The Talents of Our Local Artists
The Talents of Our Local Artists are one of the many things we love about the community. Our love for the community extends out to those whose talents deserve to be known. Our collection of artwork ranges from individuals who are internationally known, to others that are a local treasure. Follow along to learn more about the talent of our local artists and their amazing sets of skills.
Anthony Holiday is a local blacksmith who lives right here in Mobile, Alabama. Locals are not the only ones who have appreciated his work. Holiday had the honor of presenting his Steel Magnolia to Nobel Peace Prize winner, Desmond Tutu.
While at an art show in Las Vegas, Holiday received a call asking if he would be willing to make a steel magnolia for a man whose last name was Tutu. Returning home to get to work on it, he later finds out that that person was the one and only Desmond Tutu who had just won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Holiday’s work is a diverse collection with stunning pieces. For instance, his creations include the steel magnolia, a copper rose, steak turners, hand-forged crosses, steel flower beds, bottle openers and candle holders.
Born and raised on the Gulf Coast, Bruce Odell is an internationally recognized raku artist. Since 1976, Odell works at continuously perfecting his skill.
Odell works to perfect his creations. During the process, he heats up his pots with a blow-torch, and then buries them in organic material like sawdust. Once the pot emerges, it comes out in a beautiful multi-colored appearance.
Large crowds have gathered at places like the Rockefeller Center in NYC. In 2002, The Today Show televised Odell’s demonstration.
“After 28 years as a potter standing in my art Festival booth, I now prefer to demonstrate my unique way of raku firing throughout the event. More like a performance art than a boring demonstration, I continuously explain, teach, joke, and play with this spectacular process. In a different way from other raku firing, I paint with oxygen out in the open where you can see flame flashing rainbows of iridescent copper color appearing right before your eyes.
A Mobile native, who originally planned on teaching art in the 1970s changed course and created pieces that would be showcased at the National Museum of American Art in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, and the American Craft Museum in New York City.
“I began studying art after a tour of duty in Vietnam, the trauma surrounding the war made me want to pursue the arts.” Smith began to pursue his passion for art at Jackson State University where he studied ceramics and served as a Teaching Assistant to the late, famous professor Marcus Douyon.
Back home in Mobile, Smith worked hard at a shipyard during the day and worked at perfecting his skill at night. The Mobile Museum of Art exhibited one of his pieces while in school and began to gain popularity. In 1977, the city of Mobile hired Smith as a resident artist.
Smith went from a troubled veteran to becoming one of the South’s most accomplished potters. He has won over 25 first place or Best of Show awards for his work. It’s not just the South who gets to see Smith’s talent. Well-renown places such as the National Museum of American Art in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, and the American Craft Museum in New York City exhibited his artwork.
The technique is flawless. Smith decorates his pieces using the carved-and-sgraffito technique. “Sgraffito” in Italian means “to scratch.” The technique comes from realistic and Art Nouveau forms, mixed with abstract animal imagery. The designs have layers of color that are scratched off at some parts to create contrasting images, patterns and textures.
“I’ve been doing this for about 40 years, and now my goal is to have a certain style, so people can just look at the pot and know I made it — they don’t have to turn it over and look on the bottom for the artist’s name.” His latest artwork uses contrasting, bold colors such as black and tan.
Even with his years of practice and expertise, Smith is still working at perfecting his art. “I’ve been doing this for several years now, and in that time my work has evolved tremendously, but it has not changed all that much. Art for me has been a maturing process, not a series of radical departures.”
Muffinjaw Designs, owned by Freddie Blache, creates handmade glass pieces of art through glassblowing. Using a portable furnace, Blache is able to travel around to showcase live demos of his fine artwork.
Blache received a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in Glass and secondary in Sculpting from the University of South Alabama. He discovered his passion for glassblowing in the fall of 2013.
Caroline Gratton, one of the founding members, has been a crucial part of Muffinjaw Desgins. In January 2017, Gratton began blowing glass during the first firing of one of their portable furnaces. She exclaims that she loves that glass is more exciting, forgiving and approachable than any other art forms.
Inspired by the repetitious forms of nature, Blache loves the fluid nature of glass as it resembles the Mobile Bay area where he was born and raised.
Blache melts the glass in a portable furnace at 2,000 degrees. Rotating is key. The hot clear glass is patted into a colored glass. Blache explains, “We always melt clear glass to start off with because you can always add colored glass later.” Designs range from gorgeous vases, unique paperweights, wine glasses and seasonal decorations.
One of the best things about Muffinjaw Designs is their love for the Mobile community. In the past, Blache and his crew would go around town to showcase their work at events like the LoDa ArtWalk. They have even come by Red Beard’s Outfitter to hold a live demo of glassblowing. Doing this let the community see first-hand how their amazing artwork is created!
It was in his hometown of Fairhope, Alabama that Tom Jones discovered his love pottery during his high school years.
Jones studied under Edith Harwell and received a scholarship to Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi. In 1980 Jones and his wife opened their very own pottery shop in Daphne. Starting out, they created the pottery in their own home. As their business grew, they realized that they needed more space. They relocated to Clay City in Fairhope, AL.
Jones’ pottery is made in kiln that is fueled by natural gas. The kiln reaches a temperature of about 2400 degrees. All of his ware is lead free as well.
Tom Rasmussen is a local, Mobile artist who specializes in woodturning. He especially enjoys working with wood that looks rough to bring out the beauty of it at the end.
“I have enjoyed working with wood, in one form or another, for most of my life. Since my retirement, I have focused intently on woodturning. The grain, knots, voids, etc. that are exposed are nature’s art. I love to work with rough – sometimes half-rotten – wood that has been discarded to bring out the beauty of the piece.”
The talents of our local artists are a few of the many things that people in our community are proud of. Each one is unique, whether they are internationally known or are valued here at home.