Jerome — Getting There From Here
My first full day in Arizona was a day to explore. Many thanks to the Sedona Arts Center and the Arroyo Roble Resort for hooking me up with an extra day of accommodations just for that reason. After all, it makes no sense to fly almost all the way across the country and not take some time to be artistically inspired.
I spent some significant time exploring the studios and talking to the artists of the Old Jerome High School. I wasn’t in a hurry, I was interested in hearing their stories. My first stop was the studio of plein air artist Mark Hemleben.
I introduced myself to Mark and asked him about his studio space and his work. Soon we were talking about my teaching for the Sedona Art Center and his experience painting with the plein air festival at the Arts Center. Mark told me that he has taught plein air classes in the past, but that painting outdoors is hard work, dragging supplies into the field, being out in the heat and the rain, it’s not for everyone. Mark admitted that he’d rather paint in the field on his own, and return to his classroom turned studio. He said that if he were going to teach, it would probably be still life in the controlled environment of the studio space. I have to admit, it was a stunning space with its beautiful wood floors and cascading natural light. The windows were open to a beautiful courtyard and an amazing spring breeze.
Mark shared with me that back in the days before the recession, he was making great money selling paintings to interior designers that were staging homes for sale. He said he had five commissions lined up at all times and life was good, he never had to leave this studio.
Life is still good for Mark because he also shared with me how grateful he is to be full time artist, to manage his own time and to be his own boss. Mark lives right up the hill in Jerome, he’s got an easy commute to work and he loves being able to stay put in his studio. “Some days I make paintings, and some days I make magnets.” he joked as he pointed to a selection of hand made magnets adorned with his artwork. With regards to pursuing teaching art (he has a degree in education) he said “I’d rather stay right here and drink coffee.”
Sandy Brown–Fiber Artist
Down the hall from Mark I visited Seeds Natural Fiber Clothing and the working studio of Sandy Brown. Sandy is a lovely woman who was wearing a big hand-made sun hat in her bright studio space. When I came in, Sandy was cutting out a pattern from a bolt of luxurious raw silk in a beautiful deep red color. Sandy had many hand-made hats, jackets, skirts, blouses in her space. It was difficult for me to focus!
I asked Sandy’s permission to take photographs, and promised her that I was only taking detail shots, nothing that would give away her designs. “I appreciate your understanding the importance of that.” she said. I explained that I was an artist myself. She smiled and asked “Oh! what brings you here to Jerome?”
Just like that.
Art often opens conversations between people who may not have other things in common, but Sandy and I did find some common ground. Sandy told me about her children, that she had two older kids who were very close in age (now in their late 20’s) and also has a 16-year old. The big gap in age was something I could relate to, having a brother that is 17 years younger than me. We also talked about the fact that because Sandy herself has broad shoulders, she sews gussets underneath the arms in her jackets. This means that people built like me can move their arms around freely (without the Incredible Hulk effect) in a fitted jacket. Brilliant!
Sandy shared with me that she had lived in the Northeast for a long time but that the light there was never as beautiful as it is here in Arizona. She said she loved the sunshine and the dry air. When I shared that I was from Florida, she told me that she had spent some time in Naples, “92º in Florida sure did feel like 110º here!”
Oh yes, it sure does!
Suzanne Trout — Jewelry Artist
Sandy encouraged me to go upstairs to explore the hand-made jewelry of artist Suzanne Trout. I climbed the stairs and poked my head into a shared studio space. Suzanne sat in the back at her jewelers desk amongst beads and clasps and tools. “Have a look around, come back here too.” she invited me in. I did a double take, “Is that a Klimt shirt you are wearing?” I exclaimed with excitement in my voice. “Yes! it sure is, he’s one of my favorites.” I sad down, and we talked.
Suzanne shared with me about a trip she took with her daughter, to visit her granddaughter when she was attending Parsons School of Design in New York City. “When we were there, we went to the Ronald Lauder’s Neue Galerie to see the painting by Klimt that is the subject of the movie The Woman in Gold.” she said. “That was the best trip, the painting was amazing and I am so proud of my granddaughter.”
Suzanne shared with me her story, she said that by age 14 she had dropped out of high school and gotten married. She said she then went on to have five kids, get divorced and remarried. Then she smiled at me and leaned in closer, “Then I got my GED, and then a Masters degree in Art, and THEN I went on to teach middle school art for almost 30 years.” Amazing.
Suzanne showed me her selection of Klimt inspired jewelry and I was a goner. I had to have a pair of earrings from her collection. Having spent time with her and shared her story, I knew that these earrings would have a double special story for me.
Selling art is about building a relationships for the artist. Everyone wants to feel good about the person who took the time and talent to create by hand, their painting, their jacket, their jewelry. When an artist takes the time to tell you their story, and you take the time to listen, something wonderful happens–you connect.
Connecting with people sharing their stories is something I love. Whether I explore an arts town and dig in, or I learn by listening to students talk about their journey while in my classroom — the common interest in art, the shared mindset, it connects us all in creativity.
Some History of Jerome
Once a thriving mining camp between the late-1880s and early 1950s, Jerome is now a tourist and artist community with a population of about 450. It includes a collection of artists, craft people, musicians, writers, hermits, bed and breakfast owners, museum caretakers, gift shop proprietors and fallen-down-building landlords.
Founded in 1876, Jerome was once the fourth largest city in Arizona. The population peaked at 15,000 in the 1920’s. The Depression of the 1930’s slowed the mining operation. Despite World War II bringing increased demand for copper, the demand slowed shortly afterward. In 1967 Jerome was designated a National Historic District by the federal government.
Jerome is an enchanting town, and a photographer’s paradise. From its external appearances it hasn’t changed much in nearly 100 years. Due to the 30-degree incline of the mountainside, gravity has pulled a number of buildings down the slope.
One notable section is the “Cribs District.” You will find this area across the street from the English Kitchen, in a back alley where all the buildings were are part of Jerome’s ill-famed “prostitution row.
Enjoy more photos from my camera on my Facebook Studio Page album A Day of Art Inspiration, no Facebook account required!
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