All work and all clay: Kat Habib

Most artists are struggling artists, one way or the other, but Kat Habib struggles mostly to find the time to be an artist. When she’s actually practicing art, hey — no problem.

The Sperryville potter and florist is 33, one of Rappahannock County’s younger practicing artists. To meet the high cost of living in a magical, beautiful land where the sales of second homes nowadays outpace those of secondhand tractors, she works in a number of professions to be able to pursue the one that means most: hand-building both sculptural and functional works in clay.

So she lends a hand, or usually two, on a regular basis to create special-occasion floral arrangements with Jen Perrot at Sperryville’s Flourish Root, which to Habib is yet another form of artistic expression. She works half the week as the Headwaters Foundation’s Next Step program coordinator at the high school, plus she’s a property manager and, in the summer, assistant director at Rappahannock Nature Camp.

“Living in Rappahannock, one has to wear many hats,” she says. “I’m working constantly to support my creative practice.”

You can see Habib’s creative practice firsthand below, in the latest in a series of Artists of Rappahannock videos, completed in 2017 as part of a project funded by a Claudia Mitchell Arts Fund grant from the Rappahannock Association for Art and Community.

A longer version of this article is scheduled to appear in the Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018 edition of the Rappahannock News.

From Bach to the blues to . . . Bill Harris

The fifth video in the Artists of Rappahannock series is different from the rest — for one, it’s a profile of a musician rather than visual artist: renowned jazz pianist Bill Harris, who shares a historic home in Flint Hill with his wife, Stella Liong, Rappahannock’s only resident dentist.

For another, the subject is actually the reason I was inspired a year and a half ago to buckle down and apply for the grant to make some videos on Rappahannock County’s considerable artist community, a grant that the Rappahannock Association for Art and Community’s Claudia Mitchell Fund saw fit in 2016 to award to me. (What none of us saw at that point was me returning to become the editor of the paper again, for a year, and the Mitchell Fund folks were kind enough to let me finish one career before embarking on this new one earlier this year.)

So it was an interview with Bill in the fall of 2015, for a short feature I was writing for the Rappahannock News in advance of a concert of his the following weekend. Though the piece was only going to be a short 500-word feature, I wound up spending a couple of hours with Bill, and then with Bill and Stella, in their kitchen, which (as you’ll see in the video) shares a large, open, sun-filled room with Bill’s Steinway grand piano. And during the course of an interview that went from jazz standards of the 1930s to how Bill and Stella met in Arkansas, Bill kept getting up and going to the piano to illustrate things he was talking about by playing and singing them. When it was finally time to leave, I realized how much of what I’d just seen would never get in the paper, and I said, “You know, this afternoon really should have been on video.”

Well, it’s not that afternoon but a couple of others more recent that are finally on this video, in which Bill talks about, plays and sings some Cole Porter (for an upcoming tribute concert this Saturday night, Oct. 21, at the Little Washington Theatre). He also touches on dentistry, DIY coffee grinding, how Bach invented the blues and why he’s committed to preserving the Great American Songbook.

This video series was underwritten by the Claudia Mitchell Arts Fund of the Rappahannock Association for Art and Community — which, by the way, holds its annual Artists of Rappahannock Studio and Gallery Tour this year on Nov.4-5. It’s a great opportunity to meet some of the other artists profiled in this series, and get a first-hand look at their works.

Video #4: A touch of glass

Stained glass artist Patricia Brennan

For the fourth video in the Artists of Rappahannock series, Patricia Brennan of De’Danann Glassworks talks about her longtime love of the light, color and joy that is stained glass — and how she’s managed to make a living (we’ll let Patricia tell you why she gets a chuckle out of that) as well as raise a family and learn a lot of new techniques during her nearly four decades as a glass artist in the mountains of Sperryville, Va.

Patricia is also an avid gardener; ample proof that she’s as skilled with soil and flora as she is with glass and lead can be found in the gardens that surround the home and studio she and her husband, the journeyman carpenter Don Mullan, designed and built at the end of Spyder Mountain Lane, not far from the edge of Shenandoah National Park.

I should also mention here, because it didn’t make it into the video, that Patricia was the driving local force in the establishment of the Rappahannock County Artisan Trail, which remains one of the most active and popular of the statewide trails sponsored by the Artisan Center of Virginia, and that she’s also one of the ACV’s juried artisans.

This video series was underwritten by the Claudia Mitchell Arts Fund of the Rappahannock Association for Art and Community — which, by the way, holds its annual Artists of Rappahannock Studio and Gallery Tour this year on Nov.4-5. It’s a great opportunity to meet some of the artists profiled in this series, including Patricia, and get a first-hand look at their works.

Video #3: The impressionist

The third Artists of Rappahannock video, part of a series exploring the symbiotic relationship of art and nature in Rappahannock County, Va., focuses on impressionistic oil painter Nedra Smith. After a 20-year career as an art director in the D.C. area, Nedra returned some 13 years ago to her first love — plein air and studio painting — and quickly earned a name for herself with the American Impressionist Society and her many patrons.

I could say more, but probably best to let Nedra tell you (and show you) herself. The video is below.

This series was underwritten by the Claudia Mitchell Arts Fund of the Rappahannock Association for Art and Community — which, by the way, holds its annual Artists of Rappahannock Studio and Gallery Tour this year on Nov.4-5. It’s a great opportunity to meet some of the artists profiled here, and get a first-hand look at their works.

New artist video: Bob Lucking

In our continuing series of videos on the Artists of Rappahannock, we move down the road a bit — and up a steep, narrow lane — for a too-brief visit with Sperryville furniture craftsman Bob Lucking, who apparently can make anything out of wood that you can think of (and quite a few things no one’s ever thought of). Bob’s hand-built home and workshop are carved into the side of a mountain just a stone’s throw from Shenandoah National Park, where Bob says he gets some of his best ideas out hiking with his dogs.

There were more than the usual number of extraordinary bits of this interview that we couldn’t fit into the finished video; one of them worth mentioning: A few years back, Bob and his wife, Carol, decided after Bob’s father became ill that he’d build a house next door for his mother and father — which he did. A few weeks before they were to move up from Florida, however, his father passed away. His mother, who’s 92 now, still lives right next door. “I’m not sure if I’m keeping an eye on her, or she’s keeping an eye on me,” he says, “but it works.”

Thanks to a generous 2016 grant by the Rappahannock Association for Arts and Community’s Claudia Mitchell Arts Fund, we are on track to have six short videos on Rappahannock’s amazingly diverse and talented artists completed by late September.

I’ve been working on two almost simultaneously over the past three weeks, so the video on plein air painter Nedra Smith should be online here — and on the Synergist Media YouTube Channel — by the end of this week as well. Please head over to YouTube and subscribe to our channel. I plan to keep making these videos through the end of the year, beyond the six that were originally supported by the Claudia Mitchell Fund grant.


Synergist Media, and especially these videos, would not be possible without the hands-on assistance of photographer and videographer extraordinaire Luke Christopher, and the full-hearted advice and support of Luke’s mom, Charmaine Lee, my wife, ally and inspiration.

Artists of Rappahannock video series: Launched!

Maggie Rogers in her Sperryville printmaking studio.

Because of my unplanned return last spring to the Rappahannock News, my planned series of short videos on the artists of Rappahannock took nearly a year to get rolling. But thanks initially to the generous 2016 grant by the Rappahannock Association for Arts and Community’s Claudia Mitchell Arts Fund, and then to the Mitchell Fund committee’s patience and understanding in allowing me to get the promised first six videos done by the end of September 2017, we are now launched!

This first video is a brief visit with Maggie Rogers in Sperryville, Va. — where Maggie’s printmaking studio shares the building with her family’s coffee roastery, and from which Maggie also pursues her love of hiking, nature and gardening. You can play the video below, or visit the Synergist Media YouTube channel and subscribe — especially as we add videos.

The next one coming up in early August is on plein air painter Nedra Smith of Washington, Va.

Synergist Media, and especially these videos, would not be possible without the hands-on assistance of photographer and videographer extraordinaire Luke Christopher, and the full-hearted advice and support of Luke’s mom, Charmaine Lee, my wife, ally and inspiration.

(Also stepping up — from Florida, no less — to make music for this first video was my brother John Piantadosi, a guitarist/bassist like no other.)