“We need our Arts to teach us how to breathe.”
— Ray Bradbury
Hampton Roads is blessed with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to folks with the creativity and the grit to shape ideas into solid substance. Some do so in order to start a trade. Others are possessed of the drive to actually hold art in their hands. To turn it from one side to the next, that they might examine the facets of creation on an intimate level. In a digital age, there’s a certain joy to watching crafters take tools in hand, gathering materials to seek out from what dreams may come.
Here, we take a moment to salute the builders. The crafters. The artists and the imagineers. Those who make. Our city is a far brighter, more fascinating place for their efforts. Some of these you can buy. Some of them you can see. And some, exist merely for the sake of the idea.
These are, in no particular order, my top ten favorite made-by-hand things of the moment in the 757.
Analogue Lab + Studio | Analoguelabs.com
Founded in 2013 by Canadian native but current Norfolk resident, Miki Ross, Analogue Arts + Trade has become the de facto life support system for local photographers who still work with film. The emerged from a chrysalis this past June into a non-profit with the goal of expanding their portfolio towards community outreach and education centered around film photography, operating today as a collaborative co-op.
While they’re most known for selling and processing film, one of their favorite processes to engage in is the vintage art of producing Tintype photographs. What is a Tintype, you ask? Think of the old-timey photographs that look like they were printed on copper. Tintypes were widely used throughout the middle of the 19th century, but can be found at Analogue most often during the Halloween season.
Tin Type from Analogue Lab + Studio
Link to video: https://vimeo.com/254538488
Handcrafted Axes to Soothe (or Rock) the Savage Beast.
Haga Guitars | Hagaguitars.com
Sam Haga custom builds acoustic, electric, and bass guitars out of his Colley Avenue shop from carefully selected tone woods. Taught to build acoustics from famed local luthier Brian Hawkins, Haga is also a partner in a local production company, Electroganic and he plays bass for the Instrumental Surf-Rock band — Lucky 757. These guitars are beautiful, and you really need to hold one in your hands to feel the craftsmanship he’s imbues each instrument with.
One of a Kind Motorcycle Helmets.
Washington Park Skunk Works — Xavier Darryl Lewis | Norfolk Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride
A skunkworks project is an endeavor developed by a small, freewheeling group of people who do what they do primarily for the sake of finding new ways to do it. It’s unclear in Darryl’s case whether this refers to a business or is simply a whimsical label for a hobby, but either way some truly amazing hand-painted helmets have been finding their way out in the streets with his outrageous design sense and signature use of color. This is a man with a storied history in our fair City of the Cannonball, having been prominently featured in the definitive film on our music scene, “Hardcore Norfolk: A Story of Rock ‘n’ Roll Survival” for his work with bands like Combine and The Crimson Electric. Most recently he’s known as the primary organizer for the Norfolk run of the Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, a charitable event to raise awareness and funds for prostate cancer research.
Shipping Pallet Art.
Chix Beach Pallet Company | Chixbeachpallets.com
Yes. You heard me right. Shipping pallets. Jared Buckland has mastered a process to transfer photographs and art onto wood reclaimed from these most humble objects. Every one of his custom pallet-photographs goes through a 28 step process that results in a vibrant, made to last art object.
Glass Doppelgangers and other Curiousness.
Betty Gowans | Bettygowans.com
Betty Gowans is a performance artist and sculptor who regularly works through handcrafted glass art objects to create compelling narratives on the nature of self and human relationships. She was awarded a solo exhibition at the Offsite Gallery by the Norfolk Arts Council in 2017, and has since followed up with two more solo shows. The last one, titled: Pith, was held at the Fawn Street Studios where she created an thermoplastic replica of herself. The process was intensely time consuming, claustrophobic, and fraught with the peril of failure — but in the end viewers were able to look on as she sat across from a glass shadow of herself. During the 2017 Neon Festival she featured her performance art piece involving replacing her head with cubed mirror.
link to video: https://vimeo.com/219124305
Thank you to the generous presenting sponsor of this post.
The Millennium Falcon.
757 Makerspace — Kyle Reed & Bobby Lindemann | 757makerspace.com
One day Kyle Reed just woke up and said to himself, “I want to build the flight deck of the Millennium Falcon.”
After a bit, he started telling folks and nobody said no. Instead what he heard back was, “How can I help?” 757Makerspace is both a community and an actual shared workspace that gives access through membership to education, tools, equipment and camaraderie for folks who like to prototype designs and build them out, like Kyle.
“I’d say about 20-30 hours of design/development time using Fusion 360 to render the 3D plans and another ten or so to actually build it,” said Reed.
He and fellow maker, Bobby Lindemann, sketched out the idea idea. After looking at reference photos, they determined the size constraints, went to work. Due to his background in engineering, Lindemann designed and oversaw most of the build.
“The frame was built primarily with scrap material. We haven’t started the finishing process yet because we aren’t sure if we want to put it on a golf cart so we can drive it around or make it move like a flight simulator. There was no why, really, we just thought it would be fun and we were right!”
“The biggest challenge was making the rings which are just under 8 feet in diameter (so it can fit in a lane of traffic or on a trailer and not be a wide load). To get around it, Bobby cut arc segments out with our CNC machine and we sandwiched them together with glue and screws. They’re strong enough to do pull-ups on without flexing.
“Some guy kept accidentally calling it the Millennial Falcon, but I kind of like it because it’s DIY, crowdsourced, creative, and we made it out of trash on the cheap cheap”
“We used it as a DJ booth for my birthday.”
Photo Credit: Theresa Ann
Comics, Zines, and Chapbooks
There’s a rich history and culture in our area centered around self publishing and hand-publishing. Twenty years ago, local poets would sustain their craft through late night labor in copier shops, cutting, pasting and stapling chapbooks to offer up as product after readings. The activity generated by these efforts fueled entire scenes: The West End Cafe, Casablanca Cafe, and Urban Safari, just to name a few. In recent years there’s been an explosion of auteur produced comicbooks through efforts such as 757CCC — a loosely organized group of with artists like Kevin Copeland, Kristin Mehaffey, Sarah Glaser, and Willie Cordy contributing work. The Norfolk Zine Fest run by Jerome Spencer two years running has provided a space for zines creators to raise awareness of their production.
Heirloom Growlers for Tasty Beverages
Norfolk Growler | Norfolkgrowler.com
A growler is a jug designed for the express purpose of taking home tasty draft beer from your favorite brewery. Renown ceramic artist and local, Richard Nickel, founded this company to produce durable, high-quality growlers fashioned from stoneware clay which is fired in a kiln. His work is designed to last a lifetime, and every one purchased is made directly at his hands. Custom numbers are available which can include company logos and slogans using ceramic decals which become a permanent part of the vessel once fired on. The company keeps a studio over in Park Place for easy viewing of their offerings.
Link to video: https://vimeo.com/211211757
Hand-stitched Beasties, Belles, and Beyond
Silent Orchid Studio — Lindsay Cristelli | Etsy.com/shop/silentorchidstudio
Lindsay Cristelli founded Silent Orchid Studio back in 2009, focusing on hand crafting “creepy-cute” plush toys, art dolls, and mixed media illustrations. Her work is rife with references to old horror films, fairy tales, vintage illustrations, and more. In 2016, she and her husband, Justin — himself a comic creator and author of the long running series, “Red Knight,” enjoyed great success with a horror-parody of “Elf on the Shelf” called: Krampus in the Corner. Silent Orchid Studio’s offering can be found on Etsy as well as at many of the local craft fairs and comic conventions across the state.
Badass Scooters Custom-Made to Rumble.
Hampton Roads Ruckus/Scooter/Moped Crew
Hampton Roads is home to a wide community of scooter enthusiasts who make truly remarkable machines. This isn’t a business. Really, it’s only a group by the barest definition of the term. They transform standard, stock bikes into a canvas wherein they weld and wrench works of pure magic. These aren’t no Bird Scooters, these bikes have been tuned to the point where engines that were once only capable of twenty-five, thirty miles-per-hour are now straight beasts pushing metal and man in excess of sixty, seventy, and even eighty miles per hour. You’ll hear them coming, too. Loud and proud.
Link to video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCaUt_XzK8g
Theresa Parsons is celebrating her 40th anniversary providing Virginia Beach with fine all custom, handmade jewelry. She started as a young entrepreneur out on the boardwalk at festivals in 1978 and continues to relish in getting to know her very diverse Hampton Roads clientele. Theresa has made crowns for the King of the Neptune Festival and takes her 3 standard poodles to work every day at her Goldworks shop on Birdneck Road.