by Sayaka Matsuoka
It was a hipster’s paradise.
Smooth chords from an electric guitar resonated through the gallery as craft beer flowed from makeshift bar stations. Men with impressive beards and ponytails sauntered through side rooms as women furiously pounded on bottlecaps, forging them into hanging earrings. Just across the hall, tote bags and shirts hung on walls, printed by a press that sat in the center of the room. The Sawtooth School of Visual Art had transformed into a mini beer-fest-meets-arts-and-crafts gathering on May 1, drawing in a young college crowd as well as seasoned couples seeking fun on a Friday night.
The event, wittingly titled Arts & Craft Beer, allotted visitors a small sampling cup for varying craft brews and showcased art demos and DIY craft stations to engage visitors.
All six of the breweries in attendance hailed from North Carolina, including Natty Greene’s and Gibb’s Hundred from Greensboro, Foothills from Winston-Salem, the Brewer’s Kettle bottle shop from High Point, and outliers like Durham’s Bull City Cider Works and the Charlotte’s Olde Mecklenburg Brewery.
As grinning men in flannel served drinks, artists like Bianca Williams and Eddie Fitzgerald displayed their craft in separate rooms. These artists added to the diversity of the event, with each of them demoing their art alongside a single brewery, offering a new experience in each classroom.
Williams, who has been a pottery teacher at Sawtooth for three years, exhibited her skills on the spinning wheel in front of her. She patted the clay in hard, swift motions, molding it to the shape of her choice. She said she was doing something she had never done before.
“I’m tired of things that are round so I wanted to make something different,” Williams said.
Drawing inspiration from geometric rock vases, she carved flat planes onto the cylindrical shape, carefully stripping off layers of clay from the form. This was her favorite part — the beginning.
“This is where the magic happens,” she said, as she wiped a spot of clay from her nose with a towel.
Williams has been throwing for more than 13 years, and feels she’s found a home at the visual arts school.
“I think it’s underrepresented, especially among the younger community,” Williams said. “But I think it’s a great school that offers something a little bit different.”
While the Triad boasts several prestigious art schools and programs, Sawtooth fills a need for those who want to learn an art but can’t commit several years to one, similar to the Greensboro Cultural Center. The community arts school welcomes aspiring artists and craftspeople of all backgrounds to learn subjects like photography, pottery, printmaking, wood, glass and metal working for semester-long periods. The arts learned here could potentially turn into lifelong passions.
Eddie Fitzgerald, who was situated in the room next to Williams, had been practicing his art his whole life.
“I’m very lucky,” he said as he worked on the wood turning machine in front of him.
Long, thin wooden cylinders that had been formed into parts for a stool lay next to Fitzgerald on a dusty table. The faint smell of fresh wood and buzzing sounds emanated from a rapidly turning bar that Fitzgerald worked on. A master of precision, he eyed the rod on the machine, swiftly shaving off areas of wood to create the next piece of his furniture puzzle. Soon, the machine slowed and he took the pole off, dusting off the excesses from the butternut piece and fitting it perfectly into a previously made part.
His stool was slowly coming together.
Outside the room, people walked casually among the halls, sampling art and beer, making the event a fluid, buffet of crafts and drafts with a little something for everyone.
They even had cornhole.