who made my kids' school projects. They did, because they would have looked worse if I had. My deficit has left me with a life-long fascination for people who can make things like Reed and puppeteer and La Camella owner Camella Clements.

Let's not forget that it's Fresh ArtsWinter Holiday Art Market (WHAM) weekend, which runs through Sunday at Winter Street Studios, where I get to roam among the artsy, craftsy folk. And then there's the collection of miraculous objects at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft in CRAFTTEXAS 2012, on view until Dec. 30.

Crafterina

I have always admired Reed's clarity as a dancer, but I got to know another part of the dancer's talents after the red dress incident. Reed sells her ever-expanding wares: leotards, bathing suits, rompers, even chocolate chip cookies, from her Etsy shop Lone Reed Designs. She's most famous in dancer circles for her well-fitting and flattering leotards that combine unusual fabrics and intricate design features.

"Once I looked up in company class and noticed that 17 dancers were wearing my leotards. Dancers want to look good. You are in leotards and tights all day, you might as well look pretty." 

"Really comfortable 4 x 4 stretch spandex makes such a difference. I love working with mesh as well," says Reed, who will be gracing the stage in Ben Stevenson's The Nutcracker. "Once I looked up in company class and noticed that 17 dancers were wearing my leotards. Dancers want to look good. You are in leotards and tights all day, you might as well look pretty."

Reed also has a way with words when it comes to describing her creations. "A gorgeous deep merlot colored one piece bathing suit with vintage style cut leg line. Fits like a dream and will make you walk, talk and act like a diva," writes Reed about her retro swim suit. The dancer has no plans to stop dancing, but when she does, she will have her next career already in gear. Smart move.

WHAM Wonder

I'm not much of a shopper unless it's WHAM season, where I do most of my Christmas shopping. True, mostly for me, but the boys get handmade soap every year without fail. I prefer to party while I shop. At WHAM, shoppers enjoy some craft beer and nibbles while actually meeting the makers. I like to visit with every artist before I buy anything. Not only do I take home fabulous objects, but the story behind them.

You just don't get that at Macy's. Of course, I have my favorite booths, Hello Lucky and The Community Cloth, but every year I look forward to seeing what's new and who has the patience to tell me all about their process.

So far, WHAM has generated more than $300,000 for hundreds of local artists with artists keeping 75% of the sale.

Jewelry artist Ann Wesby of Petals & Metals is a WHAM believer. She likes the artist friendly indoor atmosphere, where she doesn't need to worry about rain or wind. "The Friday preview party is my favorite part of the market," says Wesby. "It's a great combo of cocktail party with a little bit of hardcore shopping going on between catching up with friends. Since this is art and not mass produced goods we are talking about, it pays to get there early in order to get the best selection."

Puppets, Fashion and La Camella 

Clements makes people and other objects in her artist life as Houston's reigning puppet diva. Clements' work has been seen through Bobbindoctrin, BooTown and other independent venues. She's trained in puppetry, fashion, film, and early childhood education. She's gearing up for a new show for East End Christmas at the Orange Show. "Right now, I'm into puppets that melt and transform." 

"Right now, I'm into puppets that melt and transform." 

Clements also has a serious entrepreneurial streak. La Camella is her almost one-year-old Heights-based boutique. At first, she envisioned the store as a place for her own designs, but the reality of sewing and running a shop changed her direction. Today, she carries hard to find lines that fit her "eclectic meets vintage" aesthetic. The displays are whimsical, theatrical and keep the eye of the shopper in motion.

From burlesque style shorts to handmade T-shirts, just about everything in the store jumps out at me as something I've never seen before. "I love knits and spandex," Clements says. Her store is a bit like a museum of extraordinary objects that you can also wear. I think of it as a fashion installation. Clements sees a direct connection between her life as a puppet maker and store owner. "In both, I get to create my own world."

CRAFTTEXAS 2012

There's nothing more exciting than letting me loose in a room full of highly talented makers, which is exactly what happened at the opening of CRAFTTEXAS 2012 on view at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft until Dec. 30. I was lucky to find Cindy Hickok right by her fabulous Mixed Bags with their intricate embroidered scenes. There's much to marvel at CRAFTTEXAS 2012. This is making of the highest order.

"Put that down," I wanted to tell the woman who lifted one of Elizabeth DeLyria's stones from her riveting work,  Driftwood Burl with Beach Stones. Then, I realized the woman was Elizabeth DeLyria. Being craft clueless, I assumed the piece was made from real stones and driftwood. No, she made them. Amazing.

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