Showing posts with label News. Show all posts
Showing posts with label News. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

BLUME: John Haddad arts and crafts

Credit: Aimee Blume / Special to The Courier & Press

Woodworker and modern folk artist John Haddad of Evansville prefers art to be functional with a dose of whimsy, for example, this turtle-head coat rack.

Not everyone is willing or able to leave behind a successful career and dive into a passion for creativity, design, and humor. However, John Haddad of Evansville has managed to move from a career in the building trades into modern folk art, while still relying on materials common to house construction, carpentry skills and a keen eye for appealing design.

Haddad and his wife, Lesly, moved here from Pennsylvania three years ago. Haddad worked in the home building industry. Lesly grew up in Odon, Indiana, and has children living in Petersburg and Vincennes. Wanting to be nearer to family but in an urban area, the couple chose Evansville as the place to settle.

“My intention when I came to Evansville was to publish a home improvement magazine,” said Haddad. “I had everything lined up. At home I was the expert, but everyone here thought of me as a stranger. After a certain day, I walked in the house and said ‘I quit.’ Lesly asked what I was going to do, and I said I was going to make wooden birdhouses.”

Haddad started making all-wood construction birdhouses and bird feeders, using only the shape of the wood to hold the pieces together, with no nails or screws. With these first pieces he also began his signature use of recycled and reclaimed materials — in this case, the knotty pine boards that covered his basement walls but had been damaged by floodwaters.

“Everything I make is out of reclaimed wood,” said Haddad. “I helped deconstruct the Karges house on Second Street and I have a lot of the poplar from that.”

A turning point in his work was reached a short time later when a friend and neighbor requested a custom birdhouse with three-dimensional decoration. Haddad added four layers of wood that looked like the mountains around Gatlinburg, Tennessee, painted the creation and added steel wire trees. It was the first time he’d painted a craft or worked with wire.

That first painting led him to create painted wall sculptures from bits of leftover wood, and soon enough the same friend suggested he try making wooden vases.

When he first began selling at arts and craft shows, Haddad stuck to the straight and narrow. For the Christmas season, he produced wooden snow men made of roughly stacked, painted blocks of wood. The rustic sculptures were quite jolly and commercially acceptable — too much so for the quirky Haddad.

“I did the old County Courthouse show two years ago,” he said. “I made wooden snowmen for that. They were cute. I didn’t like them. But they’ve turned into something else — the angry snowman.” He pulled out another rustic snowman, this time with glowering brows and a fierce grimace, more than capable of being the bad guy in any claymation cartoon. “I made a couple of those just to be silly, and people wanted to by them more than the cute ones.”

Haddad’s style continues to be a work in progress, which is gratifying yet frustrating, he said. Of course, it’s when artists are in extremis that much of their unique work is created.

“Last year was hard on me because I tried to think of everything in the world I might like to make but that people also would buy,” he said. “I was frustrated, and that led to the monsters.”

Haddad’s monsters might be his signature pieces to date. Again made from scrap wood, heavy-gauge wire and paint, the silly creations boast somewhat cubic dimensions, fierce faces with at least one eye, and wire arms, hands or hair that can hold business cards or photographs, if that’s how you want to use them. Haddad is more concerned that they bring a smile to your face.

“I had a guy from new jersey order 10 of the monsters to put around the house just to make him smile,” he said. “To me, that’s success. If I can make a piece that makes me laugh, that’s a good thing. If it makes me giggle while I’m making it, it’s a good piece.”

After the success of the monster theme, Haddad added whimsical animals to his lineup. What began as happy little fish-shaped cutouts for refrigerator magnets became three-dimensional fish sculptures and “stabiles” — stationary mobiles with carefully balanced appendages that sit on a surface rather than hang. Other mobiles give new meaning to the terms “flying fish” and “amphibious aircraft” as fish sprout propellers and airplane wings. Ladybugs feast on blocks of Swiss cheese. Grinning turtle heads stretch from a coat rack to receive your jacket. Anything goes, as long as it’s fun.

“I did some shows and the Franklin Street Bazaar last summer, and the bazaar was really the catalyst for a lot of stuff,” said Haddad. “Every week I wanted to take something new.”

In the immediate future, Haddad wants to keep his sense of simple whimsy intact while creating pieces that are as functional as they are decorative. Coat racks and desk pieces are already in production, while he’s putting together ideas for lighting and chandeliers,
“It has to be the fun and funky stuff though,” he said. “If it’s all straight and square and boring, if it doesn’t make me laugh, I don’t like it. The biggest intent of my work is making people smile and laugh out loud. I want what I make to be fun and lighthearted.”

To see more of Haddad’s art, visit him this summer at the Franklin Street Bazaar or go to his website at haddadart.com.