Emerging onto Tryon’s art scene

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, March 4, 2015

You’re never too old to start acting or writing. This was advice once given to me by a friend who had achieved success in both fields. I took it to heart twice. I started acting at 31 and started writing at 49, and enjoyed both pursuits immensely.

I have great admiration for people who change professions mid-stream. It’s not an easy choice to make, and requires a leap of faith, self-confidence, and a good dose of courage.

My friend’s advice can also extend to many other pursuits, of course, and they don’t have to be attempted as a profession. Hobbies count too. I did it again when I moved to Tryon and took some jewelry making and pottery classes at Tryon Arts and Crafts. The first step is study.

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I have a list of classes I still want to take: rug hooking, weaving, painting, sculpture. I’m incredibly fortunate to live in this very arts-centric town where all these classes are available. We have an abundance of accomplished artists and therefore opportunities to learn.

In the three years I’ve lived here, I’ve also seen several new artists emerge, and that gives me great satisfaction—that I live in community with a culture that nurtures talent. We not only attract artists here, we create them.

The first one who comes to mind is Toby Wolter. I met Toby in a wheel-throwing pottery class at Tryon Arts and Crafts. He had moved to the area in 2012 after living in Miami and Savannah. In addition to classes at TAC, Toby also went on to study sculpture at Tryon Painters and Sculptors. Very quickly, Toby found a niche, and I watched his work blossom.

Toby discovered a love and talent for sculpting clay heads, and very soon began producing “spirits in a bottle”—small heads of people and animals in primitive bottles fired in natural finishes or mounted on steel pedestals he learned to craft in TAC’s blacksmithing workshops. Toby showed and sold in several Tryon galleries, and was featured in a juried TFAC show in 2013 that established him as an artist to watch.

Now Toby sells his distinctive sculptures from his safari and farm animal collections in several galleries in the Southeast, and donates a portion of his proceeds to animal charities such as the Amboseli Trust, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, and the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary.

You might have seen Toby’s stunning elephant heart in the recent Have a HeArt show at Upstairs Artspace that benefitted Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Another heart that caught my attention at the Have a HeArt show belonged to Estell Osten. I also met Estell in the pottery studio at Tryon Arts and Crafts when we were both new to the medium as well as to the area.

After Estell and her husband David moved here from Vienna, Austria, she began studying the violin, pottery, and painting from local artist Mary Lou Diekmann. I loved seeing Estell’s beaming smile the first time she sold a piece of her pottery—a stunning soap holder—at a TAC show, and saw the same pride when the bids on her beautiful Have a HeArt donated piece rose dramatically.

Now her work can be seen at galleries around town alongside Toby’s and many other local artists.’

I feel so fortunate to have witnessed these two artists emerge in the short time I’ve lived here, and I’ve discovered so many other artists and their work here in this very special town.

If you haven’t immersed yourself in Tryon’s art scene, or even if you have, you shouldn’t miss an event coming up on March 7.

Tryon Painters and Sculptors will host its grand opening celebration from 5-7 p.m. at their gorgeous new building at 78 N. Trade St. The Chamber of Commerce will cut the ribbon at 6 p.m., followed by a brief history of the organization presented by Mike McCue. Beth Thomas will serenade us with some easy listening music.

Come see their new facility and check out their upcoming class schedule. Who knows, you just might be Tryon’s next emerging artist. We welcome you all.