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Hatteras Island has a surprising art colony. Some very gifted artists grew up here. Others have been attracted by the landscape, the lifestyle or the chance to join the others already here in a true artistic community. After several decades of this, the island is rich in art. Major art sales, such as the one at the school every August, attract artists from a wide geographic area. The islands of Hatteras and Ocracoke combined boast 15 professional galleries, many run by the artists whose work is on display. And the Northern Banks offer another 20 galleries plus art festivals at least once a month. You can also take lessons in painting, ceramics, photography and jewelrymaking. If you're an art lover and want to take a piece of Hatteras or Ocracoke home with you, you can spend part of every day here browsing for just the perfect piece.
No matter where on the island you're staying, the logical place to start exploring Hatteras Art is the Pea Island Gallery. Run by photographer Kim Robertson, this collection is housed in a unique replica of an 1874 Scandinavian style lifesaving station. As an artist, Kim has specialized in chemically enhanced color film photography. She has used nontraditional chemical washes to bring out deeper, more subtle or more vivid colors than the usual chemicals do. But Pea Island displays the work of 138 artists ranging in price from $12 to $7000. There are painters, ceramicists, fabricists and other artisans represented, and Kim knows every one personally. Sadly, running the gallery has limited the time Kim can devote to her own art, but she is a gracious host, eager to teach the public about the works she displays.
Michael Halminski started coming down to Hatteras on surfing trips when he was a student majoring in Photojournalism. When he finished college in 1973 he came down for a final Summer of surfing and just never left. He designed and built his combination home/ studio/ gallery and has made a living solely from his photography ever since. All the photos in the gallery are his own. They include island wildlife, beachscapes, buildings, people and waterscapes. Until recently he maintained his own darkroom and developed all his own images, but he has now shifted to digital. Halminski's work has been displayed at the Carolina Aquarium and other places. He doesn't see the traffic larger galleries do but almost everyone who stops buys something. Halminski is an interesting Hatteras character in his own right. He still surfs, insisting on using his old 9 foot California Longboard in this shortboard era. His other hobby is Oyster Gardening. He learned about it while photographing local oyster farmers. Since Halminski's three acre lot fronts on Pamlico Sound, he developed his own oyster beds and now spends two hours a day tending them. You have to look carefully for Michael Halminski Photography hidden in the trees on the west side of Highway 12 in the little town of Waves, but there's a sign at the driveway. (The flaws in the photos below are mine; these are mounted under glass and it reflected back to my camera.)
Carolyn and Gary Schena majored in Glass and Ceramics respectively in college in New York, then moved to Hatteras to open Studio 12, a combo studio / gallery where they display and sell their art, offer lessons in glass, ceramics and jewelry making, and offer the public the chance to create their own ceramic works. They create their own art from October through April and sell it from May through September. Most of the work shown is theirs, and it's impressive. Carolyn works mostly in glass, creating very delicate, strikingly beautiful coral bowls (below left) and wave bowls (below right). Gary specializes in large, thin and lightweight ceramic platters, dishes and other servingware (below center). His work has won first place in Carolina competitions. Studio 12 faces Highway 12 in the center of Avon.
Back in the fishing village of Kinnakeet, Antoinette Mattingly runs the Kinnakeet Clay Studio & Gallery. She works mostly in Ceramics but also displays works by other artists. The strength of her collection is the array of raised basrelief panels and other items, which require three steps to make. First the artist has to make a mold with the details carved down in. Then she lays the clay over it so the depressions in the mold create raised features in the panel. She fires that at low heat, glazes and paints it, then refires it at high heat. The results are striking, as in the sunflower panel on the left, which hangs on the wall like a painting. The free standing sunflower in the center photo has a full stem and can be mounted on a wall or placed in a large vase. Dianne Lee creates the crab adorned pottery at right, which are intended as a dramatic centerpiece. Kinnakeet Clay also offers classes in ceramics, watercolors and other art forms.
Daniel Pullen grew up on the island and is now one of its most gifted photographers. He and his wife run a studio out of his home. Pullen's iconic Sunset Surfer photo (right) has won numerous awards and is available framed for $250, or in various smaller sizes unframed for as low as $25. But he has hundreds of other images in the same price range. Pullen also works as a wedding and official school photographer, so he is not always in his gallery. His works, especially the famous surfer shot, are available at art galleries throughout the island.
The Blue Pelican Gallery is near the intersection in downtown Hatteras Village. Owned by local artist Jenn Johnson, it features pottery, jewelry, glassware and fiber art. This is the best place on the Outer Banks to find Dune Jewelry (below left), Beachsand Snowflakes (center), and Beach Globules (the one pictured contains sand, two shells and a sterling silver starfish), all made with Hatteras sand. But it's also a center for Yarn. They sell various national yarn brands and the tools to knit and crochet and there's usually someone around to discuss yarn arts with. This is a converted residence but it's crammed full of art and is worth at least an hour visit. After three hurricanes in one year in 2020, they raised this house up on stilts so it looks slightly different today.
If you like a little music with your art, the Red Drum Pottery is your place. On Route 12 in Frisco, it's run by Wes Lassiter and partner Rhonda Bates. Lassiter's second love is Bluegrass Music. He has built his own theatre and hosts an annual concert schedule. Admission is usually $12 and includes wine and cheese. Lassiter also promotes an annual September "Mountain Music By The Sea Festival," which brings in such notables as Ricky Skaggs, Steep Canyon Rangers, Rhonda Vincent, and the Lonesome River Band. Don't let the music distract you, however. Wes and Rhonda are serious ceramicists. They have a full sized wood fired kiln plus an array of electric kilns. Wes is on the cutting edge of bas relief plaques, shown in the first two photos below. Rhonda creates more traditional wheel thrown pottery, as shown in the third photo. The Red Drum offers lessons in various ceramic forms. The gallery contents are constantly rotating as pieces are sold and replaced by new creations.
What used to be Indiantown Gallery is now Swell Art. Its new home, in the front building of the Swell Motel in Buxton, is unimpressive on the outside, but don't let this deter you. Inside is a fine collection of local art created either on the island or within the state of North Carolina. April Trueblood was the manager of Indiantown and is still the manager here, but she says the collection has taken a major change in direction. It no longer features as much spectacular local photography, but still has one corner of mostly Don Bower shots. Bower lives in Frisco and is staff photographer for the Island Times. Several of Indiantown's favorite photographers have retired or stepped away from their cameras. The Swell does offer beautiful tiles (below left), by Stephanie Kiker, an NC State art graduate who lives on Hatteras and surfs and kiteboards between studio sessions. There are also ceramics (below center) and paintings (below right). The Swell offers whimsical pieces, jewelry and metalwork. Their collection represents a dilemma local and regional artists face. Buyers prefer handmade pieces, but artists have a hard time keeping up with demand. They can only create so many pieces a week. To produce more, they outsource their work to companies specializing in reproductions. This produces more art and increases their income, but can no longer be called handmade. Most of the work displayed here is still handmade but there are some pieces reproduced.
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