By Al Parker
Combine two different artists with two distinctive styles and the result
is one dynamic farm-based studio thats producing eye-grabbing artwork in
Julie Kradel and Steve Kostyshyn share the airy, well-lit studio at Blue
Crow Farm, their 20-acre home on a quiet road near Cedar. While they each
have their own individual methods and techniques, the result is artworks
that are gaining a legion of collectors.
For over two decades, my work has been exploring the relationships
between animals, their human admirers and each other, says Kradel, whose
works are generally sculptures and tiles featuring horses, turtles, foxes,
rabbits and other animals. The clay, being a very natural and Earth-based
medium, has allowed me a framework in which to capture these unique
Observing the creatures that inhabit Blue Crow Farm allow Kradel to
breathe realism and life into her work. Theyre a constant inspiration and
reminder to keep her work true.
The creative process in which my clay art is produced, in concert with an
adherence to correct bone, musculature and form, allows me to express the
joy and beauty natures beasts possess using a unique blend of whimsy and
precise structure, says the native upstate New Yorker who lived in
Davisburg, south of Flint, before moving north in 2007.
Many of Kradels works focus on horses and their relationship with other
animals. Shes a longtime horse owner and draws inspiration from her
steed, John Henry. Her pieces are captivating, yet clever in their
simplicity and emotion. All my life Ive done artwork, she says. And
Ive always loved horses.
Kostyshyn has been making award-winning pottery, in one form or another,
for more than 30 years. Hes been featured in exhibitions in
Massachusetts, California, Wisconsin and Michigan.
The New Jersey native graduated from Adrian College in 1976 and worked as
a studio potter for 15 years. He apprenticed with Brumms Studios and Todd
Warner Studios in Charlevoix. Todd really showed me the ropes of the art
business, says Kostyshyn. I learned a lot from him.
From 1981 to 1993 Kostyshyn worked in porcelain, then crafted stoneware
with a Majolica influence from 1993 to 1997.
His focus then shifted to create mixed media baskets and vessels that
combine clay, fiber and wood. His popular, collectible works explore
texture, color, form and size that is impossible with pieces created only
My baskets are made with a combination of three materials clay, reed
and wood, he explains. The clay is a high-fired stoneware with dipped,
brushed and poured glazes. The challenge here is to have a clear vision of
the completed basket before starting the piece.
Using traditional wheel-throwing and hand-building techniques, Kostyshyn
finishes the clay parts first. Once hes completed them, hell shape and
bend the green oak ribs for a larger basket. On other pieces, he positions
and glues reed or dowel spokes in place. This stabilizes the form for the
The final process is the weaving of the entire spoked area. He uses
natural and dyed reeds and weaves plaited and twilled patterns. He often
chooses palm, vine rattan, red osler, willow or birch bark as accents.
They lend a natural feel and texture to his works.
I have been continually inspired to work with the vessel as form, says
the outgoing Kostyshyn. Breaking from the clay-only vessel and
exploring possibilities afforded by basketry as an aft form, has allowed
me to explore shapes and textures that were unattainable to me in the
THE SHOW CIRCUIT
Not only do Kostyshyn and Kradel differ in their artistic styles, they
also have divergent ideas about marketing their works. Kostyshyns been
doing art shows for three decades and prefers the hustle and bustle of the
In a typical year, he sets up at 11 different shows, from Northern
Michigan to Florida. In coming weeks hell be at shows in Glen Arbor on
July 20, Suttons Bay on Aug. 6-7 and Charlevoix on Aug. 13. His works are
also at the Bier Art Gallery in Charlevoix and the Michigan Artists
Gallery in Suttons Bay.
I love the travel and meeting people from all walks of life, he says.
One nice thing about shows is you get direct, immediate feedback (about
your work). Sometimes you get ideas from people. But I miss my farm and
its always good to get back.
At one recent show, the affable Kostyshyn sold one of his works to a
couple who had a unique way to pay for his pottery.
They had been to the same show a year earlier and decided to save their
pocket change for an entire year and buy something at this years show,
he recalls. So they put away their dimes and quarters for a year and
walked all through the show to pick something they really liked to spend
their savings on. I was honored when they picked my basket for their
Kradel prefers displaying her items in galleries, including Violas
Gallery in Elk Rapids, Bier Art Gallery in Charlevoix and Cogs Creek
Gallery in Traverse City. But shes not averse to doing an occasional art
show and will be setting up in Glen Arbor on July 20.
My life is so great, she says with a smile. Im doing the thing I
always wanted to do in my life with a man I enjoy being with so much.
Blue Crow Farm is also the home of horses Abe and John Henry, a few dogs
and recently, several Katahdin sheep. Katahdin are hardy, adaptable, low
maintenance sheep that produce superior lamb crops and lean, meaty
carcasses. They do not produce a fleece and therefore do not require
We have an open studio, says Kradel. And people are always welcome to