Beth Wicker has been creating all of her life. Her passion for color, texture and pattern led her to get her M.F.A. in Art and continues to inspire her in her jewelry making business. She also is an educator, offering workshops in metals, fiber arts, papermaking and printmaking. Wicker is a member of the Artisans of the South Carolina Cotton Trail and has been on the S.C. Approved Artists Roster for more than 25 years.
Q: Where did you grow up? What brought you to South Carolina?
A: I grew up in Chapel Hill, N.C., and came to South Carolina for my first job out of college, selling advertising for the Chesterfield Advertiser, a weekly newspaper. After that I attended Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, and then transferred to USC to finish my MFA in printmaking.
Q: How has your artwork (or interests in art) changed from when you were getting your MFA at USC?
A: My MFA was in printmaking, with additional work in papermaking. I continued working in both media and added mixed media fibers. From there I moved back into jewelry, something I had done as a child. The impetus was my daughter asking me to teach her, at about the same age I had begun exploring jewelry myself. I have always been interested in pattern and texture, and my MFA show at USC focused on prints based on aerial photographs of S.C. farmland, with interest in the myriad patterns of the fields as seen from above. I realized that jewelry/metals was another way to explore texture and pattern.
Q: What do you love about creating jewelry and working with metals?
A: I have always loved rocks -- we'll be driving down the road and I'll go "Look at the rocks!" My husband and daughter just hope I don't stop to collect them, which I have been known to do. As I said, I've been fascinated with patterns and textures for years. Getting into metalsmithing, particularly goldsmithing, has allowed me to combine my interest in patterns and textures with my interest in rocks and create what are basically tiny sculptures to be worn.
Q: What inspires your work?
A: Definitely the patterns and textures and shapes of nature. My studio has windows on three sides, I do a lot of driving and I'm always "storing" what I see. I never know when a texture or pattern will come out in a piece.
Q: Can you tell us what (or who?) inspired the name for Three Cats and a Dog Design Studio?
A: We have always had animals, and at the time I was creating the studio we had three cats and a dog - and they all helped. I would be working and realize I had very intent "supervision." My daughter was helping me, and we decided Three Cats and a Dog was very apt, and it also was a name that customers would be likely to remember. I still have studio "helpers," with one particular cat, Tenzing, being convinced he is the "boss" of the studio.
Q: Who are some other South Carolina artists that you admire?
A: I was at USC with Tarleton Blackwell, and I still love his work - a wonderful use of values and plays on imagery. I also love Bob Doster's (of Lancaster) metal sculptures - I've known Bob for years, and he is always pushing metal in new directions, while working on a MUCH larger scale than what I do. Jackie Wukela of Florence is a fabulous water media painter, and I love the way she says so much with so few specific marks in her work.
Q: What do you like about living in Cheraw?
A: I love being outside of a town that is small enough to navigate quickly and easily, but large enough to have much of what one needs. It is within what I call "easy" driving distance of larger cities when I need something I can't get in Cheraw. Cheraw is called "The Prettiest Town in Dixie," and it is quite lovely, lots of interesting architecture and gardens to see. Plus the community is very supportive of the arts for such a relatively small town.
Q: Any tips for visitors about what to see in your neck of the woods?
A: Cheraw is home of the last church founded by the Church of England before the Revolutionary War, Old St. David's church, which can be toured. There are numerous pre-Civil War and post-Civil War homes on the tour of town, which is available for cell phones also. Plus, Cheraw is the birthplace of jazz great Dizzy Gillespie. I was lucky enough to meet him years ago when he came to do a concert in the high school here. The town holds a Jazz Festival every fall near Dizzy's birthday, with wonderful jazz (much of it free), art, food, and lots of fun. The town has an amazing number of restaurants for such a small town, with a huge range of cuisines represented.
We also have the Cheraw State Park, with camping, golf, swimming, and a wonderful lake for boating and fishing and kayaking. There is a wilderness area nearby where they hold dog and horse trials, and Southern Eights is a national level horse farm that sponsors huge national combined horse events. Plus, with the Pee Dee river (Cheraw was the farthest navigable port on the river for years) there is boating and fishing there also, and a park right on the river.
We also have some wonderful locally owned shops and a small farmer's market in the summer with locally grown produce, including produce from a local organic farm. The Cheraw Arts Commission has a wonderful small gallery in the Recreation Department building (an old armory) that has changing exhibits throughout the year. I've probably left something out -- people think small towns don't have much, but Cheraw has a lot to offer for everyone from history buffs to gardeners, golfers, shopaholics and foodies!