Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Black Cat Pottery Holiday Open House - Meet the Artists: Cathy Dossin

We're quickly coming up on the Second Annual Black Cat Pottery Holiday Open House on December 10 (10a-4p), during which we open up the studio to fellow local artists and all of our fans for a day of holiday cheer.  This year, we'll be featuring artisan baked goods and live music, in addition to five unique garden- and home-inspired artists.  I thought it would be nice to introduce them to you so you could get to know each of these amazingly creative and generous folks a little bit better.

Sunflower Stool
The year Cathy Dossin received an art kit for Christmas – a box of paints, brushes and canvases – was the year she discovered her voice. The experience and adventure of creating something from apparently nothing was a heady and uniquely rewarding one. Everything about the paint – how it felt, its smell, the glossiness and malleability – engaged her. One of her first efforts – an attempt at a serious, life-like image of a young farmer boy in a straw hat and jeans – became a touchstone for her continuing evolution as a self-taught artist.

Cathy continued to experiment on her own in conventional formats and traditions for ten to twelve years, at one point turning out a painting a week, some of which are still treasured by their recipients. Constraints of process and circumstance became more frustrating than freeing, as she put down her paints to raise her son as a single Mom.

The turning point came in 2001 when she purchased a piece of painted furniture at a local art event: “I remember buying the coffee table I still have. Someone had painted it and I thought, ‘I love this idea!' I didn’t know you could do something like that, painting furniture, painting anything you wanted. I went home and thought about the piece all night and ended up going back the next day and buying it. It was so far out of my comfort zone – in so many ways – but it was so unique to me that I was willing to sacrifice anything in order to have that piece of furniture in my life.“ With that inspiration, Cathy stepped outside the box and into her own creatively whimsical universe.

Cathy is also a plantswoman. She started gardening in 1994, digging up all the grass in her front and back yards in order to plant 80 rose bushes. Which might be considered as demanding as raising a like number of children. But the catalogs kept coming. And the colors and flower forms and sizes and habits and names – they were all so different! Between having to work a full-time job and raising her son, however, there just was not enough time for 80 more kids.

Now, Cathy has her “Bed of Roses” – a garden bed delineated by an actual iron bedstead – and about ten additional roses scattered throughout her property. Other plants have taken their place, including Clematis, Hydrangeas and Lavender. (Some of Cathy’s roses and clematis are featured in a set of note cards and prints from Don Schulte’s company, Notable Greetings.) Combined with repurposed found objects and her own art work, Cathy has created a “New Wave” cottage garden.

I met Cathy in June of 2008. In addition to working for my own clients, I was doing some work for A Southern Gardener, which also employed Cathy. We ended up working on an installation on the hottest Friday of the year (so far) – and Mil Hurley, the business owner, generously took us all out for ice cream at a local coffee house, now defunct, when we finished. I ended up being scheduled to work with Cathy again the next Friday. I remember that, when I got out of my car at the job site, the first thing I said to her was, “It’s Friday. Do you want to go for ice cream?” And from there a friendship was born.

Words To Live By
We went for ice cream just about every Friday that Summer. Whoever wanted to go went, giving us all a chance to get to know one another a bit better. It got to the point that the soda jerk knew all our orders – Cathy’s Strawberry Chai freeze, Alaine’s Boston Cooler and my chocolate malt. I remember our confusion when another employee, upon returning from leave, observed that it wasn’t special if we went every Friday. And today, if we need to meet, more often than not it’s going to happen at Sander’s in The Village over a Hot Fudge Cream Puff. Even on the coldest day of the year, to date.

Cathy is one of the kindest, gentlest, most generous and imaginative folks I know. Her garden, even as it has evolved, continues to be a key inspiration to her work. Botanical imagery – especially plants and insects – figure prominently in her custom-designed, hand painted furniture, bricks and slates. Old or new materials – both are fair game for Cathy’s aesthetic. Each piece is a new relationship, as a battered dresser or an unfinished stool takes on fresh life.

"I love getting my hands in the dirt and I love getting my hands in the paint. I started gardening and it brought the art back. It seemed I needed some art out there. When I ran out of space in my house and garden, I started giving it away because I just had to keep painting. And now it’s become part of the work I love to do."  - Cathy Dossin

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