Tina Kelsey, tiara queen
In her home in the hollow of Shade, Tina Kelsey lives with seven chickens, five cats, three dogs, two tortoises and too many tiaras to count.
"Making tiaras feeds every need I have for colors, style, texture — it really feeds every need. I am getting ready to experiment with fabric and tiaras. We'll see how that goes," she says.
In the back corner of her pastel pink and green abode, is the bead room. Stocked to the brim with jewels and bobbles and trinkets, the room holds endless inspiration for her wire tiaras.
"Sometimes it's the beads, like I just got these leopard print beads... like see those red reindeer right there — some day those are going on a tiara. I'm just waiting for the right day. I don't know what to do with them right now, but I will."
Kelsey, 59, wears a bright muumuu. With her gray blonde hair twisted in a bunch, she sits at a small round table. A mess of supplies are around her, ready to be made into a mermaid themed crown.
"This used to be my sewing room and then for a while it was a meditation room — there wasn't anything in here except a rug on the floor — and then it just slowly took over," she says. "Here I don't even know what's going on in the rest of the house. I'm so inspired back here, oh my gosh."
Kelsey first started making the headdresses to wear for fun with her girl friends, after one bought a tiara online. That was around 2008. Since then Kelsey has grown the handmade tiaras into her business Tina's Tiaras and sells them at craft shows in multiple states and online.
"I didn't think I was an artist. It took me a long time to own that, but I always, always did things. I sewed I made little embroidered things for a while," she says. "In high school I made purses out of blue jeans. This was in the 70s so it was a big deal and stores started selling them for me. I sold purses out of my locker. But it's really just been in the last five or six years that I've been comfortable saying I'm an artist."
Kelsey is also the president of the Athens Art Guild.
John Lefelhocz, Quilt Artist
John Lefelhocz’s quilts aren’t your grandma’s patchwork. His current endeavor involves sewing together strips of animated LED lights and in the past he’s used everything from bandaids to sugar packets to piece together artworks.
“For some reason, whenever I work with those two fabric-like layers and try to stitch them together something is... I don't know if it is that I am more comfortable with it or that I let my guard down but something happens in the quilt medium that it definitely is above everything else that I do.”
In his boxy tall-ceilinged studio, essentially an addition to his garage in Athens, he fleshes out ideas on his computer or on paper about how to make his concepts a reality. Sitting here he is surrounded by his past works — massive works of metal and custom-printed fabric — fabric swatches, sketches and some bike parts that could be considered a piece of that "everything else that I do" that he mentioned.
Lefelhocz, 49, arrived in Athens in 1985 to major in engineering at Ohio University, but soon diverted to studying art. He never did finish that degree, instead he says nonchalantly that he had the opportunity to go into professional biking. Now locally he is well known as the owner of Cycle Path bike shop, but nationally he is known for his quilts.
"I go to trade shows on bicycles and we talk about bike stuff and that's okay, but it's a bit regimented, blocked. It's not completely like: these are my people; this is my place. I go to another opening for a quilt show with other artists and I'm like these are my people," he says with his arms held wide. "It’s automatic I'm comfortable in my own skin.”
It took about a decade in Athens before Lefelhocz found the medium he is most comfortable with. The area has been a haven for art quilting since its early days with a national show being held at the Dairy Barn Art Center nearly every other year since 1979. Lefelhocz calls the exhibits "The Oscars of quilting." He had always dismissed the shows until his wife insisted he go. After a one visit, he was curious enough to try his hand at quilting in 1998. When his first quilt was accepted into the next show, he kept going from there.
"I think it's the adrenaline of getting that idea and making it go through and being able to put it up there and look at it and go, ‘that's way bigger than me.’ I mean I can't say ‘that's bigger than me,’ because it is part of you that's up there, but it is up there and other people are recognizing it. You've got that audience and that communication,” he says.
Lefelhocz’ work is currently on display at The National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky and he says has been purchased by several collectors.
Dannette Pratt, student of many media
The line between studio and home was never intended to exist when Dannette Pratt planned her home on 11-acres of land in Lottridge. The plot itself she chose around 2004 because of its propinquity to her friend's Icelandic sheep — at the time she experimented with dying wool and using ancient weaving techniques. Now on a hot summer day she can be found doing more experiments, this time eco printing with leaves she plucked from a witch hazel bush in her yard.
"I like using things from my house. It makes me feel very attached to my place here," she says.
She soaks the leaves in a mixture containing iron sediment, lays them out on a sheet of muslin, and sprays them down with vinegar to cause a chemical reaction. Then she wraps the cloth tightly and steams it in a copper pot for an hour or so before draping it over a tree branch to dry. She's not quite sure what will turn out on the fabric, but the hope is that the leaves' veins and outline will be stained onto the fabric. She has a few examples that have turned out to various degrees of her satisfaction, but she's only been experimenting for a week or so.
In an earlier trial she added cicadas to the leaves to see if they would leave behind a body print. She says it was also a bit of retribution to get back at them for being a nuisance. It's this dark side that Pratt, 64, embraces in her art. She's found success making zombie sock monkeys, steampunk squid toys, and "creepy little ink drawings" of imaginative monsters. She also spent years as a professional technical illustrator for Ohio University's medical college with her intricate drawings being featured in various international publications and The New York Times.
"I have a background in doll-making. I always call my self a Jane of all arts, you know I also have experience in ceramics. When your an artist you're just kind of versatile with a lot of things," she says.
Though her art varies widely, Pratt says her inspiration is taken from her childhood growing up on a working farm in Mansfield with a large extended family. As a kid she said she always had a sketchbook in hand and she liked to watch movies like Night of the Living Dead and Godzilla.
"I think it is animals and my family's influence for letting me be an artist and to be involved with animals," she says. "My mother couldn't give me enough sketchbooks. I drew horses all of the time, horses, dogs, cats."
Pratt is currently finishing her Master of Fine Arts in paining and drawing at Ohio University. Her thesis work embraces memory and mindfulness, particularly in response to meadow walks she takes around her home.