“When you step back from the pieces, it’s hard to tell what is three-dimensional and what is two-dimensional,” says Wycliffe Bennett about his multimedia portraits. Contributed

Trio of local artisans featured at American Craft Show

More than 250 of the country’s most talented contemporary craft artists will fill the exhibit hall at Cobb Galleria Centre March 15-17 as the American Craft Council brings its annual show to town for the 30th consecutive year. This is not your average craft show. The American Craft Show is a highly selective, juried event featuring one-of-a-kind items, including jewelry, apparel, textiles, furniture, home decor and more. Among the artists participating this year are several from metro Atlanta, including the following.

Judy Robkin

Potter

Judy Robkin has been a potter for more than 30 years, ever since she took a class at Spruill Center for the Arts in Dunwoody. But four years ago, something completely transformed her work.

“I had never done anything figurative; it kind of happened by accident,” said Robkin, 66, of Sandy Springs. “I had taken a picture of a woman in Croatia. She just had this wonderfully interesting face. After I took the picture, my husband said to her in Croatian, ‘You are beautiful.’ And she turned from a 70-year-old woman into a blushing teenager, so I took another picture. And I thought, wow, if I could capture that, that would be interesting.”

The result of that a-ha moment is what Robkin calls her “Ladies,” striking, full-length clay sculptures of women of a certain age that stand 14 to 27 inches tall.

Robkin crafts her pieces from slabs of clay soft enough to create folds in their clothing. Some pieces have little doors on them that open to reveal a vintage piece of jewelry or old photograph.

One of Judy Robkin's "Ladies," handcrafted from clay. Contributed by Judy Robkin
Photo: HANDOUT/Judy Robkin

“People see my ladies and inevitably tell me some personal story about their mother or their grandmother or their aunt,” said Robkin. “When I’m making them, each lady has her own story, and sometimes it’s revealed and sometimes it’s not. They are all different. They have different faces, different bodies, different clothing. I never make the same one twice. Each one feels like some woman I’ve known or want to know.”

This is the third year Robkin, whose work averages $350-$400, has shown at the American Craft Show.

“It’s the best show in the Southeast without a doubt,” she said. “The quality of the work is exceptional.”

Theresa St. Romain

Metalsmith

Spruill Center for the Arts also figures prominently in Theresa St. Romain’s artistic evolution, but it was a fluke that made her a metalsmith.

“I have no art degree, but I’ve always had an interest in art,” said the 48-year-old Tucker resident. “My mom and I decided to take a pottery class, but it was full, so we decided to take a jewelry class across the hall. Then I took another class and another. I kept taking classes. I was there so much, one of the instructors asked me to help with her class. Then I started teaching. I still do. I’ve been teaching there for more than 15 years.”

Although technically jewelry, St. Romain’s creations are more like small sculptures.

Aqua Fringe, a necklace made of silver, aquamarine and patina by Theresa St. Romain. Contributed by Cole Rodger
Photo: For the AJC

“Sometimes they’re not always easy to wear, especially the rings,” she said. “There are some really upright ones — you can’t put your hands in your pocket. Jewelry can be very flat. It doesn’t have a lot of dimensions. My jewelry has a sculptural feel. They have a very organic yet constructed look. It looks like I grew it, but I also made it.”

St. Romain works with a variety of metals, including silver, copper, brass, bronze and gold. But she favors a Japanese alloy she makes herself called shibuichi.

“They created this alloy that has a higher copper content than silver,” she said. “What I do with it is different than what Japanese and Koreans do with it. They’re interested in the color. I’m interested in the texture of the surface. I will overheat it so it gets bumpy and wrinkly. It gives a very animal skin-like look to certain pieces. A lot of my pieces have that visual texture.”

This is St. Romain’s second year at the American Craft Show in Atlanta. Her pieces range in price from $80 to $550, although she has some larger neckpieces that go for $1,500.

Wycliffe ‘Linc’ Bennett

Mixed-media portrait artist

An accountant and CPA by trade, Wycliffe “Linc” Bennett spent decades working in the corporate world. After he retired, he spent a few years teaching at Morris Brown College. But he always had artistic aspirations.

“When I was at Morris Brown, I found myself in the art department more often than not,” said the 72-year-old Southwest Atlanta resident. “The professors said, ‘Linc, you have some talent. You really need to do something about it.’ They inspired me to pursue it.”

Wycliffe Bennett layers plywood and fabric to create his multimedia portraits, which also include sculptural elements. Contributed
Photo: For the AJC

Since 2004, Bennett has been a full-time artist, making vibrant, mixed-media portraits composed of layered plywood and fabrics. He favors African batiks and his own, homemade tie-dyes to add color to his portraits.

He also incorporates sculptural elements into his work using a molding product called Sculptamold.

“When you step back from the pieces, it’s hard to tell what is three-dimensional and what is two-dimensional,” he said.

In addition to selling his work in shows, Bennett accepts commissions for portraits.

“I tell people, I can paint your portrait, and it will look just like you,” he said, “but if I make your portrait in fabric, it becomes a work of art that you are the subject of.”

This is Bennett’s second year at the American Craft Show. His work ranges in price from $600 to $3,000.

EVENT PREVIEW

American Craft Show. March 15-17. $12 advance, $13 at the door, $5 after 5 p.m. Friday only, free for children 12 and younger. Cobb Galleria Centre, 2 Galleria Parkway, Atlanta. 612-206-3100, craftcouncil.org/atlanta

A shy but ambitious film student (Honor Swinton Byrne) begins to find her voice as an artist while navigating a turbulent courtship with a charismatic but untrustworthy man (Tom Burke). She defies her protective mother (Tilda Swinton) and concerned friends as she slips deeper and deeper into an intense, emotionally fraught relationship that comes dangerously close to destroying her dreams.

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