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THE ARTS
Storied Lighthouses: At Night!

Today's story indulges Artifcts co-founder Ellen Goodwin’s fascination with the stars. She even has an Artifct or two about it. You can read one of them here. If nothing else, just like the act of creating an Artifct, let this story help remind you to take a pause to look up and enjoy the vastness of the universe and the potential within each of us every day to play an oversized role in it from our little slice of the universe. 

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Close your eyes.  

Picture a lighthouse.  

Is it hanging out alone on a rocky bluff or stony beach? Is it sun-shiny daytime or deep dark night?  

Would it surprise you to learn that most photographs of lighthouses only show these sentinels by day? Until recently, that is. 

Lighthouses today are largely on private land or public park spaces, both with controlled access. Even with access granted, you have weather, water, and other environmental conditions, including wildlife (Porcupines! No joke. Read the book USA Stars & Lighthouses.), to contend with if you want a close-up view. So logically most of us capture pictures of lighthouses only by day and often by boat or from some distance as in the photo shown in the Artifct Our Cape Cod Whale Tale

We had the good fortune to connect recently with David Zapatka, who has spent his professional life behind the lens of high-powered video cameras that bring the world everything from investigative news from the field to NCAA men's basketball tournaments and the Olympics. Privately, however, David was hooked on photography from the moment he realized his passion would be supported by submissions to his school yearbook, feeding him a constant supply of film and access to the people and places of the moment. 

Access and control - two of the most critical factors in photography. Control is about lighting. David preaches to his students: control - control - control. As for access, well, you know, can you get close to it? The third critical ingredient for David is passion. Conservancy, national history, community, all of these play into David's work to at last capture lighthouses at night, doing the work they were designed for, bringing ships safely to harbor, providing hope in a sea of dark, and reminding us we are infinitely small in this vast universe. 

David is creating a personal legacy in this work. For his kids and grandkids, for all of us, he'll know he left us something special. 

For each lighthouse in his book USA Stars & Lights: Portraits From the Dark David includes the story behind the shoot. Who owns and operates the lighthouse, how did he get access, what were the conditions when he went once (sometimes twice) to get the shot, and for budding photographers, even the technical details. Because there is no hocus pocus or photoshop here. You need to earn every bit of it. 

With no further ado, enjoy these special Artifcts from our friend David Zapatka. 

Jeffrey's Hook, The Little Red Lighthouse, at night with NYC in background

ABOVE: Jeffrey's Hook Lighthouse. Serendipity! Sometimes David comes across lighthouses that have been turned back on. The Little Red Lighthouse of storybook fame many NYC children of the 1960s are familiar with was relit several years ago. While on the Hudson River for another lighthouse shoot, David discovered its resurgence and returned in September 2022 to photograph it at night. Click the image to view the Artifct.

 

Red and white ringed lighthouse at nightABOVE: Assateague Lighthouse. Often shooting lighthouses at night involves critical timing. Sometimes you can't gain night access to lighthouses if the gates are locked. At the Assateague Lighthouse in northern Virginia, only at certain times of the year is the park open long enough into the night to photograph the lighthouse before you must leave or get caught locked in for the night! Click the image to view the Artifct.

Red and white lighthouse on rocky outcrop of land

ABOVE: Romer Shoal Lighthouse. Some lighthouses will never be captured at work. Super Storm Sandy destroyed Old Orchard Shoal. Luckily neighboring Romer Shoal remains. For now. Extreme weather threatens the future of many other lighthouses even as the fate of this one is uncertain. Click the image to view the Artifct.

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© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 

ABOUT DAVID ZAPATKA

Rhode Island native David Zapatka's work regularly appears on national news and sports programs for ABC, CBS, CNN, HBO, NBC, and PBS. He’s covered six Superbowls, 20 years of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, four winter Olympic Games for which he won two National Sports Emmy awards for his contributions to the NBC coverage of the Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002 and Vancouver in 2010. David's lighthouses work began in 2013 as a project that became so much more. 

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The Story of the Rhino (of) Wimberley

Today we’re taking you to Kenya via the eclectic and artsy hill country town of Wimberley, Texas, to share the story of a photographer’s journey through music venues and the depths of oceans to the great continent of Africa, and the rise of a small Texas town as a champion (and namesake) of a southern white rhino. 

But before we talk rhinos, we must talk elephants. It’s too good of a story to pass up. 

In November 2019, award-winning photographer and long-time Wimberley resident Rodney Bursiel made his way to Kenya to capture the majestic elephants of the land. With only about two dozen of the “Big Tuskers” remaining, each are named, tracked, and closely studied. Inspired by photographers like Nick Brandt, Rodney arrived in Amboseli National Park with high hopes of photographing two of the famed large-tusk elephants: Craig and Big Tim.  

As luck would have it, Rodney came face to face with Craig, “I was enamored and downright giddy by the opportunity to get so close to this magnificent being!” A few hours later, Rodney would get word that Tim was about an hour away from his current location, but his day had already been long and was quickly losing light, so he decided to head out before daybreak the next morning to pursue him.  

Despite a 4 am departure, Rodney was too late. Tim had ventured off into an off-limits area of the park. Rodney never found Tim on this journey, and sadly a few months later in February 2020, Tim died of natural causes. This was a crushing loss to conservationists who expected Tim to live another 10 years, and a lost opportunity for a photographer hoping for a second chance with Tim. 

Fast forward to August 2021, a ‘next’ trip to Africa in the works, and more elephants on the agenda, Rodney learned about Najin and Fatu, the very last northern white rhinos on the planet. The LA-ST two! “You want to do something to help. Be a part of it!” said Rodney. Trip plans were scratched, new ones created. “Remember Tim!” Time seemed to be of the essence. 

Through a fortunate series of introductions, Rodney connected with James Mwenda, Grand Ambassador and former Ranger for Ol Pejeta Conservancy who knows these nearly extinct rhinos intimately, having protected and cared for them 24/7 for seven years. And this time, success! Meet Najin and Fatu, through the lens of Rodney Bursiel.  

Black and white photo of two northern white rhinos, Najin and Fatu

 
 
 
 

Last September, freshly returned to Wimberley from this once in a lifetime experience, Rodney wanted to share his experiences through an immersive and philanthropic experience in his hometown. He and his partner brought together the people of Wimberley for an enchanting evening with entertainment by a Masai tribal dance group, an authentic menu prepared by Kenyan Chef Njathi Kabui and, of course, a conversation with Rodney and James Mwenda. Rodney unveiled his latest photographs of beloved Africa and together he and James wove the tale of Najin and Fatu to help raise awareness about the plights of these animals for a new budding community of wildlife conservationists.  

 

Surely it’s not surprising to learn that protecting large game in Africa is a never-ending endeavor, poachers are relentless and of course nature takes unexpected tolls, too, as in the case of Tim. A vast community exists to protect and conserve these animals. Photographers play an important role in making the animals real, instead of the stuff of childhood imaginations and stories, as well as bringing them to the forefront of media and philanthropy.  

The Ol Pejeta Conservancy chose to thank Wimberley for its financial support by naming its 15-month-old southern white rhino—the closest relative to Najin and Fatu—Wimberley. The Conservancy’s choice was very intentional. White rhinos are more docile and less skittish than the black rhino, making it easier for photographers like Rodney to return and continue to support the very survival of a species through photos, stories, and, most importantly, the sharing of knowledge globally. 

What’s next for Rodney? “The rhinos will always be near to my heart. The more I experience, the more I learn, the more I want to help raise awareness. I will continue my work with Ol Pejeta Conservancy and expand my efforts with other existing conservation outlets.” 

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Interested in learning more and supporting rhino conservation and efforts to combat illegal wildlife trade? Visit the Ol Pejeta Conservancy at www.olpejetaconservancy.org. 

To view more of Rodney’s work, visit rodneybursielphotography.com. If you’re local to or visiting Wimberley, his photography will be featured in a few upcoming gallery events, including Art on 12 (Wimberley), opened May 14; A. Smith Gallery (Johnston City, TX), throughout August; and The Wimberley Inn, a one-night only installation in November. 

© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Beauty + Resilience Through Ceramics

Meet Valentina Ferrada Aguilar, a ceramic artist, jewelry designer, and founder of Chercán Project. Valentina is originally from Santiago, Chile, but recently relocated to Washington, DC. She is deeply passionate about creating and teaching and finds daily inspiration in nature’s resiliency and beauty. 

Valentina’s path to becoming a ceramic artist and jewelry designer was anything but typical. She studied journalism for three years but felt something was lacking, so she quit journalism and took up the arts. 

Her first ceramics course under the industrial design program she enrolled in did not go so well. In her own words, “I failed it.”  So what did she do? She registered for a second course, and through this course met a professor and mentor in one who taught her everything she knows. But, maybe more importantly, according to Valentina, “He really inspired me to do what I love.”  

Ceramics flourished from hobby to business as she began experimenting with making smaller ceramic pieces using her father’s old (and very small) kiln. A classmate asked her if she could create some ceramic jewelry, and well, the rest is history. In Valentina’s mind, all these pieces came together at exactly the right time—access to the kiln, a great mentor, and an interested “client.” 

Valentina launched Chercán Project as part of her thesis in 2018. In Spanish, chercán means wren, and Valentina tells the story of a small wren she once observed, working day in and day out to make a nest for her eggs. One day, the nest was destroyed, but that did not stop this wren. She went right back to work, building a new nest.  

"That wren and his story resonated a lot with me because that's exactly how I felt when my mom died a few years ago. I felt like I lost everything, but I got back up for her. Everything that inspires me is also from my mother. For what I saw in me reflected in this resilient wren. It’s beautiful.”  

That wren and his story resonated a lot with me because that's exactly how I felt when my mom died a few years ago. I felt like I lost everything, but I got back up for her

Valentina sees herself in the story of the wren and tries to capture the same resilience in each piece that she designs for the collection. Take her tulip earrings, for example. The tulip comes up each spring after enduring a long, cold winter. It’s resilient. (Fun fact: Valentina’s favorite flowers are tulips, and she had a tulip bouquet at her wedding. You can read more about the earrings here.)  

The collection also includes  sun and moon earrings, representing the resiliency of our universe. According to Valentina, “I am very struck by the fact that everything in our universe is perfectly and calculatedly designed, and everything has a balance, and these earrings represent that, the balance, day and night, Yin and Yang, light and darkness, etc. 

The entirety of her art is in fact a tribute to resilience. As Valentina notes, it takes a lot of practice to make such small pieces. A lot of fails too. “Fail to fail to fail to succeed.” At the start, Valentina would make 100 earrings to achieve 20 perfect earrings. It was that powerful mix of frustrating and rewarding.  

"Ceramics itself is so unpredictable. You have the paint, and the glaze, but you can’t see how it is going to look until it comes out of the kiln. You have to cross your fingers and say, ‘See you in two days!’” 

“I never thought that I’d end up at this point in the project. I always had this feeling that I wanted to create my own business, never thought it would be so soon. I also thought it would be easier. I love it though. I can create my own stuff, and I love it when people see my artwork and they get excited about it, or they can relate to it. I think it’s the most beautiful thing when you give jewelry, and they feel pretty and happy.” 

So where does Valentine see herself in the future? She would love to have her work featured in a museum. She would also love to stay in DC a while and watch her business grow up. If (or when) she goes back to Chile, she would like to teach and one day establish a community arts workshop like the Capitol Hil Arts Workshop (CHAW) on Captial Hill. In her own words, “I’d love to create my own Chilean CHAW. Inspire people of all ages to be artists and help them incorporate the arts into their lives.”  

You can view Valentina’s collection of Artifcts here and more of her work at Chercán Project 

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© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Mapmaker, Mapmaker, Make Me a Map

Not all maps are created equal, I think on this point we will all soon agree!

Stepping into my converstaion with mapmaker Ken Czarnomski, I thought he was an artist, specializing in maps. And not just any maps. Maps accurate according to GPS, but also humanized by way of incorporating natural landmarks, informal trails (human and animal), and remarkable vistas.

But Ken instead considers himself a “broad stroke naturalist”—meaning that he knows enough to get himself into trouble, so to speak, but is not a specialist in any particular species (insects, grasses, flowers, etc.)—who happens to make maps. Ken borrows from his background in architecture and his learnings in natural sciences to consider for each map he designs what would appeal and engage regular people like us.

The truth is that Ken's maps mean a healthy life for him, too. “If I can’t hike one day, I can still go in, even if at a shuffle rate.” The region of Western North Carolina where Ken resides outside Waynesville makes this statement all the more practical, because the Smoky Mountains are ranked as the most biodiverse in the United States. With over 1,900 species in just a quarter mile stretch, a person can encounter 30 and even upwards of 50 unique species of flowering plants.

That’s lucky since the “what” people are interested in is always a surprise to Ken. For some, it might be flowers. Others may only want to learn more about the trees. Still others are there to learn about mushrooms or salamanders. Western North Carolina accommodates!

And just where did his artistic talents spring from? Ken shared with us that before he developed his cartography skills, he painted. He preferred organic natural themes in watercolor and ink. His largest work was usually 24" x 36," but he has smaller works in sketch pad size. Sometimes he would produce and sell his watercolors while traveling. His passion for art and fieldwork, in fact, used to make him late routinely for his university classes. Tsk, Tsk!

Birth of a Mountain painting from 1969

Later, as Ken turned from his formal career as an architect, his global explorations brought him into the world of maps. Hiking in Ireland back country in 2012, local park rangers and ecologists kept pulling him off course to see areas beyond the usual tourist haunts, and he found himself thinking, “Wouldn't it be great if others had access to the data that could safely lead them to see the world beyond the usual?” So, Ken took a fresh look, with an open mind, at how he could make this happen in the area where he lived, and his first map was born.

 

Just pause a moment and think about the map shown belown. It’s functional and beautiful. Now think about the type of maps you might be more accustomed to when you stay at a resort or hotel or rely on generic maps on your GPS. It’s functional - surely you won’t get lost. But does it grab your attention, invoke curiosity, and invite exploration?

Illustrated map of the Swag, with vignettes of related scenery The Swag, Google Maps street view

Ken’s maps take weeks to layout and still more to illustrate, even with his use of software tools for data and design. Just take a close look at the vignettes embedded in the maps and you’ll understand - there is so much to enjoy!

Painting of the Great Smoky Mountain Elk     Painting of a Summer Garden

Click a vingette to view its Artifct

For each map, Ken goes out to first experience the site and engage with local environmentalists who might guide him to a location or sketch out important features to explore. How else can he produce an experience in 2D that’s not only beautiful, but also savvier than a simple machine or Google Map?

At the end of the day, you might guess correctly, this is a work of passion. Ken’s lucky in this work and plans to continue it for years to come. “I guarantee I’m never bored. I’m always seeing something new."

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© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Drawing People Together: Meet Katie Vaz!

Katie Vaz is an illustrator living in Endicott, NY, who had a quarter-life quandary: How can I put ideas out into the world that make people feel less guilty about their everyday choices and maybe even a little less alone? Eat cake. Don’t work yourself into an early grave. Nap! 

By steadily shifting her focus from freelance graphic design and branding work to illustration, she had the space she needed to begin creating and publishing what she calls “realistic inspiration.” Through her series of books and coloring books, she uses personal stories, humor, and of course delightful illustrations to reach a broader audience. 

 

While she started back in 2012 with time intensive hand drawn illustrations, her latest designs get a helping hand from design software (including Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, and the iPad app Procreate!). These tools of the trade have accelerated her design process so much so that in 2021, as the COVID pandemic persisted, Katie hit aggressive deadlines for not one but two new coloring books. She’s observed her artistic style hitting a new growth curve, not only by her shifting artistic mediums, but with the support of a whole new community of illustrators she’s found through resources like Make Art That Sells. 

Katie Vaz shares the original hand-illustrated page for one of her designs    Katie Vaz using Procreate app to illustrate

Katie pointed to her upcoming cottagecore coloring book (release date April 2022), in which she wraps us in themes acutely resonant during the pandemic (sustainability, enjoying what you have, home making, gardening, baking ...) from a cute and fun aesthetic that showcases more line work and texture than her previous works. She’s embraced this new cottagecore design theme so much that she may even repeat some of her favorite patterns and print them onto fabrics. We can’t wait! Maybe we can even ask her about removable wallpapers?

 

Katie said, “I don’t feel like I have arrived. My style will continue to evolve.” And perhaps that will be put to the test in 2022 as she returns to a memoir project format, like her book My Life in Plants, but within the pages of a graphic novel. Her hope is to share a very personal story that will resonate with someone who has also gone on a personal journey to find themselves after experiencing the loss of a parent.  

Explore the Artifcts from Katie’s design journey, and stay tuned for her next book! 

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© 2022 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Bob Fowler's Legacy: Zoos to Pendants

An actress by profession, Diane (Di) Fowler appreciates the fine arts. Today she discusses with Artifcts the legacy of her late husband, celebrated artist and master sculptor Bob Fowler, whose career as a sculptor launched in 1963 and continued until his death in 2010. His works span form—metal sculptures, jewelry, and mixed media—and continents, from private commissions to installations and shows at the National Gallery in Washington D.C., Fabien Galleries in Paris, France, Museum of Art in Trieste, Italy, and the Woburn Abbey, England. Keep reading to learn more about the Artifcts of his work and Di's efforts to preserve his legacy and reissue some of his individual sterling silver jewelry pieces. 

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Since the passing of Bob Fowler over a decade ago, his widow Diane (Di) Fowler has sought to ensure his legacy lives on beyond his exhibited works, and as it turns out, she has the means to do so: the original molds he used to produce his sterling silver jewelry series. (And a few etchings and paintings tucked away biding time for a future reveal.)

Di and I met one afternoon at the EmilyAnn Theatre and Gardens in Wimberley, Texas, where she volunteers on the grounds and helps young actors with their art, having spent years on community stages herself. Di has a love for the Wimberley community that leads her out day after day to contribute her passions and experience. But today we met to talk about her late husband Bob Fowler.  

Di brought out a binder for me that contained only a select few of Bob's commissions. Paging through, she was jubilant in her descriptions of the works, talking animatedly about his design of two larger than life metal works for the Houston Zoo. You may have seen them if you’ve visited. The full-size African elephant welcomes visitors at the Zoo’s front entrance. The second piece is a gorilla, standing tall at the entrance to the Gorilla House.  

African elephant sculpture at Houston Zoo, by Bob Fowler

These grand scale sculptures were Bob’s passion, pushing boundaries to capture the energy of the subject while also bringing his academic background to play in his rigorous research to create the original concepts. This same research shines in the factual, impassioned, and sometimes humorous descriptions behind each of his jewelry pieces.  

Bob Fowler’s Smaller Scale Side – Sterling Silver Pendants 

We set the binder aside as Di brought out a display case with 100s of sterling silver- and gold-plated jewelry pendants ranging from one inch to nearly three inches in size. Bob began designing these pieces in the early 1990s, each capturing the animated likeness of endangered and protected animal species from around the world. Magically, the miniatures somehow convey the same energy as seen in Bob’s large steel sculptures.  

Created first in wax before being cast in molds, the intricacy of each piece and the personality captured shows Bob’s mastery of the wax art. Pairing the wax design method with Bob’s methodical research, each species carries with it a short description, a few of which seem prophetic.  

For example, of the Costa Rican Climber (pictured below), Bob’s research spoke about the symbiosis of its survival with the state of world environmental affairs, quoting an unnamed scientist, “When jungles of Central and South America disappear and virus carrying insects have to find new breeding grounds, civilization will be exposed to exotic animal viruses that will make AIDS look like the common cold.”

Costa Rican Climber pendant, by Bob Fowler

These charms may not be the best known of Bob Fowler’s works, but they remind us of the care we all need to take to protect our world’s ecosystems while also sending his legacy onward through us all. Di told me she has begun seeking out a metals artist to pick up Bob’s work and bring the pendants to a new global audience. Select and view any of these pieces for a quick-witted education into the world of endangered species from the voice of Bob Fowler. 

Spotted Owl pendant, by Bob Fowler     African Elephant pendant, by Bob Fowler     Brown Pelican pendant, by Bob Fowler     Ridley Turtle pendant, by Bob Fowler

 Bob is no longer with us to produce his art. My hope is that his jewelry will continue to be a tribute to his legacy.  — Di Fowler

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If you’re interested in learning more about Bob Fowler’s work or in purchasing a piece, you may contact Diane Fowler directly at dihrufowler@gmail.com. Some of Bob’s other works are also currently available for purchase through 1stDibs. 

© 2021 Artifcts, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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