A nice, summery page for Orangeburg T&D

Last week I designed this page. The editor asked for me to simply “get creative with it,” so I added a little citrusy fun to this Orangeburg Times and Democrat A1.

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Lathrup Village clockmaker enjoys sharing his works with people

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Photo courtesy of Duane Scherer

Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Press

When choosing the direction his life would take, Duane Scherer knew he wanted to do something creative.

After high school, the Lathrup Village resident worked as a musician and began painting, and a few years later, focused solely on visual art.

“I wanted to bring joy and aesthetic variation to everyone,” says Scherer, of Lathrup Village.

He exhibited at galleries for years, but upon starting a family, focused on using his creativity to earn a living.

Leaving the gallery behind, Scherer found passion — and success — in creating whimsical clocks.

“For me, the way that I approached my life is with experimentation and different things,” Scherer says. “I like making the clocks because I’m able to do a lot of things and have fun with it, making works of art that are reasonably priced that the average person can take home.”

Scherer is proud that his clocks are completely American-made, from the quartz to the metal and stamping, he realized it was less expensive to buy the materials from smaller companies.

He uses fabric and paper in various patterns and colors, which he says people find reminiscent of “Alice in Wonderland.”

He most enjoys the “wow factor” of his booth at art fairs, that his works get people excited. He says this is a reason art lovers from around the world have purchased his clocks when he’s taken them to shows around the country.

“My clock line caters to so many people — I sell to couples, people with tattoos and plugs, old grandmothers,” Scherer says. “This young lady in high school came and wanted to buy a clock with money she earned from her part-time job. In the same show, a woman and her mother were visiting from South Africa and bought a clock from me to take back with them.”

Scherer will bring his clocks to the Ann Arbor Art Fair July 20-23, along with more than 1,000 other juried artists who will fill 29 city blocks downtown.

In its 50th year, this show — actually four fairs in one event — is one of the largest outdoor art fairs in the U.S., with a variety of media.

Karen Delhey, spokeswoman for the fair, said it is different each year as artists evolve. “Whether you’re a seasoned art enthusiast or a novice collector, there’s so much to discover that the experience is inspiring and unparalleled,” she said in a statement.

The fair also includes artist demonstrations, street performances, food and a variety of shops and sidewalk sales. There are also kids activities, too, including Legoland, clay work, art activity zones and dinosaur puppet creation.

“The thing I like about Ann Arbor is the thing I like about a few shows, it’s got a diversity of people that go there,” Scherer says. “I get into interesting conversations with microbiologists, psychiatrists, doctors, housewives. There are so many different people. I like that — I like people.”

• If You Go: Ann Arbor Art Fair spans 29 blocks in downtown Ann Arbor, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, July 20-22 and noon-6 p.m. Sunday, July 23. Parking, transportation and more info available at theannarborartfair.com.

Metro Detroit artists bring birds to life through paintings

Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Press

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Photo courtesy of Helena Kuttner-Giasson

For painter Helena Kuttner-Giasson, art is a way to communicate in more ways than one. When she couldn’t find the words, her art spoke for her, and she took inspiration from her surroundings.

“Art is my first language,” says Kuttner-Giasson, of Clinton Township. “I always enjoyed doodling and drawing from the time I was able to hold a crayon. When I was 4 years old, my immediate family immigrated to America from Europe, leaving behind what is now the Czech Republic. As I struggled to learn English, I discovered that drawing was a way to bridge the language and culture gap.”

Kuttner-Giasson is one of three artists with paintings in Level One Bank’s latest exhibit, “Birds: An Avian Adventure,” going on through Feb. 6.

While she paints landscapes and has always painted birds, she took a more intuitive and spontaneous approach to these paintings after watching birds in her yard.

“This Autumn in particular, my yard was filled with a myriad of sparrows, woodpeckers, buntings, cardinals — it became an airport for these world travelers as they prepared to depart to warmer climates,” Kuttner-Giasson says.

“Different birds represent different moments and ideas to each of us, so it was a perfect opportunity to paint a myriad of birds. I spent quite a bit of time observing how so many species could group together and watch out for each other with warning calls, sharing berries and seeds from the garden and the feeders. After many days of observation, it became rather impossible not to humanize their interactions with each other.”

Rather than compose her works as scientific observations, she used what she observed, and just began to paint.

“Nature is our common experience, the sum of many small differences,” Kuttner-Giasson says. “To me, birds symbolize how all of us with our differences across the world can come together and celebrate the community of being. During a season where there is very little color in the land and sky, I think having a bird-themed show is a wonderful way to warm our spirits while we await the arrival of spring.”

The group exhibit highlights aviary works of three metro-detroit artists, in the gallery area of Level One, called the Community Art Gallery, which takes up the entire front of the bank, and has been hosting art exhibits for about 10 years.

Exhibit host Mark McDaniel Burton has been curating shows at the gallery for about a year and a half and says it’s a nice space to highlight a large amount of work.

“The gallery is quite big, so each artist has their own section,” he says.

“For one thing, people should come to the show to escape the cold weather. And people don’t normally think of a bank having a gallery. It’s a unique space, and a chance to see some fantastic local artists.”

The bird theme fell into place when Burton was putting the show together. He reached out to artists, and Marilyn Bicsak Thomas sent her realistic, almost photographic paintings of birds. Kuttner-Giasson also sent her new loose, sketchy water-color pieces, which happened to show birds as well. And Louis Wildfong had a pen-and-ink series of fantastical, humorous birds, complementing the others.

“It brings a really diverse look in a single subject, instead of doing all photographs or hyper realistic, you have these different takes on the same object — birds,” Burton says. “You get three different views from three different artists.”

• Birds: An Avian Adventure exhibition is up through Feb. 6 at Level One Bank, 22635 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. The gallery is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday.

Recent design work

Lately, I’ve been trying to be more creative with my designs. For the following covers I used cutouts to make the page stand out and pop a little more. Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 6.36.28 PMScreen Shot 2016-08-07 at 1.08.47 PMScreen Shot 2016-08-04 at 3.01.55 AM

Local photographer and author release third picture book, ‘Among a Thousand Fireflies’

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Photo courtesy of Rick Lieder.

Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Press

Rick Lieder knows beauty and nature can be found right in your own back yard.

In his latest children’s book, “Among a Thousand Fireflies,” created with award-winning poet Helen Frost, the long-time photographer, artist and former photojournalist captured fireflies outside his home.

“Helen did a great job telling the story,” says Lieder, who is originally from Detroit but has lived in Berkley for 25 years. ““I’m taking world-class pictures, as good as anybody in the world is doing and I’m doing it in my back yard.”

While Lieder has a lot of experience in photography and designing book covers, he says he enjoys nature photos because they are challenging and different from what he usually works on. His goal is to make unique pictures, capturing birds and insects he sees in the wild.

“I’m always trying to challenge myself, if it’s hard to do I always want to do it more strongly,” Lieder says.

His science background, including studies at the University of Michigan, helped him with the technical side, but paying attention to lighting and details of the outside world gives him a more creative outlet. Many other photographers have captured fireflies in flight, for example, but by studying the insects intently, Lieder figured out how to catch them in static images.

The two also collaborated on “Sweep Up the Sun” last year, and “Step Gently Out” in 2012. Frost and Lieder hope their books encourage readers’ appreciation of the world around them.

“I’ve always loved nature, and I think we all appreciate nature — maybe none of us are as close to it as we’d like to be,” Lieder says. “Most of my work is not the nature books. Most of my photography is very urban and deals with lots of subjects and people. Much of what I do is completely different than this, but I like to express myself and these books are a good way to do it.”

While Lieder’s images are strong, Frost’s words bring them to life even more. Ever since she was little, Frost says, she loved writing. The former teacher from Fort Wayne, Ind., has written many different kinds of books, but especially likes putting pictures together with her poetry.

“I think for me, I love poetry and I love children, so it’s a really good combination when I write poetry for children. It’s a joy for me,” she says. “Children really like the sound as well as the meaning. I try to make it lovely and exciting.”

Her writing process is different for each book, but she never just sits down and writes it — it takes time and work.

While she has worked with illustrators in the past, she says having actual photos and creating these stories with Lieder has been a different, more collaborative experience.

Lieder’s photos and Frost’s poems are arranged in a way that both children and adults can enjoy.

When they created the stories, they chose a subject in Lieder’s photos, and Frost told the story through a poem.

She worked with him and their editor to put together the poem and figure out which lines went with each photo, in addition to adding information in the back of the book about the story.

Frost and Lieder return to The Book Beat bookstore in Oak Park on March 12, to promote “Among a Thousand Fireflies.” They met at the store 10 years ago, which started their book-making journey.

“We have a special feeling towards the Book Beat,” Frost says. “We loved doing our first book event there.”

With Lieder’s love for nature photography and repertoire of photos, “Among a Thousand Fireflies” won’t be their last book. The two have many more in the works.

“Helen did a great job telling the story,” Lieder says. “A lot of people think that what I do requires a lot of expensive equipment, but it doesn’t. It’s not the equipment, it’s how I’m looking at the world.”

Stephanie Sokol for The Oakland Press

Kelly DiPucchio wants to show the world that picture books aren’t just for

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Kelly DiPucchio, 48, of Rochester, has proof that adults enjoy children’s picture books just as much as kids do. Courtesy of Kelly DiPucchio

kids.

DiPucchio, 48, knows a wide audience can enjoy and benefit from reading art-filled stories.

“Picture books are ageless — I dislike age ranges on books,” DiPucchio says. “Whether you’re 1 or 100 years old, you can enjoy a picture book.”

With the release of the Rochester native’s most recent story, “Everyone Loves Bacon,” at the end of August, she has proof that adults enjoy them just as much as kids.

“The fun part of this book is seeing both kids and adults responding to character and finding it funny,” says DiPucchio, who now lives in Macomb Township. “Even my agent, a vegetarian, loved the story. It’s quite possibly the best and worst thing I’ve ever written. It’s been interesting because bacon lovers fall into all categories of ages — a lot of adults have been buying the picture book for bacon lovers they know.”

DiPucchio’s love of picture books rejuvenated when she started reading to her own children. She was looking to switch careers so she could work from home, so she decided to write stories.

While DiPucchio has had 19 books published, with more in the works, it took time and persistence to get to where she is today.

After six years of writing, reading and submitting her works to publishers, and facing 150 to 200 rejection letters, DiPucchio got an agent. Her first book, “What’s The Magic Word,” was picked up by Harper Collins in 2001.

When DiPucchio is putting a story together, inspiration comes from all around her. Everyday life, parenting and watching her own kids were the original source, but she says she gets a lot of ideas just observing the world.

“My job is always interesting, and always changing — each book is unique,” DiPucchio says. “My body of work is very diverse. All of the books are different and the art reflects that. The illustrators are chosen to match the text.”

Among her works, two books, “Grace for President” and “The Sandwich Swap,” are New York Times best sellers. Both stories were special to DiPucchio.

“Grace for President” tells the story of a young girl questioning why no girl has run for president at her school.

In addition to telling the story of Grace’s candidacy at school, the book talks in depth about the election process. DiPucchio says she has heard from teachers who use it to teach their students about government — even high-schoolers.

Through its “Teach A Girl to Lead” project, The Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University plans to send copies of the book to every woman governor, member of Congress and state legislator in America, to share at their local elementary schools in 2016.

DiPucchio’s other New York Times best seller, “The Sandwich Swap,” shares one of the Queen of Jordan’s childhood stories.

DiPucchio met with the Queen to fictionalize her memories into a book, which tells a story of tolerance and cultural differences. “The Sandwich Shop” ended up being published in more than six different languages, and shown on “Good Morning America” and “Oprah.”

“It’s very surreal,” DiPucchio says.

Some of her books have also been interpreted theatrically. “Zombie in Love” premiered as a musical in Portland, Ore., in 2014, and “Grace for President” will be performed on stage in North Carolina next year.

In addition to her recent bacon book, DiPucchio has three books set to be published in 2016: “One Little, Two Little, Three Little Children,” “Dragon was Terrible” and “Everyone Loves Cupcake.”

While putting the stories together and seeing them published has been exciting for her, DiPucchio says one of her favorite parts of her work is sharing the stories with children.

“I go to schools and talk to kids about books, talk about humor, poetry, creative nonfiction and working with the queen,” DiPucchio says. “It’s been a really wonderful career, and I love it just as much today as 20 years ago, when started on this path.”

Coming-of-age film ‘Superior’ showcases beauty of Northern Michigan

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Photo/Edd Benda

Birmingham-native filmmaker Edd Benda returned to his home state last year to put together the Upper Peninsula adventure film “Superior.”

The idea for the film came to Benda, 25, at a family Thanksgiving dinner table a few years ago. His uncle, Karl Benda, shared the story of a bicycle trip he took Up North more than 40 years ago with friend Dan “Dudza” Junttila, before they were deployed to Vietnam.

The tale inspired Benda to share the beauty of Lake Superior and uncertainty of young adulthood through “Superior,” his first feature-film as a writer and director.

“‘Superior’ is a snapshot of America in 1969, when futures were uncertain, and yet the most outlandish adventures remained possible,” Benda says.

“I was so fascinated by the time, place and adventure itself (of his uncle’s story) that I started writing this movie. Superior is not just based on their story — it’s more of a patchwork quilt mash-up of stories I’d listened to over the years. My dad is from family of nine kids who went on lots of adventures, and he was always sharing stories with me also.”

After graduating from The International Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Benda moved to Los Angeles. Studying filmmaking at the University of Southern California, he stayed on the West Coast after college, making short films through his independent film company “Beyond the Porch Productions.”

Benda shared his idea to base a film on his uncle’s story, and his team was interested in the project. Benda’s dream to create “Superior” became reality in summer 2014. He thoroughly researched the time period, considering his uncle’s story as well as life in the 1960s and early ’70s — especially for young men facing the draft — and the story line came together.

For 21 days, they filmed in the Keeweenaw Peninsula, the northernmost point in the Upper Peninsula.

The film crew, who were mainly from Los Angeles and had never been to the Midwest, also got into character, camping and living the Northern Michigan lifestyle the movie centers on.

“We not only spent time making this movie about an adventure, but were living it on our own,” Benda says. “It was a big part of the creative process.”

“Superior” stars Paul Stanko and Thatcher Robinson, as well a cast of what Benda described as “true-blue Yoopers,” noting he wanted to truly bring out the Michigan character.

“The movie takes place in Northern Michigan, and showcases one of the most beautiful parts of the state that I get to call home,” Benda says. “You couldn’t make this movie anywhere else — it had to be made in Great Lakes state.”

In addition to filming on location true to his uncle’s story, Benda wanted to make everything true to the times. Finding old vehicles and props was sometimes a challenge, but the bicycles ridden in the movie were those used by his uncle and friend back in the day.

While the film is only roughly based on his story, Uncle Karl has enjoyed being a local celebrity, Benda says. And “Superior” has been praised by people in the UP as well as nationally.

Following screenings in nine Michigan cities and locations around the country, the final showing of “Superior” is on Monday, Nov. 9, at the Maple Theater in Bloomfield Township. Benda says he’s excited to bring his work back home.

“To round it off in my hometown is what I’m most excited about,” Benda says. “This film is very much a labor of love of mine, and it showcases the state I love so much and the kind of world that created me. I went to school in Birmingham, and had a lot of friends and support in local community — it’s part of who I am.”

For more information about Superior and Edd Benda’s other work, visit eddbenda.com/. Tickets to the screening at the Bloomfield Maple Theater can be purchased at themapletheater.com/.