Happy Monday folks! We’re back with another artist interview and studio tour! In the past, we interviewed Ben Gazsi, an eco-sculpture creator, and Connie Zamorano, the young artist inspired by insects. Today we are happy to introduce Buffy Maske, jewelry artisan, painter and sculptor from Pittsboro, North Carolina.
Miss Maske is a North Carolina native and she currently lives in Pittsboro . She sells her jewelry at festivals and markets, in several local stores like Vino!! and Design Archives and sometimes online. Buffy grew up prospecting in the mountains and mines of Spruce Pines near the Blue Ridge Parkway. Every year, for her mother’s birthday, the family would explore the old emerald mines in Spruce Pines, which resulted in a love of nature and wildlife not to mention Caboodles full of gems, crystals and minerals. Buffy was trained at Savannah College of Art and Design.
She only started making jewelry six or seven years ago. She was painting, but it’s a very involved process. Around the time of the housing market crash, she said people kind of just stopped going out to buy art. They were more interested in functional and affordable pieces. It all started with her friends being interested in the jewelry she was wearing. After making a few pieces for friends, Buffy started going to markets. She can spend half an hour working on a necklace or earrings instead of forty hours on a painting, which makes her work more accessible and affordable. She still has some trouble with the online business sphere of her work, but like most artists, it just feels like wasted time when she could be working on a new piece. That’s why you won’t find any of her new work online, you’ll have to catch her at a festival or market instead.
Remember those caboodles I mentioned? Well, Buffy is still pulling out treasures from those trips to the mountains. On any given day, Buffy sifts through her caboodles and selects the crystals and gems that talk to her. Then she decides how they would be best displayed. She asks herself how she can highlight the natural beauty of each crystal or stone. This work is quite easy or rather instinctual for her. She says it’s just an appreciation for science and nature. Many of her pieces have some type of recycled or natural material showcased. She has less of an attachment to the jewelry than the other stuff (paintings and sculpture), which makes it more accessible to others. Every piece is different and unique which is great because that’s usually what buyers are looking for.
You’re probably wondering about this awesome.freaking.studio that Buffy works out of. Right? Are you? I was. It’s a tiny littlesolar-powered cottage type structure that is built on the property of Piedmont Biofuels. I could probably talk about Piedmont Biofuels all day even though I know very little about it. My interview with Buffy was my first trip to the coop, but holy cow, that place is amazing. In short, Piedmont Biofuels is a small renewable energy company that produces biodiesel. They collect used cooking oil from restaurants in central NC, bring it to the plant, and turn it into a clean burning fuel for their Coop members and so much more. They design and build biodiesel plants, they conduct research, develop technology and offer consulting on everything concerning biodiesel. They basically offer up all the information they wish they had when they started. Besides the biofuel operation, there’s lots of other happenings. There are two farms on the property (yes those are solar panels in the farm photo) Piedmont Biofarm and Screech Owl Greenhouses as well as Fair Game Beverage Company, Buffy’s artist studio, a metalsmith workshop, and all kinds of other workshops and labs that I couldn’t remember because I was skipping all over the place asking, what’s in there? What’s in there? What’s that? You get the picture.
Buffy is actually the Piedmont Biofuels newbie. She just arrived on the scene a couple months ago. After some reflection, Buffy realized she was stuck in her artistic career. She needed to make a change. She used to paint and create jewelry in her yard, but as you can imagine, there were just too many distractions at home. Speaking from personal experience, it’s damn hard to work from home. After six months, I finally feel like I have a somewhat productive and proactive working environment, but for the first few months I was working from my couch, which wasn’t ideal. Back to Buffy. She has cats, dogs, duck and guineas at home so it’s no wonder she found herself preoccupied, not to mention all the household chores that seem to be of prime importance when one is looking for a bit of a work distraction. Realizing she needed to switch-up her routine, Buffy started looking into studio space. She searched on craigs list and came up with a whole host of options. One day she checked out a trailer studio with chicken poop on the walls and the next she walked into the breezy little cottage at Piedmont Biofuels. Initially, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to move and lose all the great connections with creative folks she had made over the years or stick it out in NC. After walking into the Piedmont studio on Lorax Lane (yep, that Lorax) and smelling honeysuckle and cedar, she decided to sign the lease and she’s never been happier.
Buffy realized that by moving into this space she decided to have a different working style. She’s the type of artist that needs to clock in and out in order to really be motivated and creative (aren’t we all?) and that’s exactly what this studio space gives her the freedom to do. She likes to work until she doesn’t want to work anymore and it’s a lot easier to do that in this space than it was at her home. She still has the comforts of a communal kitchen, bathroom, library and shower space. They even have fresh and local bread delivered during the week! One Friday night she stayed until 2:30 a.m. and she left feeling rejuvenated and proud not worn out and tired. Often times it’s hard for artists to separate life and work, but this space affords Buffy the opportunity to do just that, which makes her time in the studio more productive and inspired.
She also loves that lots of good people are here on their own little paths and they decided to go for it. Buffy said, “they could have gone one way but they decided to go another and they realized if they weren’t going to focus on their projects no one else was going to focus on them either.” She mentioned that one team of people is working on organic fish feed for tilapia. How oddly specific and awesome is that? A bunch of the farmers live on site as well so she’s surrounded by a great little community of excited and inspired people. That kind of energy breeds even more creativity and inspiration for herself. Buffy mentioned that she knows a lot of artists that are really talented, but they have families or are busy doing something as a means to get by and they’re falling away from their art and getting disconnected from it. That’s exactly what she went through and she hates to see people’s amazing talents fall by the wayside.
Buffy is currently working on securing a grant that would go towards building sustainable artist studios in North Carolina. She and a friend (who is familiar with building small structures) have been dreaming up the idea of small scale artist cooperatives. She said she’s been thinking about it for almost a decade. Of course, she wishes they were set up all over the country, but you have to start somewhere. As we both dreamed about tiny artist colonies where creative folks could work on their craft, I realized Buffy is setting a great example. She is showing the nation (ok, ok, she’s showing everyone who knows about it so spread the word! 😉 ) that having a small studio to work in is attainable. Creating a community of caring individuals who all have goals of their own can happen and it does happen in some areas, but it needs to happen more often.
In her spare time, Buffy likes to fish from her canoe well, she used to. It was destroyed by a waterfall! How epic yet tragic! She couldn’t help, but laugh as she told me about the good ole canoe and it’s demise. Buffy also likes to work in her garden (did you spot the soil under her nails in the first photo?), cook, and hang out with a bunch of ducks. She says it’s therapeutic. Maybe you should try it? I know I’d like to, but I don’t think they would find my balcony too homey. She also added that when she has spare time she likes to enjoy the simple things. We have to agree with her, the simple things in life are often times the best. Maybe this core realization was the reason Buffy and I connected immediately. As we toured the farm and other work spaces, I couldn’t help but feel an awesome connection forming. The type that is easy going and natural. As a great blue heron flew over head and we both simultaneously shouted, “blue heron!” and that connection was confirmed. Buffy even gifted me a sweet crystal casing necklace and screen printed treasure pouch. You’ll see those presents floating around on instagram sometime soon.
We just had to ask Miss Maske, “What would we find you doing during each season?” To which she replied, “In the spring I’m raising ducklings and in the summer I’m tending to my garden and traveling to concerts and markets. The fall is actually my favorite time to work markets and festivals and it’s also when I make a lot of pieces for the winter shopping season and during the winter I like to catch up with my friends and family.”
Creative Corner is quickly becoming my favorite feature here on Seasoned. What do you cats think? I’m excited to catch up with Buffy this Friday at the Fair Game Beverage Co. Grand Opening at Piedmont Biofuels. If you’re in the area you should stop by!