Editor’s note: this is part three in a series about artists in Greene County
For the creatively talented among us, being quarantined spells an opportunity to focus on creating. Cory Ryan, president of the Art Guild of Greene County, spoke recently about productivity during the pandemic, including the creation of personal protective equipment (PPE) to donate to first responders in our area when the pandemic first came to light.
“We reached out to all the guild members to donate supplies so I could make face shields,” Ryan said. “Not face masks, but the plastic clear shields that the doctors are using. I made a hundred of those and they went to UVA, so that really felt good to contribute in that way for the pandemic.”
In the months since the stay-at-home order and self-imposed quarantines, Ryan has been grateful for the opportunity to keep focused on her artwork.
“I just have a lot more time on my hands, because I’m usually on the go doing something, either taking care of grandchildren or doing something to prepare for an event for the guild or my church—and all that kind of came to a screeching halt,” she said. “So, I spend a lot more time in my crafts room.”
Ryan, who worked in the IT department for Dominion Energy for 32 years, says she had already been spending increasing amounts of time crafting since her retirement.
“My husband would tell you it’s full time, but it really isn’t,” she said, laughing. “It is a hobby, but I do spend a lot of time in my craft room.”
From painting to weaving and jewelry-making, Ryan likes to try different forms of art to keep her mind busy.
“I do pine needle baskets; I weave or coil pine needles into different containers. And I do quilling, which is a paper art,” she said. “You take long strips of paper and coil them into different shapes to make a theme like a flower or dragonfly or whatever you need. I usually do notecards with quilling, but you can do art pieces or even jewelry.”
On any given day, Ryan will focus her work on orders she has to fill first and then on using whatever art supplies she happens to have on hand that day.
“We took a trip to Costa Rica last year, and I was inspired by the mandalas they have there, so beautiful and colorful,” she said. “So, I started doing mandala art last year. As I travel, I get inspired to pick up something new.”
Ryan also works on decorative gourds, using a variety of methods to turn these otherwise inedible plants into creative treasures: “If you see the bird feeders in people’s yards that are made out of gourds, they’ve got a hole in them for the bird and the bird loves to use the stuff that’s inside to build their nest,” she said. “I don’t do too many bird feeders; I do mostly bowls, but I put beads on them, feathers on them, I do dot painting on all kinds of things.”
Ryan sells her artwork through her Facebook page as well as at Qute Scraps in Ruckersville. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and modifications to doing business, she says she is keeping quite busy.
“I post new things on my Facebook page, and talk about what it looks like and the size and the price,” she said. “And then people can message me to purchase it and I’ll arrange for a safe delivery. And then of course I do have a lot of my things in Qute Scraps, which is doing a bang-up business.”
Qute Scraps gift shop in Ruckersville sells works by multiple local artists, and during the pandemic the owner, Danielle Oakes, has been selling via Facebook Live video sessions.
“They have all these Facebook Live sessions every week, and she is selling more now than she ever did before the pandemic,” Ryan said. “It’s really amazing. It’s really kept me busy and happily busy because I’m actually fulfilling orders that come in to her shop for different things. It’s been a godsend to all the vendors that are in there; she has 55 vendors and she’s been keeping us all busy.”
According to Ryan, the Qute Scraps vendors have formed bonds of friendship through the weekly video sessions that may not have been possible before COVID.
“It’s funny because when we’re all on the live session, we can see the names of people that are logged in watching,” she said. “We’re actually getting to know each other and she has people in Delaware and New York and Richmond and different states all logging in and saying hi to each other.”
In a time when not much else in life seems to make sense, it is heartening to know that artists are out there creating artwork and sharing it via whatever means necessary to help lift all our spirits.
“I’m so glad I have all this stuff to keep me occupied and motivated to get out of bed in the morning,” said Ryan. “It’s therapeutic, for sure.”