By DONNA HARRIS
Probably the best way to describe the art in the Cartersville Public Library’s current exhibit is eclectic.
The two-artist show will feature the sculpture, sculpture relief and fiber jewelry of Eleanor Ford and the nature photography of Michael Stodgell in the library gallery through the end of January.
“Eleanor, I know her work from when I worked at Spring Place Pottery,” adult services librarian Meghan Stipe said. “She was one of my favorite artists there because of her sculptural stuff, her 3-D pictures. Her fiber necklaces were always one of our good sellers there. I just always loved how across the spectrum her stuff was and everything.”
Stodgell brought some of his work to the library to show Stipe, “and I liked it a lot,” she said.
“I liked the idea of combining the two different perspectives of nature [into one show],” she said.
Ms. Ford, 79, said Stipe called and asked her if she’d like to do a show at the library, and she agreed.
“I have not done the library show before so I’m real excited and nervous,” she said at Tuesday night’s artist reception.
Her sculpture relief pieces, which hang on the wall, have 3-D subjects such as horses, oak leaves, seagulls, waterfalls, hills and a boat coming out of the flat background.
She also has her inspiration bird sculptures, which have inspirational words like “Love You,”http://www.daily-tribune.com/”Together” and “Family First” etched into their nests, and some jewelry pieces created from fiber and enamel on display.
Ms. Ford said her interest in sculpture and sculpture relief began growing after taking a hand-built pottery class in the 1960s while living in Detroit and visiting the Stratton pottery studio downtown.
“Stratton did tile relief pieces on major buildings like Chicago, New York, all over the place,” she said. “People make cups and saucers and vases. Well, I wanted to do something different. So I worked through the process of working with the clay and all the errors you have to make.”
Other potters who had tried that art form explained to her that “this and this happened,” but she remained undeterred and learned how to do it, Ms. Ford said.
“If you don’t do it right, it warps,” she said. “If you fire it too soon, it’ll explode.”
Ms. Ford said her inspiration birds, which she’s given as gifts to “people [who] were nice to me,” evolved from her desire to pass on her mother’s encouraging nature.
She said she thought about words people would want to hear, “just a little saying that is encouraging,” and etched them into the nests.
The idea for creating fiber and enamel jewelry began after she and a friend, an enamelist, visited a studio that had a loom.
The West Virginia native, who has lived in Cartersville for 20 years, went full time with her art in the 1970s and stayed at it for 15 years.
After moving to Georgia — she chose Cartersville because of the Booth Western Art Museum, the downtown square and everything else in the city that “just made me happy” — Ms. Ford showed her clay pieces at Pottery Lane, which was sold to Spring Place Pottery.
But the owner of Spring Place had to close the gallery, and soon after, tragedy struck for Ms. Ford — her daughter was killed.
“I just packed up everything, and that was it,” she said. “I just didn’t have the heart to pursue finding a place for my stuff. I just kind of lost it. There was nothing to do about it. I miss her with all my heart.”
She decided to start getting back into her art, however, when Stipe called and asked her to do a show at the library.
Ms. Ford, who is a member of the Booth, said sculpting “takes me to another world.”
“I was working on pictures, and somebody came into my studio and said, ‘Earth to Eleanor, earth to Eleanor,”http://www.daily-tribune.com/” she said. “And I truly know what he meant because I was listening to the inspiration for the picture.”
All of her clay pieces have part of her in them — literally.
“When you’re working in clay, your cells become part of the clay because your cells shed off your skin into the clay,” she said. “So it’s like I listened to the voice, and it says, ‘Try this, and if that don’t work, try this.’ Anybody who does anything creative always has to go through the ups and downs, and I’m a firm believer in that.”
Her inspiration for pieces comes from “a lot of different places,” including the museums her mother took her to when she was younger, Ms. Ford said.
“I would just almost be in a trance, seeing how beautiful they are,” she said.
As for the 66-year-old Stodgell, his love of photography grew out of his active outdoor lifestyle.
“I’ve been an outdoor person pretty much all my life,” he said. “I have a lot of outdoor hobbies — running, fishing, canoeing, skiing, things that get you out. And I’d do that for a number of years without taking pictures, and I saw a lot of awful beautiful things, and I said, ‘Other people need to see this stuff.”http://www.daily-tribune.com/”
The Cartersville resident, who is originally from the Chicago area but has been in the South since 1982, said he began taking pictures with a cell phone in 2016, “and people liked them.” He bought a better camera and continued to take photos, “and one thing kind of led to the other.”
“I still am not a photographer,” he said. “I don’t do shows or anything or go out and shoot weddings or anything like that. I still work them in with my hobbies. Before, I would never go out specifically to take pictures. Like I would go out in my canoe with my camera on me, and when a picture came up, I would shoot it. But now, I do go out sometimes at peak times when I think the lighting is going to be good and take pictures. I have quite a few hobbies so photography doesn’t take over my life. It’s part of [my life].”
Obviously, Stodgell, who retired from Anheuser-Busch, gets the majority of his inspiration from nature.
“I love to be outside,” he said. “I like to be on the water. I like sunrise, sunset, beautiful sky, water, animals. I like all that stuff so I’m usually up early in the morning so I see the sunrise, and I make a point of seeing sunsets. After I found out my camera could take good pictures of the moon, I started taking a lot of pictures of the moon.”
While the library exhibit is the first show he’s ever done, Stodgell said he has sold “a fair amount of work” to friends and through word-of-mouth and has created a calendar for the past four years that he primarily gives to family and friends.
“Now after four years, it’s getting to the point where people are like, ‘Well, are you going to do a calendar this year?’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to do a calendar this year,”http://www.daily-tribune.com/” he said.