Tucked behind train tracks and colorfully refurbished buildings, a small blue cottage sits. The light peeking through the glass windows spotlights blazing kilns, wooden tables scattered with metal tools, red and gray clay drying on shelves. It’s a space used to commotion, pottery wheels spinning, kilns producing controlled infernos, the sound of clay being beaten, molded, scrapped, broken.
But the morning I went to visit all was still at Southern Star Studio, except for one room. Regina Mandell’s studio space, like her beautiful ceramics line Forged & Found, holds no pretensions. A banner with the name Forged & Found hangs from an off white wall sprinkled with photos, ceramic jewelry, postcards — little pieces of inspiration. Otherwise, the space is sparsely decorated. Here, beauty is in the elemental. Worktables and shelves are filled with pieces all sharing Forged & Found’s signature aesthetic; white glaze contrasted with earth tones, sometimes the natural clay showing through on sleek and simple, handmade designs. This kind of warmth and care can’t be found on the shelves of department stores.
These are a handful of visual terms used to describe and differentiate between brews of beer. But before they are poured into a glass and settled under a head of foam, these characteristics are indistinguishable. In a store, customers only see the outside of the container and, until they taste it, they must, so to speak, judge the book by its cover.
In any bottle shop, hundreds, if not thousands of beers are available for purchase. But among the myriad containers that line the shelves of liquor stores, one stands out among the rest: Athens’ very own Creature Comforts Brewing Company.
No, really, we aren’t just tooting our own Athenian horn; voters across the country actually decided on it. Creature Comforts’ first seasonal brew, a milk porter named Koko Buni, took home top prize in CNBC’s Battle of the Beer Labels early this month, eking out well-known national breweries like SweetWater, Blue Moon, New Belgium, and Dogfish Head.
The design was the brainchild of renowned artist David Hale, the Athens artist famous for his one-of-a-kind tattoos, and Young Athenians, a local firm that specializes in digital design of all types.
For each seasonal beer, Creature Comforts has provided Young Athenians with the opportunity to pick out their favorite local artists and collaborate with them for a design. While Hale worked side-by-side with the team for Koko Buni, Young Athenians has had exclusive control over the packaging for Creature Comforts’ two year-round canned beers, Athena and Tropicália. Along with these two, all Creature Comforts labels consistently boast Young Athenians’ vibrant colors, artistic hand lettering, and a distinct minimalism that are instantly recognizable to any Athenian.
Kim Kirby, graphic designer and owner of Young Athenians, explains the process behind the now-iconic cans.
“Making the cans is like running a marathon,” says Kirby.
For a current project on a beer that is to be canned in the near future, Kirby says she has already logged more than 45 hours illustrating. And that only includes her own time; Kirby is just 25% of the 4-person team that makes up Young Athenians. According to Kirby, she refrains from signing her own name on her illustrations because of how much the Young Athenians team exchanges input.
“There’s a mass creative brain happening in the office…it feels like a big family affair.”
As journalism is a discipline of verification, it can be said that graphic design is a discipline of revision. For the first can released, Creature Comforts’ renowned IPA, Tropicália, Kirby says that she first made a generalized beer template which went through multiple rounds of drawings, presentations, and revisions. The finished product assumed its final form under the hands of herself, her team, and the input from the owners and master brewers at Creature Comforts.
“It’s craft beer, and they want craft artwork,” says Kirby. “They’re artists too, and their attention to detail is like, German; it’s amazing. It’s why they’re such good brewers.”
During the process of Tropicália’s can design, Kirby recalls being told, “it tastes like a Hawaiian sunset, so give us a Hawaiian sunset.” This early idea led to the can’s trademark horizon line, which went on to be featured on each of Young Athenians’ future designs for the brewery. Kirby says that the packaging’s horizon line “was the one idea that everybody was into” and is primarily what makes a Creature Comforts six-pack stand out from every other beer in the grocery store booze aisle.
“We all want to make legacy brands, and you can only make legacy brands if you have really unique artwork and you really pay attention to the geometry of how things display on a shelf.” Kirby says that her own attention to detail was especially solidified in Berlin, where she studied after her previous education at both SCAD and UGA.
“They just beat the weirdness and the laziness out of me. They were like, ‘you get it right. Measure twice, cut once.’ They beat that into me,” says Kirby. This, she says, is why she seeks to learn of a beer’s production schedule well ahead of time in order to plan design accordingly. “You don’t want to rush anything – it’s like heart surgery. Because once it’s printed and it’s out there, it’s out there.”
Among heavy influences for the Creature Comforts designs, Kirby cites the paintings of Mark Rothko, as well as Andy Warhol’s collection, “Campbell’s Soup Cans”, both of which, like the CCBC cans, display the graphic simplicity of one rectangle on top of another. In addition, Kirby spoke of British WWII Art Deco typography, Memphis neon, female protagonists, and the conglomerate imagination of the Young Athenians team as being ingredients to the final product.
Kirby says each member of the team would taste the beers, “swishing it around in our mouths and trying to come up with narratives and stories based on what it tastes like. That’s the synesthesia I experience.”
As Creature Comforts continues to experiment with new brews, Kirby says that Young Athenians is excited to experiment with new designs right alongside them. Time will pass between new beer releases, but this, too, she says, is a necessary ingredient in ensuring excellence.
“One third of the time is making art; two thirds of the time is making it perfect.”
You have probably seen it. You may have even leaned against it, stopped and admired it, but you probably do not know its story. The it, I am referring to is the Tate mural, a 64-foot long watercolor mural by Jamie Calkin, a local Athens artist. I sat down with Jamie Calkin to ask him to share the story of the mural.
It is a story that almost never happened.
According to Calkin, “Willie Banks [the then director of the Tate Student Center] emailed me and told me they were having a contest and we want you to submit. I don’t like contests, and I didn’t honestly do the best job.” Continue reading “Jamie Calkin”
We love good storytelling about creative people doing big things in our city, so we were thrilled to see our partners, Sons of Sawdust, featured in the AJC last weekend. In case you missed it, here’s an excerpt from the story by Josh Green. You can read the full article here.
“Today, through a confluence of skill, luck and good branding, these two restless creatives have built a reclaimed-wood craft business with backlogged orders and clients from Los Angeles to New York. “American Pickers” creator Mike Wolfe is pitching a reality TV show about them to major networks. Should Wolfe fail, four other production companies are waiting in line to pitch their own shows based on the brothers.
The irony is that Sons of Sawdust has relied on old-fashioned mediums — woodworking and storytelling — to become social media stars, which is the root of their popularity (and how Wolfe initially found them). Their relationship to reclaimed wood traces back to a garage workshop three hours south of Atlanta, where two boys once were awed by their grandfather’s craftsmanship. They called him “Pa.”
Way to go Ben, Matt and Shayna! We’re proud to call Sons of Sawdust our friends and collaborators.
Words by Nina Goodall. Photos Courtesy of Michelle Davis.
Whether you are strolling the halls of the Georgia Museum of Art searching for that precious Radcliffe Bailey or merely browsing the art that covers the walls of the World Famous while waiting for your pretzel bites, art seems to constantly surround and embrace the Athens community. This artistic hub we are privileged to call home offers immense culture and diversity and unites the community. This Saturday, December 12th, Athens’ artists and businesses will bring the community together for the AAArts Council’s Fifth Annual Art Crawl and Membership Drive. This event will showcase fine art, photography, sculpture, spoken work, poetry readings, and musical performances from many of the talented Athens artists. It will be held at the Chase Street Park Warehouse from 1-5 P.M. Continue reading “Athens Artist: AAArts Council’s Fifth Annual Art Crawl”
Local artist Hannah Betzel had gotten away from her craft. Or maybe her craft got away from her. A wife and a mother of two young boys, she looked up at the end of 2014 and realized she wanted to start painting again. So she challenged herself to complete ten paintings by the end of this year. As of the beginning of this month, she’d done 100.
This was thanks in part to the #100daysproject, a movement that sprung up from Instagram to encourage creative people to develop a practice by making a new piece every day for 100 days. The project was created by The Great Discontent, who say it’s “not about fetishizing finished products — it’s about the process.”
My Athens recently caught up with Betzel to discuss her #100daysofabandon, how it’s changed her as an artist and what painting from her home studio has meant for her as a mother.
My Athens: You worked with lots of different media in this project — watercolor, acrylic, collage and more. Did one emerge as a favorite?
Hannah Betzel: I like collage a lot and mixing that with acrylics, mostly. I found I like watercolors more than I thought I would. I always thought my work would be real stiff, working with it. Once you put it down, it’s there, you can’t really erase it. But I went at it with a playful attitude and mixed it with other things like colored pencils and pastels, and that took away from the harshness.
You say you got back into painting with this project. What drew you away from it in the first place?
I think the fear of not being able to make it as an artist. I think that’s what held me back for a long time, thinking there’s no way I can make any money with that.
Has your feeling about that changed over the course of this project?
I think so, yeah. It’s showed me that you can make it if you really put work into it. That’s really what it comes down to.
You’re holding a reception and viewing of work from this process at BMA at Home this Thursday night from 6-9. How did your relationship with BMA start?
I had never been in the store. I have no idea why it took me so long to get in there. I was posting my 100 Days Project on Instagram and eventually Breckyn [Alexander, the owner of BMA at Home] got in touch and said she really liked my work and she wanted to see something in person.
What’s next for you?
Next, I think is I want to do a couple of series that go together. I wanted to focus on one style and do maybe ten paintings in that particular style.
I’m a seamstress as well, so I do a lot of sewing, and I’m inspired by runway stuff in my paintings.
I reconstruct old clothes, and make some of the boys’ clothes and make some stuff for myself. I was in the Olives and Wax Vintage [Repurposing Project fashion] show this summer. I had an outfit in that. I’ve sold some kimono tops at a local shop and Community wants me to put some stuff in there.
Sounds like you’ve had a really fruitful year!
It’s been busy! I’ve gotten a lot of work done.
What were you up to before all this?
I’ve been really busy with my sons and not really focusing a lot on trying to get stuff out to sell. I want them to see me succeed as an artist. I think it’s important for them to grow up knowing not to be afraid of their dreams, and even if it feels impossible, they should go for it.
The home studio must be good for that.
It’s been fun! I used to have an easel in here for them. I have it in their playroom now. They’ll see me do stuff, especially Bruno [my oldest], he’ll see me do these different styles and want to try them. He’s working on a collage now. Treehouse has been a really great resource for us.
How has finding this practice changed your relationship with yourself?
I’m learning how to be more efficient with my time. I’ve never been one to be much for a calendar. I go with the flow. So I am learning the importance of having a schedule and a routine.
Hannah Betzel’s paintings will be on display Thursday, August 13, at BMA at Home in Five Points, from 6-9 p.m.