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Ode to Appalachia: An ASU Student Led Dining Experience Partnership with The Beacon Butcher Bar on April 25-26

The Beacon Butcher Bar Restaurant

By Harley Nefe

An art class of 16 Appalachian State University students has been working alongside The Beacon Butcher Bar to celebrate Appalachia and the Boone community by creating a shared meal and handmade tableware project that will be presented on April 25 and April 26. 

Students enrolled in the honors level course titled ART 4515 – Community Collaborations: Objects, explored how sharing a meal can build connections through a shared experience and how the simple act of eating together forms a sense of community and bridges and creates friendships. 

The class is under the direction of Lisa Stinson, Professor of Studio Art, and while this is the first year the collaboration has taken place between App State and The Beacon, the idea for the course emerged years in advance. 

“We’ve tried to organize this course through ASU back in 2019 to be showcased in 2020,” explained Tina Houston, Owner of The Beacon. However, much like many other events, the pandemic placed plans on hold. 

“And so, Lisa Stinson was able to resubmit the course outline to ASU, and it got approved last fall, so the project was slated for the spring with the students showcasing their artwork here at The Beacon at the end of the semester,” Houston said.

Known as the Ode to Appalachia, the project involved The Beacon developing a local and sustainable meal and providing parameters for the materials needed to present the five-course meal and cocktails. With feedback along the way, groups of students in the class created functional forms that bring to light relationships with Boone and that would be used to display the food and drinks.

The five-course meal is as follows:

  1. Burrata, roasted beet, poached rhubarb, strawberries, black walnut
  2. Focaccia, compound butter, tapenade, sea island red pea hummus
  3. Massaged kale, charred lemon Vin, dried cherries, shaved radish + fennel
  4. Duck confit quarter + cornmeal fried trout, Hoppin John, grilled asparagus, nduja butter carrot puree, sugar snap peas and arugula, roasted fennel, summ gastrique
  5. Strawberry shortcake, creme anglaise or flourless chocolate torte, raspberry compote, cream

“We were lucky enough to collaborate with the students on our guidance on what we think would work in terms of table settings and food showcasing and the logistics of what that truly looks like dish by dish,” Houston said.

Tina Houston, Owner of The Beacon

Members of the class learned new processes and worked across mediums in an immersive design, making, and interactive installation experience. Learning new craft-making skills, the students made prototypes, worked to learn new production techniques, developed glazes and surfaces, and learned new ways to transfer images to ceramic work to create one-of-a-kind handmade objects. These functional objects provide an interactive way to connect the user to the maker and the home a lot of us call Boone. 

Before students sent their designs to production, they invited staff from The Beacon to the studio to view the prototypes.

“I must have said, ‘Oh, my God,’ a thousand times,” Houston reflected. “I was blown away, and not that I didn’t think their work was going to be incredible, but it’s beyond incredible!”

For example, one of the beautiful pieces Houston described is a set of napkin rings. When you push them together, they are the profile of Grandfather Mountain. Each component of the project has a similar regional focus and theme. 

“These students, they just took to the idea and really dove deep on it,” Houston said. “It’s pretty wild!”

The concept of this project is based on a previous experience Lisa Stinson had while in college.

“Lisa had participated in something like this when she was in graduate school up in the northeast years and years ago,” Houston explained. “And she saw it being successful and thought that maybe she could do something like it. Lisa and I just really jibe off of one another. She is an amazing artist. She does ceramics, and the interesting part of this, too, is I thought of ceramics as pottery, but these students are using 3D printers. It’s way beyond the scope of what I thought the dishware was going to be.”

Other pieces of artwork are thin, muslin tablecloths that display a map of Boone, which sophomore Graphic Communications Management major Zara Gray was involved with.

“For the tablecloth, I wanted to create a ground for all the functional  forms and provide a realistic image of the place we so fondly call home and have built connections,” Gray wrote. “The map of Boone tablecloths were created using laser-cut technology to etch an image of the map of Boone into each tablecloth.”

Another student, senior Studio Art major Brooke Drury, applied for a grant and built big light installations that will hang down and reflect different lighting. 

“‘Requiem to the Rhododendron’ is an installation that hoped to reflect the passing of time through light, shadow, and image,” Drury stated. “The forms were derived from the traditional doily pattern that historically has been present within Appalachian meal settings. The image of ever-present rhododendron leaves in this area represented each session.”

All the serviceware that was created for this project will be showcased on the evenings of April 25 and April 26, and everything is for sale. Therefore, invited guests can visit The Beacon to enjoy dinner, and if they like the materials, they can buy them. In return, the students will receive the proceeds of their work.

“Every table setting will be different,” Houston explained. “The students will be here, and they will divide their class in half to help each evening by explaining their work and setting up and breaking down. We divided out the work.”

The dinner hosted at The Beacon is a ticketed event, where during each evening at 6:30 p.m. there will be 60 seats. All tickets for both nights have already been sold out, and it will surely be an experience for everyone involved.

“In terms of production artwork, I think it was really a cool project for them because they got to see what it felt like to get an idea and actually do it within a time constraint,” Houston described.

As part of the experience, participants of the project were also able to visit New York City for five nights. They got to explore the Metropolitan Museum of Art as well as big design firms that let them come in and go behind the scenes to get some pointers. 

“I’ve been really thrilled to be a part of it because I love young people, and it’s just so interesting,” Houston said. “I’d love for this to be an annual event.”

In addition to the dinner, there is also an upcoming event that is free and open to the public where donors, alumni, community members, and prospective students can see what the art program is all about. This event will be held at the lobby of Wey Hall on Appalachian State University’s campus on Saturday, April 23 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

To join in celebrating the students’ accomplishments, people are also invited to follow the project on Instagram at odetoappalachia.

Members of the course ART 4515 – Community Collaborations: Objects: Effie Horvath, Logan Keller, Sofia Salcedo, Brianna Bello, Brooke Drury, Caitlin Cook, Zaria Gray, Hannah Little, Julia Boyce, Lela Arruza, Nicholas Roess, Christian T. Roberts, Lanie Sorrow, Gabriela Ramirez, Maggie MacKenzie, Emma Reamer

The Beacon is located at 125 Graduate Lane which is on NC-105 South where the waterwheel is.

Here are statements written by students describing the different pieces that were made for the project:

Boone Nights Cocktail Cups by Nicholas Roess

The Boone Nights Cocktail Cups are handcrafted, showing images of nature, weather, and creatures that all may be spotted on a night out in the High Country. The cocktail cups started by being hand thrown on the pottery wheel. From here, a plaster cast of the forms were made. Next, slip (liquid clay) was poured into the molds and dried for over 32 minutes, at which time they could be popped out of the mold. Next, the illustrations were hand-drawn on procreate, then printed onto acetate. Next, using photo emulsion, the images were printed with underglaze onto newsprint paper. Using a wet sponge, the underglaze was then transferred onto the cups. At this point, the cups were fired and glazed to create the surface.

Trail Marker Centerpieces by Brianna Bello

For the centerpieces, I referenced the trail makers that help guide hikers along a safe passage and the imagery they find along the trail. These markers provide visual points on a path and, through one journey, help tie together with companionship, build neighbors, and foster the need to spend time outdoors. Using hand-building methods, I worked with white high fire clay to model stone shapes. First, each was formed and then stacked. A hole was then carved in the middle. Once this was completed, the inside and outside were smoothed to give a polished finish to the pieces. Next, each piece is fired in a kiln and glazed to prevent water leakage. Finally, glazes with varying blue, gray, and green glazes embody the serenity and peace often found in nature.

Map of Boone Tablecloths by Zaria Gray

For the tablecloth, I wanted to create a ground for all the functional forms and provide a realistic image of the place we so fondly call home and have built connections.The Map of Boone Tablecloths were created using laser-cut technology to etch an image of the map of Boone into each tablecloth you see. This process came with some trial and error as we needed to figure out what strength was the best fit to burn the etched design into the fabric. Our goal was to find a strength that would 1. Show the image clearly, and 2. Wouldn’t burn a hole through the material itself. After figuring out the strength needed and the image size we wanted, we processed the machine and let the magic happen. Three hours later, the laser cutter was done and produced the perfect tablecloths to represent the Appalachia.

Statement by Lela Arruza, Julia Boyce, and Maggie MacKenzie

For the first course of this dinner, we wanted to represent the resilient nature of the Appalachia people, who can flourish in any environment. The process we used was a metalsmithing technique of spinning. It started with a flat aluminum disk, spun on a high-speed lathe, sandblasting, buffing to a high polish, anodizing, and dyeing for color. The last part of the process used a laser to etch imagery of native plants, Mountain Laurel or Dogwood, that bloom at the start of every spring.

Bread Platter with Ramekins by Caitlin Cook and Sofia Salcedo

The Bread Platter with Ramekins is a course meant to be shared and experienced together. The interconnected quality inspired us to reference how the water of Appalachia’s lakes, rivers, and streams connect the landscape.Each platter was press-molded into a plaster mold, with the tops of the forms individually molded to create a dynamic surface. Next, the ramekins were made using a slip casting process. All ramekins were cast and hand-finished. Finally, both pieces were fired in a ceramic kiln with glaze and slipped to create the surfaces and colors found in nature.

Relief Print Dish by Scott Ludwig

The Printmaking Relief class carved linoleum blocks with images inspired by the “Ode to Appalachia” theme. The blocks were then relief printed onto stoneware clay to create the embossed image. This tile was then pressed over a wooden form to give it dimension, and a foot was added.  After the first bisque firing, black underglazes were rubbed into the relief, and the glaze was applied to seal the surface.

Statement by Christian T. Roberts

Rhododendron blooming is a significant signal of spring and the sense of renewal in Boone. Their recurring vibrance of each spring inspired the idea to abstract the pattern of the flowers onto the salad plates. I am reminded of traditional Japanese cherry maple paintings, and I wanted to alter a familiar concept to echo familiar sights and quirks of our beloved town of Boone. The salad plates were made using the ​​Jolly-Jigger process; however, the foot on each plate was hand molded. Plaster molds were formed and put on a potter’s wheel where clay slabs are then placed, compressed, cut, and a foot is added. Christian Roberts made, glazed and hand painted each of the over 100 plates. 

Statement by Logan Keller, Gabi Ramirez Ramirez, Lanie Sorrow, and Brooke Drury

For the dinner’s main course, we focused on a bowl form that was open to evoke a sense of offering and togetherness. A rust-red glaze was applied to the inside to provide a dark background to highlight the meal. Again, the idea was to create a sense of community with this titular dish. These bowls were made using the jigger and jolly method. Plaster molds were used to form the inside curve of the form. This positive was placed on the potter’s wheel, a slab of clay was to the top, and additional clay formed the foot of the bowl. A jolly lever was lowered to carve out the shape of the foot. The pieces were glazed and fired to 2250 degrees in a reduction kiln.

Dessert Plates

For the  final course of this dinner we wanted to leave the viewer with the delicate nature of flowers that carpet the ground each spring in Boone. These handcrafted translucent plates offer a ground for your delicate and delicious dessert. Each plate made with crystal clear resin poured into our multiple silicone molds then finally placed flowers put within.

Installation by Brooke Drury

“Requiem to the Rhododendron”  is an installation that hopes to reflect the passing of time through light, shadow, and image. The forms were derived from the traditional doily pattern that historically has been present within Appalachian meal settings. The image of ever-present rhododendron leaves in this area represented each session. The project started with hand-drawings of the rhododendron leaves throughout the different seasonal phases, and of the support for the metal pieces. These drawings were then transferred digitally to the program illustrator and later rendered in Rhino, a three dimensional software. The output of these files was then cut with the ShopBot CNC machine as well as sent to SendCutSend, which cuts out the final metal pieces. The pieces were then arranged to accentuate the light plays within this piece and the different angular viewpoints that reveal different depths and layers within the work. I received an Academic Research Student Grant to complete this work which allowed for experimentation and exploration of different modes of creating this concept. 

The Water Cups

The water glasses were hand-carved and painted with black and white engobe to reflect the time and place we call home – Appalachia. Each member of the class made a limited run of six cups. They learned the process of making plaster molds, casting slips, and finishing the base form, and then worked with personal images to create unique, one-of-a-kind pieces. The cast was created in white stoneware clay and fired to 2165 degrees fahrenheit

Below are bios of students who completed the Ode to Appalachia project:

Nicholas Roess is a graphic design major who has found a love for clay over his time here at Appalachian State. Starting in 2020, he took his first clay class and began to integrate it into his graphic design process. After he graduates this May, he plans on moving to New York City and joining the closest clay studio possible to his new home. 

Maggie MacKenzie has finished all the requirements for her Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design at Appalachian State University. However, she decided to stay an additional year to get a Studio Art Minor (focusing on Metalsmith & Jewelry Design) where she is currently exploring design through the eyes of a metalsmith. During her time, she has; acquired her Solidworks Associates certification, worked with DesignNest and Kikkerland. As for her metalsmithing work, she has been featured in 2021 SNAG’s Student Online Exhibition and at Appalachian State University Art+ Design Expo 2022. 

Lela Arruza is a studio art major with a concentration in ceramics, general business minor, and Chancellor’s Scholar. Her current work is focused on vessel forms throughout a range of different mediums including clay, paper, and metal. Each piece she makes displays her interest in intricate and clean design. 

Julia Boyce is a graphic designer with a background in studio art. I love designing and creating by hand. I designed the menu and collaborated to create the first course metal bowls and a few clay water cups. I originally joined this class because of my interest in film and world-building, and this class has allowed me to practice my craft in both two and three-dimensional forms. My love for symbolism and metaphors pushed me to create meaningful designs for this dinner. (See the course 1 description for an inside scoop!).

Caitlin Cook is interested in the inherent intimacy of clay as a medium, both in the creative process and in the way the consumer interacts with a finished piece. Her work unites function and beauty, with a commitment to research of materials and surface design to explore the delicate nature of creating thrown forms. Caitlin is a ceramic artist living and working in Western North Carolina. She received her BFA in Ceramics from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC in 2022. Her professional experience includes working as a Studio Monitor for the Clay Area at Appalachian State University and as Special Events Assistant and Part-time Receptionist at the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts in Boone, NC.

Brooke Drury is a senior Studio Art major at Appalachian State University, concentrating in painting and drawing. For her, painting is a way in which she can fully understand the world around her and a means of navigating her journey through life. She draws inspiration from the trials and celebrations of youth and the freedom found within the natural world. While Brooke primarily works in two dimensional mediums, she is interested in incorporating ceramics, fabrication, and metalsmithing into her practice. Brooke’s art currently demonstrates her desire to find connectivity between all life and an honest approach to narrative through and within her creative practice.

Brianna Bello is originally from Greenville NC. I am currently majoring in art history and minoring in studio art. I enjoy watching horror movies, playing with my cats, and spending time with my friends.

Hannah Little is an artist and handmade jewelry maker. She is currently based in Boone, NC. She makes a diverse range of pieces from clay sculptures to acrylic earrings, all with a clean and elegant aesthetic. My goal is to focus on visual image-making and conceptual installations. By using my artistic talents to communicate compelling stories, I am driven to contribute and make a lasting difference in the world. I love using my training in painting and sculpture to help communicate stories focused on inclusion, representation, and a voice for those who are under-represented in this country. Working currently as a freelance artist, I enjoy helping others develop their own form of artistic communication as well.

Christian T. Roberts is a ceramic artist and illustrator pursuing a BFA in Studio Art with a minor in English at Appalachian State University. With a background of nine years in dance and four in theater, Roberts decided to shift to a tactile medium as he transitioned into university; however, both are still prevalent in his own life. Roberts continues to write bi-monthly reviews as a published Art and Performance Critic for the Classical Voices of North Carolina. During the school year, Roberts works as a Studio Monitor and a Technical Assistant in the ASU Ceramics department.

Lanie Sorrow is a second-year graphic design major. I have always loved to paint, draw, and create. This class has helped me improve my skills in other areas of art, especially clay. I helped make a lot of bowls over the last month and a half and feel great about the new skills I have learned. I am so happy to have this opportunity to show my creative talents to the community of Boone!

Gabriela Ramirez is a Graphic Design student who found her love for the arts at a very young age. With a full-ride at Appalachian State University, Gabriela is furthering her studies in the arts with majoring in graphic design and minoring in apparel design and merchandising. Gabriela plans on furthering her career in the arts with the hopes of studying abroad in her spring 2023 semester and graduating in the class of 2024 at App State. 

Sofia Salcedo is a designer, poet, and multimedia artist in the Studio Art program at Appalachian State University. She is especially passionate about fibers and printmaking, and much of her art combines both digital and analog media. Sofia resides in Boone, North Carolina with her cat, Pumpkin.

Zaria Gray is a sophomore Graphic Communications Management – Cross Media Production Major with a Minor in Digital Marketing and Studio Art. My passions lie in digital design, fashion, and art where I hope to take my knowledge and skills to apply to the fashion magazine industry as a creative director. In this class, I have learned the basics of ceramics and laser design as well as my prior knowledge of digital design to help me create the pieces you see today. I hope you enjoy your time and the art my class has designed!

Photos of some of the handmade tableware that will be used at the dinners made by App State students enrolled in the honors level course titled ART 4515

Photos of The Beacon Butcher Bar Restaurant