Bryan Nash Gill


bryannikko2 Bryan Nash Gill
Bryan and me standing in front of his woodcut print Ash.

This is a hard line to write, but Bryan Nash Gill passed away this summer. -And so I am reminded of when I first started Ashes & Milk.

At that time it was fall of 2008 and, having just launched Ashes & Milk, finding artists that aligned with the sensibility I was trying to create and willing to let me represent them online was oftentimes difficult. So with no expectations, I immediately contacted Bryan after coming across his amazing woodcut prints to see if he would be willing to let me add them to my small but growing gallery.

When Bryan said yes I was excited and nervous at the same time as the first print we used to introduce Bryan’s work was quite large.  -52 x 38.5 inches, to be exact. Despite being at a higher price point than anything else offered at Ashes & Milk, the print Hemlock 82 won many hearts across the blogosphere and found its way into many homes.

I was fortunate enough to have finally been able to spend time with him and his family in person when they visited Chicago earlier this year for an exhibit of his prints at the Chicago Botanic Garden. I’m grateful to have had that time with him and send my deepest condolences to his wife and son.

I wanted to share Bryan’s process of creation one more time to show people that there is more to art than the finished product. For he certainly observed the world in amazing detail and responded by constructing the most unexpected, beautiful things.

Rest in peace, my friend.

Michele Quan – Ceramic Bells

Artist Interviews: Design + Process, Artist Studios: Creative Spaces

I instantly fell in love with these gigantic ceramic bells made by NYC artist Michele Quan and feel lucky for the opportunity to offer an extremely beautiful collection of Michele’s work at Ashes & Milk.

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Each piece is built by hand and finished with beautifully refined glazes. They are suspended from a thick earthy hemp rope and some designs have a knocker made of reclaimed wood. Substantial both in size and weight, the hollow bell forms create a pleasant contemplative sound when touched.

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Nikko Could you tell me a little about how you got started in ceramics and what drew you to this medium?

Michele Clay seems to have appeared at a few different times over the years. I moved to NY in 1984 and was interested in all kinds of crafty mediums and had huge ideas of loosely knitted layered objects and woven carpets with space/sky formations. I took a ceramics class at the 92nd street Y, and really enjoyed it. Never did it again but it fed my fantasy to have some kind of clay collective, which stayed alive in my head for a long time. I also loved jewelry and ended up starting a business with a friend which turned into 12 years and during that time I took another ceramics class in Brooklyn to liven up my hands and eyes. When my daughter was 14 months and racing around like a maniac I needed some ‘ME’ time and took a class at Greenwich House Pottery in the West Village- a great place for ceramics. I just kept increasing my time there till I couldn’t squirrel away anymore shelf space and then moved out to my studio now in East Williamsburg.

Clay is this tactile material that seems to draw some people in. I suppose it has me as well, but I really just like to work with my hands. I like the labor, I’m a great weeder.

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Nikko I really love the organic shapes and large scale of your ceramic bells. What inspired you to make these and how do you construct them?

Michele I had some metal bells hanging on my studio door, and had just made a few in clay when Lori from Love, Adorned on Elizabeth Street asked if I wanted to do an installation and I immediately thought of many bells hanging overhead. It was about the spectacle and the sound- an homage to the Present.

The bells are built by hand starting with slabs or thrown on the wheel. The wooden knockers are made by an artist neighbor, Michael Miritello. He makes them out of scraps of beautiful wood he has laying around the studio.

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Above Michele working on a piece while cuddling up her daughter Elsie

Nikko Outside of making art, is there anything else that defines you?

Michele Lots of stuff. And nothing really. I’”m sure there are still things that define me that I don’t even do anymore. Or even better yet, things I’ve never done but want to.

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Above is a collection of Michele’s bells hung from a tree in Prospect Park, NYC.

[ Check out more of Michele's ceramic bells at Ashes & Milk. ]

Photographs courtesy of Michele Quan.

Bryan Nash Gill Film Feature on Martha Stewart

Artist Interviews: Design + Process, Artist Studios: Creative Spaces

The Martha Stewart crew filmed a beautiful documentary featuring Bryan Nash Gill. Congratulations, Bryan!

Also, good news: for those of you interested in the Matching Oak Print that sold out. We will be offering a new print similar in size and price called Compression Ash. I’ll keep you posted and let you know when it’s available for purchase.

Jess Panza – Pate De Verre Glass Bowls

Artist Interviews: Design + Process, Artist Studios: Creative Spaces

When glass artist Jess Panza introduced herself to me, she expressed how moved she was by Ashes & Milk. -And when I saw her glimmering Pate De Verre Glass Bowls I was in turn lit up by their gemlike brillance.

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Above are a pair of Lime Feuille Glass Bowls by Jess Panza.

By molding tiny glass rocks together, a French technique called Pate De Verre, Jess is able to enhance the texture and crystalline quality of the material.

I love how Jess finds “glass beautiful, in all forms (whether) broken glass on the street, a glass fronted cabinet, spectacles, cloudy old glass at a flea market, bits of sparkling rocks found on a hike.”

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Above Jess uses a heavy metal “crusher” to break down the raw glass into smaller pieces. She then composes the glass onto flat molds to create discs, shown below.

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Above are stacks of glass discs that are waiting to be molded into bowls for a second time in the hot kiln.

Nikko Can you tell me how you discovered this process of glass forming?

Jess I’ve been working with glass for about 15 years and it is as familiar to me as kneading pie dough or cracking an eggshell.

My forming process is a lot like making crepes, or anything that needs to be formed while hot. Due to the nature of forming glass with high heat, it can be very difficult to create the closeness that a tactile bond can foster since you can’t touch it with your fingers. I get as close as I can by creating my own ways and tools for forming the glass.

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Above is Jess hand forming and tweaking the shape of the glass bowls while in the kiln.

Jess What I hope to show is the influence of my hand in the final product. Although the bisque forms and high heat does most of the work, I do a lot of cutting and pasting while the glass is sticky to build the actual form.

I do everything you aren’t supposed to do when working with glass. I interrupt the kiln’s heating and cooling cycles at my discretion if I am not getting my desired results. I reach my hand deep into bags of raw glass to throw in cold glass next to heat soaked glass.

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Above the finished glass bowls are cooling outside of the kiln.

Jess The glass has got to follow my lead but only with regard to cooking time and overall form. -The rest is up to the glass. ‘Just be yourself,’ I try to impart onto it.

[ You can see the rest of Jess Panza's Pate De Verre Glass Bowls at Ashes & Milk. ]

Wood Serving Boards by Geoffrey Lilge + A Little Self Reflection

Artist Studios: Creative Spaces

With the end of the year approaching I’m a little nostalgic. I keep thinking about last month’s trip to New York City and the question asked of me over and over,” Why are you here?” At first I’d answer in my most practical Midwest way,” I’m on vacation! Yay!” but then realized what was really being asked: What was my purpose (as in aspirations and determinations)? And so this refreshingly grounding inquiry came home with me to Chicago and is still on my mind.

Three years ago I started this site and it’s grown slow and steady. Often I wish to progress Ashes & Milk faster, grow it bigger, include more artists and their work, photograph artwork in amazing ways like Ditte Isager, increase sales through more aggressive marketing and restock sold-out pieces for all of you wonderful people who write asking me for more. -Perhaps I will give you just that, minus the fast part. Please bare with me because the truth is, I’ve always taken life slow to savour its details and in turn can promise to stay true to what this project is all about.

With all this said, I’m really happy to introduce to you the newest addition to Ashes & Milk, Geoffrey Lilge who created a collection of hand-crafted Wood Serving Boards.

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Above are a few of Geoffrey Lilge’s Walnut Serving Boards. Each piece is a unique functional object fashioned by hand from a single piece of wood.

The story behind the creation of these boards is sweet and born out of love. Geoffrey sought to find the perfect cutting and charcuterie boards to outfit his wife’s restaurant. After about 4 years of prototyping and restaurant testing he came up with these beautiful simple solid wood boards.

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A sneak peak of Geoffrey’s warm and inviting studio.

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[ Be sure to check out the entire colleciton of Geoffrey's Wood Serving Boards
at Ashes & Milk. ]

[ For those of you in Canada, see Geoffrey's boards in action at Culina and Highlands Kitchen Restaurant. ]

Hand-carved, Wood Necklaces + Earrings by Anya Jindrich

Artist Interviews: Design + Process, Artist Studios: Creative Spaces

The moment I laid eyes on the work of Anya Jindrich my heart beat faster and I knew her jewelry would be a wonderful addition to Ashes & Milk. Her pieces are hand-carved and designed to bring out the natural quality of each type of unique wood. Reclaiming bits of wood from other artisans, Anya’s method of sourcing her materials embodies the idea that “a lot can be created from very little.”

With all that said, I am so happy to announce that Anya created a very small and magnificent collection of her wood jewelry especially for Ashes & Milk.

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Above left, is a collection of  Arrow Necklaces made up of a variety of woods. On the right, is a sculptural piece called Ebony Crescent Necklace.

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The beautiful Anya Jindrich is at work in her studio (photographs courtesy of Leslie Williamson).

Nikko I’d love to talk a little bit more about your process of creation and what influences you and your work. Would you mind sharing these things? Could you tell me where you source the wood that you use. Does each piece have a story behind its design?

Anya Since the pieces of wood that I use are small, I am able to use offcuts from other woodworkers. I received a box of tiny offcuts from my dad that is full of beautiful and unique pieces. I just look through the box for a piece that sticks out to me and then I try to come up with a shape that might compliment what already exists in the wood. For one commission the customer supplied me with lilac wood that he wanted his jewelry made out of. I also find inspiration and ideas through my husband. He is a guitar maker, and we share our little shop space. We enjoy exchanging ideas with each other. I guess what actually got me started making jewelry was a pair of earrings that he carved for me. I always received a lot of compliments when I wore them, so I decided to make another pair to sell.

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A pair of Ebony Earrings in the making (photograph courtesy of Leslie Williamson).

Nikko You mentioned that you are going to school for furniture making. Would you show me a sneak peak of some of the work you are doing along these lines?

Anya I completed the nine month furniture program a little over a year ago. Currently I am focusing on making jewelry. I enjoy the creative and meaningful process of working with my hands. I use knives and files to carve and shape each individual piece.

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Above left is a stool that Anya made by hand. I just love the detail of the joinery in the middle image. On the far right, Anya is carving out joinery by hand only (no electric router).

A special thank you to the exquisitely talented Leslie Williamson who so kindly gave me permission to use her photographs.

[ Check out the full collection of Anya's hand-carved wood jewelry at Ashes & Milk. ]

Bryan Nash Gill – Matching Oak + Ash


Ashes & Milk is offering a new relief print by Bryan Nash Gill called Matching Oak as well a digital archival print of Ash.

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Above is a 17″ x 21″ print called Matching Oak. The print block was prepared from cutting a white oak timber longitudinally down the middle and through the center of the log’s pith. After cutting two, one inch and a half blocks, the sections where glued together to create a complete round.

Scratching his fingernails over every surface of the tree while pressing little by little with his fingertips, Bryan imprints the texture of the wood on the surface of the paper. I love that Bryan had to touch each tree-growth-ring in order to deposit its mark. The actual texture, pattern and diameter of this tree section is literally translated onto paper. Go here to see exactly how Bryan creates these prints.

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Above is a digital archival print from the original relief print Ash. It is printed on 100% cotton Hahnemule Museum Etching paper, weight is 350 gsm, and is certified archival. This archival reproduction is approximately six inches smaller on all sides from the original.

[ Check out more of Bryan's relief prints at Ashes & Milk. ]

2011 Shopping Awards at Time Out Chicago

Ashes & Milk in the Press

shoppingawardslogo 2011 Shopping Awards at Time Out Chicago

Last week I was surprised to be notified that Ashes & Milk was nominated for “Best Online Retailer” for Time Out Chicago’s 2011 Shopping Awards. I am totally flattered to be part of this fun contest and hope that you will vote for Ashes & Milk. You can vote right here. Thanks so much!

Residual Forms – New Paintings by Kia Neill

Artist Interviews: Design + Process, Artist Studios: Creative Spaces

One of my favorite things about artist Kia Neill is her consistent ability to create something extraordinary out of nothing. Her experimental techniques using unorthodox materials like reclaimed CDs to more conventional art materials like graphite or paint always amaze me.

Today I am excited to show you a new collection of esoteric paintings by Kia Neill called Residual Forms.

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Above left is Residual Form 1 and right is Residual Form 25.

Nikko How did you come up with these pieces (the idea/process)?

Kia Actually, these evolved out of my previous graphite series of drawings, for which I repeatedly drew very thin graphite lines in succession to one another until form and imagery slowly developed. These works often looked sort of topographic. I was trying to think of how I could develop the process behind these drawings in another way.

Polypropylene paper is a synthetic paper, a plastic, and it reacts quite differently than other common papers as it doesn’t absorb wet medium, rather paint and ink have to dry in order to be set. So I planned to make puddles of thinned down ink on this paper and when one puddle was dry I would create another on top so to slowly layer and develop a series of rings from the dried puddles. However when I went in the studio to experiment with this, I thought, “I don’t have time for puddles to dry! How can I speed this up?” And so I thought of using a hairdryer to speed evaporation, but then of course the hairdryer started to move the puddles around. Something I didn’t think about but totally loved!

Using a hairdryer essentially as a paintbrush is pretty crazy and very unpredictable. It took me a while of just playing to see what kind of marks I could make and also what kind of compositions were most successful, but I still barely have control over the medium. The lack of predictability and control is actually an important factor for me though. I like to make discoveries while producing my work and to compromise with the medium in creating new forms. I do have to say that when making this work, it takes a lot of concentration and I have to be 100% present otherwise I just end up with a splatter painting!

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Nikko Were you inspired by anything? I know you said that you’ve been spending a lot of time outdoors and traveling lately.

Kia I am heavily inspired from nature, biology, geology, archeology, the way people collect artifacts and the way nature is depicted in souvenirs and home decor.

With these drawings in particular, when I was experimenting and trying to determine what forms and compositions were successful and why, I was most happy with the drawings that felt like a figure of some sort, such as an amoeba, a mollusk body, a microscopic organism, etc. I’ve been looking a lot at sea creatures lately, and I’ve also been producing a series of sculptures that simulate oyster shells and bits of coral. I like the relationship of the drawings possibly depicting what type of fictional life forms could have inhabited my faux shells.

Also, while I was on a residency in the mountains of Colorado this past winter, I noticed a similarity between the mountain landscape with all the patterns and shapes of the dark tree lines, ski trails, snow capped peaks, clouds rolling through town, the roof tops of buildings, roads, lakes, etc, and the various shapes and textures I was creating in my drawings. I found this very exiting because I am also interested in the idea of a form that can function as a figure and as landscape. Perhaps this interest developed out of my fascination with coral has led to this, as what is coral? Plant? Animal? Rock?

{ To see more of Kia Neill’s paintings, please visit Ashes & Milk. }

I HEART Magazine

Ashes & Milk in the Press

ashesandmilk iheartmag press I HEART Magazine
In the lower right corner is one of pieces we offer at Ashes & Milk called Pierres Graphiques by artist Yoran Morvant.

Ashes & Milk had a wonderful feature in July Issue of I HEART Magazine, a new publication about trends, travel, music and fashion. A special thank you goes out to journalist, Lucille Béziers for the press.