As the maiden voyage of Live An Artful Life Magazine begins, it just wouldn't be fair to our hopefully far reaching readers, to not give some insight to what has been this magazine's spiritual center. That center is about an hour west of Washington, D.C., out I-66, where you will find the tiny town of The Plains, Virginia. The Plains is likely most known for its most famous resident, actor Robert Duvall, but also The Gold Cup steeplechase races. This, after all, is horse country.
The Plains is one of those blink-of-an-eye type towns. Small would be an understatement, but it has charm, tasty restaurants, a great tea room, a well known yarn shop, garden shop, organic butcher, a sprinkling of other goodies and is home to the bustling 1,600 square foot Live An Artful Life® Gallery.
Live An Artful Life® Gallery is owned by my wife Linda and me, Tom Neel. We are without question what you would get if you put creativity, business experience, a husband and a wife into a blender and hit purée. The concoction would net stable craziness or better yet, a solid foundation with jello on top, colorfully wiggling about having fun, but being very responsible in the process. What brought us to this, our second gallery spanning three decades, is a long winded story which will blossom through the continued pages and issues to come. But allow me take you back in time for just a moment, to help share our story and philosophy.
1991 was the first time I ever heard the words high-tech-high-touch. They came from from the then president of the California based AmCal Calendar Company, who is most noted for their decades of publishing the calendars of Americana artist and now deceased friend, Charles Wysocki. Little did I know then how ahead of their time those words would be. Think now, in 1991 fax machines were big, color copiers were expensive, computers had barely replaced the paper ledger and almost no one had a website ... yet! Few had cell phones (2G by the way), much less everyone having smart phones. Heck, the iPod wouldn't even be invented for another decade. There was no Google, Facebook or anything at all online to YaHoo about!
My point is, hearing these words at that time was liking to standing waist deep in the still ocean and having someone tell you about waves and undertow. Northern California was the technological wave crashing upon the east coast and as we have become immersed in that wave, the undertow is the feeling of anything real being sucked from under our feet. We can be and in many cases have been, virtually consumed.
High-tech-high-touch speaks of the balance of a life with technology, the virtual world, while holding dear, things that are more than just touchable, but handmade. The irony of this story will reveal itself shortly, but Live An Artful Life® Gallery was created years later to celebrate the high touch side of things, while not ignoring the highly technical world we've become.
So, on the touchy side of things, touch is something we do. But high touch is more, it is something we feel. You touch your smart phone, but you feel things that are handmade and trust me, handmade can mean different things too. A manufacturing process can incorporate some hand assembly, but handmade in its purest terms is part of a creative process, not a manufacturing one. Handmade is when the same mind that conceptualizes an idea, is actually connected to the hands which create that thing. Be it a thing of beauty and or function, Live An Artful Life® Gallery is filled only with handmade artisan items and rarer still, ones only made in America. This by the way, was never meant to be an anti world statement, rather a pro American one. So much has left our shores that we wanted to create one place where an American handmade personal possession or gift, could still be acquired. Mission accomplished.
The aforementioned irony of this story is that especially Linda, who is the one that really keeps the gallery's ors in the water and is an artist herself, has almost a lifelong tech background beginning in her hometown of Denver, Colorado. Back then it was called Mountain Bell and after moving to Virginia for her past love of Dressage, Linda had what could only be described as a blended career, hoping between an art and the tech world. She has embodied the words high tech, high touch. At one point she was tech by day and textile artist at night. That was six years ago now and when she was tech-ed out, she was more than creatively inspired and ready for Live An Artful Life® to become a reality and even though the economy was rock bottom, business experience told us it wouldn't always be this way. Better to begin at the bottom of an economic cycle and grow out of it, than the other way around we say.
I have been selling my paintings for 26 years now, with 20 of those years as a full time professional. Self taught, creativity was my salvation from birth. I don't know what I would do without creating and making things. I chose an automotive career out of school and surprisingly, it allowed me to be plenty creative while learning about business. By the time I was thirty, I had not only worked extensively on classic Ferrari automobiles, drag racing, van conversions, custom painting and sales management. I had also grown as a photographer, scale model builder, artist and writer. It was time to make fine art my life though and that's I did.
Linda and I met in 1987 as my automotive career was ending as her blended tech - artistic years were beginning and the years that followed brought us to this point. The point where we put the point on the pencil. First with Live An Artful Life® the Gallery and now the magazine too!
The gallery itself is often first described by visitors as "a great space". It's not just the building's bones though, it is what gives those bones personality. Savvy regulars, know it is a place to acquire a special gift for a special friend or family member. New artisan works trickle in and therefore there is always a feeling of rejuvenation. Because we work directly with artists and artisans, who for the most part make one thing at a time, even things by each artist can be changing and therefore are unquestionably original. Some artists even collaborate. This brings about a perfect blend of uniqueness and continuity.
Each of the thirty to forty artists we represent are real people with real lives. Manufactures have SKU numbers, artist's have stories and their lives are both connected to us and our customers. This is high touch. Their personalities can easily be seen in the things they make. There's an authenticity about holding artisan objects. Often people are inspired just by picking things up as they circle the gallery. Delightful comments are part of the gallery's harmonic. It makes it fun. It is Live An Artful Life's inspirational properties that make it both a meditative sedative to the busy and a perfect cord to the harmonized. Life An Artful Life® is not a place to simply buy things, it's lifestyle made up of creative things and thinkers. You do not have to be an artist to live an artful life, you simply should celebrate that others are and passionately know in doing so, that you too are living more artfully.
If your idea of a good time is counting down the seconds and units on a given HSN item, then living blissfully in knowing your's and 9000 other viewers have another item # on the way ... well, I'm just guessing Live An Artful Life® Gallery and possibly the Magazine is not going to be your cup of tea and you know what? That's okay.
On the other hand, if you are drawn like a moth to flame in seeing the spectrum of color made as sunlight beams through colored glass upon walking through our front door. My guess is both the gallery and magazine will be of more than a passing fancy. Welcome home.
For more, please visit LiveAnArtfulGallery.com or better yet, visit us at 6474 Main Street, The Plains, VA. 20198
More photos with this article at Live An Artful Life Magazine page 30