On Sept. 29, the Louisiana Crafts Guild (LCG) celebrated the grand opening of its New Orleans gallery in The Shops at Canal Place. The new store, La GUILD (The Shops at Canal Place, 333 Canal St., 504-592-7633; www.facebook.com/laguildcrafts), is the second home to the Lafayette-based organization that represents artists from 51 cities across Louisiana and 17 cities in the region. Katie Odell, gallery manager, says this location offers greater exposure for guild artists. She hopes to expand that outreach further by offering workshops, demos, "crafternoons" and "lunch-and-learns" for locals, tourists and employees of Canal Place.
Art is in Odell's blood. She's the daughter of Annie Odell, a member of the LCG who specializes in textiles made from men's accessories. You've likely seen her work — halter dresses made from a rainbow of vertically assembled neckties and fabric dioramas of New Orleans legends such as Fats Domino, Ernie and Antoinette K-Doe and Allen Toussaint. One of those portraits hangs in La GUILD — a huge cloth likeness of musician Robert Parker.
Katie Odell has volunteered with LCG since 2012, and when the Guild announced the opening of the Canal Place store, she quit her marketing job to manage the new arts collective. Local artists occasionally work the desk at the store, giving shoppers an opportunity to meet the creators in person.
Guild artist Christopher Kirsch bought a printing press from Craigslist about a decade ago, and has been inking and painting prints ever since under the name Bare Bones Studio.
"I started out with a couple of very simple tools and a press, and I was operating out of an old warehouse," Kirsch says. "My whole operation was pretty bare-bones. I'm still bare-bones — I'm still operating out of a warehouse, but I built a room around the press, so at least it's a little cleaner now."
Kirsch spends about 40 hours carving a block for each of his designs, and after inking each print can spend up to 10 days waiting for the ink to dry so he can add watercolor touches to the transfer. The print collection most dear to him is the Creatures of Carnival series, full of characters from 19th-century parades as well as portraits of himself and fellow Skeleton Krewe walking club members in costume.
Betsy Meyers Green has been a member of LCG for nearly 28 years, and designs ready-to-wear and custom jewelry available at La GUILD. To fashion her jewelry, she uses mixed metals, vibrant stones such as tourmaline and Montana agate and everyday inspirations such as the doodles she creates on paper while talking on the phone.
"Pure, minimalist form — for me, that's the ideal to strive for," Meyers Green says. "To come up with a design that is just timeless, that isn't tied to a place or a person or an animal — I (try to make) something that will never go out of style."
Stained glass windows are as iconic to New Orleans homes as gumbo pots, and LCG member Fred Weber Jr. is a stained-glass pro. The sole proprietor (and employee) of Elements of Stained Glass, Weber has created kaleidoscopic panels of colored glass for 30 years.
Louisiana designs make up a lot of his collection at La GUILD: Streetcars and pelicans in luminous shades of greens and blues are some of his best-sellers. But custom work presents some of his greatest pleasures — and challenges.
"Often, people want a full inset pane of glass," Weber says. "They want (glass for) front doors, transoms, regular windows and large 5-by-6 windows to fit over Jacuzzi tubs. My largest project was a 30-inch-wide by 6-foot-tall pantry door. ... Difficulty comes in when the pieces get too small, or so big that I can't turn it over and work on the other side. But I enjoyed working on that — it was something special."
Colorful New Orleans-themed prints, elegant necklaces and earrings and dazzling stained glass are just a handful of the myriad artworks available at La GUILD.
"(Craft) is a very broad category," Odell says. "We allow so much diversity in what's considered 'crafts.' I love that we have an artist that does religious icons and someone that's making crawfish (sculptures) and another making marbled silk scarves."