Top 15 Tamarack Artists
In commemoration of Tamarack's 15th anniversary, we celebrate the talents of some of its top artists.
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Tamarack’s striking, peaked red roof and attractively landscaped grounds draw half a million visitors annually into a welcome respite of visual beauty, Appalachian sounds, and distinctive aromas. In August 2009, Tamarack welcomed its six millionth guest and anticipates its seven millionth guest in late 2011. And that’s not all.
In just 15 years, Tamarack has worked with more than 3,000 West Virginian artists and craftspeople. They have helped retain, expand, and create jobs for West Virginians through the retail artisan shop in Beckley and have linked artists to other wholesale and retail opportunities, from travel information centers to the Mountain State Art & Craft Fair. Tamarack’s retail center benefits all 55 counties in West Virginia, and its economic impact is almost $19 million annually.
“I don’t often brag about Tamarack’s staff, but this milestone is an opportunity to acknowledge how important the people are who work both in the public eye and behind the scenes,” says Cheryl Harley, Tamarack general manager. “The people here are the heart of Tamarack. It is their commitment that has made it all happen 364 days a year, for 15 years.”
To honor one of the most important groups of people involved in Tamarack’s flourishing success—the artists—WV LIVING magazine and Tamarack partnered in a public callout for the people of West Virginia and beyond to vote for their Top 15 favorite Tamarack artists. The Top 15 artists have qualified for and been accepted through a system in which master craftsmen and craftswomen judge the artist’s work based on a variety of criteria, a process that has evolved over the years into a well-oiled machine. At the most basic level, Tamarack staff members pre-screen each artist, reviewing their product for quality, workmanship, originality, and appropriateness, and if the artist’s work meets those criteria, they are then invited to jury.
“Although Tamarack has evolved in so many ways over the past 15 years, we still believe in the original vision of former Governor Gaston Caperton: Tamarack is a place where visitors experience all that is West Virginia, and West Virginian artisans make a living preserving their heritage by creating original handcrafted works of art,” says Cindy Whitlock, Tamarack marketing director. “To me, it’s more than a place. Tamarack encapsulates the spirit of our Mountain State with wondrous architecture and art, with memorable sights and sounds, and with a sense of both pride and purpose not found in any of the other 49 states.”
Vittoria & Banks
In 2003, after the loss of five friends under the age of 40 in the span of a mere two months, Vicki Angotti took a moment to examine her life. At the time, she was working with her husband in his medical practice, but she was not fulfilled. When a trusted acquaintance advised her to turn to something creative to help her relax, Vicki turned to wire and beads. One day, within hours of sitting down with her new project, she had designed and created five sets of necklaces with earrings. Today, Vicki is a Precious Metal Clay Certified artist. “Most of my designs are not planned ahead of time. They just ‘become’ what they are meant to be.” She is a juried artist at Tamarack and sells her jewelry across the Mountain State. Her work has been accepted for shows at the Tamarack Gallery, Monongalia Arts Center, and the WV Arts Guild show in Parkersburg.
“I love the concept of jewelry and adornment,” Vicki says. “We decorate ourselves with things we love, that tell a story of a moment in our lives, even if that moment is only to find just the right earrings to match a new dress.” Vicki operated a jewelry business—Vittoria & Banks, Art For Your Soul—in downtown Fairmont that featured the work of about 30 artists, before moving her studio to downtown Bridgeport, where she now enjoys taking every opportunity to teach and advise fellow artists about the business and marketing side of art.
Vicki loves making every piece of jewelry personal. “I look forward to continuing to experiment with different techniques and materials as I enjoy my journey,” she says. “How can you get bored or burned out when you play every day with sterling silver, gemstones, electrical fuses, cut up credit cards, and wood? Not to mention hammers, fire, acid, and big tools!”
Vittoria & Banks, 130 West Main Street, Bridgeport, WV 26330; 304.641.4247
PAINTER & PHOTOGRAPHER
“I have been creating images my entire life,” painter Chuck Ball says. With the support of his parents and paternal grandmother, who always made sure he had the best in professional quality art supplies, Chuck was able to establish himself in the arts. It was his sixth grade teacher who encouraged him to apprentice with local watercolorist Jack Scott, an experience that revealed what it was really like working in a studio. Chuck focused on oils in high school and then studied sumi-e, the practice of making and using ink, at Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka, Japan.
In 2010, he was juried into Tamarack. “Tamarack is the perfect arena to display the diverse culture and skilled crafts of West Virginia’s natives,” he says. Working in West Virginia was a “non-issue” for Chuck, but working as a West Virginian in a traditional Japanese format has proved difficult because people don’t always understand that he’s not copying a style but was trained in the tradition of sumi-e.
The best advice he can share with fellow and young artists just exploring their craft is this: “Believe. Focus. Accept that you are doing what you are intended to do and your success comes to you. The main product artists create is joy and it is our job to distribute it as thoroughly as possible.”
Ruckman Mill Farm
Susan Feller has been an artist all of her life, working with her hands learning a variety of surface design techniques. She started rug hooking in 1994 at the age of 40 because it enabled her to pull all of her skills together. “My grandmother taught me crocheting and knitting and my mother taught me hand sewing, and as a Girl Scout, I learned about traditions. Then, in college, I majored in history and art. When I saw my first hooked rug, I was determined to learn how to pull the loops, and my fiber journey continues today,” Susan says.
“I love rug hooking because it is tactile. I love the variety of visual textures and colors and being able to manipulate dyes to create my own surface. Rug hooking is a forgiving technique—hook, change your mind, pull out, hook again.” Susan also likes rug hooking’s element of recycling, something that first attracted her because she could reuse and repurpose clothing. She was attracted to the utilitarian yet decorative nature of hooked rugs, as well as the heritage of generations that could be interpreted as part of contemporary designs.
For Susan, working as an artist in the Mountain State is an “affirming, powerful, sustaining, and supportive” experience. She enjoys being part of a community of generous, sharing, and talented artisans and takes advantage of the abundant networking opportunities across the state by serving as a board member for the Hampshire County Arts Council, among other things. “The Best of West Virginia is an asset to the arts community within our state and is known worldwide,” she says. “The mentoring programs, the support systems online and within different art mediums, and the residents’ encouragement statewide all validate what it means to be an artist in the Tamarack collection and in West Virginia.”
Studio open by appointment.
Susan L. Feller, Ruckman Mill Farm, Augusta, WV 26704; 304.496.8073
Since her earliest pursuits in pastel painting, artist Tonie Garrett has had the support of local teachers, friends, and family. Her passion for pastels has been ever-present since her first workshop with Terri Smith in 2006 in Lewisburg. “The immediacy and the pure and brilliant colors of pastel have produced many rewarding experiences for me,” Tonie says. “Fine artists such as Bill Hosner, Bob Burridge, and Bob Rohm inspire me to keep reaching for expression and expansion through my paintings.”
As a Tamarack artist since 2009, Tonie says, “Tamarack has especially offered new opportunities for West Virginia artists. Residents of the Mountain State—and our visitors—are blessed to have such a wonderful center and foundation located right here in our state that is so widely recognized in the art world.” Tonie has also been with Allied Artists since 2008 and was most recently accepted as a member of the Pastel Society of America.
Studio visits available by appointment.