Interview w/ Amy Wyckoff, Jewelry Artist of Agate and Elm

Interviewed by Molly Wilbanks

You can shop at the Mall and find a pretty beaded necklace, made who-knows-where, that you later see everyone else wearing, or you can shop at Agate & Elm and find a sculptural Fibonacci necklace, crafted here in your own city, and be seen wearing a unique and special piece of jewelry. Amy Wyckoff is the creator and crafter behind the jewelry of Agate & Elm. You can find her wearable works at The Bechtler Museum gift shop, The Frock Shop, and Ecolicious, in Plaza-Midwood, as well as at her Etsy shop online. It was a perfectly pretty day last week, when I came to visit Amy in her brand new studio.

Molly Wilbanks: How long have you been making jewelry?

Amy Wyckoff: I’ve been making jewelry for three years. I started by taking a class at John C. Campbell Folk School, in the North Carolina mountains. It was Beginning Jewelry. Since then, I have been teaching myself.

MW: What was the very first piece that you made?

AW: I made a sterling silver charm bracelet. It was my first time using a torch which was really scary, but really fun. Each link was soldered, and to this day, it is still one of my favorite things to do – to fabricate my own chains.



MW: What first inspired you to take this class?

AW: For a long time, I was making all kinds of various types of art. I was doing a little fiber art, drawing, lots of hands on things, creating 3D objects, but I never found a craft that I felt I was really good at, or that I could pursue long term. I dabbled around, until I thought ‘well, I really like jewelry, I’ll try this.’ It was the right thing for me.

MW: What continues to inspire you now?

AW: I am mostly inspired by experimenting with metal. A lot of times I don’t start with an idea in mind, but I just kind of play, and since I’m self taught, I see what I am able to create with the techniques that I have. Experimenting is what inspires me to create new pieces. Also, the nature around me, and natural textures.

MW: What is your favorite material to work with?

AW: I work mostly with sterling silver. I do like mixed metals, brass and copper. I really like natural stones, so I try to incorporate those into my work also, turqouise, agate, and jasper.


MW: Do you have certain motifs that you use a lot in your work?

AW: I do a lot with the Fibonacci spiral, and I love that because it has the negative space to it. I sculpt it with metal, and you can see through the piece. That shape really appeals to a lot of people. That has been one of my top sellers. Other than that I use a lot of geometric, and round shapes.  In my work, I experiment with hammered patterns. I appreciate handmade work where the artist’s mark is really clear.  Hand hammered textures have this effect.

MW: How did the name “Agate and Elm” come about?

AW: A lot of people can’t pronounce my last name! I get all kinds of strange pronunciations. I came up with that name because I was using a lot of textures, and I wanted something natural, that incorporated a stone. When I created the name I was working a lot with agate.

MW: I like the name, it is very fitting for your style.

MW: Are you able to make a living from your jewelry sales?

AW: I actually work full time as a teen services librarian, so I don’t have the pressure to make this my full time job. There are a lot of days I wish I had more hours to work in the studio, but I also really like my job at the library. I am lucky that I have two careers that I really enjoy. I probably work in the studio about 20 hours a week. It depends on the time of the year too; around the holidays I spend more time in here. It also depends on what I want to pursue that week… I can fill orders for the week, or I just can spend time in here, experimenting.

MW: Do you see any relation between being a librarian and making jewelry?

AW: Yes. I spend my days researching, and I get a lot of inspiration from that, from what’s in the library, and from what I find online, especially old books. For a while I was doing etching, using old drawings, and illustrations. I was hand drawing my pictures, but looking at those images for inspiration. The library is an inspiring place for me, from looking at books on nature, to researching mushrooms, for example. I also have a lot of freedom and creativity at work, in a different way than in the studio. At the library, we have a lot of freedom to try things and fail, sometimes, but to learn from those mistakes.


Ghost Trees, this Wednesday night, at Snug Harbor

by Ross Wilbanks

Ghost Trees is stuck with being germinal here in Charlotte, NC.  Who else is playing the out-sound jazz?  Modest when approached, hell, the drummer Seth Nanaa, says he prefers Jawbreaker.

“So why do you play what you play?” I ask.

” ’cause it’s the most fun.”

There you go. So take ‘em that way.

My first image listening to their second record, The New Gravity, is the calm of a spring snow.  Perhaps I’m taking their burning-scattering powers as a duo for granted, but what sticks out to me is the strings, laced in the record by Ben Kennedy.  Harmonically, they almost sound like a synthesizer.  These sounds play throughout the record and seem to offer the listener a push, a gravity, when the ear is locked in hypnosis.  It’s a nice touch.

Plus, the clear vinyl design.  Check these grooves!

*Ghost Trees will be playing this Wednesday at Snug Harbor, along with many talented friends. Here’s your chance…


The Mineral Girls, this Wednesday night, at Snug Harbor

by Ross Wilbanks

I don’t know anything about the associates of the band The Mineral Girls.  I just introduced myself to Brett Green the other day praising Something Forever, their first full length album, recorded over 2 years.  It has the best pop-hooks within the smoothest lo-fi sound of any band around here.  It takes me back to 1993, lovingly.

They are playing this Wednesday at Snug Harbor with a plateful of other interesting acts.

Definitely see this band.

The only time I’ve seen them live, a few weeks back, the bassist had the prettiest powder-blue bass, the drummer stuck the tambourine on the bass drum, and Brett was playing what looked like a pretty cheap guitar with confidence.  All that spells a quiet ingenuity that I don’t see too often.

Millennial Tombs, a review

by Ross Wilbanks

By way of short introduction, Bo White’s music over the past 5 years has bloomed into a variety of ensembles.  His last 3 albums:  Same Deal/New Patrons, Adornment, and now Millennial Tombs run the gamut from a 9-piece ensemble with horns and strings, to a stripped down guitar and drum-machine ditties.  To talk about Bo’s music would to take awhile and so today I thought I would just focus on his lyrics, something he takes very seriously.  Lyrics are often an afterthought in pop music today, disposable at best, often they are terrible and should be forgotten, but Bo’s latest album, Millennial Tombs, struck a chord with me after I read them over.  You can check them out here:

It looks like Bo has abbreviated the album.  I had focused on the full 11 track album so some of the lyrics reprinted here are no longer available on his bandcamp site. So, buy the album.


Perhaps my favorite of all Bo’s lyrics, mainly because they can be read by themselves without any musical-help.  Read these lines out loud and hear all the rhyming ‘i’s':

‘The doldrums grind. The drones all follow single mindedly.
Lost in these depths alone, craving light.
Just one more night, could be the death of you.

It’s within your power. Lo the golden hour.
Shun the crowd who would hesitate.
It’s a daunting climb but no better time,
Nothing binding your fate.

Who knows their plans? The granite cold in greedy hands.
Now tombstones are obsolete, working stiffs.
Just one more shift, could be the death of you.’



The song to follow, seems just the opposite:  perfectly molded phrases to fit the catchiest song of the album.

‘Fearless as a new born pup
Urging everyone to get messed up
Finding random fools to fill your cup
For the personal riot’

..and the chorus:

‘This could be your matinee’

…deemed officially catchy by the echo of my 3 1/2 year old bopping around in the house.

Patient and Walls of Health have the courage to carry the emotion clearly, lines like, ‘At least I’ve got the people I care about’ and ‘The walls of health came tumbling down, something no one should see.’  Bo avoids the cryptic. You are free to assume the personal expression in both of these songs, something rare in the underground music culture, perhaps because it is so gaudy in many mainstream cultural products on TV.

A couple of side notes to songs no longer posted on the bandcamp site:  The chorus of Not Jamaican being a difference of one letter:

‘It’s not Jamaican
It’s not Jamaica’

As a quip too, it’s not bad.

Bo also keeps the grand tradition of re-titling classics.  In this case Only the Lonely becomes Only the Lonely 2 complete with a re-imagining of meanings in Roy Orbison’s song:

‘Spying on neighbors is nothing to savor
luckier the could not be
Now he’s greeting the misses with hugging and kisses
When only the lonely want me’

SPIRAL ORB – eight

Hey everyone, this is why the Internet is cool. When you start to lament digital media and all it means for the written word, visit Spiral Orb. When you’re tired of hyper-linking through the slums of Jezebel, Huffington Post, and all those fashion blogs, visit Spiral Orb. An intelligent respite for the age of screens and mouse clicks, visit Spiral Orb and be inspired.  Writing like this can’t exist outside of the web, so don’t feel bad about spending a little more time on the net, reading something good… edited by Eric Magrane, an artist and writer in Tucson, Arizona, submissions for Spiral Orb are open until next week, September 1st.

Spiral Orb is an experiment in juxtaposition, interrelationships, and intertextuality—a cross-pollination. This opening poem composts fragments from each of the pieces in Spiral Orb Eight . Standing also as the table of contents, each line is embedded with a hyperlink to its original poem. Once at each poem, you will find links to the other poems in Spiral Orb Eight. “

Screen Shot 2014-08-22 at 3.55.41 PM


Wall Poems of Charlotte, NC

Hey. You’ve seen the wall poems popping up all around town, right? Had time to admire them perhaps, maybe wondered who was behind it? Well, the Wall Poems of Charlotte are thundering around Charlotte, creating a stir, and making the city look pretty darn good. I’m not going to say they are painting the town red, although I could if I wanted to…


My personal favorite is “Salute” by A.R. Simmons. An easy poem to memorize, it makes me feel better to think on it, when I’m at work, you know, working for the man. I start to imagine happiness embodied in a deer, waiting for me up ahead, in that peaceful clearing…

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Be sure to read the poems, peruse the website, and find out who is behind it all, but most of all, check out those wall poems in person. You’ll be happy you did.

~Molly Wilbanks

*all images copyright The Wall Poems of Charlotte

Musicality Art Exhibit, 7/25-26 & Recess Fest, this weekend!

Hey y’all, there’s a party going on this weekend, and you are so invited. Plaza-Midwood’s newest art gallery, Paper Cut Gallery, in conjuction with Recess Fest, will be hosting a Musicality, a group art exhibit with painting, drawing, photography, installations, mixed media, and of course, live music. The Opening Reception is Friday and Saturday night, 6pm–till the lights are out.

Screen Shot 2014-07-24 at 2.28.00 PMFriday night, 7/25, will feature live music by DJ Eric Gilstrap, and Spirit System.

Saturday night, 7/26  will feature symphonic arrangements by bell-power, and DJ Tober.

Musicality explores the connection between music and visual art. The theme is simple, we are displaying artworks that are created by musicians, focus on the subject of music or musicians, or that are inspired by music. Artworks by Jill Evers Martin, Wesley Lynch, Marisa Cohen, Jenny Hanson, Molly Wilbanks, Emily Pfahl, Graham Carew, Brent Bagwell, Greg Banks, Ahmer Inam, Amy Bagwell, Laurie Schorr, Rae LeGrone, Bryan Olson, Sean Dyroff, Ben Marshall, Josiah, Brit Davis, Jeff Jackson, & Dustin Harbin. The exhibit will run for one month.



And then there’s RECESS FEST! If there’s any reason to stay up late, and go out all weekend, and maybe, perhaps, spend all your money, then it’s definitely RECESS FEST!  “We’re now preparing for our 6th installment, to be held July 26-28. The fest is corporate sponsor-free and meticulously designed to cater to a broad demographic of music-lovers and show-goers. It’s also scheduled so you have the chance to catch just about every band involved (not too much of that multiple shows at once business)! Throughout the fest, we host about anywhere from 60-80 local and touring bands across about 15 venues, spaces and houses…”  So, don’t be a choad and miss the shows, come out and party with us.


Interview w/ Troy Tomlinson, photographer

Interview and images (except where noted) by Molly Wilbanks.

If you are a photographer in Charlotte, you probably already know Troy Tomlinson, or at least know of him. There is the Flaming Chicken Studio, and their infamously great parties; there are the art swaps; the numerous large format cameras, one of which was just featured on the cover of Creative Loafing; the beautiful Wetplates that Troy creates; and then, there are the roosters.

Last week, I visited Troy in the warehouse studio he shares with several other photographers. I got a tour and asked him some questions. Troy is generous with his voluminous knowledge of photography, and I learned various details about Wetplate collodion processes, film techniques, and random photography tech stuffs, including how to turn an ice fishing tent into a sweet portable darkroom.

digital print by Troy Tomlinson

digital print by Troy Tomlinson

collodion wet-plate print by Troy Tomlinson

Wetplate by Troy Tomlinson

Molly Wilbanks: I know that you’re involved in a lot of photography projects, what are doing around town right now?
Troy Tomlinson: I help out at The Light Factory whenever they need something. With Biggs Camera we can donate a few things, just help get them back up and running. Lately, the project I’ve been working on the most is with volunteer rescue work for Carolina Waterfowl Rescue. I’ve been photographing a bunch of roosters that they have. It started out, basically, just to get the pictures out there for them, so that people could see and maybe adopt the roosters out, and then it grew to the point where people wanted to buy the prints online too.
MW: Is that to help the organization’s mission?
TT: Yes. There was a cock fighting ring down in South Carolina that was busted. They had 120 roosters there, and there were 60 people who were arrested for it. Now there are all these roosters and they have to find places for them. We’ve found homes for quite a few…
MW: What’s a day in the life of Flaming Chicken Studios like?
TT: Typically, we’re in here most weekends. I don’t know if there is a day-in-the-life. It’s whatever we feel like doing, it comes more organically, we just come in and start shooting. There are a total of seven of us, that share the space here. The Flaming Chicken Studio, that’s basically my name for the studio. There are six other people who share it on a monthly basis. Nobody needs a studio 24-7, especially something this size (6,000 square feet). We have a full darkroom… here I’ll show you around…

Troy Tomlinson sits on a yellow chair with his Kodak 2D 8x10 large format camera with an Aero Ektar 305mm f2.5 lens

Troy Tomlinson sits on a yellow chair with his Kodak 2D 8×10 large format camera with an Aero Ektar 305mm f2.5 lens

Cameras and gear

Cameras and gear

Collodian wet-plate prints


MW: It’s like a theater in here…
TT: I got the drapes and stuff when C.A.S.T., last year, had their yard sale…We have a full darkroom, mainly we do our wetplate stuff in here, I did some last night…
TT: This is the varnishing station for our wetplate work. It lasts pretty much forever, but since it’s a silver product, it will tarnish over time. A guy in Tennessee makes this varnish himself, just for wetplate…this ice fishing tent is what we use for our portable darkroom when we are doing the wetplate work.
MW: Is it made to be light tight?
TT: Not completely, but it’s made thick to keep out wind, it’s actually double-layer, and we sprayed it with Flex Seal, you go in and seal off the pinholes of light. It works pretty well.
MW: How long does it take to do one wetplate print?
TT: From start to finish, about 15-20 minutes. You got to take the plate out, sit your subject down, do your focus, your alignment, go back, pour the plate, let it sit in the silver for about three minutes, load it into the holder, come out and shoot it, then go back and process it. So, from the time you actually take the plate out of the silver to the time that you process it, it can only be about 15-20 minutes because it still has to be wet when you process it.


collodion wet-plate print by Troy Tomlinson

Wetplate by Troy Tomlinson

MW: Tell me about the art swaps.
TT: I posted on Facebook and said, ‘hey, anyone interested in coming to an art swap?’ That first night we had 60 total people. My biggest fear when I saw how many people wanted to come– I didn’t know a lot of the people coming– I didn’t want anyone’s feelings to be hurt, and that was my biggest concern, that someone was going to come and be like, ‘I’ll swap prints with you’, and the other person wouldn’t want to… but it was nice. That’s why I said, ‘if you have something that you think is worth a million dollars, don’t bring it!’
MW: Where did the name “Flaming Chicken” come from?
TT: My wife had a little chicken named Mr. Joy, as a therapy pet. I used to take pictures of him for a calendar we did, and for Christmas cards and such, and I had a couple to drink one night, and I was playing with a picture of Mr. Joy, and some flames that just happened to be on the computer screen at the time. I brought them together and thought, ‘What a great idea for a studio name!’ I brought my wife in and she was like, ‘That’s great!’
MW: The best of digital collage! So, what is your favorite camera to shoot with?
TT: Whatever one is with me at the time. I have many, I don’t shoot with one in particular. Right now, it’s the Kodak. I have a Rolleiflex that I shoot with quite a bit, also.
MW: Do you prefer digital or film? Stuck on a desert island, with all the darkroom amenities included, which would you choose?
TT: Probably film.
MW: Do you remember the first photo you ever took?
TT: Yes, I do. It was actually a picture of my dog Tigger. It was with a Kodak disc camera that I got when I was a kid.

Rachelle Díaz, artist

Meet Rachelle Díaz, and her newest project, Rooms, a collection of fascinating digital collage artworks. Rachelle lives in Austin, TX, and her brain never seems to stop working– she is always working on a project, whether it’s an exploration of Ecclesiastes, hosting a group art show, or drawing found objects. If you like what you see, don’t hesitate to hire Rachelle to create your next graphic design.

Please keep reading for more on Rooms, in Rachelle’s own words:

Room 2: Who Will Tell A Man What Will Come After Him. Digital Collage, Rachelle Díaz, 2014

Room 2: Who Will Tell A Man What Will Come After Him
Digital Collage, Rachelle Díaz, 2014

“Rooms attempts to make the viewer feel as though they have walked in upon an intimate religious, conjuring, or worship ceremony that was suddenly interrupted. Vacant of human or otherwise beings, these eerie depictions raise questions regarding the objects in the scene. Rooms asks the viewer to examine their own doctrines, practices, and venues, only to realize they would appear equally mysterious, unsettling, even absurd, to someone unfamiliar with their beliefs.

Room 4: The Daughters Of Music Shall Be Brought Low
Digital Collage, Rachelle Díaz, 2014

I’ve used vintage and outmoded clip art in graphic design and art experiments ever since I discovered a few clip art CDs at my first design job about 10 years ago. On a slow day, I’d pore over the thick preview books full of thousands of tiny thumbnails on every type of subject, dating from the 1930s to the 1990s, and create simple collages out of my favorite images of the day (both images done in 2005).

A few years later: different job, same thing. I was studying the Furniture section of our office clip art book, and thought it’d be interesting to create stage-like settings with the furniture pieces. Dropping in a few Baroque chairs onto a white background in Adobe InDesign reminded me a lot of the floating, seemingly airless interiors in 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Man Who Fell To Earth. I then dropped in some wainscoting boxes filled with different backgrounds for a trompe l’oeil effect. They could be wallpaper panels or perhaps windows – you couldn’t tell – looking out on to completely different landscapes. I liked the result so much I made a note to come back and develop this concept further (the very first Room I did in 2012).

When I finally returned to the idea a couple of years later, I wanted to viewer to feel transported to these enclosed spaces in which they didn’t know whether the room was connected to another and another, what the room was used for, if you could ever leave the building, what the building was used for, what was outside of the building, and if you were waiting for someone or something to come in or if it had just left, or what had happened or what was going to happen. There you are, held in these spaces suspended by an unseen force.

Room 3: Of The Making Of Many Books There Is No EndDigital Collage, Rachelle Díaz, 2014

Room 3: Of The Making Of Many Books There Is No End
Digital Collage, Rachelle Díaz, 2014

After I finished the Rooms earlier this year, I began reading The End, a novel by Salvatore Scibona, just after I had finished the last one. The musty, sinister atmosphere of the book resonated with me, and the title of one of the chapters particularly caught my attention: “The Daughters Of Music Shall Be Brought Low.” I searched for the phrase on the internet and discovered it was from the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. It’s a very short book written much later than the other books of the Old Testament, the writings of a teacher known as Qoheleth (the Hebrew book is synonymous – the name actually means “Gatherer” but is traditionally translated as “teacher” or “preacher”). Qoheleth discusses how the toils, fears and beliefs we place such great importance on while we’re alive are actually incredibly vain, because most of us are people whose stories will be forgotten by the time of our great-grandchildren, our names lost to history just a couple of generations after that. Yet he also edifies this as well, saying that as long as we recognize our own vanity, we might as well enjoy our short time on earth, do the best we can, and make sure to preserve any knowledge or material we do accumulate for future generations – not in the general sense of, “children are our future,” but specifically one’s own family, because that can determine their place in life for untold years to come, as well as your own influence lasting long after you die. That’s something I think about quite a lot – I’m somewhat of a genealogy nerd, and I’ve witnessed this in my own family. Plus, Ecclesiastes has such great poetic phrases, it all unexpectedly came together for this project. I don’t place a lot of importance on titles in my own work, so it was a serendipitous development for me.

A lot of my work somehow inadvertently deals with transience and death. I do lots of different kinds of projects till I feel I’ve explored idea as much as I need to, then I move on to something completely different.”

Room 1: When The Guardians Of The House Tremble Digital Collage, Rachelle Díaz, 2014

Room 1: When The Guardians Of The House Tremble
Digital Collage, Rachelle Díaz, 2014

Roberta Gentry, Painter

“The components of my paintings are similar to tombstones, erected to signify the absence of something. It’s that absence that allows them to be individuals, to be new and freshly encountered.”

Villains, 2014  Acrylic on canvas, 36" x 48"

Villains, 2014
Acrylic on canvas, 36″ x 48″


“Written language is inflexible, it effectively crystallizes a concept by setting it permanently into words. In my work, I seek to reverse this process, to begin with language or specificity and drive it back into obscurity. This manifests as various sets of modular shapes, abstracted from written language, which can be manipulated in response to the environment of the painting. The only content left in these shapes is the vague recognition that they somehow resemble written language in their organization and interrelationships.”

Rat, 2014 .  Acrylic on canvas, 14" x 18"

Rat, 2014 .
Acrylic on canvas, 14″ x 18″


“Working with collections of individual shapes inevitably led to ideas of separation and compartmentalization. The compartments I use are either filled with collections of shapes, or they are so complex that they’ve rejected those populations.”

Population, 2012  Acrylic on canvas, 60" x 48"

Population, 2012
Acrylic on canvas, 60″ x 48″


“For me, abstraction is mainly the act of reducing the specificity of something so that it communicates its basic nature in a more universal way. When emptied of inherent meaning and specificity, there is a great deal of freedom in abstraction. The act of assigning meaning is a top-down and immobilizing process, which is something I aim to avoid for the most part.”

Mother, 2014  Acrylic on canvas, 14" x 18"

Mother, 2014
Acrylic on canvas, 14″ x 18″


*Text by Roberta Gentry. All images copyright Roberta Gentry.


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