TBA Gallery features unique gifts created by local artists
ALPENA — Finding a unique gift for that special someone is as easy as walking into Thunder Bay Arts Gallery in downtown Alpena.
With handcrafted pieces made by 22 local artists, priced from $2 to $200 or more, the gallery truly features something for everyone on your list, including yourself.
The co-op gallery supports the artists by giving them a space to show and sell their work, in exchange for them working there on a rotation. The artists are able to keep their prices lower because the gallery does not take commission on their profits. It’s good for business, the artists, and the community.
Susie Morrell has been showing and selling her oil paintings of all sizes at the gallery since February. She loves the atmosphere and the camaraderie among the artists.
“I love the co-op gallery,” said Morrell, who lives in Hubbard Lake. “I love being able to participate, working. We all have to work one day a month. The people are wonderful.”
She talked of the diversity of artwork available in the gallery.
“We try to have different mediums from all different artists, so there’s a good representation of all kinds of art,” Morrell said.
Oil paintings, watercolors, fiber art, wallets, mixed media pieces, photography, woodworking, pottery, jewelry, baskets, handmade notecards, and furniture are just some of the many original items available at the gallery.
Corky Gates works with alcohol inks. The colors spread and do their own thing, creating a unique piece every time.
“It’s fun,” she said. “I just let it, kind of, go on its own, and then I work with what it’s presented to me.”
Gates, of Grand Lake, started showing at the gallery in 2016.
“I was trying different things, so I just started painting little flower pictures on stones,” Gates added. “Because I love, love, love, love, love stones.”
She also loves the co-op gallery, and her fellow artists.
“There are some really, really good artists in here,” she said. “It’s a cool gallery.”
Shirley Jones, of Alpena, displays and sells her handcrafted baskets at the gallery.
“I’ve been at the gallery for two years now,” Jones said. “It’s a great organization. Really good people to work with. It’s fun working the store because you get to meet so many people. A lot of people from out of town, but a lot of Alpena people who don’t know about this place, and are in awe when they come in.”
The artists set their own prices, which keeps it affordable.
“They’re reasonably priced,” Jones said. “For what you’re getting, it’s all handmade, original artwork. So, it does take a lot of time for these artists.”
Pat Manning is a watercolor artist and has been showing and selling her artwork since the gallery opened over a decade ago.
“One of the things I really enjoy doing, especially around Christmas, are my little greeting cards,” Manning said. “Each one is individually painted. I don’t do prints. So, they’re unique, and they’re a lot of fun, not only for me to do, but for people to give. There’s a little sense of humor on each and every one.”
Manning has been a watercolor artist for as long as she can remember.
“I’ve always enjoyed painting,” she said. “I enjoy learning new things. And part of why I really like being at the gallery is we really inspire each other. We encourage each other, we challenge each other, and we really do inspire each other.”
She said the gallery is in its 12th year, and she was one of the original members.
“It’s an honor and a privilege,” Manning said. “We are blessed to have this gallery and the support of the community.”
Stephanie LaFramboise, of Hillman, has been showing at the gallery for about four-and-a-half years.
“My work is mostly realism,” she said. “I work in charcoal, watercolor, and pastels.”
She said the gallery gives artists a place to gather and share their talents with the community.
“There are so may talented people around,” LaFramboise said. “It’s just a wonderful opportunity.”
Kay Kline makes baskets and fiber art, including painting scarves.
“One of the fun things I make is felted soap,” she added. “I started doing this with my grandkids.”
She likes to mix it up and try new things.
“I get ideas and I have to see how they work,” Kline said. “I’ve been consciously doing artwork since I was 8.”
She’s happy to be at the TBA Gallery.
“The gallery is a good group of people,” Kline added. “We’re so varied in our talents, and how we present things … everybody is very different, and we complement each other.”
Dean Huey, of Presque Isle, makes unique wooden benches and Michigan-themed wall hangings.
“It’s all epoxy artwork,” Huey explained. “I make furniture, and then I decided to start doing this stuff.”
He said the process takes a long time because epoxy needs to dry for 24 hours, then cure for 30 days.
“The hard part is trying not to get anything to land on it in that 24 hours,” he said. “Anything that falls on it, if you’re a perfectionist, it’s irritating.”
Huey’s artwork has been at the gallery since May.
“It seems awesome,” he said of the gallery. “For five years, I didn’t know about it.”
Originally from the Detroit area, Huey is glad to be a part of the TBA Gallery. His work is also featured in two Detroit galleries.
“When I found out about this one, I wanted to come see what it was all about,” Huey said. “I think this is my favorite. There’s more interaction with artists. At the other galleries, I couldn’t name one artist. I don’t think we ever really talked to each other.”
Huey moved up to Presque Isle six years ago.
His work features the shape of Michigan in a variety of items, including wall hangings, ornaments, and magnets.
“The outdoorsy stuff has been a big seller at shows and here at the gallery,” he added.
He also said the military and first responder pieces are very popular.
Mary Anne Donadio makes birch bark baskets and lampshades out of found wood from, well, the woods. She’s been doing it “off and on for 25 years.”
This is her second year displaying at the gallery.
“If you saw a downed tree — it’s always dead trees, I don’t use live trees — what you would see on the tree is the texture of the bark,” Donadio said.
That’s what she likes to work with. Every basket she makes is unique, and the bark tells her which way it’s going to bend, or not bend.
“I just like the texture,” she said. “I like the variety of colors. I never get bored with it. And you can use the front side of the bark, or the back side.”
“There’s something for everybody,” Manning added. “It’s a unique place. No one will get a duplicate of this, when they open it up.”
She added that many of the artists, including herself, do commissioned work by request.
“We enjoy doing it,” Manning said. “So, just come in and ask, and look around, and if you don’t see something, maybe we can make something for you.”