After graduating with her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University in 1999, Nicki Wood moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma to start teaching as an adjunct professor at Tulsa Community College. Quickly becoming involved in the art community, she started showing work and being represented by galleries in Tulsa. During graduate school at The University of Tulsa, she received numerous research grants and awards including, The College Art Association Student Travel Grant, The Thomas Manhart Outstanding Student Award and Second Place in the Graduate Student category of the Gussman Student Art Show. Outside of graduate school, Nicki continued being a part of the local and national art community by exhibiting work regionally and at the Philadelphia Clay Studio, attending conferences and implementing workshops locally. As an Artist in Residence at the St. Petersburg Clay Company, Nicki became more involved in the community arts in the Tampa Bay Area. Volunteering on the Steering Committee for the Dali Museum’s Zodiac’s young professionals organization, gave her a new perspective on her professional development objectives. During her tenure as Chair of Ceramics at The Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale’s studio school, Nicki developed and started a ceramics program. Moving back to Oklahoma has meant gathering with new and old artist friends and working on new goals of arts administration and curatorial efforts.
Last Summer (2015), I led the staff of the Multi Arts Center in Stillwater to renovate the front lobby into a professional rotating gallery space. The gallery transformed from damaged blue carpeted walls to an elegant and refined charcoal gray with natural light suitable for a large solo or curated group exhibit area. The purpose of the space was inline with the mission of fine arts education for the community in bringing new and exciting work to the Stillwater area.
As an opening for the renovated space, I called on Michelle Martin, the Assistant Professor of Art, at the University of Tulsa. Michelle is a long time friend and mentor with an exception education background and involvement with the National printmaking community. Her students produce competitive works and exchange them with work renowned printmaking artists and students at Ohio State University.
The gallery opening for Tulsa, Ink was an incredible success with over 75 attendees crowding the space.
Both of my sisters had an interest in creating handmade original beads and buttons out of clay for the jewelry and purses they make. I can’t imagine a more perfect accessory to wear! Any seamstress, textile artist or knitter needs to let me teach them how to create one-of-a-kind notions to add to their pieces.
As a family, we got together one Saturday night with my Aunt, two sisters, and friends and for the next 3 hours played with texture and created wearable art. The artist gene runs strong in our family and making small objects came naturally and laughter made the night special. Ceramics has a way of bringing people together like no other medium can.
If you are interested in a 2 day class to learn how to make your own clay buttons and beads, please contact me!
Since moving back to Catoosa, I have had my eyes peeled looking for a tree that grows near East Admiral Boulevard that I have admired every Summer growing up in Northeastern Oklahoma. This time of year it has giant glowing chartreuse globes covering it. Several years ago, I stopped and grabbed one of the brightly colored green globes on my way to my mom’s house. I was in graduate school at the University of Tulsa. I took the green globe to the ceramics studio and used it for it’s brain-like texture. The clay I squished it into has stayed with me as a precious sentimental reminder of my home. The memory of that tree and the texture left in the clay have traveled with me to three cities and halfway accross the country twice.
Today, driving home from Broken Arrow on the Creek Turnpike in my brother-in-law’s truck, I yelped excitedly “there they are”! On the side of the highway, I saw several trees loaded with giant green globes that looked neon in the hot Oklahoma Summer sun. Unfortunately, they were on the wrong side of the fence and I am not young and courageous enough to scale a barbed wired fence in two feet of prairie grass. The thought of finding a rattlesnake or being attacked by chiggers was unsettling. Regardless, I still wanted them. All of them!
My kind brother-in-law drove down a dirt road to look for more trees that were easier to access. Disappointed, we turned east homeward bound. There they were! Just where I remembered. Admiral Boulevard had been under construction due to the new Creek Turnpike and to lay water pipe since I last took a green globe from my tree. This tree was loaded, but they were all on top!
While we walked through prairie grass and pulled at limbs in the 99 degree Indian Summer heat, my sister sat in the truck air conditioning to google “hedgeapple”. We managed to get six or more of the brilliant green globes that were sticky with white sap.
Driving home, we learned the tree is an Osage Orange that is historically used as a barrier for cattle before barbed wire and fence posts were invented. They grow dense enough to keep bulls and hogs in or out and horses from jumping them. Growing in hedges as large as twenty feet high, but sometimes up to forty feet, they are a member of the mulberry family named for American geologist William Maclure. The name Osage Orange was coined by the Osage Tribe and incidentally smell slightly like an orange and in South Central part of Oklahoma in the Osage Mountains the color matures to bright orange in color.
In Indian Territory before statehood, hedges of the Osage Orange tree ran throughout the state for land barriers. The wood from the tree was later found to be termite resistant and used for fence posts and ship figureheads.
However, the trees are not prized for home shade trees and have fallen in popularity for many reasons. With the invention of barbed wire in Indian Territory in 1874, the use for the tree declined. The female trees that produce the fruit have long large thorns that can cause flat tires. When the fruit falls like bowling balls from the tree they are considered a nuisance in contemporary landscapes. Cows and livestock have been known to swallow the fruit whole which becomes lodged in the esophagus and causes death. And finally, the fruit are not edible by humans and produce a sticky sap that often causes an allergic reaction.
Although the fruit is inedible, it is highly marketable online at www.hedgeapple.com and in some flea markets. Why you ask? The Osage Orange is prized for it’s ability to repel insects.
Many swear that Osage oranges chase away bugs. The claim is to set them in cabinets, behind furniture and in chicken houses. The fruit and wood of the Osage orange tree does contain tetrahydroxystilbene, an anti-fungicide that may deter insects.
My purpose for the Osage Orange was quite different, but I discovered an unexpected history. I am an artist and plan to make a plaster mold of one fruit. This will enable me to make multiples and tell the historical reference in a different way. I see them for their unique beauty, color and significant part in the landscape of my childhood home. Now, I have the story of the six Osage Oranges that led to an adventure and revealed the historical and scientific context of a mysterious tree native to the state of Oklahoma.
Yesterday, the first Saturday of August, I was the “mARTketplace ARTist of the Month”. I have temporarily made my studio in the orange room. The mARTketplace is a community of independent artists that choose to sell handmade together. They categorize themselves as somewhere in between fine art and craft. As attitudes have changed in the last 10 years of what is fine art, I prefer no category regardless of my Master’s degree. My work stands alone with inspiration coming from Mexican Folk Art, California Funk and feminine craft forms. Sometimes, I want to make something that would never enter a gallery’s showroom and may be for the purpose of exploration. These ladies follow a path of love for what they make as I do.
For example, I made knitting bowls this week. I love to knit. I have friends that love to knit. And these cuties, serve the purpose of holding your skein safely and your unfinished work on needles with no chance of your cat pulling all your stitches loose. All knitters and crochet enthusiasts need one. It is a must have for your living room end table.
My day at the mARTketplace started off disorganized unloading a kiln that morning at my Aunt’s house and rushing around to get everything placed for display by 10 am across highway 412. It seems every artist that morning had the same scattered stress. I blamed it on the full moon.
Throughout the day I demonstrated throwing bowls on the wheel while patrons walked through enjoying the friendly and welcoming environment. Some customers had learned to throw in high school and some always wanted to learn. I gave out my business cards and entertained my interest in teaching lessons within the mARTketplace studios. It seems there is a valid need for an art center in rural areas like Catoosa, Oklahoma. Many people do not want to drive into the city after work. It is just too far. And, I agree. Meeting all these new folks gave me much excitement and I hope they find time to contact me to arrange lessons.
The mARTketplace had every opportunity for arts enjoyment including culinary arts. It has been my goal everywhere I have been employed as a teaching artist to bring all arts to the audience. I believe in a cross-disciplinary mix. It heightens every sense and creates a joyful environment for inspiring ideas. Celebrate the arts in your community! Create a place! Support all arts!
Those that live in the Catoosa and East Tulsa area should inquire about wheel throwing or sculpture lessons. I can offer a well-rounded teaching session that includes all materials to see if you would like to commit to a six week session of lessons. I am completely flexible and interested in teaching anyone that wants to learn. I look forward to hearing from you.
Find the mARTketplace on Facebook and Twitter @mARTketplace for for event updates and open studio Saturdays.
Last year I was fortunate enough to be in the Brady District’s “VisionMakers” exhibit at 108 Contemporary in Tulsa, Oklahoma. To my surprise, my University of Tulsa Graduate School Ceramics Professor, Whitney Forsyth was also in the show. Our work was chosen to be shown next to each other. It was a show I will not forget!
I was selected to be included with 29 other people across the State of Oklahoma for the Leadership Arts Class of 2013. On the first meeting at Quartz Mountain Arts Conference Center, we discovered we were all like-minded individuals with the same cause. At the next meeting one month later in Miami, Oklahoma, we had already become fast friends and supporters of each other. Together, we learned how to analyze the assets of our community and use that to add to the quality of life and arts in our own communities. I learned more with this group than I have in any other conference. We are a diverse group that continues to spread the infectious love for art in our towns, cities and state! The Oklahoma Arts Council commissioned me to make the trophies for my graduating class. Against all odds, I managed to finish the trophies with help from Bonne Brown and Steven Phillips. I had kept the trophies a secret from my class mates the entire year. At our graduation ceremony, the Leadership Arts Class was so moved that I had been chosen to make their trophies. Being a part of this group has sincerely changed my life….we are soul touchers!
Bonne helping me make the Leadership Arts Class of 2013 graduation trophies
If I had to describe this year to anyone, it would be a year of progress and community filled with valuable new friendships and professional progress. I have been in two important exhibitions. The first was the University of Tulsa Graduate School Alumni Show at Zarrow Art Center and the second, was VisionMakers at 108 Contemporary.
This was the first time I have shown my work professionally in Tulsa and I was thrilled to find out it was with my University of Tulsa Graduate School Professor of Ceramics, Whitney Forsyth. A full color catalog was published and our work was side by side at the show! It was a special reception for both of us in the new Brady Arts District. Many familiar faces came to the show and all my cupcakes were sold. Time to make more cakes!