Newsletter Signup | Subscribe to Magazine

Arts initiative: Earth, wind, fire and air


Story by Carolyn Males + Photos by Joe Armeni

Palmetto Bluff

At a bend in Cauley’s Creek, amid pines and palmettos, Brandon Price of Blown Studios pulls a stainless steel rod tipped with molten glass from a white-hot furnace. Curious onlookers gather around to watch as the glass artist brings the glowing piece over to the marver, a metal worktable, where he rolls it in small glass particles called frit. Then he plunges it back into the heat. This time when he takes it out, he dunks the end quickly in water, grabs a tool and stretches the glass until it’s about a yard long. “That’s how you make cordgrass,” he says over the roar of the fire. The elongated piece, he adds, will be part of a Lowcountry river shoal glass installation he’s making for the community’s permanent collection.

Meanwhile, at the other end of Moreland Landing, the bluegrass band Green Levels is playing “In the Moonlight Midnight,” while guests inscribe their initials on small glass oyster shells that will become part of the installation’s base. Afterwards they’ll scoop up barbecue, fried chicken, mac and cheese and other picnic fare to eat at wooden tables. This reception and demo would be the kickoff to three days of hands-on glassblowing workshops at the community’s Farm taught by the Savannah-based Price. The workshops for this unusual offering, part of Palmetto Bluff’s new year-round program, The Arts Initiative, filled up quickly.

The nature-arts connection

The Arts Initiative wraps all of nature’s elements — water, earth, fire and air –– into a new series of events featuring a diverse array of artists, craftspeople, musicians and chefs set against the community’s picturesque backdrop of Lowcountry parks, forests and waterways.

Its artists-in-residence component brings in a new artist each month. This year’s lineup of specialties include: painting, glassblowing, leather work, music, poetry, textiles, jewelry, hat making, indigo dying and more. The recently launched FLOW Galley + Workshop in Wilson Village showcases works by that month’s resident artist along with other fine art from Palmetto Bluff and beyond.

What makes this program a standout are the opportunities to immerse yourself in art and nature. Meet the artists in residence at receptions and learn more about their crafts through lectures and field trips. For a deeper dive into a particular craft, sign up for a hands-on workshop taught by each artist.

The Artist-in-Residence experience began in April when painter and bluegrass musician Shannon Whitworth came in from the Blue Ridge Mountains to lead mixed-media workshops. She capped off her residency by playing banjo and guitar in a concert beneath the live oaks along the May River with her husband, Steep Canyon Rangers’ Woody Platt. Brandon Price’s glassblowing workshops followed in May, while June brought Jess Nicoles and Erik Holmberg of J. Stark Leather Goods in Charleston, who taught classes in dip-dying leather goods and making hand-stitched wallets. LL

2023 Events: In January artwork from 2022’s artists in residence will be auctioned off and the new season’s lineup announced. Then in May

FLOW FEST will take over the May River lawn with food trucks, an art market, live bands and activities for the whole family.

For information and tickets: 843-706-5483

Who else is coming in 2022

Ben Ross, Brackish, Feather accessories for men and women. July 13–16.

Brackish’s signature accessories crafted from sustainably harvested feathers of quails, peacocks, pheasants and other birds has garnered fans like Ted Danson, Bill Murray and Blake Lively. Ross will teach two workshops: Fancy Feather Work (lapel and hat pins) and Jewel It Up (jewelry).

Mary Landrum Pyron, ML Provisions. Felt Western-style hats. August 10-13.

Inspired by her love of the American West, the artist will create custom felt hats back in her Mississippi studio for those enrolled in her workshops. During the hands-on sessions at Palmetto Bluff (each limited to four people) she’ll teach participants how to sand, shape and personalize their hats.

Blakely Little, Blakely Made, Painting and sketchbook art. September 14-17.

Blakely Little’s vivid paintings of flowers, gardens and coastal landscapes reflect her strong connection to nature. She’ll be offering three workshops: landscape painting for kids; acrylic painting on birch panels; and plein air sketching on a boat tour of the May River followed by a watercolor session in the FLOW Gallery courtyard.

Marcus Amaker, Poet and musician. October 5-8.

Marcus Amaker, poet laureate of Charleston, South Carolina, has had his poetry interpreted for jazz, opera, dance and theater. He is a graphic artist as well as a songwriter and electronic musician and has recorded three albums with Grammy winner Quentin E. Baxter. Events to be announced.

Teresa Roche, Teresa Roche Art & Textiles. Artisanal textiles and fabric. November 9-12.

The Greenville, South Carolina, painter and textile designer draws on Southern imagery, architecture and travel experiences to create her sophisticated yet playful fabrics and wall coverings. Events to be announced.

Caroline Harper, CHI Design. Indigo art. December 7-10.

Using indigo sourced from Lowcountry fields, Columbia-based Caroline Harper creates intricate patterns on textiles using resist-dying methods. Events to be announced.