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A solid friendship: Artists bond from half-a-world away

By Susan Shinn
sshinn@salisburypost.com
CHINA GROVE ó Family and friends warned them not to do it, but they did it anyway!
Frances Taylor, who lives in Australia, and Cathy Matthews, who lives in China Grove, met on an Internet site devoted to artists.
They hit it off right away, and it didn’t take them long to realize they’d eventually like to meet one another in person.
To make a long story short, Frances is spending three months with Cathy and her husband, Ronnie.
What a blast it’s been so far.
The best part of the visit is that the two women are making art together.
They’ve even set up Sculpting for Fun workshops at Cathy’s studio, which is right next to her house.
Upcoming dates include May 23-24, 30-31, June 13-14, 20 and 27-28. Cost is $95 for a daylong workshop, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m., which includes all materials, morning and afternoon tea and lunch.
Frances and Cathy are making sculptures from prepared composite stone, which they mix at the beginning of the workshop.
The material is put in molds to set up. While that takes place, you can enjoy tea and start sketching the design for your sculpture.
Class members start out carving on a bar of soap, to get a concept of how their finished product will look, Frances says.
You have to work quickly.
“By the end of the day, there’s no way you can work on it,” Frances says. “It is not porous.”
The sculptures can be anything ó geometric shapes, faces, flowers, figures and more.
On this particular morning, Cathy’s mom, Elaine Benfield, is carving a cat from her stone.
“Cats are my thing,” Elaine says.
Cathy’s aunt, Joyce Bonds, has chosen to make a water lily.
The sculptures can be used indoors or out, and make wonderful additions to water features, Frances says.
“I’m going to put it either in my sunroom or outside,” Joyce says of her sculpture.
Phyllis Brosh, Cathy’s sister and next-door neighbor, is also an artist. She’s adding lights to her geometric sculpture.
“There’s something very satisfying about putting holes in these sculptures,” Frances says as Phyllis works.
There are no special tools required. The women uses knives, spoons, brushes ó “whatever you can find around the place,” Frances says.
“You can really just let your imagination run away with you,” Elaine says.
The best part of the day, Frances says, is that “everybody goes home with a completed sculpture.”
Cathy built her studio as soon as she could after she and her husband bought their house 3 1/2 years ago.
She paints in watercolors and sculpts, usually working in clay. She offers birdhouse workshops, too.
“I taught her everything she knows,” Elaine says, giving her daughter a hug.
Cathy paints with Plein Air Carolina and Carolina Artists, and she’s a member of the Looking Glass Artist Collective.
Which is how she has so much in common with Frances. During their online conversations, they found they were born the same year: 1952.
“We don’t call ourselves seniors, but we like the senior citizens discount,” Cathy says.
She and Frances were both warned of the dangers of meeting friends on the Internet. They didn’t pay much heed. They were too busy talking for hours by Webcam, working in their studios, half a world apart.
Frances lives in the rainforest of Tanah Merah in Queensland.
Eventually, they decided to meet in person.
“We knew we had things to teach each other,” Frances says.
Cathy couldn’t go to Australia, so she invited Frances here.
“I’d been collecting frequent flyer points for years,” Frances explains. “My husband said it was a waste of time. But when I had 450,000 points, I said, I think I’m going to go to America!”
Frances is a psychotherapist with a concentration in art therapy, so she gave herself the time off.
Besides visiting and talking and painting and talking and making sculptures ó and did we mention talking? ó the women are planning a trip to New York to paint in Central Park and at Niagara Falls. They’ll also travel to the beach and to Savannah.
They’ve had just a bit of trouble understanding one another’s accents, but laugh together about learning new words and phrases.
“We understand the art,” Cathy says.
“For sure,” Frances adds.
nnn
For more information about upcoming sculpture workshops, call Cathy Matthews at 704-855-7952 or e-mail cat@catsfreestyleart. com.
For more information about the artists, visit www.soulwork.com.au or www.catsfreestyleart.com.

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