Art audiences, supporters, and patrons are all vital to a healthy arts and culture sector. This blog series will highlight some of the people who make the arts work in Summit County. Today we hear from John Wilkie, Owner of Repurposed Relics and Revere Refinishing. (Have somebody you want to nominate for the spotlight? Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
How have arts, culture, and environment influenced your life?
At the age of four a hammer was put in my hand by my great uncle Al. I remember I would not leave his house until he gave me a tape measure. This was my first experience with the arts. You see, little did I know that little spark at the age of four would launch me into a world of so much. I used my hands and created something. I knew I didn’t want to go to college, but I had a gift. That gift was restoring furniture. I started this art form in high school. I worked half a day and went to school half a day. In 1989, I was involved in a life threatening car accident, which the doctors gave me a 20% chance of surviving the night. But here I am now 30+ years later. I am thankful my hands have been useable and able to restore, transform, and bring back so many treasured possessions.
I have been part of numerous experiences, art shows, festivities and design projects all for which I am so humbled to be a part of. The artistic community in Summit County is vast. One of the biggest projects to date was being a part of the Bounce Innovation Hub’s first floor generator. Hazel Tree Interiors was the design firm that incorporated over 70 artists for this amazing transformation. A friend of mine and fellow artist and I joined forces and created over 70 wood and resin pieces that will be showcased and used and admired for many, many years. Overall, it was a 6-month undertaking and what a pleasure it was to be a part of it. So you see, art is a huge part of my life, it is what makes me me. It changes not just my life, but the lives of others around me. It turns furniture that has been forgotten for decades into useable art pieces to be used and admired once again. Many times bringing people to tears over the transformation and flooding in memories of other generations using it and hopefully passing it along to their family members. Art fills me with hope and joy knowing that it is endless of what you can create. So many mediums to use, which if you think about it, anything can be artful. I, for one, have the motto: if you want to do something try to do it, if you fail and it’s not for you at least you can say you tried it. I believe everyone has an artist inside of them just waiting to come out. Just get rid of the fear of trying and voila you are halfway there, just a little encouragement is needed to ease you along!!
What artist, cultural organization, or experience do you wish more people knew about in Summit County?
Speaking of encouragement, I want more people to know about the Bounce Innovation Hub and the Makerspaces that are already open and some that are slated to open. The first floor workshop at Bounce is open now and has 3D printers, laser cutters, sewing machines, soldering stations, a photo lab, an embroidery machine, looms, a vinyl printer and cutter, and so much more. Monthly memberships are being accepted now for a very reasonable cost and just the chance to be around like-minded people to encourage one another and to feed off one another and of course, to spark interest in learning something new. The most exciting aspect for me is going to be phase two of the Makerspace at Bounce. It is going to be comprised of a full woodshop with every power tool imaginable and a CNC machine, which we used to create one of the pieces for the generator project with the assistance of Jeff Smith, the Akron Makerspace manager, who is one talented and artistic guy! Happy to have added him to my artistic community! It will also have a full metal shop with welders and metal lathe and from what I hear, a very large plasma cutter! A ceramic studio will be in the space and a metal forge for blacksmithing etc. I am sure I am leaving a lot out of what the future holds for the Makerspace at Bounce, but I am so excited about this not just for me, but Summit County and surrounding areas. I am hopefully going to be employed during the next phase of the Makerspace to create and encourage and hopefully teach some classes on my knowledge that I have been given so graciously over my 35 years of creating. This too will have a monthly membership with it and I believe 24/7 access.
What do you wish for arts and culture in Summit County in the next five years?
I wish for the arts and culture in Summit County in the next 5 years to be connected in a way like it was during the hey day of rubber, marbles, and everything else Summit County experienced during the early 1900s. From what I gather, there was nothing that couldn’t be made or manufactured or designed here. What does it take to do that? It takes collaboration, it takes having a place to facilitate that, it takes like-minded people pushing the boundaries and limits of their abilities. It takes taking a thought of “hey this would be cool” to figuring out how to create it so you can say “hey this came out so cool look what we just created!” This has been my motto my whole artistic career. I am always wiling to share my knowledge with others or to lend a hand in a project or to let others use my workshop or just to have someone to bounce an idea off of. So Summit County artists, are you ready to come out of hiding? To gather together, to create together and to explore new possibilities together? Let’s all keep that fresh in our minds as 2020 unfolds. Hopefully, the new phase of the Makerspace at Bounce unfolds design projects, murals, installations, rehabs, whatever people are using their hands and their abilities to do. Let’s encourage, facilitate, and love the ones doing this and make Summit County a place that is a model for the counties around us. My good buddy always says LET’S MAKE IT HAPPEN!