CHESTERTOWN, MARYLAND — Artists would like to devote all their effort on their craft, but the need to make money often forces them to focus on creating works that can be sold. A small town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland has become a patron of the arts, and the community hopes its burgeoning patronage will give local artists creative freedom.
Vicco von Voss has been making wooden furniture from salvaged materials for 20 years.
“When I get a tree that has been blown over by a hurricane or strictly taken down by a tree company, I have the opportunity to give this tree a second life,” he said.
Von Voss is known for creating elegant, yet functional pieces.
“Part of my philosophy is that if it took a tree 80 years to grow, I need to build something that will last for that same duration.”
Honoring nature, art
Von Voss formed that philosophy while he lived for eight and a half years in a small cabin [9 feet x 12 feet] he had built on his lot outside Chestertown, Maryland.
“I grew to understand and love nature. But it wasn’t just loving nature, it was observing the real subtleties of the land, of the trees. And with that, I thought I’ve got became a steward of nature,” he said.
Von Voss works mostly by commission. So when a local museum - the Academy Art Museum in Easton, Maryland - invited him to exhibit his furniture at an art show next year, he had a problem: He sells his work as soon as he completes it.
“Basically the idea of borrowing my clients’ pieces for two months was not an option. I couldn’t go and say 'I need to borrow your dining table for two months.'”
Gallery owner Carla Massoni came up with an idea to work around the problem. If patrons were to loan money to Voss - so he would not have to sell each piece - he could create a body of work for the museum show. Afterwards, he would sell the pieces and pay back the money. So far, Massoni says more than 20 people have participated in what she calls the "Seed Project."
"Many of the people that are involved in this probably wouldn't be able to purchase a piece of Vicco's work. But they still want to be part of the process of his creating these pieces," said Massoni.
Making a connection
Bob Ingersoll is one of the participants.
“It seemed to me such an interesting project. Here I had a chance to help Vicco concentrate more on creating pieces of art. I expect to see a beautiful piece come out of this or more, many pieces,” said Ingersoll.
Massoni said such willingness could have something to do with the community's historic connection to the surrounding farmland and river.
“What Vicco does is using the natural resources of the region, trees, the connection he has to the living breathing environment that he is part of. Many people share that philosophy as well,” said Massoni.
Von Voss said the Seed Project has allowed him to grow as a craftsman.
“I thought what a phenomenal opportunity to get out of my own box and create something very unique and very sculptural, much more artistic, but still functional, than what I have created in the past," said von Voss.
The Chestertown community hopes the Seed Project could blossom into support for other artists and craftsmen in the future.