Mitch Kimball and Shand Stamper are wonderful local artists -they also happen to be art teachers at McCracken County High School. They have a beautiful daughter named Wren who is their greatest artistic collaboration to date. They opened Ochre last year - a place where local artists can sell their creations. This interesting and talented couple have so much going on we’re going to iMeet them for two weeks - part one is today!
We met in undergrad at the University of Southern Mississippi. We were in the same sculpture program at the same time - we've been married 13 years and have a 5 year old. Wren is our greatest collaboration! We share our house with three demanding cats and two passive-aggressive food stealing dogs. (I'd have four more cats if my orange fella would allow it!)
Shand: I moved over to McCracken County HS from Lone Oak High School when the county high schools consolidated. I teach the dual credit drawing class, the jewelry/metals class, AP and independent study, and Art 1
Mitch came over after the first year. He teaches Art 1 but will be moving into teaching the sculpture and ceramics classes next year.
We often get asked about our studio name. S&M Studios refers to Shand & Mitch, but is a funny play on the fact that we are married and I am decidedly more "managerial" and Mitch is the most patient and kind man alive. It’s just a funny coincidence!
Because we both work collaboratively in all aspects of our artistic endeavors; making, critiquing, showing, and in the management of Ochre, we have a really succinct idea of what the program should look like from Art 1 all the way to the most advanced classes. It really helps move the visual arts program forward.
Mitch and I have made, and sold, our wares for over 10 years in various capacities. Having a physical store was always a dream we held onto. Two summers ago a very close friend from our undergraduate program died unexpectedly. We drove nine hours home to attend the funeral, and in that time had the realization that we aren't promised any tomorrows. There were several other factors that led to the inception of Ochre but an important take away is that if you have a dream it’s better to chase it!
Ochre is a collective of several smaller businesses that share the overhead and responsibilities of a physical space. We chose the name Ochre (pronounced O-ker) because it was one of the first recorded materials used by early man to leave their mark in the world; basically the first art supply! It is a simple and binding thread.
I want art to be accessible to the public and I want artists to be able to succeed! We are proud to offer all local art and craft to a broad public base. The conversations we get to have with people about what we do is a really important part of what we do, too. Lots of folks are genuinely curious about how things are made, the materials, costs, process. This give the artist and public and genuine way to intersect.
Currently, our partners include Violet Jam, Herbane, Dweedlebeadles, S&M Studios, Nova Treck, Randal Griggs, and Kacie Slack. I won't say we've got it all figured out but the first year was good and the ride's a lot more fun with friends!
Metal is the most forgiving and incredible material. I love the versatility of sterling silver. It can be snowy soft white or darkened like gunmetal. I love that it can be fused with gold like seen in my fleur d'lis earrings. I love all of the possibilities in gemstones. The earth produces some of the most stunning minerals.
Diamonds are of course dazzling but Druzy! Opals! Agates! Oh my! I feel so lucky to get to practice my art form and get to see in out in the world being enjoyed by others. Jewelry is an intimate art form - its meant to be worn and also to attract an audience. Its exciting to see the public curating their own show daily!
The thing I feel most passionate about as a maker is "solving the problem". Doing commission work is the epitome of problem solving- a client will give me a list of their desires and a budget and then I get started. I have taken workshops from different makers to learn how to do some really non-traditional stone setting and material capturing then I also trained with Blain Lewis (a master stone setter) to get my stone setting certification.
It is as important to me to feel confident setting a precious button from your grandparents coat as it is an expensive diamond. The value is in the meaning of the object! There are a ton of images of commission pieces on our website and our business Facebook page, too.
When I'm not teaching, I can usually be found at Ochre in the Coke Plant making pottery. I like to do live feed on Facebook and show people what the process entails. I love making one of a kind, hand crafted tableware.
One question I get a lot is whether or not you can use it! The best compliment I can get is when someone tells me that they had coffee in my mug or soup from my bowls. As a maker of a hand craft, the work has to be functional! It can all go in the microwave and dishwasher!
It’s always just a little sad when people say that they have pots that are too special to use. Ceramic arts have a long history in the US and in Kentucky. It’s cool to be here in Kentucky continuing that folk tradition; especially in such an important historic place.