Thursday, March 22, 2007

Form follows function

Michigan metalsmith Robert Purvis is best known as a designer and builder of contemporary furniture. He's also made a name for himself as a sculptor. As a disciple of the "form follows function" theory, he describes his work as "very simple and austere... and intentionally elegant."

Once Bob deems the functionality of a piece, it must be designed to be safe. Finally, he has freedom to work with form and color — fast becoming his signature.

Triangular shaped, bold colored tables. Contemporary freestanding lighting. Bob exceeds his own rigid criteria in creating functional art.

Stop by anytime to view his portfolio or to talk about a commission. Or you can visit our virtual exhibition as part of Bob's solo show in September 2007.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A fascination with fireworks

Michigan artist Brooks Bouwkamp has always been fascinated by fireworks and flashing lights, so it's no wonder that he's attracted to crystalline glazed ceramics. He makes an effort to keep his forms uncomplicated so as not to fight with the visual excitement of his surfaces.

The artist enjoys mixing glazes and firing the most. He knows how to adjust each firing to ensure the best crystal formations, and because of this glaze and firing process each piece ends up being one-of-a-kind.

Brooks is known for experimenting with new colorants, materials and effects. We never know what to expect when he sends a new shipment — it's like Christmas every time we open a box from him!

We always have a nice selection of colors and forms from which to choose. Call Gallery Fifty for more information: 231-932-0775.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Elegance in simplicity

New York designer Joryel Vera's inspiration comes from the international silver jewelry trade and fashion trends in the industry.

He creates jewelry using the finest materials and greatest attention to detail in every stage of fabrication. Joryel uses only "A" quality gem stones that are individually selected to assure the best color, clarity, and cut. Many of the gems are specifically cut for his designs and are not widely available to the trade — especially in silver jewelry.

The silver pieces are also Rhodium plated, which makes the jewelry more scratch resistant and tarnish proof (and it gives the added appearance of white gold).

We never know what Joryel is going to send us, so it makes it difficult to market online, but stop in any time and we'll show you what we've got in stock!

A singular presence

Gallery Fifty will be featuring new painted wood constructions by Michigan sculptor Larry Fox in July 2007. This solo show will feature many wall-mounted and freestanding pieces that showcase the artist's unique combination of form, texture, color and dimension.

Larry's work draws heavily from three areas of his background: architectural design, film set construction and furniture making. By mixing and re-mixing these disciplines, he gives each piece a singular presence.

The artist creates forms that challenge traditional sculpture techniques. The surfaces of his pieces are also treated with paint, adding even more dimension.

Look for his work in our new gallery space next month, or visit his virtual exhibition during the month of July at

Toys for boys

With its retro styling and nostalgic feeling of whimsy, Scott Nelles' Aero Car is a customer favorite.

For his toys, Scott uses a variety of materials including plastic, hard styling clays, metal or wood to create the original model. Once satisfied with the form, he makes a series of molds in either hard resin material or cast aluminum.

This permanent pattern, called a match plate, is then used to make multiple sand molds into which molten bronze is poured at 2250 degrees. Once cool, the rough casting is separated from the sand and cut, ground, sandblasted, tumbled and polished to a rich, patinated finish.

Scott has been fascinated with the industrial process since childhood, and the toys he now creates depict automobiles, ships, boats and airplanes. Gallery Fifty has a nice selection, guaranteed to thrill boys of all ages. See more of his work at

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Personal mythology

I admit it, we have our favorites. Take Joan Gallagher Richmond for example: Always seeking feedback and open to criticism, she seems genuinely humbled by our representation. It's a pleasure to sell work by someone so modest and likeable.

Joan's had her work in the gallery for the past year or so, and her drawings really stand out. They are intimate in scale and detailed — using references from personal mythology, medieval times and even theatrical set design (she's an opera fan, and we can see why).

Recently, she's been working on a series of graphic cut-outs using her imagery and construction paper with colored pencil. It's been fun to watch her progression and I look forward to the day when she commits to a solo show with the gallery.

Hot glass: difficult yet beautiful

For Canadian artist Robert Held, glassblowing allows him to explore both painterly concerns and his fascination with surface decoration.

"Being physical with color and form is my love. After experimenting with many different media, I discovered glass and was instantly captivated," he says. "The clarity of the glass, the roar of the furnaces, the heat, and even the constant danger were all factors that influenced my choice of this difficult yet beautiful medium."

Robert's intimate relationship with the hot glass allows him to lay on color, layer upon layer, with the addition of textures with broken glass shards, threads of copper wire and other techniques.

He strives to create pieces that provide both a tactile and visual pleasure. And it is through this experience that he can share his passion for glass with the rest of us.

Gallery Fifty carries a great selection of Robert's paperweights and ornaments. All are priced around $40. Call for availability: 231-932-0775.

Friday, March 9, 2007

(Fun)ctional gifts of art

California metalsmith Lisa Slovis Mandel creates functional art that can be used, arranged and even played with. She designs and handcrafts each piece out of pewter, then finishes with her trademark textured surface.

"My work includes both jewelry and metal objects that allow me to thematically combine two important areas of my life, athletics and art," she says.

By incorporating movement and function in these pieces, the participant is enticed to interact with them on a more intimate and tactile level. The viewer can have fun with the pieces by touching, playing, and manipulating the arrangement of parts.

These salt and pepper shakers are among our best selling wedding gifts (set $175). Couples love how the two pieces create a single form. The rocking vases are also popular ($200 each). I never tire of watching them teeter back and forth!

We always have a great selection of shakers, vases and candlesticks in stock. I'll be adding Lisa's work to the website in the coming months, but in the meantime, contact the gallery with inquiries: 231-932-0775.

Born with a silver spoon?

New Mexico studio metalsmith Kristin Lora has been designing and making jewelry and art objects for over 30 years. Inspired by bold shapes and forms, objects, color and movement, Kristin designs unique jewelry, small sculpture and objects to flatter and entertain.

We love her sterling silver baby spoons. Instead of doing the traditional engraved baby cup, consider a spoon with the baby's birthstone set in it. Kristin works on about a two week turnaround and the spoons cost approximately $195 depending on the the stone.

January - Garnet • February - Amethyst • March - Aquamarine • April - Diamond or White Topaz • May - Emerald • June - Pearl • July - Ruby • August - Peridot • September - Sapphire • October - Opal • November - Citrine • December - Topaz

Please contact us is you're interested in a special order. We also have a few in stock. 231-932-0775

Exploring nature with glass

Montana artist Barbara Allen Dillon creates small sculpture by the craft of flameworking. For nearly 30 years, she has been inspired by nature and exploring with glass.

Flameworking involves manipulating a glass rod or tube in front of an oxygen/propane induced torch. After the piece is formed, it is transfered to an electric kiln where it anneals until slowly cooling to room temperature. All sculptures are individually handmade with no molding involved and although they are similar in design, no two are exactly alike.

Her perfume bottles are exquisite and the caterpillars are just plain sweet. At $55-$65 each, they both make wonderful gifts. Don't you love it when it looks like you spent more?

Call the gallery to hear about our selection of beetles, dragonflies and flower perfume bottles, too: 231-932-0775.

Natural appeal

Washington studio jeweler Rebecca Bashara has established a loyal following of groupies since showing her work at Gallery Fifty. Her organic designs and natural materials definitely appeal to the northern Michigan woman.

"I combine miniature carvings with forged silver to create these contemporary artifacts," says Rebecca. Her jewelry drips with simplicity and the worn, rounded river stones are held together with an almost-asian design asthetic.

The river stones are set "as found" — no tumbling. And the oil from one's skin is what keeps them looking polished.

We always have a nice selection of Rebecca's jewelry, so contact us to find the style that's right for you: 231-932-0775.

Time for fun

Mark Brown makes fun, one-of-a-kind mixed media sculptures and clocks from his backyard studio in Easthampton, Massachusetts. Trained as a painter, he has worked on canvas for 25 years, and his interest in color, pattern and figurative imagery can be seen in this current body of three-dimensional work. Each of his pieces is a unique, stylized and engaging character.

Mark recycles everyday objects and elevates them to the level of fine art. Individually handcrafted from kitchen utencils, beads, game pieces, old tins and jar lids, his functional pieces measure time with graceful whimsy.

His clocks run on one "AA" battery (included) and are free standing. Similar clock sculptures have been featured in a The Fuller Museum and publications such as Yankee Magazine and Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion.

We always have 3-5 sculptures to choose from. The wall clocks range from $175-$225 and the freestanding pieces are $325-$450. Contact Gallery Fifty for more information: 231-932-0775.

Gemstone Nebulas

By far, some of our most popular gift items are these "Gemstone Nebulas" by California artist Norbie Schmidlin. These little dishes create a special place to hold one's treasures such as bracelets, rings and earrings. They are also ideal for holding votive candles or conal incense.

The nebulas are a unique collaboration of clay and glass. They are created using a high-fired stoneware body, firing to 2360 degrees. At this high temperature, oxides, minerals and silica melt and fuse together, creating a beautiful facetted gemstone effect. 3" nebulas are $12; 3.75" are $22.

Call Gallery Fifty for color availability: 231-932-0775.

Note: I keep on next to the bathroom sink to hold my rings while I wash my hands, and another next to the bed to hold my earrings while I'm sleeping. No more misplaced jewelry!

A heart in your hand

Colorado designer Andrea Soltis creates these wonderful 6" miniature pillows that easily fit in your hand. They come in an eye-catching array of colors in crushed velvet, and stunning patterns in rayon silk brocade. Filled with natural flax seed and lavender blossoms, they are hard to put down.

Our customers have picked them up for a pretty gift embellishment or a "just because I love you" present. And at only $12 each, you can really spread the love around!

Call Gallery Fifty for available styles: 231-932-0775.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Happy coincidences and bizarre juxtopositions

I had another one of my psychic/ telepathic experiences in the gallery this evening. I was online researching John Gutoskey, an Ann Arbor artist, for this blog when he called. It wouldn't be such a strange coincidence if I'd spoken with him in the past six months! Freaky.

Anyway, we are both excited about his August 2007 show. John's settled on a circus theme and I can't wait to see what he's come up with. He's recently closed his massage therapy business to focus 100% on his art and has completed rennovations on his home studio.

Mixed media assemblage has become my favorite medium in the past few years and Gallery Fifty is one of a few northern Michigan galleries that goes there. John's work is way outside of the box (no pun intended) — a far cry from torn paper scraps and harware collage that we're used to seeing.

John's assemblages proclaim miniature universes. Flea market finds and cathedral reliquary collide. Shrines and game boards vie for attention. Enigmatic messages lurk beneath happy coincidences and bizarre juxtapositions.

Look for his work in the gallery or check out our virtual exhibition in August:

Precious, fragile and unpredictable

Michigan studio jeweler Nina Mann derives great satisfaction and joy in creating objects of beauty. Nature’s forms and textures are her inspiration, as are universal elements found in ancient civilizations. She's impressed by the quiet beauty — precious, fragile, and unpredictable — that fills our lives.

Nina's work is also about the metal itself, particularly its malleability and form. She transforms the metal through several processes of fusing, rolling, reticulation and manipulating it until it is changed from raw material into an object that possesses its own gratification and magical presence. Her jewelry is extremely wearable — balanced, comfortable and beautifully presented.

At Gallery Fifty, we're honored to represent Nina. And we're especially proud to promote her as a local Traverse City artist. Please call or stop in to see our current collection of her jewelry.

Traverse City State Hospital

"Traverse City State Hospital," by Chris Miller, is the most recently published book about the subject. It is published by Images of America and is a favorite because of its broad historical overview and up-to-date content in photo/caption layout.

Here's what the publisher says about it:

Northern Michigan Asylum, which opened in 1885, was known during most of its years as Traverse City State Hospital. It was run during its first decades by Dr. James Decker Munson, who left his legacy in the landscaped grounds and the medical center that today bears his name. Traverse City State Hospital served the mental health needs of a large part of Michigan for 104 years until its closure in 1989, housing a population as large as 3,000 in its many buildings.

This book traces the history of this great institution, from the local and mental health context in which it was founded, through its growth, development, and decline, and finally to its renovation and preservation as a vital part of the Traverse City community.

Gallery Fifty sells signed copies of "Traverse City State Hospital" for $19.99. Call for more information or to have a copy sent to you, 231-932-0775.

Did you know? Chris Miller was a founding member of the Committee to Preserve Building 50, a grass roots organization responsible for preventing the demolition of this important historical landmark.

Beauty is Therapy

For those who love memoirs, we recommend "Beauty is Therapy," by Earl Steele and his granddaughter Kristen Hains. This paperback is an easy read and includes some wonderful personal insights. It is published by Kris' business, Delani & Co.

Here's what Judy's Book has to say about it:

"If anyone has ever held a stigma towards the psychiatric institutions of yesteryear I highly advise that you READ this book! 'Beauty is Therapy' will certainly dispel many of the myths that are associated with them. Earl Steele invites us to share in his personal experiences at Traverse City State Hospital where he followed in his father's footsteps and becameHead of the Garden and Floral departments.

He reveals the softer side of internal activities between the patients and the staff. Kristen's wording holds your attention and makes one beg for more. I could not put this book down once I began to read."

The paperback is always available at Gallery Fifty and costs 10.95. Call for more information or to have a copy sent to you, 231-932-0775.

Angels in the Architecture

"Angels in the Architecture: A Photographic Elegy to an American Asylum," by Heidi Johnson is one of the best selling books we carry. It is published by Wayne State University Press and doubles as an important historical record and beautiful coffee table book.

Here's what the publisher says about it:

In the nineteenth century, perhaps no approach to mental illness was more compassionate than that of hospital administrator Thomas Story Kirkbride, whose asylum designs integrated beauty and nature as a method to treat patients. The Northern Michigan Asylum in Traverse City, Michigan, was one of the last of nearly two hundred such architecturally intriguing asylums.

Founded in 1885 under the principle “beauty is therapy,” the Northern Michigan Asylum closed in 1989 and today stands as a haunting reminder of this lost era. Angels in the Architecture is a photographic study of this institution’s one-hundred-year history. Heidi Johnson’s photographs of the building today are juxtaposed with rare images from private collections and state archives. Johnson has captured Kirkbride’s spirit of compassion—of angels in the architecture—in a book that conveys the human element of mental illness with beauty and integrity.

The hardcover edition is out of print, but we carry the paperback for $29.95. Call 231-932-0775 for more information or to have a copy shipped to you.

Amy Harper's 'New Growth'

We can't tell you how excited we are to announce that Amy LeJeune Harper is painting again. We featured her as part of our exhibition series in 2005 and her "abstract aerial landscapes" have been popular with our customers ever since. Check out her older work at:

Over the past year, Amy took a break to have a baby and to focus on graduate school — all the while teaching art at a local junior high!

Anyway, one of the best parts of my job is watching the evolution of an artist and the natural progression of his/her work. Amy's new work exemplefies this. While you can see traces of her old style, you can also clearly see where she's taken it to the next level. Post-baby, her work reveals a more organic, looser style. We love the flowing, almost feminine lines along with her excellent color choices.

The piece above, "New Growth," is her favorite in a series of ten. Each are floating in a 15" x 15" light maple frame. We've priced them at $195 each. Call the Gallery Fifty for more information: 231-932-0775.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Sculptural and wearable

Nebraska studio jeweler Sydney Lynch is interested in tribal and ancient jewelry that illustrates the human need to arrange found objects in new and meaningful relationships. Her design vocabulary derives from a wide range of sources: the natural forms of rocks and seashells that she's collected since childhood, the lines and contours of landscapes where she's lived and traveled, the rich surfaces and intriguing shapes she find in weathered areas of the city.

"Working with the materials is the most exciting part of the process for me. Simply put, I like making things," she says.

Her production work focuses on oxidized sterling combined with 18k and 22k gold. To Sydney, it's important that her work be both sculptural and wearable. Many of her designs are abstract, leaving the wearer open to create a personal, intuitive relationship with the piece.

We will be posting photos of our large selection of Sydney's work on our website in the coming months. In the meantime, call 231-932-0775 for more information.

Process, Decisions & Discoveries

Michigan printmaker Dorothy Anderson Grow recently agreed to have her work featured as part of our exhibition series in May 2007. I've long admired her work and even purchased one of her pieces from the "Getting the Bugs Out" show earlier this year.

Dorothy thinks of her art as a discovery and an adventure. Using the images that suggest her past, she assembles and layers ideas without a plan and often heads off in risky directions. "I love the physical activity of printmaking and the endless options the process provides. Each plate printed determines what will happen next, what the next layer will be," she says.

It is the process, the decisions, and the discoveries that keep her excited and involved. Dorothy's will be the inaugural show in our new space, and we're thrilled to be showing work like "Grandfather's Tools" above.

Look for future blogs with photos and a virtual exhibition of her work at

Beauty out of chaos

While we are in awe of all the artists we represent, few compare to Rufus Snoddy. We are planning an exhibition and sale of his work in June 2007 (the show is in conjunction with a feature article in Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine that same month).

The artist came from the wide open fields and prairies of rural Texas to the congestion of Los Angeles at a young age giving root to an appreciation of dichotomy which is still apparent in his work. Rolling green hills peacefully reveal their nearly human forms under ominously darkening skies which sporadically appear laced within heavily textured surfaces.

"Texture is very important to me," Snoddy remarks on his work. "I can't seem to make my work lay down. It isn't in me to create things without texture."

The texture of his work in many ways reflects the texture of his history. He calls his works "construction paintings," because they are sculpted works that could most accurately be described as "hanging out" from a wall rather than simply hanging on it.

The still-unnamed show will be a retrospective of his 30-year career and an unveiling of his new work, including "Landscape Green" above. Check future blogs for more information or check out our virtual exhibition in June:

Express your "Anxieties"

Massachusetts artist Christine Kaiser creates these one-of-a-kind ornaments with carved and painted wood embellished with nails, tacks, copper wire, and more. The "anxieties" average about 2" tall and have a completely different appearance on the reverse side (we say they have split personalities).

Here's what she says about her creations: "Anxiety begins with the small things. An anxiety held in your hand or placed on a shelf is one less hiding in your heart."

Anxieties make truly unique gifts. Our customers enjoy choosing the one that most closely resembles their loved one's personality (or disorder). They cost $38 each. Contact Gallery Fifty for more information: 231-932-0775.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Jewelry as playful object

Danielle Miller's jewelry has always garnered attention for its kinetic elements. Clean, simple geometric forms are the building blocks of her designs, which are inspired by architecture, machines, toys and nature. By combining these seemingly different influences, she explores the concept of jewelry as playful object.

The South Carolina artist's current work is designed to attract and engage the attention of the wearer. The jewelry's articulated parts rely on the action of the wearer for motion. This action can be a simple turn of the body or a deliberate manipulation of the movable parts. This kinetic aspect of her work creates an intimate and unique relationship between jewelry and wearer. Her jewelry, by definition, is not only an object of personal adornment but also an object of personal interaction and recreation.

Her 'abacus' and 'geometric' lines have been the most popular. Both for their classic simplicity and interactive appeal. We will be adding Danielle's jewelry in the coming months, but in the meantime, check out her website:

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Beautify your everyday life

Always right on trend, Maruca's distinctive fabrics and beautifully-constructed shapes are the perfect union of style and clever functionality. Recognized for sophisticated textures and distinctive shapes, these finely handcrafted bags are made in Boulder, Colorado.

One look and it's easy to see that the company was born out of a love for textiles. Owner, Rex Maruca has a background selling high-end jacquard fabrics and uses only domestically milled fabrics, most of which are custom-designed.

Gallery Fifty carries an extensive selection of styles, most in the teal/ brown/ gold palette for Spring 2007. Look at future posts for an updated look.

Naturally Contemporary • Irregularly Perfect

We've worked with Anne Sporton since the gallery's opening in 2004, and her work has always been an attraction. The jewelry designs are drawn from her strong belief in the universal language of shapes, symbols and forms. By combining the techniques of traditional goldsmithing with her eye for the avant-garde, her creations convey a captivating balance of sophistication and simplicity.

Countless couples have bypassed the typical chain jewelry stores for their wedding bands, in favor of Anne's naturally contemporary, irregularly perfect rings. We have a great selection of her jewelry online at:

Did you know? In 2002, Anne was honored with an image of her work on the Canadian - United States postage stamp.

Put your eggs in one basket

Gallery Fifty carries a great selection of baskets made out of stainless steel screen, rubber and wood. The screws holding them together are also stainless, so the baskets are all washable — most of them can even go in the dishwasher!

The baskets are handmade in California by designer Alex Santamarina and his wife, Viviana. The one shown above sells for $45 — put in a loaf of bread, and you've got a great hostess gift! Call for other styles and availability: 231-932-0775.

Petoskey Stone Pendants

Traverse City lapidary artist, John Stoll, has turned his love of rocks into a meaningful endeavor with his Petoskey Stone jewelry. Profits from the sale of his work goes to Life Outreach International and its well drilling efforts in Africa — supplying clean water to entire communities. He and his wife, Jennifer, were recently featured with a profile in our regional newspaper:

Petoskey stones are formed by the fossilization of the ancient coral "Hexagonaria". The honeycomb-patterned stone is found on the beaches of northern Lake Michigan and is also the official Michigan State Stone.

John's pendants are strung on leather with a silver clasp and sell at the gallery for $65. Call for availability: 231-932-0775.

A 'weighty' gift idea

We just love these paper weights! They're a top seller for graduates, job promotions, or for those in transitional stages of their lives. They're designed by Rhode Island artist Judy Vilmain and cast in pewter. Each comes in a handsome gift box. Only $35.

Note: Our favorite is the one shaped like a house, "A house without books is like a room without windows." A great housewarming gift for the bibliophile...

Clean and Simple: Dana * David

New Jersey designer Dana Melnick's Cono Collection has been very popular in the gallery. We have a lot of clients who appreciate the jewelry for its clean, simple lines — perfect for everyday wear. It's elegant and stylish, but not overdone.

Her "Cono" collection could be called minimalist. This series is shown in a broad range of jewelry, but we focus on the stacking rings. Women are always pleased to see how these bands complement ones they already have, and we've even sold a few as anniversary or wedding rings. All are 18k gold and feature a brushed finish with diamonds or stones set in cone-shaped bezels.

I plan to add her in-stock jewelry to my web site in the coming months, but call with questions in the meantime: 231-932-0775.