Charleston · Entertainment in SC

My Charleston City Paper Debut (in homage to Edgar Allen Poe)

From The Charleston City Paper:
Back from the Grave side shows took center stage: Poe would have approved
by Sara Dobie

The setting was ideal. The weather was threatening. And the performances, high caliber. However, that being said, we think that Edgar Allan Poe would have been most attuned to the female talent and the side show entertainment that made Saturday night most memorable.

BellyDancerPoe_thumbThanks to the Creative Spark Center for the Arts and the Sullivan’s Island Park Service, Edgar Allan Poe: Back from the Grave did not disappoint. Standing in a slow moving and lengthy line before the show, attendees were mystified by projected images on the front of the decrepit yet creepily charming Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island. What made the wait worth it? Belly dancers, casting their undulating shadows on the backdrop of moving flames and the ghostly image of EAP.

Inside this tomb of a fort, voices echoed like screams of soldiers long dead, thanks to the talented participants from Contemporary Theater Lab. A Poe look-alike greeted us at the door, and things just got more freakishly uncomfortable as actors addressed the audience like old friends. The spectators were close enough to the actors and actresses to make eye contact and feel as if each performer told secrets for our ears alone.

Highlights from the actors included a bloody Pit and the Pendulum, a haunting Fall of the House of Usher, and a full-on dance and sword fight to celebrate the terror of The Masque of the Red Death. However, the side shows truly stole the spotlight. Whether it was the undulating hips of the coin clad belly dancers outside, the haunting vocals of Cary Ann Hearst (a woman I deem the creepy gothic version of a modern day Billie Holliday), or even the blood-sucking mosquitoes terrorizing onlookers,  it was an event Poe could have organized himself. Or at least, it was an event Poe would have attended, enjoyed, and haunted, to the terror and fascination of a Halloween happy Charleston mob.

(See more images at the Charleston City Paper website.)

Entertainment in SC · Music

Boone Hall BBQ Championship and Bluegrass Festival

To think, I was just there to see Ricky Skaggs. But here’s what happened…I fell in love with the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Let me back up. I hadn’t heard about the Boone Hall BBQ Championship and Bluegrass Festival. Thankfully, one of my friends HAD, because well, I would have been disappointed to hear about it from someone else.

Boone Hall Plantation is about two minutes from my house in Mt. Pleasant, SC, and yet, I’d never set foot on the property until Sunday. It’s set way back from the road, and there is the pleasure of driving beneath Angel Oaks, covered in Spanish moss, strategically placed ten feet apart. I mean, we’re talking move magic. So Boone Hall itself is an old plantation house. On the website, they say they’ve been “continuously growing and producing crops for over 320 years.” (I don’t think they mean the current staff, but you get the idea.) So the plantation house is this big, white thing that looks like it fell out of the sky from about circa 1820. I never got close to it. I smelled BBQ. I was on a mission.


There are people set up all over, and I’m not talking a bunch of Charleston restaurant owners. I’m talking locals, amateurs, people with three teeth who still manage to make damn find Southern cookin’. From what I’ve heard, there are BBQ people who travel far and wide for competitions. And I understand why. First off, they get to eat a lot. Secondly, they get to drink a lot. Thirdly, they make MONEY. I saw two dudes in t-shirts win $700 in the span of three minutes for their BBQ chicken AND BBQ ribs. This is no joke, folks. This is a dang championship.

Okay, let’s talk about the real reason I was there. I was really there for the music. I’m a chick who used to spend a long weekend of every summer at All Good Festival up in Masontown, West Virginia, hippie-dancing to bluegrass and the likes of Les Claypool, Keller Williams, Galactic, Umphrey’s McGee…I mean, I could go on FOREVER. Bluegrass (and the off-shoots it has created) is my thing. Ricky Skaggs is a name I know. He’s an old dude playing mandolin. Who doesn’t like that? And yet, it was the Carolina Chocolate Drops who had me at hello.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops
The Carolina Chocolate Drops
They’re a trio, and they seem to be able to trade instruments on cue, depending on who feels like dancing or playing the wooden spoons. They bill themselves as an African-American string band. Instruments are banjo, fiddle, guitar, vocals, WOODEN SPOONS! I mean, WOODEN SPOONS! My favorite part about this trio was the dancing. In the middle of a song, one of them would stand up and start dancing around, barely making it back to the microphone in time to hit the chorus. Oh, and of course, there was that a cappella cover of Joplin’s “Mercedes Benz.” Despite a slight drizzle, the crowd was dearly devoted to these three. Now, so am I.

All in all, I had a nice taste of Southern cuisine, a heavy dollop of Southern tunes, and a visual education on belt buckles and grown men in Huck Fin overalls. An excellent way to spend a Sunday.

About the event:

Entertainment in SC · Music

Who’s Bad: So BAD they’re GOOD

Who’s Bad is a Michael Jackson cover band. The first time I saw them, I was wearing stiletto heels, and no one told me the band was playing on a BEACH. Therefore, the stilettos sunk like the dudes in Blazing Saddles, and I rarely moved anything but my hips. (I was also wearing my Pittsburgh Steelers jersey, and if you haven’t heard that story: Regardless of my initial Who’s Bad experience, I saw them for the second time on Saturday night. I realize Michael Jackson is dead (and Santa Claus doesn’t exist), but I also realize that Michael Jackson’s music is not dead. Saturday night sold out, and Windjammer looked like a mosquito after the Fourth of July.

Windjammer is a dive bar right on the beach on Isle of Palms in South Carolina, and yet, Windjammer gets bands that headline in New York. Tickets are usually fifteen-bucks a pop, and no one bats an eye, even after your feet stick to the floor and even after you pay four dollars for a warm beer. The next morning, you usually wake up face-down in your own bed, covered in sand, wondering why your clothes are all wet, until you remember the seemingly unavoidable trip to the ocean after the show. Well. When I put it that way, the fifteen dollars is a deal! You’re paying for a night you’ll barely remember but never forget.

Who's Bad at Windjammer
Who's Bad at Windjammer
So we went Saturday to see Who’s Bad at Windjammer. We arrived on time; the band didn’t go on for another hour and a half. When they went on, though, they WENT ON. The boys rocked until 2 AM, playing every hit we could think to scream. They rolled through Billie Jean, Man in the Mirror, Thriller…you name it, they did it. The lead singer looks like Michael Jackson, before Michael Jackson got weird. The band is a mix of musical backgrounds; they’re all young, and they’re all extraordinarily talented. When the lead dude needs a break, the other boys jam. They take turns jamming, each one-upping the other in a cascade of improvisational genius.

There are even moments of choreographed dance routine, wherein which the lead singer and two of his background dudes roll out music video moves and Thriller throwbacks. Through all this, the crowd dances and screams every word. By the end of the show, you feel like you actually did see Michael Jackson—reincarnated and existing in an innocent, youthful state before the court cases and the creepy marriages. You feel exhausted. You feel exhilarated. You want to keep dancing, so of course, you move to the beach and hope the band wants to join for a swim.

Who’s Bad.
Saturday was a good day.

For more about what we Charleston folk call “The Jammer,” head to
For more about the musical masterminds of “Who’s Bad:”

Entertainment in SC · Music

Band of Horses

What is it about Band of Horses that makes me feel dramatic? When I hear their music, why do I feel like I should be in a movie trailer, looking INTENSE or perhaps running up a mountainside in a rainstorm? And does anyone else feel this way? Or do I just have an overactive auditory imagination?

I came upon these guys in a roundabout way. I found them on Pandora. I think they showed up on a Death Cab for Cutie channel, and I gave them a thumbs-up. The first song I heard (yes, I remember) was “The Funeral” off their Everything All the Time album. Like I said, I didn’t know who these guys were. But all of a sudden, here was this SONG. Started slow—very eerie, like music you might hear in some fantasy flick right at the part when the trolls kidnap the princess. Then, there’s a high tenor voice, tinny and soaring above the slow, steady guitar chords. Next comes rocking out with a full sound that you would expect from an orchestra, not a couple dudes in a studio, and seriously, it makes me feel dramatic. Like I should be doing something amazing and dangerous with my day (skydiving anyone?), as opposed to typing on my keyboard.

Later, when I was doing my Band of Horses homework, I was shocked to discover the band members live in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. I live in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. Huh. Small world. Of course, they’ve gotten more popular than two years ago when they played The Village Tavern, right by my old apartment. Now, they’re traveling the world. They’re playing alongside Neil Young, Norah Jones, Jack Johnson, and even Death Cab for Cutie—the gateway group that led me to utopian Horseland.

Just last week, Charleston City Paper did a full article/interview with Band of Horses front man Ben Bridwell, who looks like a guy more comfortable camping than performing for arenas full of screaming fans. However, it sounds as though he’s thriving amidst the madness—pretty dang clutch for a band whose star shows no sign of falling. They’re currently working on a new album, and thanks to Ballard Lesermann at the City Paper (his article here: and the Band of Horses rep, I may get the chance to interview the band closer to the upcoming release date.

I’m sure I’ll have plenty of questions for the guys.
1) Have you ever run up a mountainside in a rainstorm?
2) Do you dream of trolls kidnapping princesses?
3) Would you mind singing me to sleep?

Check out their website here:

Check out the YouTube video of “The Funeral” here:

Keep your eye out for a Band of Horses / Sara Dobie interview in the coming months. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed here in Mt. Pleasant.

Entertainment in SC · Film

Do you like Sam Raimi?

This should be the question I ask on first dates. “Do you like Sam Raimi?” No? Then, I’m sorry, but it’s just not going to work out. I say this not because of his rebirth through Spiderman. I say this because of Drag Me to Hell. Yeah, I saw it. Wanna fight about it? I went with two of my pals: Jenny and Eric. Eric had already seen the flick, but he wanted to see it again. Eric is a Sam Raimi fan. Jenny went because I made her. Jenny has never heard of Sam Raimi. This is important later, I promise.

Drag Me to Hell is a so-called horror movie about gypsy curses and people being sucked into hell because of these gypsy curses. Sounds basic enough. However, nothing is ever just basic with Sam Raimi. I first came upon this director thanks to Evil Dead (OF COURSE). Then, there was Evil Dead 2. Then—my personal favorite—Army of Darkness. Each of these severely B films had their own personal charm. They were categorized as horror movies, much like this most recent endeavor. But they never really were horror movies. They were each scary, sure. They each had moments of jumping out of your seat terror.


But the charm was in the comedy. Having Bruce Campbell as your leading dude makes this easy. Having Sam Raimi as your director makes it impeccable. It’s the way-too-close close-ups on screaming protagonist faces. It’s the shaky camera shots that make you feel like you’re being chased. It’s the random and unnecessary zooms on cleavage and the gnarly makeup caked on zombie faces. It is glory.

Drag Me to Hell did not disappoint. There’s even an epic fight scene a la Evil Dead between a pretty blond and an old gypsy woman whose dentures just won’t stay in her face. There are scenes that make you hug your knees in the dark theater. Then, there were scenes that made me want to cough up the overpriced, butter-drenched popcorn. (Thank God I didn’t get the buffalo wings, right?) When the movie was over, Eric and I were high-fiving. I was cackling and already planning to see it again. Jenny didn’t seem so impressed. Well, she seemed terrified, but she didn’t seem impressed. She was left to wonder, what just happened there? What the heck kind of movie did I just see?

Because you just gotta know Sam Raimi. I would tell you, yes, you should see this film. However, I’m hesitant. I feel like if you don’t have a previous relationship with Mr. Sam, you might not want to see this film. Frankly, you might not “get it.” It’s a horror movie. It’s gross and violent. But it’s funny. If you’re sick like Eric and me, you’ll laugh more than you scream. It was worth it for me. It was way worth it for Eric. Jenny couldn’t sleep. She swore something was crawling on her in bed, and she texted me at midnight to say, “I hate you.” So it’s up to you. For the fans out there, are you ready to revisit Evil Dead? For the novices, are you ready to meet Sam? Either way, in my opinion, well done. You’re back, Sammy boy. It’s a good thing, too. I missed you.

PS: I lost half my liver this weekend. I left it somewhere in Ohio at my little brother’s graduation. If you see it, please forward it to Charleston. Thank you. And again, congrats little Dobie.

Entertainment in SC · Interviews

An H and Five W’s with Ocean Photographer Clark Little

by Clark Little
by Clark Little

Waimea Bay shorebreak surfing pioneer, husband, and father of two, Clark Little has gained nationwide recognition for his photography with appearances on Good Morning America, Inside Edition, and many local news stations across the U.S. “Clark’s view” is a unique view of the ocean that most will only be able to experience safely on land, while studying one of Clark’s photos.

Now with a camera upgrade and an itch to get that better shot, Clark has taken this on full time and has moved his office from land, to the inside of a barrel. Since the recent stir of Clark’s work, his images have been run on the Today Show, ABC World News Now, Paris Match (France), Hana Hou (Hawaiian Airlines) magazine, Surfer magazine as well as multiple publishers and newspapers in the U.S. and overseas.

Clark Little
Clark Little

I consider myself lucky to have come upon this other-worldly photography. (Who knew that I would actually ENJOY getting a random chain letter via email, ya know?) Being that I have occasional fear of water, this stuff fascinates me. Anyway, as soon as I saw his work, I had to ask him to be on my blog. Here it is: An H and Five W’s with Clark Little. A man of few words and TONS of talent.

1) How did you become a photographer?
my wife wanted a picture for our house.

by Clark Little
by Clark Little

2) Who is your biggest artistic influence?
mother nature (the ocean and waves)

3) What made you decide to focus on photos of the sea?
the ocean is my second home : ) i feel like i belong there

Clark at play.
Clark at play.

4) Where is your favorite place to photograph?
big sandy shorebreaks…

by Clark Little
by Clark Little

5) When have you been MOST CRUSHED by a wave?
ke iki shorebreak, the waves there are super thick and strong.

6) Why are you a photographer?
good question. i love to be in the ocean and capture different images and share them with the world : )

by Clark Little
by Clark Little

Check out more of Clark’s work at his website: Thanks for stopping in for a visit, Clark! Watch out for those waves!

This’ll be my last post until next week. I’m heading home to Ohio for my little bro’s graduation at my own alma mater, Ohio University. No, it won’t be nuts at all.

The Dobie sibs. Congrats, little bro. Athens, here I come.
The Dobie sibs. Congrats, little bro. Athens, here I come.

Wait. It’s Ohio University. Strike that. Junction Punches and Journey karaoke, here I come. If I’m in jail Monday morning, will someone please bail me out?

Have a good weekend, gang!

Charleston · Entertainment in SC · Interviews

An H and Five W’s with Nathan Durfee

Once upon a First Friday on Broad in downtown Charleston (see more about this at, I met Nathan Durfee. Nathan’s work took me back to a childhood of unconventional Muppet movies (who remembers The Dark Crystal?) and a purple-eyed Fairuza Balk in Return to Oz. Nathan himself is an accomplished artist whose cheerfulness and youth make him modest, approachable, and friendly. His work is stuff you want to take home and hang right by your coffee machine, to make you smile every morning.

Without further ado, meet the artist.

Nathan Durfee
Nathan Durfee

BIO: According to Nathan Durfee, “I have an unhealthy urge to paint honestly.” He was born in the small town of Bethel, Vermont on June 26, 1983. Nathan’s artistic aspirations first showed themselves in the classroom: a self-described “doodler,” moments of boredom became sketches and designs in notebook margins. After spending his high school years in Nevada, he migrated south to attend the Savannah College of Art and Design to become a traditional portrait artist. As his current work boldly exhibits, Nathan instead decided to take his art in a unique, wholly personalized, direction. When he’s not at work or at his studio, Nathan is busy riding his bike and sketching people and scenes in his Moleskine notebooks. He’s taken great advantage of Charleston’s picturesque downtown area, with its coffee shops, restaurants, and parks, life-watching with the same sort of constant curiosity as last-century Parisian artists sketching at their sidewalk cafes.

Onto the questions:

1) How did you become an artist?
”It all started with me doodling in 5th grade math class. If you would of seen my notebooks they would of been filled with superheroes and robots, mostly stuff inspired by the cartoons and comic books I read as a kid. In 6th grade I was paid $5 to do a drawing of the brothers from double dragon, so I guess that was my first commission. I ended up going to Savannah College of Art and Design and graduated with a BFA in Illustration. I moved to Charleston to work as a photo retoucher and do illustration work in off time. The freelance work was coming in slowly, but I wanted to create more so I started painting on my own. Five years later, here I am.”

2) Who is your biggest artistic influence?
”That’s a tough choice, but I’ll have to go with Joe Sorren. His sensitivity of brushwork and character development is astounding. He’s also an illustrator turned painter, so I can relate to his progression into the fine art world.”

Michael Seeing Things by Nathan Durfee
Michael Seeing Things by Nathan Durfee

3) What is your preferred medium?
”Oil on Panel for paintings, Ink Dip pen for drawings. They are polar opposites. The Paint dries slowly so it can be moved around and adjusted and the color and value possibilities are near-infinite. The ink is instant, permanent, and there is no middle-ground. I like playing with both extremes.”

4) Where do you get your inspiration?
”My content originates from personal observations, but they are mulled around a bit before being put to painting. I like the concepts to be more indirect, so the painting merely seems like it should have the message instead of its actual presence. I also take inspiration from graphic novels and children’s books because I try to keep an element of storytelling in my work.”

5) When are you most artistic?
”I build momentum when I work, so I’m most artistic when I’ve been painting a lot. I usually work best when there is a large block of time and there are few distractions…so 10pm-4am tends to be when I get most of my creative work done.”

6) WHY are you an artist?
”I try not to answer that question. I don’t have a grand plan or direction for my work, and I don’t think I’m at the point where I can tackle such a concept. I’m not sure if I’ll ever reach that point. What I know now is that I like to paint, and the more I paint the better I get, so I’m going to paint as much as I can. That’s good enough for me.”

Nathan’s work is available for purchase at Robert Lange Studios in Charleston, SC, and he will have an upcoming solo show there October 2nd. If you’re in the area, check it out. Amazing work. And be sure to visit his blog:

Entertainment in SC · Music

Spoleto 2009: Punch Brothers featuring Chris Thile

Three weeks ago, I went to see one of my favorite bands in concert. They were terrible. This band of young men—young, meaning able to move—just stood there and got it over with. They played forty-five minutes before their first and only encore. Then, they told us to “Have a good night!” I wanted to tell them, “Yeah, you too, with the sixty bucks I paid for a crap show.” This band will remain nameless. (Ah-hem, rhymes with “Lings of Keon.”) REGARDLESS of this, I have to tell you about the concert I saw last night, because it was anything but terrible.

Punch Brothers and Chris Thile
Punch Brothers and Chris Thile

When I saw the set list for Charleston’s Spoleto Fest 2009 , I recognized but one name: Chris Thile. However, for me, this is a huge name. This is the name of my favorite mandolin player—a man I used to listen to in his Nickel Creek days. This is a man who has been referred to as “one of the most interesting and inventive musicians of his generation.” In 2006, he joined forces with four other musicians to form the Punch Brothers. And according to the San Francisco Chronicle, “the result is totally mind-blowing.” Well, after last night’s show, my mind has been blown.

Let’s start with the venue. The Punch Brothers show was at the College of Charleston Cistern Yard. The Cistern is located in the heart of campus, downtown, at the end of one of my favorite historic Charleston streets, Glebe Street.  It is such a beautiful location that they used it as a backdrop in the Mel Gibson/Heath Ledger flick The Patriot. It’s what it sounds like—a yard, surrounded by high wrought iron fences and lush, leafy bushes. At the back of this yard is Randolph Hall, built in 1828, complete with thick, off-white columns and wide, green shutters to protect the windows from hurricanes. The stage was on top of the old city cistern, where people used to do their laundry before washers and dryers were around. Angel oaks and Spanish moss tickled each side of the wide, unadorned stage, and I swear I heard angels singing.

Itty bitty cell phone pic. Still lovely. Cistern Yard.
Itty bitty cell phone pic. Still lovely. Cistern Yard.

Wait, no that was the Punch Brothers and their three-part harmonies. Once they were on stage, they never left. They did one huge set that went on for a good two hours. And I never stopped smiling. Some of the songs made me slap my knee and stomp my foot; some of the songs were so full of minor chords, I wanted to cry. The five instruments—mandolin, violin, banjo, upright bass, and guitar—were made for each other and made for the bluegrass/jazz feel of Chris Thile’s somehow organized improvisations. One of my favorite tunes? How to Grow a Woman from the Ground—a melancholy, quiet arrangement, soaring up through the Spanish moss with the help of Thile’s quirky upper-tenor vocals. And how about the ambitious four-movement chamber suite, The Blind Leaving the Blind? Again, I wanted to cry, this time when he announced, “This is the last movement!” No! Play forever! Pleeeeeeeease, Chris Thile, play forever! At one point, my companion for the concert turned to me and said, “Why is it that I always fall in love with the band I’m watching?” I don’t always, but I did last night.

Said companion and I went downtown to grab a beer after the show. I didn’t realize we were giggling, but we must have been. Two strangers came up to my friend and me to ask, “Where were you? You look so happy! We want to go where you were!” Too bad for them, though. They missed the show.

If you have a chance to see these guys, see them. The Punch Brothers, featuring Chris Thile. If you can, see them outside, surrounded by Spanish moss. It’s the closest you’ll get to heaven without actually being there. For more info, go to their website:

Charleston · Entertainment in SC · Interviews

An H and five W’s with Karin Olah

Introducing… (drum roll, please)… the talented, charming, and beautiful artist Karin Olah. Karin was one of the first people I met upon first moving to Charleston, SC. That first evening in this stunning city, she was sweet and welcoming. How was I to know she was also a singularly talented artist? I just HAD to feature her on my blog! So sit back, relax, and look at all the pretty colors.

Skinny Dip in the Clouds (Olah)
Skinny Dip in the Clouds (Olah)

How did you become an artist?


In the town where I grew up, quilts were the most prevalent form of art.  I was born in Lititz, a little historic town near the Amish and Mennonite farming country in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.


I’m not Amish, but I’ve certainly been influenced by their quilt making traditions.  Amish quilts are known for strong geometric patterns and solid blocks of deep color. The work can be interpreted as pure abstraction, very modern, and it can be somewhat Mondrian-esque.


I guess there are a million reasons why I admire quilts – the study of color and geometric design is one.  The significance of tradition, particularly among the women of the household, is something that also intrigues me. Now that we have the convenient and inexpensive option to buy our blankets at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, why would anyone put the effort and time into making a quilt?  I think it comes down to something more.  It’s a spiritual pursuit. 


If you’ve ever attempted a quilt, you may understand the painstaking attention and patience that goes into the creation of one.  Something about the stitch-stitch-stitch, the sound of soft fabric, the way it swaddles and drapes you as you attend to it.  Maybe you have felt the rewards of quilt making. Maybe you’ve experienced a connection with the women in your family through the labor of it.  I’m sure everyone has enjoyed the warmth of the final product. 


So, the Amish quilts had quite an impression on me as a teenager.  After I graduated high school, I moved to Baltimore to study at Maryland Institute College of Art, and lucky for me, they offered a Fiber Art major. 


At art school, I learned all the ways to manipulate textiles – starting with carding & spinning raw wool – then weaving, dying, screen-printing and pattern design, making garments, building structural forms…. using natural and synthetic textiles.


I experimented with unconventional materials.  I made paintings that didn’t rely on standard stretched canvas – but rather integrated soft sculpture with costumes, toys, furniture, and pillows as my blank canvas. By junior and senior years, my work continued to take its queue from the geometry of Amish quilts.  I patch-worked and appliquéd squares upon squares.  I made installations with grids of squares & stacked squares.  The squares had soft, rounded off corners, almost like slumped shoulders, as a way to personify the shape.  I used bright, colorful, plastic material, high gloss enamel paints, lots of vinyl and synthetic fabric. 


Eventually the squares softened into anthropomorphic shapes like Orbs and swirls.  I played with muted colors in juxtaposition with clear & bright crayon box colors.  I was painting or printing on fabric to make my own textile design and patterns.


I moved to NYC the day after graduation and began to work in a textile studio.  I dyed, painted, and printed on any kind of fabric that you can name.  Designers, like Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, and Marc Jacobs would give me a concept or a color swatch along with a bolt of white silk, cashmere, matte jersey, etc, etc – and then I developed and dyed all their fabric.  The fabrics were then made into the clothing that went down the runway or was sent to factories as production samples.  I got to go to the fashion shows at Bryant Park too, which was a fabulous perk of the job.  I also worked on costumes for Broadway, TV, and movies. 


After a few years, I wanted to have more time and space for making my own art.  I left NY and lived in Hawaii for a few months – where I rediscovered my love of quilts in 2002.  After learning a little about Hawaiian Pieced Quilts, I rolled up my sleeves and set to work.  My first quilts were a cross between crazy quilting and block printing – a little freestyle too since I never used patterns.  I cut up my father’s old striped business shirts.  I started collecting fabric – any solid colors that struck my fancy.


Quilting really is an art form that bridges the genres of fine art, fine craft, and fiber art, in a sometimes utilitarian way, and always in a historical context.  The quilts that are displayed in the biggest museum exhibitions are the same ones that once draped a bed or hung on a backyard wash line.


I’m taking principles of quilt making and infusing it with painting… blurring the line with painting.  I like the whole process of quilt making but I love the first few steps – from choosing fabrics, colors, & composition to piecing.  The artsy decisions.  After lots of arduous sewing, I began concentrating on just the top part, just the design process. 


 I was making miniature patch-worked quilt tops – but not finishing the back.  Then shortly after I moved to Charleston in 2003, I glued one of these experiments on paper and painted in the stitching.  Bells went off in my head and this series of work started to grow.

Who is your biggest artistic influence?


I love modern painting, abstraction, pop-art, texture, and collage.   I salivate over the works of Robert Motherwell, Ad Reinhardt, Hans Hoffman, Ellsworth Kelly, Alexander Calder, Mark Rothko, and Antoni Gaudi, Robert Rauschenberg, Marcus Kenney, Ross Bleckner, Inka Essenhigh, Gary Hume, Fred Tomaselli, Jasper Johns, Carter, Emilio Lobato, Arturo Herrera, Sergej Jensen, Takashi Murakami, Matthew Ritchie, Jeff Koons, and Brian Rutenberg.


Very influential has been the Art Nouveau Movement, early Dada collages, textiles of the 1940’s and 50’s, Amish quilts, and the quilts of Gee’s Bend, Alabama.


But, It’s not so much ‘who’ that is influential on my work – it’s more like where, what, how –  It’s here, it’s home, it’s Charleston.



What is your preferred medium?


I take print making and quilt making principles, add a dash of painting, and come up with a new process… which I call collage paintings.  It looks and feels like screen-printing – one color at a time, tight edges, flat span of color, using transparent layers to create halftones / blend colors.  You can also approach the work in relation to the process of quilt-making – backing, batting, quilt top pieces, decorative stitching = canvas under-painting and loose sketch in pencil, large pieces of neutral fabrics, smaller swatches of cut and pasted textiles, textures, finishing flourishes in gouache paints.


I start with a stretched geossed canvas or linen (or heavy watercolor paper for my small studies).  Then I sketch in pencil – a sparse outline of the composition.  Then I use acrylics to push some foam-y, float-y, misty under-painting/background into the composition.  At this point the shapes begin forming.  Then after the paint dries, I begin to cut and arrange the first of 4 or 5 layers of fabric.  I use natural fabrics – mostly cottons, linens, some silk.  Then to adhere it, I spread a coating of rice starch onto the back of each piece.  It’s tricky and time consuming – and I have to make sure each fiber and each string has the right amount of paste and pressure to make it fuse.  Then I repeat all the steps a few times.  I end with more drawing and some flourishes of my paintbrush.  I use gouache for the final painting layer.  It’s an opaque watercolor-acrylic paint that is loaded with pigment and mimics the matte-look of fabric.


Where do you get your inspiration?


My palette and the shapes I use are plucked from the world around me.

 I loosely reference movement, air currents, geography, the sky, clouds, flowers, the world around me – using organic lines and abstracted shapes.  Are we wrapped up in and warmed under the blanket of sky?  My inspiration comes from the sky, the sun, the air, the earth.  There’s a mystery in the layers of atmosphere in the clouds; there’s a happy energy that the sun gives off, there’s a personal connection to the grass, the sand, the trees — these are all emotions that I hope to capture in my work.


Lately, I’ve been paying attention to the shade of the sky throughout the day and the way the water reflects that shade – hence – I’m working on a lot of blue paintings this season.  These organic and rounded shapes follow the curve of the marsh, the meandering waterways, and the arc of jet plumes, the weight of clouds, and air currents.  It’s Spring – It’s breezy – I’m imagining the color and shapes of the wind (if it wasn’t invisible). 


I love the way that, in graffiti, abstraction emerges from something we look at everyday – the alphabet.  Graffiti art has its own vernacular, its own language in symbols.  I think it actually has a lot in common with quilts. 


I consider language, lettering, handwriting, and cursive.  When you unwind a spool of thread it has a similar flow as antiquated script.  A ruffle is just a series of the letter M.  Follow the hemline of a skirt and you’ll have the letter O.  When I paint, I think about how far can I distort a letter until it is just an abstract shape?  How do I write a word that no one can read? 


Actually, it might be easier to mention all the things I don’t get inspiration from… which would be a blank list.


When are you most artistic?


After a day at the beach, after a flight somewhere, after spending time in nature, after a day at art museums… I fill up on visual stimulation, then return to my studio, pick up the scissors and paint brush and recall the shapes and colors I’ve seen.  I try to spend at least 2 hours each evening in my studio, but on weekends, when I have the time to spare, I’ll work for 5 – 8 hours.


Why are you an artist?


I aim to stir up emotion.  I’m working with textiles as a way to share my emotions about beauty and the metaphorical aspects of fabrics.  Because my work is non-objective, color and the layering of shapes can be the star of the show.  A brain always tries to recognize an image (or what it sort of looks like).  Since I’m not offering an easily recognizable composition – like a figure or object, the brain has a curious moment to figure out what it is.  Hopefully that is the point when someone looks closer at the work – realizes it is made out of fabric – then the brain recollects all of its associations with textiles. 

So a viewer, maybe, thinks about a family quilt, a baby blanket, a favorite dress or the feeling of fabric on the skin, feeling covered up…. comfortable… warm… safe.  Emotions of tranquility and happiness. 

Creating and Inventing something I’ve never seen before is painfully difficult, but the reward of finishing a painting is so great.  When someone has a connection to what I do… when they are moved to own a painting… so that they can experience that connection every day… it is such a fulfilling moment.


Thank you, Karin, for being so eloquent and inspiring! See more of Karin’s work at her website:

No Lemon No Melon (Olah)
No Lemon No Melon (Olah)


Charleston · Entertainment in SC · Restaurants in SC


I had an insanely good meal last night at Fish Restaurant on King Street, downtown Charleston. The meal itself lasted a good two-and-a-half hours, and everything I tried was perfect. I mean it. PERFECT.


1) THE WINE! I don’t like zinfandel. Well. I didn’t like zinfandel. Now, I love zinfandel. It was called Writer’s Block. (Thankfully, I don’t suffer from the disease this morning…) It was a HUGE California red—more like a cabernet blend than a straight up zin. It was lush, full of fruit, and almost sweet on the finish. I practically cried when the bottle ran dry.


2) DIM SUM! For happy hour, these bite-size snacks are but a dollar.  I tried the crab wonton in plum sauce, the duck confit goat cheese steamed bun, and the snapper spring roll with ginger aioli. Damn fine. Each and every one of them.


3) STEAMED CLAMS! I’m from Ohio, so fresh, delicate, steamed clams weren’t something often shared at the dinner table. For this, I will be eternally bitter, because steamed clams should always be shared at the dinner table. Now that I live by the ocean, they WILL BE. These little guys were served in a sake, shallots, coconut lemongrass broth, and honestly, if I hadn’t been in public, I would have sipped from the bowl.


4) THE WINE!!!!!! MORE WINE!!!


5) For the entrée, I ordered the craziest thing I saw. I didn’t regret my decision. I had NICO’S DUCK CASSOULET. This was a gorgeous platter, artfully arranged with a bunch of stuff stacked together in a way that made you think, “Huh. Never thought of putting THAT together.” White beans, duck confit, pork belly, haricot vert, and sausage—see, you never thought of it either.


6) I could have stopped eating at this point. (Honestly, the wine was already gone.) HOWEVER, I just had to push the envelope and dive straight into dessert—the PUMPKIN BAKED ALASKA. Listen to this… “Frozen pumpkin cheesecake is layered with coconut sponge cake topped in praline meringue and sprinkled with candied pistachios. For a dash of warmth, it’s flambéed with Grand Marnier.” SERIOUSLY? This cake was so dense, you could have thrown it and broken a window. By the end, I was too full to move.


I’ve never been so thoroughly impressed with every aspect of a meal. The staff knew what they were talking about, and they were pleasant on top of knowledgeable. Go to Fish. Now. Or just visit their website, A word of warning, though. As soon as you start perusing the menu, you’re going to be hungry.


PS: I’ll be featuring Charleston artist Karin Olah this week! From her website:

“Karin Olah works on canvas, linen, and paper, creating her signature collage paintings as a way to connect with America’s quilt making heritage. Using fabric, often antique textiles, the artist works in a manner that mimics the flow of paint from a brush. Intricately cut, placed, and pasted threads overlap one another and become the paintings’ stories. Much of the artist’s palette pairs historical Charleston colors with lush complementary tones selected from her vast fabric collection. Translucent layers of cottons, silks, and linens blend with opaque calligraphic brushstrokes as graphite lines intersect the surface. Karin finishes many of the compositions with a dance of colorful encircling thread.”


For more about Karin, visit her website at: