Harrisburg Magazine’s Simply the Art
Photo Submitted By Artists
Story By Christina Heintzelman – firstname.lastname@example.org
In August 2022, Harrisburg Magazine, celebrated the twenty-fifty anniversary of Simply the Best. A decision was made to expand this program and create a niche award program to represent artists. Nineteen categories representing visual and performance artists were created and the voting began. Some winners are alumni of previous art related stories in Harrisburg Magazine, but many are new artists not known to us before. Harrisburg Magazine is proud to begin presenting these winners to our readers.
Naomi Menkis is the winner of ceramicist/potter in this first year of Simply the Art. Menkis and her husband, Brian are the owners of Menkis Works Pottery in Mechanicsburg. Menkis says that she was trained as a fine arts painter and her husband was trained as a sculptor but after they married and children arrived, they wanted to focus on something creative that was easier to deal with and decided that pottery would work well. “We each had our own studios, and we wanted a place where we could work together in the same studio, and the kids could join us and be safe; pottery was a good choice.” In fact, Cedar, age six, their oldest child, is already using a pottery wheel for throwing. The couple have been in the pottery business for four years. Naomi spends most of her time in the studio and Brian, studio technician for the arts department and the art gallery director at Messiah College, fills in part-time and on weekends. Their goal is to grow their business to a full-time occupation for both.
Menkis began her career as a high school art teacher for Northumberland Christian School and worked there for five years. “In this period, I found an old kiln that had belonged to my dad and asked him if I could take it to the school and I began doing hand-built pieces with students as part of the arts program.” Her husband took an interest in this project and became the driving force in moving them both toward pottery. “We got a wheel, and we started throwing. There are so many YouTube videos out there and we used them as our training, never taking any other classes. I took one wheel course in college, but Brian is totally self-trained,” she adds.
Menkis uses an electric kiln firing at cone 6, but her true love is outdoor wood firing. The couple built a wood fired kiln and are enjoying experimenting with it. “We built it last fall and have used it four times now and are having a lot of fun seeing what happens with the beautiful, varied surfaces.” They experiment with baking soda and ash, and various slips to create unexpected pieces.
Menkis states that all functional pieces are perfectly safe for food usage. They are microwavable, hand washable, and dishwasher safe. “We create a lot of functional wares, but we also create a few pieces that are meant to be art pieces,” she states.
Since all pieces are made by hand, each piece will be slightly different. “When making a set of dishes or mugs we think of it as creating a family or a couple. Each one has its own personality, they complement each other, and they work together as a whole although they are not all exactly the same.”
Menkis Works has two yearly open houses at their location in Mechanicsburg. Other craft people are also invited to set up during the bi-annual open houses. Their pottery is available online on their website.
For further information: website: www.menkisworks.com, (signup for the monthly newsletter is available via the website); Facebook: Menkis Works Pottery; and Instagram: menkis_works_pottery. The studio is located at 2401 Arcona Road, Mechanicsburg, and is open to the public for open houses and during weekends in December.
Shelly Echeverria is the only artist to take home prizes in more than one category. She is the winner in the drawing/illustrator category, other painting modalities, and shares the watercolor award with another first-place winner, Jessica Jacobs. Echeverria has been interested in art all her life, taking classes at Art Association of Harrisburg and, upon high school graduation, enrolled at Indiana University of Pennsylvania to study art. Her hope was to study art therapy because of her interest in psychology but the school ended the program. She stayed and received her BFA and then returned to the Harrisburg area and, as she says, “Life got in the way.” She began working for the State House of Representatives and held that job for over twenty-five years.
In between these years she married and had two children. After the birth of her first child, she began to take a few art classes at Millersburg Area Art Association with Ned Wert who did a workshop there once a year. He had also taught art at IUP when she was a student. It was after the birth of her second child that her daughter became interested in art. “I went out to the yard, grabbed some lilacs for us to paint together and started painting seriously again,” she says.
Echeverria was invited to exhibit at her friend’s Middletown gallery, Arts on Union, which got her onto a more art career-oriented path. Lipscomb Gallery is Echeverria’s home gallery which she started in 2008 and periodically opens as a pop-up gallery. She also began exhibiting in various businesses, AAH, Homeland, and creating greeting cards for sale at various locations.
In 2011, Echeverria was diagnosed with breast cancer and began a series of paintings during her treatment and created a book entitled So They Say I Have Breast Cancer to share with other women in treatment. In 2012, WITF was working on a series, Facing Cancer Together, and her painting series was exhibited at The Atrium with an accompanying article in Central PA Magazine: 2012 Arts and Entertainment Issue, Heart and Art, by Kathryn Carpenter.
Her oncologist bought the series of paintings for display in his office as inspiration for his patients. Echeverria has also done a mural for the office representing the tree of life. “At this time, I was doing my art for healing,” she states.
In 2015, Echeverria was contacted by her friend, Bena Hartman, and asked to illustrate a children’s book she was writing, My Elephant Sized Dream, which was published in 2016. In 2018, Echeverria exhibited at WITF’s Atrium again, and in 2021 she illustrated another book, The Fight, a workbook designed for middle school/high school aged students focusing on how to deal with conflict resolution.
In 2020, when Penn State Health opened their office in Hampden Township Center, there was a call for artists and there are now eight of her prints on their walls. And, when Penn State Health opened in Lancaster, they purchased a series of three of her prints for their walls from the original artwork. “Although I couldn’t get the degree in art therapy I feel as if I have come full circle by creating art for healing. It is healing for me, and it is healing for the patients who view this work,” she states.
Echeverria works in many mediums and likes going back and forth between them because of the different results she achieves – and it also hones her skills in all these areas. “Doing illustration for the books I’ve worked on has pushed me in my skills in realism. My acrylics do tend to be bolder in my palette and my watercolors are usually softer. I remember Ned Wert once saying, ‘if you want to work in hyperrealism, take a photo, otherwise just paint your painting.’” She admits to having ‘a thing’ about trees, saying “They are all so different, the branches reach up – up to the sun.” This is in perfect harmony with her idea of positivity in life and life’s message, and also her spiritual nature. “In my faith I am always looking up to the Lord for guidance and inspiration. My personal goal is, as I meet people, I can assist them in feeling better about themselves.” Her mantra has become, “Difficult places are temporary spaces for us to grow in our faith and become dependent on him.”
Contact Echeverria through her website, www.lipscombarts.com which has an area for ‘contact me’; Facebook: Shelly Echeverria; and Instagram: @lipscombarts. By checking her name on Vimeo and YouTube you can find some short series done during an exhibit at WITF studio. She also periodically teaches classes through Michaels Stores.
Jessica Jacobs received the tying win with Shelly Echeverria for watercolor artist. Although her background starting in childhood at the age of seven was in oil colors, attending plein air art classes and events with her mother, her newly found love is watercolor. “I come from a family with many artistic women in it. I am second generation Greek on my mother’s side…and women on both sides of my family were all very creative. My mother put me in various art classes with students of differing ages, which helped me tremendously in my growth.” She adds that starting early in life she wanted to be an artist and a naturalist, with a specific interest in entomology.
In addition to oils and acrylics she also enjoys sketching with pencils. “When I was pregnant with my son in 2013, I began moving toward watercolors and that started my love for this medium which I haven’t moved away from; it touched my soul in a way that never happened with other mediums before.” Although she never took lessons in watercolor, she says that she was able to teach herself because of her studies in oil and acrylic. She feels that because of her oil and acrylic work she has developed a very controlled style with her watercolor work.
Jacobs is fortunate with her art business as she has gained collectors of her works, especially her insect or natured related art; commissions for family portraits and family pet portraits; work creating business logos, websites, and illustrations; and work with clients to create tattoo artwork which she then gives to a client to take to their tattoo artist. One of her commissions was for designing the Northern York Fire Rescue Station #15’s new Pickleman mascot, which can be seen on their hose trucks in Dillsburg. Because of her facility with various social media platforms, she has made her work available on several different art related websites and works creating tee-shirts on demand and stickers for other artists to display their own work. “Ko-Fi is a website I enjoy using because it is a fundraising platform, but it also allows you to create a gallery for your art and lets users ‘buy an artist a virtual cup of coffee for $3.00.’” She sometimes works in digital art ‘as a cleansing tool’ to create her own stickers and designs. Her online site on Etsy has the largest variety of her varying artistic items.
Jacob’s work ranges from illustrative and technical quality to whimsical in nature – one piece is of three mushrooms that have tiny little stiletto heels on their roots with the mushroom caps resembling wide brimmed hats. “I am drawn to fantasy, especially in literature and films, such as The Nutcracker, Eraserhead, Lord of the Rings and anything Tolkien inspired. And I love owls! They are definitely a theme. Every owl I paint seems to sell so quickly,” she adds.
Jacobs and her family moved here from the Poconos in 2015 and settled in Wellsville, near Dillsburg, PA. Her workspace is in her home with an atelier to exhibit her work and meet with clients on an as needed basis.
She says that entomology, nature, botany, and food are her inspiration; the little things in nature that often go unnoticed, or only exist for a fleeting moment. “The breath of life on a mushroom, salamander or moth’s wings, a delicious treat made by caring hands. The symbiotic relationship between the forest and mankind.”
Jacobs has a variety of ways to reach her on social media: Ko-fi: ko-fi.com/jtjacobs_art; Etsy shop: etsy.com/JTJacobsArt; Teepublic: teepublic.com/user/jjacobs; Redbubble: redbubble.com and then search on Jessica Jacobs Shop; The Carlisle Artisan Market: www.thebestvendors.com/store/category/%40JTJacobs_Art; Instagram: @jtjacobs_art; Art Grab: artgrab.co/art/jtjacobsart; Facebook: JTJacobsArt; and her website: https://jessica-jacobs-art.ueniweb.com. Jacob’s works can all be found using one link that will take you to all her various art online sites: www.linktr.ee/jtjacobs_art.
Toby Bouder [Harrisburg Magazine, January 2021] took the STA win in the category of sculptor. His specialty is woodturning. Bouder’s start in the creative field began in high school when he was a photographer for the high school yearbook. When he was chosen as a participant in the highly competitive Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts program a new area opened to him. To take part in the program, a student had to choose a secondary art interest which for Bouder was sculptural welding. This unlocked the world of three-dimensional art that went on to become his passion.
After school, Bouder went to work for the US Postal System but kept his hand in woodworking and before retirement moved from his Shop Smith doing flat woodworking to a lathe so he could experiment in dimensional wood creations. He turned his first bowl six months before his retirement and ten years later he is still working exclusively in that genre.
Bouder collects wood from local trees that have either been cut down or have fallen. He is often the recipient of wood that people donate and at times these people want something created as a commission from the donated wood. “My wife says, ‘there is no more room for wood here’ but wood turners tend to be hoarders,” he laughs. He works with burls quite often because of the complexity and uniqueness of the growth but works equally well with a regular piece of wood from a trunk or large branch.
Before beginning a piece, Bouder inspects the wood and begins to make the decision as to what shape, size, and features can be created from it. He then decides whether to incorporate color and what color, if any, should be used. Even finishes will change according to the wood he is using. “From the outside trees appear mundane; however, inside this outer covering is an endless wealth of natural art. I begin by peeling back the layers to reveal what nature has been hiding,” he says.
Bouder is a member of the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen and is the past president of the Susquehanna Valley Chapter of the PA Guild of Craftsmen. He also belongs to the American Association of Woodturners and is vice president of the Susquehanna Woodturners Club.
Bouder and his wife, Judy, who is an artist, now only exhibit at indoor seasonal shows but his work is readily available in sixteen galleries and shops in the area. The closest ones being Brain Vessel in Mechanicsburg, Moss Creek Art in New Cumberland, Goldcrafters Corner in Carlisle, Art Association of Harrisburg, PA Guild of Craftsmen Gallery in Lancaster, Purple Robin Reserve in Lititz, Wheel of Light Studio in Halifax, and Perry County Council of the Arts Gallery in Newport. Bouder also sells many of the pieces he posts online.
Bouder understands the value and uniqueness of hand crafted one-of-a kind pieces of art and states, “It is really a special thing when a customer buys a local artisan made product and has the opportunity to meet the artist, talk about the process of the piece and learn its history, and know that item will never be replicated again because it is handmade and there are so many variations in woodgrain.” He goes on to say, “Even though I’m retired, woodworking has not turned into a job for me; rather it is a hobby which allows me to experiment and learn new techniques – one that I truly enjoy doing and it is a benefit being paid to do something I love.”
Bouder posts on the Facebook page Creative Harrisburg Area (CHA) but also has his own page, Toby Bouder, which is the best way to contact him regarding a commissioned piece or to buy a piece that he has posted on his page.