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Do what you love, love what you do
Local artists find success in their crafts

Date: 05/15/2008

For centuries, artistic people trying to make a living off of their talent have been plagued by "the starving artist" stereotype.

Unfortunately, there's some truth to the less-than-flattering image: In the 1400s, artistic visionary Michelangelo probably never would have made ends meet--nor have created his masterpiece on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel--without financial backing from the Catholic Church.

More recently, Claude Monet, the French painter and founder of the Impressionist movement, might never have lived to paint his famous water lilies had he not survived financial ruin and an unsuccessful suicide attempt in 1868.

Luckily, things are looking up for modern-day artists from all different backgrounds and mediums. Today, many aspiring artists are able to paint or snap photographs as a hobby, and an increasing number of artists are even able to maintain a rewarding career.

More and more, artists are making it big, even in northern Santa Barbara County--a region with an artistic light that's sometimes overshadowed by its south coast counterpart.

Recently, the Sun got to sit down with some of the local art scene's newest shining stars. The following is their outlook on art, love, and life. m Contact Staff Writer Amy Asman at

An artist and a businessman

The work of local artist Hans Duus is in high demand--not just by Central Coast art connoisseurs and tourists, but also by national television studios.

Duus--who owns his own business, Hans Duus Blacksmith, in Buellton--was recently asked by ABC's popular reality do-gooder series Extreme Makeover: Home Edition to create a one-of-a-kind chandelier for a New Orleans church damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

The request was a first for Duus, who has already created pieces for big-name clients, including Las Vegas casinos, such as Mandalay Bay, the Venetian, and the Monte Carlo.

Currently, Duus is under contract with ABC not to disclose any details about his chandelier, which will show up on the May 18 episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition at 8 p.m.

When asked about the project, all Duus could say was that he became involved after being contacted by Rick Strini, a former collaborator and glass artist. Strini told him that ABC wanted to use one of their past lighting fixtures as a template for the New Orleans church, and wondered if they would be interested in creating a new one.

"It was exciting," Duus said of the request.

Beyond that, the artist and businessman kept his lips zipped about his television debut.

When it comes to his work as a whole, however, Duus is full of both practical and creative information. On top of designing and selling his own work, the artist-blacksmith also teaches blacksmithing at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, where he's held a position on the welding department advisory board since the late 1990s.

"The program has been very successful. We've been able to fill up classes every semester," Duus said.

"It seems like everyone either had a grandfather or great-grandfather who was a blacksmith," Duus added, noting that while many people might view blacksmithing as a "dying art," it's actually seen a large resurgence in the last several decades.

"It's a very different medium to work in," he said. "Metal is usually seen as a hard and immovable material, but when heat is added to it, it becomes more like a plastic that can be easily shaped and manipulated."

The Solvang native first learned the art of manipulating metal in high school where he took metalworking, drafting, and layout design. In college, he furthered his knowledge by landing an apprenticeship at the Old World Metal Craft in Solvang.

Duus went on to start Hans Duus Blacksmithing, where he continues to make a profitable living.

"Running my own business, I kind of wear two hats--there's the artistic cap and the manufacturing cap," he said.

Besides designing inventive products and mastering burning-hot metal, Duus said that one of the biggest challenges of his craft is making sure his light fixtures actually work.

"Of course it's great if the fixture is aesthetically pleasing, but if it's not functional, it doesn't matter," he said.

The requirement adds another hat to the artist-blacksmith-teacher's collection: engineer.

For more information about Duus and his business, visit


Writing with a vision

When readers are first introduced to Elizabeth Brown, the main character in Santa Maria writer Jocelyn Smalley's book Confessions of a Reluctant Psychic, they might be a little disappointed.

"I'm not spacey, I rarely wear scarves or flowing skirts, and I can't abide the smell of incense, and you will absolutely never catch me chanting or playing drum," Brown says in the first chapter. "The truth is, I seem pretty much like everyone else."

The same could be said for Smalley (pictured here with her boyfriend, Sam Casados), who says she's as normal as they come. Born and raised in central California, Smalley has been writing creative literature, plays, and poems since she was in the second grade.

"I went to Catholic school. The nuns made us write like crazy," Smalley said.

In later years, Smalley made a living as a social worker in multiple counties, including San Luis Obispo. Now retired, she volunteers at the Pacific Pride Foundation in Santa Maria.

"Boy, isn't that a wonderful source of inspiration?" she said, referring to working in an environment that allows her to interact and make "wonderful connections with people whose hearts are open."

However, Smalley said that, over the years, her line of work alerted her to some more unusual qualities she possessed.

The first time Smalley started experiencing what she describes as metaphysical powers was while living in the mountains near Nevada City.

"It's mostly about feeling energy in a very physical way," she explained, adding that her intuitive skills have allowed her to sense what people are feeling or thinking.

Other developments have been simpler: "I've become more visual. Like, if I go to the grocery store, instead of thinking, 'I need cottage cheese,' I'll see it in my mind.'"

Smalley's experiences led her to pen her debut novel, Confessions of a Reluctant Psychic, a first-person narrative about Brown, a woman who's been given the gift of psychic abilities--and who'd like very much to give them back.

While working as a counselor, Brown is approached by the police and asked to help find a missing mother of two young girls. At first reluctant to participate in the search, Brown is driven by her powers to find the woman before danger sets in.

But Brown must balance looking for the woman with the emergence of two possible love interests: detective Johan Haley and an old high school flame, Frank Emerson, who's now an Episcopalian priest.

Although the plot might sound like something straight out of The Twilight Zone, Smalley said she strove to keep the material light and entertaining.

"I hope the book makes people laugh," she said, adding that she also hopes her book will open people's minds and help them "realize that [having metaphysical abilities] isn't that weird."

"I think there are a lot of people out there who might feel different or strange because of certain capabilities they possess," she said. "People might hold those kinds of things back in our society because they're afraid that they'll get made fun of or hurt.

"I really think it's something we all have we've just been taught to ignore it," she concluded.

Smalley's Confessions of a Reluctant Psychic is currently being published by James A. Rock & Co., and is expected to be available online and in bookstores by the end of next month.

For more information about the book, contact Smalley at


A creative life

Allan Hancock College professor Ed Harvey lived the epitome of a creative life. As a boy, Harvey displayed promising talent while taking art classes at the Pasadena Museum of History. He went on to earn undergraduate and master's degrees in fine arts, and spent 25 years teaching art history to students on the Central Coast.

Harvey also channeled his creativity into countless artistic mediums, including sculpture, painting, glassworks, animation, and digital painting. From canvas renderings of the cosmos to "plot-less and character-less" animations infused with color, Harvey let his curiosity and artistic drive run free. And even when his life was threatened by a rare form of aggressive cancer, he continued to create beautiful works of art.

Between chemotherapy sessions, teaching classes, and spending time with his wife, Mary, Harvey poured himself into his art. And when his diagnosis continued to worsen, he asked Marti Fast, an Allan Hancock colleague and director of the Ann Foxworthy Gallery, if she could produce his one-man show.

While working on Harvey's show, Energy, Fast enlisted the help of fellow professors Casey and Susan Case to document interviews with Harvey during which he commented on his art, life, and personal beliefs.

Although his body began to deteriorate under the strain of the cancer, Harvey's mind remained whip-smart and highly philosophical.

In interviews, Harvey peppered personal memories (baking

lessons from his mother) with soul-searching questions such as "Why do [humans] like art?" and "Why is art valuable and why is it integral to who we are?"

Until the day he died in September 2004, Harvey remained positive and full of life. When asked if he was afraid of dying, he said, "No. I'm afraid of suffering, but I'm not afraid of death. I know I'll be okay."

Harvey's attitude and art were a light for everyone he came into contact with, including Susan Case.

"[Ed] was an inspirational person before he got sick," Susan Case told the Sun before a recent screening of the documentary of Harvey's life in Lompoc. "He was an intellectual, an artist, and a storyteller.

"Once we realized he was in a fight for his life, we wanted to know if there was anything we could do to help," she said. "The interviews seemed to help him."

Eventually, a group of friends, students, and colleagues--led by Fast and the Cases--turned Harvey's interviews into an hour-long documentary called A Creative Life--Who is Ed Harvey? Coupled with another exhibit of his art, the documentary celebrates the life of an extraordinary man and artist.

Harvey's story also inspired the formation of the Legacy Project, an ongoing lecture series that celebrates legacies--personal histories, and artistic and cultural treasures passed from generation to generation.

After four years of editing, A Creative Life was submitted to the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival, which then selected and showed the film in April of this year.

The film was a labor of love for everyone involved in the process, including Casey Case.

"It took a long time to edit ... mainly because it took a long time to be able to look at the footage without getting enveloped in sadness," said director Case, who also worked with Kevin Bailey, a professional filmmaker and a former student of Harvey's who edited the project.

"We didn't want the film to be a story about a man dying with cancer--that was very clear," Casey said.

Despite his grief over losing a friend and colleague, Casey said that it was imperative he finish the film.

"It meant a lot to me to finish [the film] because I told Ed I would," he said. "As long as it was incomplete, it just seemed like there was a big void in my life."

Case's wife, Susan, agreed with the urgency felt by everyone involved to get the film done.

"There was so much talent and focus involved in this project," she said, adding that she thinks the film will benefit everyone who sees it.

"Ed's art and his message was very thought- provoking in regard to how you use your time on this planet. This film makes you examine your life and asks, 'Is that really what you want to do with your time?'" she said.

Currently, the Cases are busy submitting A Creative Life to film festivals across the nation. However, they are also working on launching a website for the project.

Meanwhile, the film will screen on May 15 at Allan Hancock College's Santa Maria campus. Also, an exhibit of Harvey's work is on display through May 16 at the Ann Foxworthy Gallery. The Santa Maria campus is located at 800 S. College Dr. For more information about the film or the exhibit, call the Fine Arts Department at 922-6966, Ext. 3252.

Contact Staff Writer Amy Asman at

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