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Co-op spotlights and supports 3D art

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When completing her first graduate degree in 1972, PATRICIA HOLLEMAN (pictured middle) rewarded herself with pottery lessons. “I was immediately hooked on clay,” she says. She then attended Penland School of Craft for the next four summers and continued her study in clay at Queens College and Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte.

Holleman retired to Kure Beach in 1999 and participated in art shows. “But I found it difficult to physically haul pots and set up for shows,” she says. She had work in the gift shop at Cameron Art Museum but at the time, galleries primarily featured painting and photography. In 2007, with six other female potters, they opened Port City Pottery & Fine Crafts as a co-op gallery.

“Port City Pottery & Fine Crafts is unique as we are the only co-op gallery. We have no paid employees, and our artists get 80% to 90% of their sales. Traditional galleries take up to 50% of sales, so the artists are getting a lot less for their work,” Holleman says. “We all take turns working in the gallery and can talk to customers about each other’s work.”

Most of the original owners were retired from various professions and have since moved on from the gallery. A year ago, Holleman took on two new partners, BRAD EKLUND (right) and YIFENN STRICKLAND.

Strickland was formally trained as an engineer and worked in the software industry until raising her family took priority. “I grew up with artistic and crafty ethnic Chinese parents and grandparents in Laos. So, you could say art and craft run in my blood,” she says. After the birth of her third child, Strickland needed an artistic outlet, so she took up oil painting. “Just when I thought this will be my ‘thing’ after writing software for a living, we moved to Kure Beach, “she says. “Then, I touched clay for the first time under the direction of Hiroshi Sueyoshi. I never turned back. Today, I mostly create objects made from clay.”

A Maine native with a degree in horticulture, Eklund finally settled in Supply where he lives with his wife and two children. “I often say I got into art by accident. I always loved working with wood and in 2009, made wooden Christmas gifts for my friends and family,” he says. “It was through their encouragement I started a small hobby and weekend side business. Soon after, my wife also started creating wooden art. This grew over the years and in 2014 we transitioned to being full-time artists.”

Port City Pottery & Fine Crafts juries all the work that comes in so the gallery can maintain a high quality of offerings to its customers. “We are one of the few exclusively 3D art galleries in the area,” Eklund says. “We have a variety of mediums ranging from clay, glass, and wood to jewelry, fiber, and textiles, represented by over 20 local artists.”

Strickland adds, “For the public, it is a wonderful place to support local small businesses while having access to quality one-of-a-kind, handmade creations under one roof.”

As a co-op gallery, Port City Pottery & Fine Crafts supports local artists and allows makers to share the responsibilities of offering their handmade creations to the public.

“In today’s globalized society, it is so easy to lose sight of connecting with people,” Strickland says. “In-person encounters allow you to make meaningful connections that our souls need. In a way, the gallery offers me the sense that we are artists helping artists living in the same area. You also get a chance to learn how to run a small business while having the support and camaraderie of fellow members.”Eklund reiterates, “Art is everywhere, along with artists. Looking inward to find local artists results in finding some hidden gems and truly exceptional craftsmen. It also provides a very ‘Wilmington’ atmosphere to visitors as they will not be able to see the same work outside of the area. Local keeps work unique.”

Now 81, Holleman creates art in her home pottery studio – when not playing pickleball or doing yoga. She plans to continue working at the gallery as long as she can. As for Strickland and Eklund, they plan to continue recruiting talented and diversified emerging artists and makers from the area.

“Port City Pottery  Fine Crafts has such enormous potential,” Eklund says. “I would love to expand ways to assist local artists. Some goals I have are to create emerging artist mentorships, scholarships, grants, and to promote the arts in the area by spearheading art projects.”

To view more of photographer Logan Burke’s work, go to LoganBurkePhoto.com

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Categories: Culture