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BWA: A community of creators

by Ann C. Landenberger


In a meeting of the Brattleboro-West Arts recently, I was struck by the collaborative spirit, a palpable egoless camaraderie.  There’s no particular leader, but one steps up with a final todo list for planning BWA’s big annual event. In fact, this camaraderie is what has spawned the Brattleboro-West Arts Fine Art and Craft Sale coming up at 118 Elliot Street in Brattleboro November 30 through December 2. Featuring paintings, pastels, photography, botanical etchings, pottery, textiles, woodworking, jewelry, glass—it highlights 15 BWA members.


BWA formed in 2009 by artists and craftspeople who recognized the vibrant creative community in which they live. It’s a unique group: Most notably, they gather each month to share a meal and explore ways to enrich both their own art and the artistic climate of Southern Vermont. 


Plying edges of a piece with nimble fingers, colored clay artist Naomi Lindenfeld reflects: “I’m always discovering.”  Her work in myriad layers of colored clay is, “…very geological.  Many things in nature are made of layers or patterns created by wind and water.” Her pieces echo wood grain, rock striations, visceral movement. 


Fiber artist McDermet’s work is an intricate, textured, richly-colored blend of braided and hooked materials.  Each reflecting a theme on which McDermet expands with crisp imagery and unique perspective, McDermet’s pieces end up on more walls than floors.  


Potter Matt Tell’s work is inspired by organic forms, nature and Asian ceramics.  The fluted edge of a vase, the lotus imprinted at the base of a bowl, the glazes he favors, and even his wood-firing techniques all reflect this fusion of influences. 


Julia Eva Bacon claims John Singer Sergeant as her hero: that’s evident in every brush stroke.  First into portraiture, she felt stagnated and compelled to ask, “What makes me feel alive?”  She now does what she loves: With rich light and color, she renders animals and birds in oils.


Jason Breen crafts furniture and household items from local wood using classic techniques such as handcrafted joinery and hand-worked surfaces.  Each elegant piece reflects the inspiration he finds in the restrained lines of Shaker and Federal woodcraft.


Jewelry artist Chris Lann is fascinated with technique. He delves, for instance, into intricately knit and woven silver chains—a process he gleaned from the Vikings.   Lann often uses leftovers and found materials then with “fire and molten metal, hammers and saws,” he create pieces one at a time. “I’m led by technique; out of that comes the aesthetic.”


BWA’s Walter Slowinski is a bit of a Renaissance guy.  A doctor by training and vocation, he’s an accomplished musician and now a potter: His work is rich in texture and nuance--as if it’s seen generations.  “Fortunately,” Slowinski recalls of the time he left medicine for pottery, “the BWA artists were starting to gather regularly and I joined.” With their encouragement, he was able to do what was needed to morph into a professional craftsperson.


Slowinski’s colleagues echo his appreciation: Tell values deeply that “community of serious artists.”  Lindenfeld adds, “the fact that we get together monthly is unusual: we offer regular workshops in our mediums. It’s stimulating. It’s empowering to be connected. It opens up the world.” McDermet says: “We share a love of our individual arts and of each other’s.”  Bacon reflects, “Being with BWA has afforded me so many more opportunities to get my work in front of the public than if I were going it alone. We lift each other up." Lann explains that with BWA , he goes “deeper into what it means to be an artist out here in the country.”  Breen notes that in nine years with BWA, “I have learned from others about business as an artist. Our monthly get-togethers over supper lend themselves to strong friendships forged through intimate conversations and shared experiences.” 


Meeting over, these creative forces disperse to their studios—each tucked somewhere in the Whetstone watershed-- always knowing that other artists are behind them as buoy and ballast.   


To see representative work of these artist/craftspeople and their colleagues, check out the Brattleboro-West Arts Fifth Annual Fine Art and Craft Sale at 118 Elliot Street event runs Nov. 30, 4-8pm; Dec. 1, 10-6pm; Dec. 2, 11-5pm.  It is free and handicap accessible.

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