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Member Profiles

Get to know some of our Carriage Barn members with Membership Manager Jessica Ruhlin.  Please reach out if you’re interested in being featured: [email protected]


July Profiles


 

An Interview with Member, Miggs Burroughs
*To see more of Burroughs’ work, visit 

How is a lenticular made and what do you enjoy about the process that is unique to that artform?
 
The lenticular process dates back to the early 1950s before computers or Photoshop, so I am not sure how they were done then. I make them with the computer now, which involves two images being digitally “interlaced” or merged into a single image made up of tiny alternating stripes of both images. After printing it out, an optical plastic with grooves in it is aligned over the striped image. When done correctly, the grooves in the plastic line up with the stripes of each image underneath, and reveal one image at a time as the viewer walks by. They are movies with only two frames, a beginning and an end, instead of the 200,000 frames in a conventional movie. It is a unique process that demands the thoughtful creation and combination of two images that will hopefully tell a story,or trigger an emotion.
 
Describe your ideal workspace using the 5 senses.
I may be in my ideal workspace now. I have it all to myself, come and go as I please, listen to what I want to, and I can leave a mess behind without being sent to bed without dessert. In no particular order, #1 is smell. I love the faint, sweet smell of the ink on a freshly printed image. #2 is taste. In my ideal workspace I would have constant access to poached salmon and dark chocolate. #3 is hearing. Listening to my favorite music from the 60s like the Moody Blues, Pink Floyd, Kinks, Stones, Bowie – which I do now. #4 is touch. I love the touch and feel of the materials I use. Even with the computer there is a lot of hands-on work to do in assembling and mounting my images. My fingers also enjoy the feel of a freshly minted $100 bill. #5 is sight. The great reward of creating these images is that after hours of trial and error and some wasted materials, I finally get to see them change and come to life for the first time for the viewer.
 
What does having access to an arts community like the Carriage Barn do for a creative person?
Access to the community of artists and art at the Carriage Barn is the oxygen which enriches our creative bloodstream, and every artist knows that the large welcoming venue will show off their work to the best advantage. For the most part, artists are not competitive, and they support and praise one another’s work when they see it displayed in such an attractive setting. The receptions are always festive and well attended, allowing us to wander through the exhibit meeting new artists and discovering new work. The many exhibit opportunities throughout the year give us all the opportunity to evolve as artists and witness the creative journey of others as well.
 
 

 
An Interview with Member, Susan Finkelstein
 
 
What do you enjoy the most about your involvement with the Carriage Barn? 
 

Wreath title: ‘Nutcracker? Sweet!’

I really enjoy the community feeling at Carriage Barn- the support for local artists, and their openness to all comers.  I have truly enjoyed their shows and lectures in recent years,and have taken advantage of many really wonderful trips to local museums and events.

 
You’ve contributed some beautiful and unique pieces to our Deck the Walls exhibit. Where do the ideas and materials come from? 
 
Thank you for those kind words! I feel like ideas come from so many places- I really love the idea of repurposing, so actually all of my material comes from thrift stores, Good Will, or EBay. Sometimes a funny theme will come to me- and friends  who know about my crazy wreaths are always sending me ideas to try out. I recently found a group of vintage pink plastic lawn flamingos- stay tuned!  
 
What three characteristics of your personality do you find most often appear in your artistic work? 
 

Wreath Title: ‘The Lure of Fishing’

I am going to answer this question a little bit differently – I hope that’s’ OK! I think the core of my ideas for my wreaths comes from the honest belief that art is everywhere, and can come from anywhere. I find myself often looking at things in the environment, in a store, in a junk pile and thinking, ’that would be beautiful as a wreath’.  I also feel that having not grown up celebrating Christmas opens me up to being able to think outside the more traditional imagery for the holiday- and honestly, I mostly love the idea of making something that makes myself and others laugh! That is probably the most important part- the humor behind some of the less- than-typical creations!  

 
 
 
 
 

June Profiles


 

An Interview with Member, Jennie Carr
*To see more of Carr’s work, visit her Instagram Here

How has the Carriage Barn been a special part of your journey as an artist?

I’ve been a happy member of the CB for just over a year now, and I have felt welcomed from the start. I’ve enjoyed exhibiting and selling my paintings and photographs in many shows alongside a group of talented regional artists. It’s a pleasure working with a gallery that is professionally run with such beautifully curated and well attended shows. I’ve participated in many of the events the CB hosts both on and off-site. My favorite to date was the Basquiat x Warhol exhibit at the Brant Foundation.

I’m certain that a lot of great things coming my way will be traced back to my connection with the wonderful community at the CB.
 
What are three words/phrases that describe you as an artist and your work? 
 
A few words I would use to describe my artwork are Beauty, Humor and Equality & Freedom.
As a photographer and a painter, I’m always looking to share the beauty and humor I see everywhere I go. My photography is often based in nature and I favor landscapes, seascapes, clouds and botanicals. That being said I find a lot of my images in urban settings with a fondness for architecture and candid street scenes.
 
Most of my paintings are acrylic on paper or wood. My preferred styles of painting are Contemporary, Abstract and Pop Art. I have been painting on maps and architectural drawings for many years, I enjoy taking someone else’s plans and making them my own.
 
Many of my paintings promote Equality and Freedom for all, with an emphasis on women’s rights. I often incorporate humor in the message because I would prefer to strike up a conversation with someone than lecture them. 
 
My Equality Pin Up Girls series has been very well received by a wide audience. I was thrilled to have the series covered in an interview along with a group of my paintings in an international magazine. I continue to work on this series which keeps expanding. My Freedom Girl has made her way onto a t-shirt and trucker hat, and I have additional pieces in the works.
 
Besides the new restroom signage in the Carriage Barn, does your art exist in any surprising place?  
 

I want to begin my response with the fact that I was both delighted and amused to have been asked to create the art for the CB restroom doors! I went with pieces based on 2 series I’ve been working on. A strong Surfer Girl welcomes the women, and a Salty Sailor greets the men! 

As far as unusual places that my art resides, I often get photos from collectors when they hang my work in their homes. Unfortunately they all seem like fairly normal people and nothing out of the ordinary comes to mind. I did have a successful art exhibit of my paintings and photos in Ireland last summer and I am planning to show there again in September. I know that all four of my grandparents would be proud to know my art is hanging in the beautiful country where they were born. 
 
 

 
 
An Interview with Member, Vanessa Curri
*To see more of Curri’s work, visit her Instagram Here
 

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How and why did you become involved with the Carriage Barn?

 
I am so grateful for the Carriage Barn! It  has given me the opportunity to be more involved in the local artistic community both as an artist, art enthusiast and instructor  (I even formed a good friendship in one of the first shows that I attended just by chatting about the art with her!) 
 I came upon the Carriage Barn over 2 yrs ago when we were emerging from Covid; I had been life-drawing and felt it was time to get involved in some manner of teaching. And although family life still created a challenge for me to pursue a full-time artistic practice,  I was feeling more and more committed to the idea. I studied Art History/Fine Arts at York University in Canada and life-drawing has been a fixture of sorts for me since my 20’s. I continued to attend art schools in Toronto,  the U.K. and now also painting/drawing here in Ct.  Moving countries often with the children was always sidelining my artistic pursuits so now finding an opportunity where I could do it more often was wonderful. 
 
2. What is your ideal outcome of one of your drawing classes?
 
The drawing classes that I taught at the Carriage Barn were very much based on giving an opportunity for the kids to explore various mark making material in a deeper way than they might get to at school.  There are a great many artistic concepts in drawing to be learned, and I like to make an analogy of this process to learning how to write.  You need to develop a grammar to create decipherable meaning.  Some of this can be intuitive for people, but largely mark making is a language that needs to be developed.  It might seem awkward at first , but largely that can be because there are usually such intense expectations for things to look “right”. Exploration can be messy with a great many starts and not necessarily getting that polished “ready to hang “ sort of work. Think about all those writing assignments you had to do in school.. chances are, what you wrote was not ready to go to the publisher!   
The kids were exposed to working in Indian Ink, various charcoals, graphite, and other materials and I believe they definitely got to expand their drawing language, which have me a great sense of fulfillment. 
 
3. I get my best breakthroughs and ideas by….
 
Personally, I am currently working in a variety of mediums; oil, acrylic, ink, charcoal, and graphite.  And I feel my background in drawing from life has benefited my painting immensely. I love drawing people and feel it is a genuine privilege to do so.   Ideally, I strive to observe something essential about the sitter and their form and not just the physical attributes but also their humanity in general.  
I like to develop drawings and paintings both in a kinetic intuitive way..( almost as though I am tapping into an unconscious energy).. but also in a slower paced methodical approach, too.  In either case, I tend not to be too precious, I am pretty good at admitting when a drawing or painting has gone a direction that might not be worthwhile to continue.  I am comfortable with chaos.
 
It has been my very good fortune that Carriage Barn and their wonderful team has  literally a few minutes away!   I look forward to contributing more art work to shows, to seeing shows and to perhaps leading future classes. 
 
 

May Profiles


 

An Interview with Member, Andrew Graham
*To see more of Graham’s photography, visit his website Here

Can you tell me about your first experience showing your work at the Carriage Barn? 
 
I think it was my first experience at the Carriage Barn when I exhibited two images and both sold! I was THRILLED! The first and only time I have sold multiple images in one exhibition! 
 
What are some common obstacles you encounter as an artist and how do you overcome them?
 
As an artist of the nude human form, and most often the male form, I often don’t get into exhibitions, or the “safest” images are chosen for shows. I understand that the naked body is challenging for some, but at the same time I hope that what I create is fine art,
and would like to be able to share my art with those who might appreciate it!
 
What 3 things do you have to have to enjoy your work as an artist?
 
1. The opportunity to explore art! I was a graphic artist for almost 40 years and my designs were under the scrutiny of many long before they even got to the client. To be free to make art for me is what I live for.
2. I am meeting amazing people, willing to be naked in front of my camera in order that we might make fine art. If not for these generous and those willing to be vulnerable people—I would not be making art.
3. I have connected with a WONDERFUL art community! Artists who love art as I do, and who encourage me in my pursuit to make beautiful (I hope!)  art!!!!!
 
 

 

An Interview with Member, Audrey Zinman

How did you come to be involved with the Carriage Barn?
 
I am very new to the Carriage Barn.   I learned about the Carriage Barn through a friend who lives in New Canaan.  The programming intrigued me and, of course, I am always eager to become involved in organizations that support and encourage the arts!  I plan on becoming more involved and take more advantage of what the Carriage Barn offers this spring and summer.
 
I tend to get my best ideas and breakthroughs from…
 
I respond to color and pattern and texture.  Whether I am out walking my dogs, or traveling, or whatever it is I am doing, I am always searching for inspiration.  Often, I will be drawn to an image and this image then becomes the focus of my next piece. 
Most recently, as I was taking a hike, I found a beautiful tree bark and photographed it.  I used it as a central image in a recent piece and built the other images around it.   Sometimes it is not about the image, but rather the object itself. While vacationing, for example, I found worn, bleached shells and became inspired by their form and shape.  I wanted “to resurrect”  them and honor their voyage, reimagining where they had been.  My process is really fluid and usually flows from one image or object I run across by chance or when on one of my hunts.
 
Why did you choose decoupage as your artistic avenue?
 
The honest answer is I cannot paint or draw! Expressing my artistic side gives me great peace and joy, however,  so I have found other outlets to nurture that side of me.  My journey as a decoupage artist began at a flea market years ago, when I found a beautiful decoupage vase.  I thought, I have to learn this art form!  I found a few workshops and classes and built my knowledge from there.  Decoupage is perfect for me as I can work in small spaces.  In fact, my studio is a closet!  

 


April Profiles


 

An Interview with Member, Ariel Ling
*To see more of Ariel’s photography, visit her website Here

As the Spectrum, ‘Visual Rhythms’ approaches at the Carriage Barn, does music play any part in your creative process? What are you currently listening to and can you cite any music that has influenced your artwork or life as an artist?

I have always loved classical music, especially with my son Cary being trained as a pianist / cellist since he was 6. In the last ten years, I have listened to him playing a wide range of famous piano and cello repertoire from Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Impressionist to modern 20th century ages – from Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, to Chopin, Debussy, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Grieg, and Gershwin, etc. A lot of times I was editing my photos while he was practicing his piano next door – the tempo and melody of his repertoire influenced the mood and the light I was trying to bring out from the photos. As a landscape photographer, I travel a lot with my family and in front of the exceptional natural beauty, Cary always chats with me how the scenery invokes which piece or part of music that he plays from etudes, sonatas to preludes, concertos and symphonies. For example, we heard the stormy rapid passage of famous Chopin’s Revolutionary Etudes in our head when I was capturing the roaring stormy waves crashing into the rugged coast of Iceland Vik black beach last June. 

From the composition perspective, in the field of photography, compositions often capture the energy and harmony of nature through light and shutter speed. In the realm of music, compositions often mirror the ebb and flow of emotions through rhythm, dynamics, and melody. So, I have always been fascinated with how I can hear the symphony of time and movement from the colors, shapes, and textures of those natural images, being inspired and intrigued. 

How has an arts center like the Carriage Barn impacted your life personally?

As a proud member and an avid supporter of the Carriage Barn Center for over three years, I have seen the amazing growth journey of the Center from the increasing variety of art exhibits and art education programs across all age groups, the expansion to dynamic tenets of art world of music and performance, the unique combination of cuisines and wines with art and well-being. 

The most impressive part is how Carriage Barn Center embraces and supports our local communities and artists. I love all the events the center hosts and sign up with friends and families whenever we can. I’ve made so many local artist friends and learnt so much from them and education programs. As an amateur photographer, I feel extremely fortunate to have this supportive platform to share my work, get feedback from the professionals and broaden my vision of the art world. 

 

What are your top three tools that help with your artistic process?

I use a Nikon D850 full-frame camera for all my shots, Adobe Lightroom for light and color enhancement, and Topaz Lab photo app to sharpen the images if needed.


 

An Interview with Member, Lena Booth

Tell me about your relationship with the community of the Carriage Barn and how this has impacted you.
 
When I moved to New Canaan in 2020 it was right in the middle of the pandemic. As you can imagine, it was hard to meet people and get a sense of community at that time. I was looking for a place the kids and I could go, to meet locals and feel more integrated. I came across the Carriage Barn, on a walk in Waveny Park. Once their doors fully opened, I registered my daughter for the summer Camp Art Adventures with Miss Tiffany. She loved it! I then signed myself up for a Watercolor Landscape Workshop and the Garden Floral Design Workshop. Both events were great. I found everyone at the Carriage Barn to be warm, welcoming, and friendly. And I noticed it brought people together from all ages and walks of life. Although I’m not a traditional artist (by paint or design), I wanted to find other like-minded creatives in the area. As a Fitness &; Yoga Instructor, I really enjoy connecting with people and helping them achieve their highest potential. The Carriage Barn is a special place, I feel very lucky to have found such a treasure right in town. The CB supports, and showcases so much of the talent we have in New Canaan. For example, the Flower Show last summer was an amazing exhibit featuring beautiful photography. I bought 2 framed Peonies photographs for my home office and most recently my son’s film created at New Canaan high school was featured in the Through Our Eyes XII show. On a personal note, I am super excited to start teaching a PIYO Flow (Pilates and Yoga) class on Mondays starting on April 22nd for 8 weeks
 
What are the top three things – songs, books, dreams, etc- that have recently influenced you and sparked inspiration?
 
Food:
I consider myself a “foodie”, so I really enjoy trying different cuisines. If asked what my favorite is, I’d have to say, Thai food. It’s sweet, a little spicy and I love coconut curry! However, since I can’t easily cook Thai food from home, my favorite food to make is Mexican. The guacamole is the star of the show (avocados are awesome in general).I enjoy mixing veggies with protein into tacos, quesadillas, and fajitas with plenty of salsa on top.
Hobby:
My favorite hobby (apart from Yoga) is Scuba Diving. My husband and I try to scuba at least 1x a year. We both got certified in Curacao, 20 years ago, and had amazing underwater experience. Swimming alongside untouched coral, tropical fish, sea turtles, manta rays etc is exhilarating. Such rare species of marine life below sea level is so enchanting. It’s like being an astronaut who is discovering new worlds, only under water.
Travel:
My favorite place to travel to is a toss between Hawaii and Costa Rica. My 1st visit to Costa Rica was on my honeymoon. I instantly fell in love with it. The country is clean, the food is fresh, the beaches are beautiful, and the people are kind. As for Hawaii, I found Maui to be lovely, but my favorite island is Kauai. Nicknamed the Garden Isle, Kauai is more remote and naturally carries the sweet scent of flowers and fruit trees in bloom. The terrain is aligned by crystal waterfalls from the mountains. It’s so picturesque and dreamy!
 

Current obsession?

I’m currently obsessed with candles and crystals. That may sound strange to some, but I find a ceremonial aspect to lighting a candle. It’s an affordable luxury that makes me happy and more at peace. I have candles in almost every room in my house (using them with caution of course). I even have them in my kids’ rooms. I love the scents from the essential oils in the wax, and I especially like burning candles during the cold, winter months to self soothe.
Crystals on the other hand, are new to me, and I’m learning about their distinct benefits. Not only are they naturally beautiful, but each rock is unique providing their own healing properties when used correctly. For Example, Clear Quartz and Selenite are cleansing stones and aid with purification and detoxifying the body. Hematite is a grounding stone that promotes protection and safety while Jade (known as the Heaven Stone) invites good luck, prosperity, and instills harmony and peace.


March Profiles


An Interview with Member, Jim Fenzel
*To see more of Jim’s paintings, visit his website at Jim Fenzel Art

What drew you to paint as your medium of expression?

I have always loved to draw, and painting was a way to go bigger than a sheet of paper. My graduate degree is in architecture, and I enjoy bringing architectural pencil drawings to painted canvas. Years ago, I picked acrylic over oil; at the time, I was more intimidated by oil and did not know if my “painting phase” would last. Since then, I have stuck primarily with acrylic, though I use oil sticks on top of the acrylic paint in some pieces.

 

Describe your ideal workspace (both the physical and mental essentials):

My current workspace (the basement of our West Hartford home) is functional, but I’d love to elevate it literally and figuratively. A vast open space would be ideal, so despite the cliche, I’d choose an urban loft with high ceilings and large windows. I’d want to look down on the street but still feel intimacy with it, so something between the third and 5th floors in a walkable neighborhood featuring a mix of architecture. As in A Few Good Men, where Tom Cruise’s character “thinks better with his bat”, perhaps my most unique essential would be a spot where I could retrieve the passion of my childhood and throw a lacrosse ball against a brick wall. The repetition of that lifelong skill helps order my thoughts. Of course, very little work would get done without coffee. The espresso machine would sit in a nook (safe from flying lacrosse balls) with a bookshelf and comfortable leather chair.

 

I tend to get my best ideas and breakthroughs by … 

Exercise and music are essential to my creative process. We lived in Manhattan for a decade and experienced it as the quintessential walking city. My wife and I moved there with no kids and left when our fourth was two. In that decade, we put countless miles on the strollers, and as I walked, I found infinite scenes I wished to paint. I paint a lot of architecture and like seeing the same buildings in different seasons and times of day. The exercise itself–walking, biking, throwing a lacrosse ball–leads to ideas coming together.

I have no musical talent, which may make applying what I hear to a different medium easier. For instance, I have a piece for an upcoming show in Boston that addresses redlining and other de jure segregation practices. It is a weighty subject, but the painting is vibrant and seemingly lighthearted at first glance. As I walked and planned the painting, I was drawn to songs whose lyrics were sad, destructive, or tragic but whose tune was not. Some that come to mind are “Destroyer” by Dead Man Winter, “1-4’5” by You Won’t, and Cory Branan’s entire 2022 album When I Go I Ghost. These songs’ catchy tunes and upbeat energy belied haunting, heavy lyrics. Branan said, “I didn’t want to make a record that pondered itself; I wanted it to have motion, so I gave this record an overarching rule: The sadder the song, the more it had to move and groove.” The hope is to draw people in through composition and color; the painting does not “ponder itself,” but if the viewer is drawn to it, perhaps that leads to them asking: “What exactly am I looking at?”

 

What is the most rewarding and the hardest part of what you do?

The most rewarding part is in the studio when I’m in a groove, a zone. The hardest part is marketing and selling the paintings I’ve finished. Often, I’m full of ideas about how to discuss the work I’m currently doing, but once done, my mind shifts to the next project, and it’s difficult sometimes to recapture the passion that was present in the process. 

 

Can you describe a meaningful experience or relationship you’ve formed through your membership at the Carriage Barn?

I live quite a distance from Carriage Barn (in West Hartford), and I have four kids (ages 6 to 15) whose sports and activities keep me driving around on evenings and weekends. Therefore, I have not taken advantage of as many Carriage Barn offerings as I wish. I loved attending the New Britain Museum of American Art outing organized by Kristin Edwards. I’ve connected with other artists via social media; hopefully, I can increase my involvement.  It’s a special place with a great setting and dedicated people.

 


 

An Interview with Member, Heather J. Jones
*To see more of Jim’s paintings, visit his website at http://www.heatherjjones.com

What personal attribute of your character has been the most essential in your work as an artist?

I’m a planner–in life and my creative process. Mapping out a plan for each painting is essential because realism is not about how much detail you choose to put in a piece, but what you choose to leave out–and that is where the challenge begins. When I go to sleep at night, the thing I like to think about is what my next “move” will be on the piece I’m currently working on. That said, watercolor is always full of surprises, which is one of the things that makes it most enjoyable. So, while I always have a plan for each piece, I’m not opposed to changing it along the way.

What are you working on now and what do you hope to work on next?

I’m working on a series of vintage motorcycles. These images are a time machine: they represent the exceptional design of a long-lost era while transporting one to a solitary place where there is nothing but open road–and that feeling that comes from hitting the gas. In addition, I’m in the planning stages of a series of square works of iconic mid-century cars in various settings, which will be painted in monochromatic palettes.

What’s a metaphor to describe your creative process?

It sounds strange, but I relate my materials and methods to cooking. My process, which is very unconventional for watercolor, involves layering graphite and straight-from-the-tube watercolor pigment–much like layers of a cake. The final stage of my process involves selectively applying thinned gouache to sharpen edges and saturate colors, which just makes everything pop . . . Like the sprinkles on top. When thinning my pigments with water, my desired consistencies are a range of dairy–from skim milk up to heavy cream, but never whipped cream!

What is something you have discovered this year that has been a game-changer? 

I’ve long loathed using liquid mask. It is a necessity, however, to achieve realism given the abundance of tiny details in my work. Recently I’ve started leaving the mask on the paper until I’ve nearly finished working on an area–as opposed to removing it in the early stages. This new found “patience” of mine has really made using mask more efficient–and likeable.

If you were to recommend a favorite event or class at the Carriage Barn to a friend, what would you suggest?

I take so many classes at Carriage Barn–from yoga to monotype, but the one class I always recruit friends for is the wine tasting and floral arranging evening with Emily of Vine Floral. I learn a ton about both flowers and wine at these events. The barn buzzes with creativity while everyone works intensely on their arrangements, which makes for a fantastic night out.


February 2024


An Interview with Member, Hooey Wilks
*To see the images of antiques toy skiers in the mountains as well as other photo based contemporary mixed media work by Hooey Wilks, visit her website at hooeymountain.com

Tell me about your background, and what led you to pursuing photography professionally?

This goes way back.  From middle school through college, I had a very successful national craft business. I used my first big paycheck from that to buy an SLR camera. (I still have it.) In high school and college, I took many photography classes, but ultimately landed in the corporate world.  While this may not have seemed like an important part of my creative journey, it taught me so much that has been vital to running my art business such as the importance of a business plan, budgeting skills, file management, web design etc.

As I approached my empty nesting years, I was determined to run my own business doing something creative. I also really wanted to somehow link it to my love of skiing.  I enrolled in classes at FIT as I considered something in textiles.  I was looking into surface design and was shooting images possibly to paint for that purpose. All the while I had been collecting antique toy skiers for years and started photographing them in CT.  I quickly realized they needed a much bigger stage to really bring the photography concept to life. So, I packed them up and brought them with me out west skiing. Shortly after that I stopped shooting for surface design and focused entirely on the photography.

I love photography, spending time in the mountains and the joy of skiing. The world can always use more joy and happiness, so I am happy to be delivering that.

Your photography series of antique toy skiers on Mountain resorts plays with scale between the vast landscapes and small stature of the human figures. Tell me about the inspiration behind this choice. Where did the figures come from, and do you have names for them?

With these small figurines, the use of perspective, depth of field and framing, creates movement where none exists. It draws you in and makes you question what you are seeing. It is at that moment there is an unfolding of the art as you experience it that I think makes the skiers come alive. I never photoshop the toys into backgrounds. I am constantly exploring the landscape, examining the environment and the details that mimic what I am feeling, but often on a smaller scale. I can be seen laying in the snow usually just off a ski slope, hands freezing, placing the skiers in just the right place to get the shot.

My first two antique toy skiers came from an antique shop in New Canaan about 15-20 years ago as a gift for my husband. We were smitten and kept adding every year. We now have about 150 of them. They do not have names, but one of them I think of as my avatar. The red skier appears quite a bit in my images and on my Instagram account @hooeymountain. Sometimes I think of the Series as a diary of my best days. For each image, I remember exactly where I was, what the weather was like and who I was skiing with that day.

You’ve participated in a range of programs and exhibitions at the Carriage Barn — can you share what you value most about being a member?

I’m really enjoying the guided tours of art exhibits the most.  I personally try to see new art at least twice a month and these organized trips help me make that happen.  Having a small group guide really helps me understand the artists’ paths, techniques, and inspirations. I’ve also learned about so many more places to see art in this region than I realized existed!

What advice or encouragement would you give to others who are thinking about pursuing their creative interests? 

Just start! If you can’t find the time to take a class, just get some materials and try it. YouTube videos are great for some basic knowledge in whatever medium you want to pursue. If you enjoy it you can prioritize the education piece later. We are so lucky to be near so many great places for art education. Don’t be intimidated by what others are doing.  It can be just for you. There is no right way.  Finally, at some point you need to decide if it is a hobby or a business. Again, there is no right answer, but slightly different approaches.

Who or what inspires you most as an artist and/or personally?

I’m inspired by people with creative talents and really inspired by those who run their own businesses (I love the “How I built this” podcast).  I sell a lot of my work through decorators.  These (typically) woman owned businesses are just oozing with talent.  They work incredibly hard to bring functional solutions and beauty to spaces and I’ve been seeing that up close now since I started Hooey Mountain. 

How do you feel having an arts center like the Carriage Barn and/or arts access is important for a community?

The first time you go public with your art is intimidating.  Regional arts organizations like the Carriage Barn are a great welcoming space for all skill levels.  Dipping your toe in the water that first time can be difficult for someone new to exhibiting, but it is great for immediate feedback.  It’s also a great space to meet and interact with other artists and share ideas and resources.

Also, we live in a town that really values its athletes and I think it is great to also show the youth in this town that artists are valued too.


An Interview with Member, Lauren Van Roden
*To see more of Lauren’s paintings, visit her website at Lauren van Roden Designs

You have several creative pursuits from your artwork to your butter business. Anything else we don’t know about? Tell me about the most significant experience or influence that shaped these interests?

I have always identified as being a creative person and had a strong interest in the arts. My maternal grandmother, Hildegarde van Roijen was an artist in Washington DC and has always been my most significant inspiration looking back. She was a wild and out there artist who consistently thought outside the box and was very social. She entertained often and was always the most interesting person at the dinner party. 🙂 I remember her taking me into her studio on several occasions and teaching me to draw with charcoal and pencil and she ignited a love for art in me at a very early age. She would take me to museums and teach me about various artists. Today, I have several pieces of her artwork in my home, sketches, prints, sculpture and paintings. They are incredibly inspirational to me. Over the last few years I have had some very difficult life events, in particular losing my father, who I was very close to. Art and creativity served as an incredible outlet to me in this difficult time. I would sit in my office at night and paint and lose myself in the colors and shapes and it was very cathartic. It was almost mediative; I could quiet my mind and my hands would do the work. As a mom of two little girls and a teacher during the day it can be hard to find time for yourself and painting and Butter than Ever became my personal outlets and filled my bucket so to speak.   I thrive off of the joy that my art and my butter bring to others, and it has been incredibly fulfilling to me. 

As a family member of the Carriage Barn, your young children have also participated in classes and activities here. What have they enjoyed most and why is this important to you as a family?

I see creativity in both of my daughters, Lucy 8 and Caroline 5.  They love to draw, sculpt, act, sing and perform. The Carriage Barn has been an incredible resource for us by giving them the opportunity to attend performances, visit the exhibitions and attend the After School Adventures program. The girls have learned so much about various artists and have had an opportunity to create multi-sensory art projects with other kids their age. They look forward to Art Adventures each week and I can’t think of a better way to continue to foster their creativity. 

When times get busy, what keeps you motivated as a creative? Do you have a favorite artist who inspires you?

When times get busy, I have a tendency to get stressed and overwhelmed. Carving out time to be creative has always served as a way to decompress and hit pause. I walk through my house and see my grandmother’s art and its a good reminder of the creativity that exists within me. It can be hard but I try to commit to doing something creative each week, drawing, painting, listening to music, singing with my kids and my husband in the car or working on my needlepoint.  When it comes to holidays, I always try to push myself to create at least one creative gift. A few years ago it was my mother’s birthday, and I couldn’t figure out what to get for her and I knew I wanted to do something creative for her. I was out shopping and came across a ceramic hippo. My mother’s favorite animal is a hippo. I looked at it and said to myself, I can do something with that. My mother is lovingly referred to as “Buttons” a nickname she was given when she was a little girl. I immediately went to Michaels and purchased some colorful buttons and got out the hot glue gun and started gluing various sizes of colorful buttons onto the hippo. The result was a fabulous ceramic hippo covered in buttons on its back and under its feet like it was floating on buttons. It is one of the silliest pieces I have ever done but it came straight from my brain and manifested in a fabulous end result. I still laugh when I go to my mother’s house and see it on the counter.

What advice or encouragement would you offer to others who are thinking about exploring or pursuing their creative interests?

My words of advice are this… creativity allows your brain to exercise in a different way, a way that can be very rewarding to not only you but to those around you. Take risks, experiment, don’t be afraid to try something bold. Half the battle is getting up the courage to try and once you pick up that paintbrush or pen you may surprise yourself. Creativity is in you, it just needs a vehicle to come out. 

 

What kind of impact does an arts center like the Carriage Barn and/or arts access have on a community? How has this been impactful in your own life?

We are so lucky to have the Carriage Barn right here in our backyards. I am always telling people I meet about how much it has to offer for adults and kids. The events help to bring people in our community together and highlight the magnitude of talent we have in this town. I am constantly so impressed with the caliber of artists that display their artwork within the cozy barn walls. No need to go to New York! We have plenty of culture right here in our own backyard!  I feel so lucky to be amongst such amazingly creative and talented artists and to be able to give my children the opportunity to be exposed to incredible masterpieces. As a teacher I know how important multisensory learning is and there is no better way to tap into the senses than through art and creativity.  I encourage all families of young kids to come by the Carriage barn and walk through the exhibits or attend one of the events or classes. There is just so much you can gain from stepping through the doors of the Carriage Barn. It is a warm and welcoming place and an incredible resource to have in our special little town.