By Susan Shinn
As the late afternoon sun filters into Tim and Lisa Kluttz’s studio, your eyes focus in on a riot of color.
There’s so much to see. Right away, you realize the couple likes dogs. And cats. And mermaids. And flowers. And Statues of Liberty.
The Kluttzes are folk artists, and most of their delightful artwork is built from recycled and found objects.
Tim, 52, runs a landscape company, while Lisa, 48, is a school social worker. They’ve been married almost 18 years. Whenever they can, they work collaboratively in their backyard studio.
They have 40 acres on a former rhododendron farm, which is dormant now but will be ablaze with hues of reds, blues, yellows, purples and oranges come springtime.
Tim jokes that they would have 40 acres and a mule ó but he hasn’t built the mule yet.
Tim is the scavenger and builder, while Lisa does the detailed painting.
He points to a Statue of Liberty, made from pieces of a table. Her face, he says, is a paint can lid.
“It’s really anything you find,” Tim says of their materials. “We tend to stick to architectural pieces.”
Long, narrow shutters become backdrops for mermaids, or fish with the “Gone Fishin’ ” sign on ’em.
Even their pets have gotten into the act. At one time, they had as many as seven cats and a dog.
Their beloved red Doberman, Ruby, still crops up frequently in their artwork.
Scout, a much-loved cat, walked across a painting once, leaving a faint yellow pawprint.
They won’t part with that one.
“Our pets are important parts of us,” Lisa says.
The couple has always been interested in art, but it took a trip to the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach, S.C., about 10 years ago for them to fall in love with folk art. The restaurant has an extensive collection.
“It’s very free. It’s very open,” Tim says. “I’m not sure what it is, to be honest.”
The lack of rules is what’s appealing to the couple.
They had already been painting, and happened to be invited to a show the very next weekend after their visit to the House of Blues.
“We painted all week, and we met some very pleasantly eccentric artists,” Tim says.
They continued to do shows, and have done up to 20 shows a year.
This weekend, they’ll be part of the 6th annual Fearrington Folk Art Show, an invitation-only show for artists in Fearrington Village near Chapel Hill. Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. The show is free and open to the public.
The couple draws ideas from all kinds of places, Tim says. “That’s true of all artists.”
Once, Tim cut a scrap of wood, and Lisa thought it looked like a dog’s head, so she made a painting around it.
“So then you’re inspired by the shape of a scrap,” Tim says.
Says Lisa, “We have complementary styles, and it’s a better piece because both our strengths are there.”
Tim will often start a painting, then Lisa will finish it up.
He never knows how it’ll come out.
“I painted a rustic blues musician, and I came back and he had on a pinstripe suit,” Tim says.
That was fine by him.
“It was a fun piece and it’s interesting to see where she takes things,” he says.
“He’s flexible, because he doesn’t care what I do with his art,” Lisa notes.
“With our time factor, it works well to collaborate,” Tim says.
Down the road, he says, they’d like to paint full-time.
The couple makes both two-dimensional and three-dimensional pieces.
“There’s no limit,” Tim says. “We like doing mixed media.”
Although the South has always been a strong area for folk art, it can be found all over the country.
Ever heard of the Dot Man in Winston-Salem? He’s a folk artist.
“The big thing for folk artists is to be self-taught,” Tim says.
Although some well-known folk artists have died, it is by no means a dying art.
Along with the painting Scout walked across, Tim and Lisa keep a collection of prototypes and firsts in a series lined up along their work table. They paint standing up.
There’s a painting of Otis, their black-and-white cat, called “Otis Goes to the Prom,” because he’s a tuxedo cat, Lisa says. “So whenever we do another one, it’s ‘Otis Goes to the Prom Again.’ ”
Although they revisit subjects, no two paintings are exactly alike.
They hesitate to do commissioned pieces.
“Commissioned pieces take on a different feel,” Tim admits. “We come down here to have fun.”
The plywood floor serves as a sketch pad and doodle board.
“If Tim thinks of a saying, he paints it on the floor,” Lisa says.
Tim has salvaged some heart pine to put down an actual floor at some point ó but that’s just another item on his seemingly endless to-do list. But to tell you the truth, the floor is pretty cool the way it is.Tim says that while some of their friends have more edgy stuff, “I don’t know if that’s really us.”
Lisa says, “We’ve tried to niche in to what people like. Pet people are great customers. The biggest compliment we get is, ‘This just looks fun. This makes me happy.’
“We’re not dark people. Our vision is light, happy, whimsical.”
For more information about Tim and Lisa Kluttz’s folk art, call them at 704-279-3010.
Contact Susan Shinn at 704-797-4289 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Susan Shinn