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Sewickley library art comes from far, near

| Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, 6:34 p.m.
Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
A piece from Sewickley resident Roger Brown's collection of handcrafted figures from Oaxaca, Mexico on display in Sewickley Public Library Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013.
Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Jody Gaber of Robinson poses for a portrait with one of her finished pieces in the ceramics room at the Community College of Allegheny County's north campus Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013. Gaber's ceramics currently are on display at Sewickley Public Library.
Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Jody Gaber of Robinson uses a trimming tool on the base of a project she is making in the ceramics room at the Community College of Allegheny County's north campus Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013. Gaber's ceramics currently are on display at Sewickley Public Library.
Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Jody Gaber of Robinson uses a trimming tool on the base of a project she is making in the ceramics room at the Community College of Allegheny County's north campus Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013. Gaber's ceramics currently are on display at Sewickley Public Library.
Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
Reflected in a mirror inside of the ceramics studio, Jody Gaber of Robinson works on a project at Community College of Allegheny County's north campus Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013. Gaber's ceramics currently are on display at Sewickley Public Library.

Roger Brown will miss his dragons, lobsters, peacocks, rabbit, donkey, octopus and his favorite cat with an armadillo on its back, but the Aleppo man said there is a time and place for everything.

Because he and his wife, Lea, both in their 80s, plan to downsize soon, they have decided to sell their collection of about 25 colorful, hand-carved wooden figures purchased in Mexico over a 25- to 30-year period. The figures are on display and for sale until Dec. 7 in Sewickley Public Library along with ceramics by Jody Gaber.

Brown said he has enjoyed looking at the figures displayed in his home, while he worked at his desk. He liked seeing the lobsters placed on the dinner table as decorations when the family ate seafood.

He and his wife, a sculptor and artist who taught at Sweetwater Center for the Arts in Sewickley for 20 years, bought the figures at San Miguel de Allende arts and language school.

He said others from the Sewickley area who visited the couple while they vacationed in Mexico purchased their own figures, some in Oaxaca de Juárez, where most of the figures are made.

Brown said the craft is a family affair in the country, and skills are passed down to each generation.

“They are just wonderful,” Brown said. “The first one we bought was the rabbit. The detail on the painting is incredible. I can't imagine someone painting a thousand tiny dots like that without making one mistake.”

Prices range from $25 for a monster face to $150 for a large peacock.

An exhibit placed beside Brown's focuses on pieces made closer to home.

Gaber, 29, of Robinson, is displaying many of her ceramic pieces, some of which were inspired by her life on a family farm.

Continuing to enjoy that unique lifestyle now, she said all of her pieces reflect her appreciation of the outdoors. Prices range from $10 for a small bowl to $80 for a set of nesting bowls.

She and Randi Morgan, library exhibits curator, say their favorite piece is a cowboy silhouette bowl, which Morgan called “quite unique.”

Gaber said she loves the size and color, and it was the first piece on which she used underglaze and treated the surface like a painting.

“Plus it's a direct representation of my love for horses and horseback riding,” she said.

Gaber began creating ceramic pieces with encouragement from teachers at Montour High School, where she took all the available art classes several times.

“The art room is where I felt comfortable and successful,” she said.

After graduating with a bachelor's degree in art education from Edinboro University in 2006, Gaber took ceramics classes at Community College of Allegheny County North Campus to fulfill Act 48 teaching certificate credits. She continued to take the classes “to challenge my creative process.”

Gaber paints Christmas crafts, has been commissioned to paint a few concrete statues and is a craft teacher and organizer in her church's vacation Bible school.

Her goal is to work as an elementary school teacher to inspire students to develop their creative sides, and to use her farming background to teach them about growing their own food.

“This would be the perfect match of all my passions,” she said.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or jbarron@tribweb.com.

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