December 2009

Artists on Art: In the Search of the Perfect Holiday Gift

Author: Kate Hanzalik

Sheldon Church
Ruins Beaufort SC
Mark S. Tierney
Mira’s Picture This Gallery*


Composer Robert Schumann once said that light can be sent into the human heart through art. This perhaps explains the glowing enclave of artists here in the Lowcountry. From the quaint streets of Bluffton to the deep woods of Daufuskie and the pristine beaches on Hilton Head Island, local painters, photographers, potters, metal sculptors, curators and framers alike all agree that the power of art is profound. But finding the right piece to give as a gift can be anything but simple.

Dripping with two hundred talented artists and a dozen or so colorful galleries, Old Town Bluffton is practically an original Jackson Pollack. Just ask Diane Dean about the spirit of art in this town—she is an artist and partner at both Pluff Mudd Art and Maye River Gallery. Her representational abstract mixed-media work and encaustic paintings are housed at Pluff Mudd, while the Maye River Gallery houses her affordable reproductions placed on tiles, cutting boards, coasters, and glass home decor items.

Dean suggests taking advantage of all of the quality that is in reach. “Buying art from local artists is important because it contributes to the cultural richness in our community. Each piece of original artwork is unique, so each gift is unique,” she said. And in terms of the purchasing process, she advises, “If someone is wandering through galleries with a friend or loved one and thinking about buying art as a gift, I would suggest watching how much time they spend in front of a particular piece of art. When someone walks in the door and immediately takes interest in a piece, it’s a pretty good bet it is in the art form that appeals to them.”

Dean’s colleague at Pluff Mudd Art, Vicki Jourdan, is an abstract painter and mixed-media artist. Like Dean, she recognizes the significance in giving art as a gift. “It tells something about yourself. Your thoughtfulness, your interest in [it], your support for artists and your creativity and the time you spent in selecting the right piece of art all play a role in what you are about,” she said.

Church-Street-based potter Jacob Preston of Preston Pottery sees his work not just as clay, but as story that connects his patrons to him and vice versa. “In truth, much about my work has to do with my relationship with those who purchase and enjoy my pottery,” he said. “A pot from my shop is usually an artifact of my relationship with the new owner of the piece. We share a mirror image story that is mediated by the ceramic work. Their part of the story is from one side of the pot (the receiver), and mine is from the other (the maker). The important thing is we share the story. It is a narrative of an object made by my hand and transferred to the hand of another.”

Potter Steve White of Steve White Pottery on Dr Mellencamp Dr. says buying art goes hand-in-hand with the mantra, “Buy Handmade.”

“We are giving a one-of-a-kind creation in which the artist started with the most basic materials and finished with a thing of beauty that is not the product of an assembly line,” he said. “Thought, hard knocks and a lifetime of experience are incorporated into each work of art. Giving art reinforces the artist.”

White, who also shows his work at Pluff Mudd Art, suggests asking yourself a few questions about where it will go before you buy it. “Does it go? Your taste may not be their taste. If the piece is fairly expensive and will make a statement in the decor of the home, perhaps it would be wise to make the choice a family affair. And yet, there are pieces of art that are so stunningly beautiful, they could go anywhere,” he said. “Some people are glass aficionados, others earring collectors, pottery seekers, lathe-turned wooden bowl enthusiasts, and others need a blank wall space filled in. Sometimes irrationality just kicks in.”

Framer Tessie Rogers at The Great Frame Up put the purchasing process into perspective when she said, “Understand people’s taste.” That’s easy for her to say, considering the franchise is home to one of the largest digital libraries in the country, thanks to its Cruse scanner. With hundreds of print-ready images from local artists and City Market-based artists in Savannah to majors like Picasso, Pollack, it’s all a matter of taste. “We try to find out where you are putting it, trying to frame it and mat it—all kinds of things…We’re really trying to help everybody give them what they want.”

Barry Honowitz
12 Salem Road

Hilton Head Island
Shipyard-based watercolor artist, Barry Honowitz, really knows the impact of giving art. When he sent Tiger Woods a portrait entitled “Four Birdies and an Eagle” after Woods won the Heritage tournament in 2008, he didn’t expect a response. So when “Team Tiger” sent a letter to him saying that Tiger loved the portrait, he was elated. “My wife said send the original and tell him it’s ten grand,” he jokes, adding, “I think a piece of art work has to talk to you.”

Gabriele Hoffman, administrator and publicist, seems to agree with Honowitz and says that buying art means knowing who you’re buying for. “Taste is such a delicate matter. It’s like buying perfume. You should bring the person along, or in practical terms, ask what the return policy is.”

From three-dimensional work to pottery, silver jewelry, and fabric pins with Santa Clause icons, Hoffmann says there are lots of items to choose from this season. “We have original fine art in every style and medium by some 120 local artists. We change our change every month to keep it fresh … and it’s affordable art, too.”

The Art league is hosting a holiday art boutique and miniature show this month. Hoffmann encourages shoppers to opt for the miniatures because they are inexpensive and easy to ship. “A miniature painting is an original that is very affordable, and for this economy, it is a great idea. There are over 50 miniatures available.”

At nearby Camellia Art Gallery, Adrianne Kirsch says that buying art is subjective. “It’s such a personal gift… The most important thing is that it needs to strike an emotional cord. That is part of the gift giving of art,” she says, adding that it is a gift that will last. “It’s timeless. It’s not going to wear out. You don’t eat it or drink it. And every time you look at it, there is a memory attached to the gift giving.”

The gallery offers an eclectic collection of works from local and regional artists, including abstracts, traditional, landscapes and sculptures. A new exhibit, “Found Recycled Objects and Assemblages” is an innovative display of objects re-appropriated into art. And Hank Bellamy is showing a collection of black and white portraits. The gallery offers 10 percent off framing.

It’s impossible to talk about galleries without mentioning Morris & Whiteside Galleries on Cordillo Parkway, an exquisite gallery on the island, home to a diverse collection of paintings and sculptures by some of the most reputable artists in the country. Owner Ben Whiteside explains what quality art is. “We represent who we consider to be the top living American painters and sculptures living today. Most of our artists are nationally known, and that means that they are invited to participate in national juried shows with professional representation,” he said.

When shopping, Whiteside suggests first researching online to get an idea of style, composition, subject matter, palate and color. He says that, for his gallery, it’s crucial to visit and take your time exploring. “Just walk through the gallery and see what you like, because everyone has an opinion and everyone’s opinion is going to be different.” Once you find something you like, he says, consider where it’s going to be placed. “What we sell is not inexpensive, so I tell people ‘Find something that you really like and want to put in that space where you spend most of your time.’”

If you’re still having trouble finding the right gift, there are other approaches. Mira Scott, owner of Picture This Gallery, says to opt for gift certificates, especially if you’re concerned about your budget. Let your friends and loved ones choose what they want on their own. Her store offers an eclectic array of local art including large format photography, oils, acylics, sculpture, textural collages and beautifully hand-crafted jewelry. The store also provides custom framing, art restoration, as well as giclee printing. Each month it hosts events including art openings, classses and book signings. Mira says buying art is “good for the soul. It’s something that you enjoy looking at; it makes you happy.” Email to be added to the Picture This gallery guest list.

And like all of the area art retailers and crafters, David Randall, a lifelong painter and owner of Fast Frame, a custom framing gallery on Hilton Head Island, is certainly aware of the challenges in finding the right gift of art to give. Randall offers a selection of 3,000 frames, from inexpensive, standard frames to museum replicas. He also offers prints from Greenwich Workshop (which prints limited edition prints from 70 nationally recognized artists) and works from the print company, Artaissaince, specializing in custom size artwork.

“In some ways it’s difficult to buy art for someone else, because they may not like what you like,” said Randall. “A husband and wife may like two different things, so if [one] knows what [the other one] really likes, that is the key,” he said. “You want to follow what they like, not what you like—it’s easy to maybe make that mistake.”

Holiday Fish Ornaments by Iron Fish Art
Painted by Daufuskie Elementary students. $10 each – proceeds benefit VIM. Available at VIM or Iron Fish Art. Please call Margie Maxwell for more information 843.689.6612

Daufuskie Island
Nearly anyone who has ventured out to Daufuskie Island knows metal sculptor Chase Allen and his shop, The Iron Fish Gallery, which teems with dozens of colorful creatures from his current and permanent collections. Some new fish to choose from this holiday season are plump pink-orange hued Sail Boat fish, regal blue Sea Pro fish, and spunky-spiky blue-yellow Carolina Skiff. Classics to choose from include the quintessential Uncooked Crab and the brazen Flounder. According to Allen, one of his noteworthy fish is the Sting Ray Mermaid, which is more modern than his traditional, vintage styles.

Allen believes art sells itself. “If the artwork speaks to you or makes you feel something good, that is all someone needs to make a decision to decorate their own homes,” he said, offering shoppers a bit of advice: “Plan ahead. Artwork is not a readymade, especially with what I do. There is always going to be a time lapse between when the order is placed and when it is shipped out. Don’t procrastinate.”

Places to Shop

Maye River Gallery , 37 Calhoun St., 757-2633,
Pluff Mudd Art , 27 Calhoun Street, 757-5551.
Preston Pottery , 10 Church Street, 757-3084.
Steve White Pottery , 27 Dr Mellencamp Dr.(Also sold at Pluff Mudd Art), 837-6660.
The Great Frame Up , 57 Town Drive, 815-4661,

Hilton Head Island
Morris-Whiteside Gallery , 220 Cordillo Parkway, 842-4433.
Fast Frame , David Randall, Port Royal Plaza, 95 Mathews Dr # A5, 342-7696‎.
The Hilton Head Art League , Pineland Station, 430 William Hilton Pkwy # 207,
Barry Honowitz Gallery , Shipyard Plantation, 384-1406.
Mira’s PictureThis Artists’ Gallery , 124 Arrow Road, Suite 5, 842-5299
Camellia Art Gallery , 1 Office Way, 785-3535,

Daufuskie Island
The Iron Fish Gallery , Deep in the woods of Daufuskie Island (call for
directions) 842-9448,

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