Sunday, November 11, 2012

Artist John Gilchrist East Haddam, CT

My purpose in endeavoring to create and maintain a blog is to take a moment to promote local artists and small businesses. I want to share other creative works of recycling madness. At art shows and craft fairs I have always found myself drawn to the creativity of people who take something ordinary and give it life. I am inspired by those artists and craftsmen with the ability to look at something mundane, something used over and over every day to a single purpose and instead see something unique and full of life. Today, I am going to take a moment to examine the work of John Gilchrist, a Connecticut based artist.

I first found the work of John Gilchrist at his Etsy shop, Gilsgarden - Reuse of Misdirected Flatware and had to smile at the thought of all the poor misguided flatware that would be forcibly reeducated that they may take on a new profession. I wonder if he had the same vision of poorly behaved forks and knives running amok among the table settings when he wrote that tagline.

Gilchrist lives in East Haddam, Connecticut which he describes as “a small town along the Connecticut river.” He boasts “East Haddam is home to many creative and talented people, The Goodspeed Opera House and Gillette Castle (home of William Gillette, who portrayed Sherlock Holmes for many many years).” Caught in the mighty Webs of Inter, I decided to Google images of East Haddam to see if my imagination was on the right track. Indeed Gilette Castle stands an absolutely stunning contrast against the surrounding trees. The Goodspeed Opera house was built right on the river in 1876 and is still in use today! John Gilchrist has been welding for more than 30 years and working as an IT professional for 20.

Asked to describe his inspiration to make his fantastic creations out of flatware and he spoke immediately of his family. “The new world economic situation and, of course, having young children has brought out the artsy part of me. I have 9year old twins, a boy and a girl, as well as two grandsons. They keep my imagination alive.” He says he began looking at the stainless flatware in a new way when his “wife got new flatware and was ready to toss out the old.” Seeing it just sitting on the table he saw “crossed knives that reminded me of my daughter's love of dragon flies . . . The knives looked like dragon fly wings! I saw the shapes of hummingbirds, flowers, and dragons in those cast out forks, knives, and spoons. That was in September of 2011 and since then I've been challenged to make Don Quixote on his horse, a bat and an alpaca.”

It seems his art had a pretty normal beginning. First making things for himself, then family and friends.  Next came tag sales, flea markets, then Etsy in June of 2012. He was also asked to be a "founding member of the East Haddam Art League." The East Haddam Art League is a community based project designed to educate, facilitate and inspire the expression of creative visual arts in the area. Artists helping to inspire other artists and brighten the community.  As things have progressed, Gilchrist continues to "imagine new sculptures and get many suggestions and requests."  "I’ve built up a bit of an inventory and now have some of my art displayed at CONNfetti in New London, CT and Raspberry Junction in Niantic, CT.”  Both CONNfetti and Raspberry Junction are stores dedicated to selling products made my local artists and craftsmen.

Every artist has an amusing anecdote or 20 to go with a piece they have created.  Sometimes it is a minor mishap, sometimes a major one, and in this case it an interesting success story for a very happy looking little bug.  “I saw a praying mantis in some flatware I had just gotten and made one, put it on ETSY and it sold right away … I had a few more of the same type flatware so I made a few more praying mantises and they sold quickly (5 in a matter of weeks. I searched for more similar flatware and found some and made a few more (they’re gone). It’s my biggest seller on ETSY so far. I have one more left and it’s on exhibit at a local library until 11/17, then off to a few craft fairs and maybe back to ETSY. Last time I took a praying mantis off of ETSY for a craft fair it didn’t sell, so back onto ETSY it went and sold within 20 minutes. I was very surprised.”

Visit Gilsgarden on Etsy to see what happens when flatware misbehaves. 

Remember when you go out Christmas shopping this year, if you want a memorable, one of a kind, American made gift, there is a small business looking to make you something unforgettable. Promote quality craftsmanship & community, shop small business.

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