Sunday, September 27, 2015

Wax and Clay in Whitesville, NY

just behind Ken is near 200 pounds of dripped wax.
WHITESVILLE: The old feed mill in Whitesville has long been the home of the Candle Wizard, Ken Reichman. Ken and his candles, serious or silly in style, are gearing up for the 28th Allegany Artisans Studio Tour set for October 16 & 17, 20015.
                Ken started making candles in his parents’ basement in about 1972 and sold to friends. He also sold candles in shopping malls and, in 1974, started doing shows in Buffalo and other places. Ken didn’t just make candles; he invented a method of creating them and burned them to study how to make them better.
                I asked Ken about trimming the wick on candles and he said that if a candle is well made, it should self trim. That is, the wick should burn at a pace with the wax so that the wick is never too long or short. A short wick sputters out and a long wick gives a smoky flame. Perfect is what people need and what Ken tries to make.
                One thing that makes a candle burn poorly is scent. Scents are oil based substances and can keep the paraffin wax from burning cleanly. He doesn’t add scent to many of his candles.
                Candles can drip too and while that isn’t always wanted, Ken has made about a 150-200 pound sculpture that he started by burning candles at a windy Renaissance Faire he often attended. Ken brought his candle-drip creation to his shop and continued to burn candles and over the decades. You’ll see it as soon as you walk into the shop. It’s very much a case of “you can’t miss it.”
                Ken is a long-time member of the Allegany Artisans but took some time off. He worked at Alstom for a few years and then went back to school. In addition to his Associate’s degree in Electrical Technology he now has a degree in Computer Information Systems and is Wellsville’s Howe Library Information Technologist.
                Two years ago, Ken rejoined the Studio Tour and this year he plans some changes to the characters he creates with his special method. Ken uses pieces of wax almost like pieces of cloth. Heated, the wax becomes pliable enough to bend, fold and drape wizards and cloaks and smiling faces with beards.
                The characters hold things but some of those things need to be updated. The cell-phone-wizard has a phone with an antenna so it might need a Smartphone while the wizard sitting at a huge old desktop computer may also change. “This guy might need a tablet now,” said Ken.
                The guitar playing wizard will always be in style and in tune. In the same way dragons, unicorns and rainbows in wax are as timeless as the hand-dipped candles that Ken carefully creates.
                Ken has some stained glass candle holders and a few stained glass mirrors. He has sun glow candles and decorative tapers in many colors. There are votives and pillars in stern straight lines as well as all the flowing fantasy creatures.
                Ken is always available at and will be at his studio in Whitesville during the Studio Tour. If you suddenly realize a need for a candle dwarf, dragon or a seasonal candle, call him at 607-356-3193
                At the other end of Whitesville is the busy and inspiring studio where Marsha VanVlack puts her constantly changing ideas into clay. Marsha’s been working professionally in clay for over 40 years and she knows it’s the right thing for her to do because it’s still fun and interesting.
Some of the new totem inspired wall pieces
                She started making functional ware because she loves the rhythm of doing a series of pots and loved using and holding pottery – her own pots or pots made by anyone else.  She thinks the love of pottery started when she was a child exploring archeological digs with her Dad. She’d find shards of ancient pots with thumbprints in the clay and she would feel a connection with the ancient potter. 
                Marsha did functional pottery until about 1990 when she began to make realistic sculpture and did that for almost 10 years.  About 15 years ago she focused on tiles as a kindness to her body. She also found it a kindness to her mind because she so enjoyed painting the landscapes around her. Fantastically, people loved the tiles.
                When she started teaching at the Wellsville Creative Arts Center she felt that she could and should stretch in new directions in order to offer variety to her students. A few years ago she focused her personal work on totems with leaping fish and jumping turtles but now she’s making wall pieces with the sense of totem structure.
                She is working with naked raku, raku without glaze. The process uses heat, smoke and time to create cracks and crazes to give the work dimension. She’s built a raku kiln at her studio and is ready to share it with students. Sign up for one of her 3 hour workshops by visiting her studio during the Studio Tour or by calling her at 607i-356-3414.
                On Friday, October 16 some Allegany Artisans will open their studios for a pre-tour reception from 5-8 pm. Ken Reichman has chosen not to participate in this but Marsha will. There’s a full list of the studios to be open on Friday evening on the website
                Friday night participants are also indicated in the brochure. For a copy of the brochure send your mailing address to or call the Allegany County Tourism Office at 800-836-1869.  

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