Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sculpting for Charity: The Steve Martin Torch

As part of an upcoming charity event, this morning I sculpted the "Wild and Crazy Guy," Steve Martin.  If you pay any attention at all to Bluegrass music, you're probably aware that Steve spends a lot of his time these days playing banjo in a band called The Steep Canyon Rangers.  Just so happens, the Rangers are homies of mine and everybody in our little town has witnessed the recent spectacle  of this band going from a local favorite to that of international celebrity.  Along with Steve, they can regularly be seen on Letterman, Colbert, The Prairie Home Companion, Grand 'Ol Oprey--just to name a few.  Anyway,  in an effort to raise a little money for our local Boys and Girls Club, I've decided to cash in on this notoriety.  I've made a patio torch collection of the whole band, and will soon  offer it up for auction.  Bidding for the series will start in a few weeks and will continue all the way to September when the winner will be announced at The Mountain Song Festival--a premiere bluegrass event hosted by the Steep Canyon Rangers and a benefit for our local Boys and Girls Club.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Let Your Freak Flag Fly!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Greg Brown getting "torched"
I've discovered that one of the  great things about being a sculptor of  caricatures is that the work allows me to interact with many cool and interesting folks.   Several times over the last few years, for instance, I've approached a favorite musician--always someone who's from away and is touring through the area--and have given them a patio torch rendered in their image.  For me, it's a fun way to share a little of my shop while giving thanks to someone for their music and the enjoyment it's brought me--usually while making pots in the studio.   Back when I was strictly making pots , I couldn't just approach a favorite musician and say, "thanks for your music.   Here's an olive oil bottle."
It would have been too awkward.  The torches are a bit different.  People are usually very surprised and at the very least, get a good laugh.  One guy that I "torched" several years ago was Greg Brown. Back in the days when Shannon Whitworth worked with me, bootleg Greg Brown recordings were a listening staple in the studio.  We just couldn't get enough of his music and when he came to play in Asheville, we all shot in to catch the show--with Greg brown patio torch in tow, of course. 

Shannon Whitworth (right) and friend.
After the concert, we hung out with Greg a bit and gave him the head , letting him know all the while how much we appreciated him and his music.    He was very gracious and said he had just the place for it back on his farm in Iowa.  I just loved the idea of that torch living out its days on his porch and giving light to the magical music being made by him his wife, Iris Dement. As it turned out, Greg was flying home and couldn't carry the torch with him. He asked that I'd ship it to him.  As luck,(or rather, incompetence)would have it, I immediately lost the piece of paper with the address written on it.  I'm sure I had a dozen too many beers that night and probably dropped the damn thing on the way out of the bar.  Over the next few months, I made several attempts to contact him through his Daughter, Pieta, but had no luck getting a response. So, for the next four years, the head just sat at the side of my shipping room, orphaned, and out of the way.......until this week.

On Friday night, Greg Brown and Bo Ramsey made their return to North Carolina.  They played right in Brevard at the Porter Center to a near capacity crowd of 500 people.  And to add a serendipitous twist to this occasion, Shannon came not as a spectator this time but as the opening act for the show (right on, Shannon!!).  We caught up with Greg afterward and had a few laughs at this final reunion of the torch.  After all this, I can only think that if I'm not the first person ever to give Greg Brown a patio torch, then at least I'm the first to give him a patio torch sculpted in his image.......and if not that, then DEFINITELY the first to give him a patio torch sculpted in his image.......twice.    

The video below is Greg at the performance playing his new tune, "Let Your Freak Flag Fly." It's a beautiful song and one that really brought the audience out of their seat that night.  For many people, these are hard times we're living in and everybody-rich and poor alike-have good reason to worry.  But as is the message of this song, I believe it is in just such times that resistance to conformity and staying true to your heart is a valuable prescription for living a meaningful life. Tell it like it is, Greg!