Embroidered patchwork and embellished bag, with a terra cotta pot inside, by Jill Musnicki. COURTESY ALEXANDRA EAMES
Deb Palmer used real leaves as stencils on her terra cotta pot, which is labeled with tree species. COURTESY ALEXANDRA EAMES
Dan Rizzie's terra cotta pot features his signature bird. COURTESY ALEXANDRA EAMES
Live succulents with rabbit and frog hand puppets by Michael Grim of Bridgehampton Florist. COURTESY ALEXANDRA EAMES
Painted and sand-covered terra cotta pot with glitter and beach stones on the rim by Jocelyn Worrall. COURTESY ALEXANDRA EAMES
"Dachshund Chasing His Own Tail," an oil on a terra cotta pat by Karin Strong. COURTESY ALEXANDRA EAMES
Terra cotta pot by Nicolette Jelen. The glass and mirror insert is etched with tree branches that can be seen through the window in the pot. COURTESY ALEXANDRA EAMES
Jim McMullan tells the story of his leaving Cheefoo in 1941 with his terra cotta pot. He was the son of missionaries and journeyed to Canada as a young boy. COURTESY ALEXANDRA EAMES
The first year, it was watering cans. The second year, it was hats.
For the Sag Harbor Tree Fund’s third annual auction, its nine-member committee is at it again—trying something new while still keeping with the outdoorsy theme of years past.
For the love of trees and Sag Harbor, nearly two dozen local artists have turned 12-inch-wide by 11-inch-high terra-cotta pots into their own unique creations to be auctioned off on Sunday, July 29, at Cormaria in the village.
The proceeds will benefit the fund’s effort to add to the 317 trees it has planted since 1994 around Sag Harbor, explained treasurer Alexandra Eames during a telephone interview last week. Each terra-cotta pot will start at $100.
“I consider them works of art,” she said of the pots. “I guess you could stick some of them out in the garden, but I think they’re worthy of more attention than being left out in the rain.”
No two pots are alike, Ms. Eames said, and the artists were given free rein. They could crush them, break them and destroy them for art’s sake.
Judging from previous auctions, Ms. Eames said she half-expected the finished pots to be returned in pieces. For the inaugural auction, artist Paul Davis, who is also participating this year, tried to crush his watering can by running it over with his car, she recalled.
“He found out that wasn’t too easy to do, so he deconstructed it and, I guess, hammered it flat,” she said. “He embellished other metal objects on the surface. It hangs and has the perfect profile of a watering can. I thought with the pots, they could do whatever they want to transform them. They can do whatever comes into their marvelously inventive minds.”
Much to Ms. Eames’ surprise, while each pot is over-the-top creative, they’re all intact. Some tell a story—such as artist Jim McMullan’s escape from Communist China to Canada in July 1941—while others are completely transformed. Jill Musnicki created a patchwork drawstring bag that covers her pot.
“Another really wild one, really amazing one is by Nicolette Jelen, who has lately been working in etched glass and mirrors of tree forms, like trees without leaves,” Ms. Eames said. “She had her husband, whom I think is jokingly called ‘the engineer of the project,’ he helped her cut a window into the side of the pot. Then she inserted this box, which consists of many layers of glass and mirror etched with these trees that are actually upside-down in there. All you see is the tree hanging from its roots. Really unusual stuff.”
Other pots simply evoke the mood of the East End. Designer Jocelyn Worrall went so far as to incorporate physical elements from it to give it a natural, beachy look.
She collected flat stones from Sunset Beach in North Haven—where she’s lived full-time for a year since moving from Williamsburg, Brooklyn—that she glued around the rim. Then she applied grout, painted the body of the pot with a grey acrylic, threw sand all over it, painted it again and finished it off with a mixture of sand and glitter, to give the surface “a little bling,” she said.
“Because I’m not an artist, I do things a little more literally,” she said. “I know a lot of other artists possibly used it as a more conceptual art piece. I think because of my background as a designer, I created something I thought a plant would look beautiful in.”
Known for her time in the craft and costume design industry, Ms. Worrall has worked with every type of paper and fabric, she said, not to mention natural materials, such as egg shells, cabbage, sticks, pinecones, seashells and acorns. Creating a piece of art from a terra-cotta pot wasn’t a stretch by any means, she said.
That wasn’t the case for artist Dan Rizzie, who is used to working with flat canvas.
“It was difficult,” he said of the process. “It just created another set of problems you have to work your way through. It’s challenging, and that’s good. Challenge is always good. That said, I don’t think I’m going to go into the flower pot painting business, really because it’s pain in the ass, if you really want to know the truth. A huge pain in the ass.”
He laughed, and continued, “I just put it into the studio like it was part of what I was working on. It replicates and echoes a lot of the things I was doing at that time. I just considered it another piece of artwork.”
Admittedly, Mr. Rizzie is very choosy when it comes to putting his work up for charity. Snatching up one of his works—and for a cause—will be a rare opportunity, especially because it is a pot that he won’t be creating again. The artist’s pot echoes his body of work by prominently featuring his signature mark: the profile of a crow or a raven.
“When I first bought this house in North Haven—there’s a tremendous amount of trees out here and woods—I noticed a ton of these birds,” he recalled. “I could see them in the tree outside my studio. And for some unknown reason, I started feeding them. When I drove up in my car, there would be 50 or 60 crows in the trees waiting for me to come home. They became part of my everyday life and worked their way into my work. I’ve developed a personal relationship with them, evidently. They’ve been in my work ever since.”
The Sag Harbor Tree Fund will hold its “Terra-Cotta and Tea” silent auction on Sunday, July 29, from 4 to 6 p.m. at Cormaria in Sag Harbor. Tickets are $20 and include wine, tea, mango lemonade and hors d’oeuvres on the porch overlooking the harbor. For more information, call 725-2866.
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