artist, Ohio, Painter

Priya Rama

Priya Rama’s work and story really resonated with me. I get migraines and have my whole life. When I was a little girl, I was often torn, because I knew that certain activities would give me headaches. Mine are genetic, my maternal grandmother used to shut herself in her bedroom for days on end. Like Priya, my migraines have changed a lot over the years. Until I was in my 20’s, I didn’t know what I was experiencing were actually migraines. Or that there is medication to help! Now for Priya Rama:

I have had migraines since I was a little girl. They continue to change as I get older. Every migraine is different from the other. I often experience this unbelievable tiredness and I don't know why I'm feeling that tired. I just want to sit and not do anything. That is usually a day before a migraine. I'm not always good at recognizing, "Oh, I'm about to get a migraine." The days I don't have migraines, I overcompensate and I do so much, because my migraines are so frequent. I get two to three a week.

Two to three migraines a week! Wow. Are you on any medication?

Oh yeah. All kinds of meds. We moved to Cincinnati from Texas about 10 years ago. After moving to Cincinnati my migraines worsened. That's when I realized that weather is a big trigger for me which I'd never paid attention to before. The changing weather in Cincinnati, the constant barometric pressure changes, all lead to migraines.

Yeah. This year, this spring has been terrible for me. I get migraines once a month maybe. But early this summer I was getting three a week.

I didn't connect the dots to weather until we moved here. It doesn't always end up in a migraine, it can quite often be just a very tight head. Like it's being squeezed. It’s constant pressure and tightness. Just an overall discomfort, really.

I hear you, I understand.

When I was commuting to Ohio State two, three times a week, I was a full time student and I was teaching. The [combination of the] commute and being a wife and mother, it was all just too much. I was always medicating. I had too many migraines. I always had a list of things to do. I had assignments to grade or assignments to complete. It was just too much really. So I decided to take a year's break and reevaluate and see, “Do I really want to do this?” Continue with this.

Because along with migraines comes this constant guilt, right? Guilt of canceling appointments, or guilt of not being able to do your job. Or not being around for people. I said, “This is not worth it.” So I decided to take a year's break and during that break one particular migraine was really vivid and vibrant, and I decided to paint it. That's where this whole thing started. Painting that felt so very comfortable and so natural.


Painting these has not necessarily cured the migraines, but what it's done has been to allow me to let go of all the anger and frustration that I was holding onto. I didn't even realize how angry I was! There's a constant canceling of plans or you wake up and you feel this pain, and you're like, again, really?! You're just dealing with this constant anger. So painting has allowed me to be completely at peace with having migraines and accept their presence in my life.

Now a migraine comes, I'm like okay, and I just deal with it. Not that having the pain is enjoyable or anything. Some days it really brings you down. But it is what it is. I don't know any other life, that's just all I've known.


I've been doing this now for three, three and a half years. The more I paint the more vibrant the images are becoming.

Yes. That's interesting. Something like training a muscle. You only started painting your migraine visions about three years ago?

I've always painted though... I trained to be a graphic designer and typographer. So I was doing that, working in advertising.

When I was in Texas, I was an elementary school teacher. I taught fourth grade. Art and design took a back seat. When we moved here I thought it was a great opportunity to combine teaching and this love for art and design. So I thought I'd do art education. I did my masters here at the University of Cincinnati, and then started my doctoral work at OSU. So that's how that journey kind of happened.

So you've always been artistic, always painted.

I've always painted. But much more traditional subjects. I really didn't think too much about this imagery I was seeing because I've always known it. I didn't think it was something very unusual or that not everybody sees that kind of imagery. I'm a visual learner. I understand the world in visual terms. I thought that's how everybody is.


So when I started doing this and people were responding to my work...I actually met people who say some of my paintings are exactly like some of the visions they see. That fascinates me. Different bodies, different brains, somewhat similar condition and we see similar things, you know?

Yes! Some of your paintings I can look at and think, “Wow, that's a lot of pain.” In others, I can see maybe that's one where you're doing okay with it that day. Where you found a calm place or just, ‘Okay, this is happening.’ I can definitely see in [the paintings] the type of migraine, which is crazy to me.

For me, that is interesting. A lot of people say, "Oh, that looks like a painful one." I haven't really thought of the images as painful or not. It's just an image for me. Yes the image comes out of this process [or pain] but to me it's amazing that I see this imagery. [The image is] not in my eyes, it's more inside my brain. My vision will get sort of blurry and diffused [with a migraine] but all this imagery is inside my head. It's more like the top of my head. So I close my eyes, kind of look up and then it starts to emerge. Then I can travel through it, sort of float through it, and frame what I'm looking at. It's really interesting. It's almost like a slow motion movie.

This has been fantastic. It's taken me a long time to arrive at this point to find that one thing that truly grabs me. All along I thought I'd been doing things I love and enjoy but this feels completely like home.

As I'm floating through it some things can come forward, some things recede. So for me I don't look at the pain, it's just I'm focusing so much on what's going on inside my head. The textures and the details of the colors. I'm just trying to capture it.


When you're painting what you're seeing, do you finish a whole painting?

No...I work, as you can see [gestures to many half painted canvases leaning against the wall], I work on multiple things at once. So I'll travel through back and forth. So these are all in progress.

Is it a combination of visions, or are you able to go back?

I'm able to go back because I have a photographic memory of all my visions.

That's really wild!

Going back years. Otherwise my memory is pretty bad. When it comes to these visions I can recall. It's almost like I can go back to that vision, almost that moment. Not necessarily the migraine experience, but just the whole visual symphony that's playing out. It's like a file folder system in my head. I can pull out a drawer and there are slides and I can look at these images and go back to that moment.

I work on different [pieces] because things have to dry. Once I start painting, it's weird. As calming and meditative as it is, it's also a big urgency to capture what I'm seeing. To get it on canvas quickly and to capture the feeling. So I have to work on multiple things and allow things to dry between layers so I can go and add to it.

For me, painting is a quiet process. It's me and my thoughts and ... you know? Just being part of that moment of experiencing it.

You don't realize you're not talking to anybody, you're sort of lost in your thoughts.

This is what the beginning stages of my process look like: I'll start with a blank [canvas], I put a background color on and then I do layers. Quite often I use black for the background because it gives the depth, the shadow that I'm looking for. Once I do that then I layer [sheer washes of color that build the feeling of depth]. Then I start building all the details.

So every little dot and every little thing that you see there has been placed there by me. It's just an ongoing process and I can spend hours and hours just building, building.


Because my studio is at home I'm able to work at any hour that I want. And just be comfortable. And I can get in and out of bed and work.

Does that happen a lot?

Oh yeah.

Is that because the migraines are there and you can't sleep?

Yeah. Because I'll come and I'll start to paint but then sometimes it's so painful that I don't want to be here. So at least get the process started and then go back to bed. Then the image continues and I'm just sort of compelled to come back and paint again, to try to capture it. Having the studio at home really allows me the flexibility.

You sell your work mainly at art fairs?

Yes, and I'm in a few galleries. Hayley Gallery in Columbus, Ohio… and I'm in Purple Paisley in Covington, Kentucky.

What was that process like, getting into galleries?

Basically you approach them, show your work, talk about what you do. I include images of my work in emails or I take my work to show them. I've only applied to art fairs and galleries which have a jury process. It's more choosy in who they have in the gallery [or fair]. I want to be amongst good company.

[When I approach galleries with my paintings,] I look at the work they carry already. The artists they have. Because I'm not a traditionalist, you can see, and I don't even do traditional subjects. I have to find galleries that show modern, contemporary and abstract art really.


Hayley Gallery, the owner saw me in the Greater Columbus Art Festival last year and thought I would be a good fit. She said, "Hey come on over with your work and we'll see." I've been there a year, and she’s very supportive.

Okay. So it’s been a combination. Some people have approached you and you've approached some people.

Yeah. This year my hope is to go to two other galleries outside the tristate area. Maybe Chicago. I'm trying to find the balance between having enough inventory to do art fairs and to have work at home. When you take work to a gallery it stays with them. It's no longer available for you.

Find Priya:

Priya Rama


National Headache Foundation Blog

Priya will appear on CBS Sunday Morning With Jane Pauley on November 3rd. Topic of the day is migraines.

artist, Ohio, Painter

Mandi Caskey

12.29.2015 conversation

How long do you expect this mural to take?

I’m hoping until the end of January. But that’s if everything goes smoothly and if nothing else jumps on my plate. I’ve been up here since the day after Christmas, everyday. Only a few hours at a time. I’ve been taking my time. Playing nice music. Just enjoying it rather than, “Gotta get done!” Which is how I usually am. As I see it, [this mural] is going to be up here for 40 plus years. Might as well take my time on it.

How did you get this gig?

One of my really good friends’ mom works up here. I met his parents one day and his mom says, “There’s this opportunity, I don’t know if you want it.” Then she explained it to me. “Yea I want to do that! Are you joking?” Then there was this whole process. It took months to get to [the painting] point. We talked about it. [Went through] all the legalities. We’re finally here!

Is this the first mural that you’ve had to deal with legal issues?

Yes. Did you see the football players that I did? laughter My friend and I did really old school football players on [the Landgrant Brewing Co Building] in Franklinton. We hopped on that and just talked to the owner of the building. That’s usually how its been. For this, since it is a public space and in a government building, it took months to get approvals after approvals. [It had to be explained] why this was needed, etc. It was cool to learn how to go through those things. [To learn the difference between work that goes up] in a government building compared to abandoned spaces. 

Most of the stuff that you do is larger scale? Or do you work on smaller canvases too?

There’s a pretty drastic difference between my street art and the things I do at home. I find that smaller works that people can actually hold and really be intimate with it is more impactful in a gallery space. On the street, it [should be] something big and more eye-catching. The “wow how’d they do that?!” I guess is more impressive that way. I’m actually starting this new series, bringing my gallery work outside. I’ll be doing bricks, single bricks, all over the city… I’ve kind-of already started the series. I actually built my own brick walls.

Finished cabin and sky on the left. Underpainting on trees to the right.

"Blocking in" or "underpainting".

I saw those! I’ve wondered, “What’s going on with this?”

I’m really excited about it. A lot of people are stoked about it. Brioso, Landgrant. They both have said “We want a brick! Paint one of our bricks!” I want to do a location kind of thing. If you find one, you could do a hashtag, you know what I mean? Something like a hide-and-seek game. Where’s Waldo… I’m stoked about it. No one’s really doing that right now. No one is taking street art and doing it really small and delicate. Everything is in-your-face and large. I feel like it’s really important to bring it back down to earth. Have a conversation with it, rather than it engulfing you. 

A conversation instead of a statement.

Yea, I’m really excited about it. It gives me goosebumps every time I talk about it. To have 20 to 30 bricks and to see those in a series. And have people taking photos with them and interacting with them. I’m excited for all those moments people will have. They’ll look, then do a double take, and go up to it and say, “Whaat?!” You know what I mean? That’s so special. I live for those moments. 

Did you grow up making art?

Yes I did. There were two things I wanted to be when I grew up. It was either an archeologist or an artist. And here I am. I have a huge love for history. I base a lot of my work on the way the masters did it. Very traditional style. Very emotional. I watch a lot of documentaries while I work.

Your plants, like what you did for Brioso. And also your birds. I loved all of those. They’re very enlightenment and turn of the century text book style.

Yea that’s what I really love to do. Institutional. That look where you’ve been schooled. You know. I only went to college for two years. 

So you quit art school. Did you feel like it just wasn’t helping you?

I was in the fine arts program and I didn’t feel like it was really carrying me anywhere. I was spending 30 grand a year just learning the same stuff over and over again… I also just couldn’t afford it. I was paying for it myself and at some point you just have to say “I’m going to be more in debt than it’s even worth.” I feel that to be an artist you don’t need to go to school. If you have enough drive and are determined and obviously a little bit of talent thrown in there. You’re going to do something.


I was seeing all the other fine artists doing a lot of contemporary, abstract work. And then here’s me, really focusing on a very traditional look. It was really frustrating. Seeing other people get praised for something….I understand conceptually there’s something there. I respect it for it’s conceptual side. But do I value it as much as I do the master’s and more traditional work? No. I don’t. 

You have to have that strong foundation before you can jump into the more contemporary stuff.

Yes. And that was always my argument. With everything. At a point I got frustrated. The whole fine arts program is this when I’m trying to do this. I’m not going to try please a different crowd. I know what I’m supposed to do. That’s the little rebel in me I guess.


01.13.2017 Update

Are you excited to finally finish this mural?

Yes! It’s going to be bittersweet. I love coming up here, it’s relaxing. But I’m ready to be done with it, you know? I’ve got 6 ladybugs, some buckeyes, two bumble bees and these carnations to finish. I’m going to be done at 9 tonight. I’m ready to move on to other things.


Craft, Ohio, Service, Food

Dan Riesenberger : Dan the Baker

How did you get your start?

I was working at North Star Cafe… The main baker there left... and I ended up buying a bunch of his in-home baking equipment… I started experimenting around in my house baking breads. Mainly just eating them myself, but I brought some to the farmers market and started selling them. People were like, “Oh, what is that? Who are you? What are you doing?” I thought it was cool. I’m making bread, making a few bucks here and there. I realized I liked doing it. One of the shopkeepers at the Clintonville farmers market let me set up next to their store. That was my start. The first day [that I set up at the farmers market] I sold out in 90 minutes. The bread definitely wasn’t as nice as it is now but it was cool how much demand there was for a product like this. 

I’m not professionally trained in any way. [North Star] was its own type of baking. So any of the bread making training that I’ve gotten has been self taught. I’m growing with the recipes, just working with them. Trying and failing many times. 

...I quit North Star before I started a bakery… I didn’t have a plan for after that. The baking gig turned into “well, I need to make money, so…” Definitely grew very organically. It was never, “I’m going to be a baker and have this huge operation.” I kind of fell into it all. “Well, I’m good at this, it makes sense, people really like it, I can’t turn back now.” ...

All of this time and money spent.

Right... I grew the business slow and methodical. I didn’t really change the processes a lot. I have a really small staff, it’s very personal. It’s very much a passion that we all have. It’s not some large corporate production. Yes, we make a lot of bread, but we try to have that handmade feel, bring the love to the dough. I mean whatever but it is true. 

It’s something I never really want to grow so much that it loses that feel. Because then what’s the point? That is why I work in the first place. That is why I’m happy with it in the first place. So many people want to grow so fast, you lose that initial excitement and then it’s just another corporation. 

Do you still wake up excited about coming to work?

Oh yea! I love it! So I went to San Francisco for the first time last week. That was just a mind-blowing experience. I’ve always followed Tartine Bakery and Josey Baker and Don Guerra in Tucson. So I finally got to make a trip out there. It was so inspiring to see all of these bakeries and compare your bread vs theirs. To have that experience, [I came back] more excited to work with the product. To bake what I know. We do a really good job, I felt like ours held up. We’re making an awesome product and we don’t need to change much. 

What is an unexpected favorite thing about running your own business?

…I guess finding people that are as passionate as you about it. That really has been awesome. [It’s also] something I’ve had to come to terms with, because I’ve not wanted to give up the responsibility of dough shaping, mixing, baking, all that… To grow the business and to have free time, I’ve had to [let go of some responsibility.] It’s been fun finding people that are as passionate about the product and the business and the whole philosophy as I am. I’m a pretty introverted person in general. So bringing in other people has been something outside of my comfort zone, but it’s been one of the best things.

Creating your own bread community. 

Yes. Watching that bread culture grow, and I don’t mean the sourdough culture. I mean the community around the city that appreciates this bread… Watching that grow and materialize over the last six years has been super sweet. It makes you feel a lot more grounded. More responsible and influential in a way too. You can really affect change in a pretty cool way. By making a product that people can’t find elsewhere and can really get behind. That’s one of the things I picked up from baker Don Guerra in Tucson. His community out-reach philosophy… Instead of just making a really great loaf of bread, really connecting to the community. Teaching people ... how it is different from something they would buy at the grocery store. It made me really appreciate that and want to do something like that in Columbus. 

Bringing the bakery back down to the community level. Like they used to be.

Right. It has become this celebrity thing, and I don’t feel like that’s necessarily how it going to ride out. It’s awesome that it has that sort of exposure right now, the local foods and ‘back to the old methods’ foods. I think in the longer term it is more going to be more intimate than that, less flash. But you know, it’s always going to change. 

What gave you the idea for the Toast Bar?

In San Francisco, Josey Baker has a shop called The Mill. They took the artisan toast trend of San Francisco [started by Trouble Coffee] and opened their own. I went to Intellensia Coffee in Chicago and they were doing a flight sort of deal as well. and I thought, “Man that’s a perfect idea!” People can get exposed to the bread and in a non-pretentious way. It’s really funny, because as soon as I launched the idea, people were like, “That’s so pretentious.” That’s exactly what I was not going for. People can feel how they will about it and come see it if they like. It’s just a way to try the different breads and grains and spreads and such without committing to a whole loaf! And it allows us to make our own butter, jams, almond butter, [etc].

To have an excuse to expand into more things!

Right. I’ve tried to expand things too much before. I get really crazy ideas and try to do too much. Business is better when it’s focused and streamlined. I’ve had to realize, with these crazy expansion ideas, what we’re the best at. Keep it limited, keep it focused. Until we’re really, really ready to grow past where we are… Knowledge is half the battle. To know that, to see how to adapt. 

The options are limitless. You have to calm down about trying to do everything.

Absolutely. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.


Craft, artist, Ohio, ceramics

Bruce Grimes

HooDoo_Bruce Grimes_013.jpg
HooDoo_Bruce Grimes_005.jpg
HooDoo_Bruce Grimes_156.jpg
HooDoo_Bruce Grimes_001.jpg

You started ceramics in college. Where did you attend?

I started at Milligan University in Decatur, Illinois. I got my Bachelor of Fine Arts. I took my first ceramics class as a senior there. I didn’t know much about pottery at all, but I knew I liked clay. So when I got to graduate school [at Ohio University], you could take one elective. So I took ceramics. I was putting about 40 hours a week in for a three hour class. At the end of that first year, Professor Lin came to me and he says, “How would you like to be my teaching assistant?” I thought, “Wow, I’m down here all the time anyway, I can get paid.” So I said that I would like that. After I said yes, he started telling me all the things he wanted done. Being a smart mouth, I said, “Well maybe I should bring down a cot.” He says, “Good idea.”

I lived down there. When the students left at 11 o’clock, I started mixing glazes, making clay, and we had to be there at 8 o’clock in the morning. He didn’t care if I hadn’t finished a firing until 5:30 in the morning. 

[Professor Henry Haun Lin was the dean of the Ohio University’s College of Fine Arts. He was the father of Maya Lin, the sculptor who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.]

You see all the air bubbles in here? I’ve got to knead all that out of there or I can’t center the clay…

You hear that pop? You can’t center the clay, you can’t throw symmetrical pieces. It will have a thin and a thick side. If there’s an air bubble in there, you’re going to let up when you’re throwing or else it will tear. Where you let up, it will be thicker.

Ok. I’m going to throw a bowl. 

What I’m doing as I’m centering the clay is I’m actually kneading it. You want to center your clay as near the final shape as you are making. So this is going to be a bowl… [Bruce centers and shapes the clay into a low, wide cylinder.] 

Now you see how the walls are pretty straight? I’m going to come back with a throwing rib and you’ll see how the volume will change. I never used throwing ribs until I started making lots and lots of pieces. People began to look for sets, looking for pots that are similar in shape. With a throwing rib, I’m getting the same curve every time. 

I tell my students, there is a fine line between a piece that is successful and one that’s not quite there. After you get to a place where you think you are done with it, take a look at it. Usually you go back at least one more time and clean it up.

Wanna see a vase?

Before I ever touch the sides or the walls, I get the curve I want in the bottom and I compact the clay base. If the base is not compacted, you get what’s called ’S cracks’ on the bottom of your pieces. Your sides get very compact as you’re throwing. If the bottom is not compacted, [as the clay dries] it’s going to pull away and crack in the place of least resistance. I’ve got a curve started on the bottom, I’m going to continue that curve. Even though it’s a vase and you don’t see the inside, I don’t want a pot that has a break [in the curve]. Each time, [each pass,] I’m just moving the clay up and thinning it out. So the clay becomes the same thickness each time. Instead of having thick someplace and thin someplace, it’s the same and just gets thinner with each draw. I’m going to collar this in as I go… If I wait until the end to do that, most of the time it will twist and that will cause it to tear.

I’m going to have a broader lip for a vase. It reminds me of the frame on a painting. …If you’ve got a shout down here [indicates vase body] and you end up with a whisper [points to vase lip], the two don’t go together very well. I’m preparing this so that the top acts as a visual stopping point. So that’s where your eye stops.

Here it’s really important that the inside hand supports and shapes the clay. It’s the one that’s drawing the shape. So that you get a curvature and not a straight line.

So there’s a vase. 


You can find Bruce Grimes' pottery in and around Yellow Springs, Ohio. He has worked extensively with the Raku process in addition to stoneware.

Bruce taught ceramics at the college level for nearly 50 years. He has also held group lessons and lead many workshops. 


Contact Bruce:



artist, Craft, Ohio, Service, printmaker

Allison Chapman : Igloo Letterpress

Allison Chapman owns and runs Igloo Letterpress; a small letterpress, design, and book binding business.

How did you get your start in letterpress?

“My grandfather was a hobby printer. I learned by hanging around the studio with him. He was really interested in machinery and how things worked. The things I like about [running] Igloo are process and problem solving. That’s the creative part that I get energy from and get excited about. 

“We use three types of plates: plastic, wood and metal. It’s not all antique stuff. Most of the work we do now is emailed to us as a PDF. Then we make the plastic plates from those designs.“

"The green press was my grandfather's."

A plastic plate ready to print.

How do you do that?

“It is a light sensitive plastic. The area that is exposed to light becomes hard and the rest of it washes away with water. There are two things I like about the plastic plates. One, we can recycle them when we’re done. There’s less waste. We print a lot of wedding invitations and things that are single use. Two, it allows us to have a deeper impression, or bite as it’s called, into the paper. Our customers ask for that.”

I’ve had quite a few people ask me what the difference is between letterpress and computer printing.

“That’s funny, we always joke that letterpress is better press. When you look at a design, sometimes it’s hard to imagine what it’s going to be like when it’s printed. It’s so different looking a [screen] with light shining through it compared to ink on paper. We mix our ink colors by hand most of the time.”

Do you work much with antique plates?

“In our classes we do. I do in my designs too. I wasn’t trained as a graphic designer on a computer. So I learned by setting individual letters together. If I ran out of an ‘e’ I would have to choose a different font. If it was too big to fit on the paper I would have to start over. It’s hard for me to design on the computer. There are too many choices. I like the limitation of saying, “Oh, yes, this will fit on this paper. This type looks good with that image.” It’s a little bit easier to make decisions.”

When are you hoping to move into your new space?

“We did a Kickstarter to fund our classroom area in our new space. So right now we’re in the process of printing all of that stuff and getting it shipped. We will have our grand opening party this fall.”

Were you surprised/impressed by the response to your Kickstarter?

“Yes. All of those things. It’s a humbling experience to go through a Kickstarter. We did ours for 30 days. We wanted to give time for information to travel… We had around 350 donors. It started out with our friends and family. Then the [local community]. In our first day I think we hit 20%. It was amazing to feel that people were investing in our success.”

Many of the cards Igloo Letterpress prints and sells are collaborations with local artists.

The Snow House is the gift shop for Igloo Letterpress. They also carry goods from local artists.

How has Igloo grown over the years from a hobby to a full time business with employees?

“Our family moved here from Minnesota in 2008. At the time I was pregnant. Igloo in Minnesota was me, in the house. I had a job at the time where I taught letterpress printing [in a different shop]. I didn’t know anybody [in Columbus]. It was my way of building something for myself here and meeting people that cared about the same things I did.

“[The first Igloo Letterpress studio in Columbus was in an artist warehouse outside of town]. I had 300 square feet and shoehorned everything in…When I was out there nobody would go meet me [at my studio]…I got tired of meeting people in coffee shops. I looked [everywhere in Columbus] trying to find the right spot for Igloo… We live in Worthington. So I chose to look for a space around here. I really appreciate the Worthington Farmers Market. I thought the people going to the farmers market might have an interest in the handcrafted stuff I’m making. It was the natural way for me to grow my business, but it’s not a traditional way to do it. I worked while my daughter was in kindergarten and my son was in preschool, 9 A.M. to 2 P.M. Then I would pick my kids up and it was family time. I would work again from 9 P.M. to 2 A.M. It let me grow slowly. I am thankful that it isn't just me anymore. Igloo's staff is so talented. We’re a big small business… [I’m comfortable with our size and work load.] I feel really good about the quality of our work and the quality of our customer interaction.”


performance, Ohio, Dance

Donald Isom

This is Donald Isom. He is a dancer and the owner of I Am D.A.N.C.E.

How did you get started dancing?
“…I have videos of me as a little kid dancing. My father and his brothers used to do street dancing battles… My grandfather was interested in ballroom dancing and Lindy Hop… Even my mom was studying ballet. I didn’t know that until I got older and was [looking into] my family history. I came to find out that, genetically, I have it in me.”

Have you gone to school for dance?
“I did go to school for just a little bit… I studied at a small community college in Cleveland Ohio. I had a teacher [there]... who made me understand how [ballet and modern dance] connects to my dancing. ...About being a dancer and taking care of your body and health.

Donald auditioned for ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ and traveled the country studying different types of dance.
“[During that audition] I met so many incredible teachers… [They weren’t] what you saw in Hollywood, [they were the] people behind the scenes [in Hollywood] that built the dancer that you saw on TV…

“It wasn’t always the physical part of dancing [that I learned from people.] It was the mental, the thought process you had to have to actually stay in the dance world. A lot of people come and go. I think that’s any type [of artist]. There’s a lot of people that come in, they’re strong, and in a blink of an eye you’re like, “where’d they go?” I had to learn what it took to stay in the dance world long term, not just as a dancer but an entrepreneur.“

So you’ve studied ballet, modern, hip-hop….
“Yes. Every year [at a Traditional Dance Camp where I teach,] I have the opportunity to witness and learn [from the] West African GOREE Drum and Dance Company.
I also have a mentor here in Columbus Ohio who teaches me about the culture of dance. The roots of where everything comes from. That’s what makes me a strong individual dancer.

So you’re taking all the pieces that inspire you and incorporating them into your own thing.
“Exactly. I’m making it MY dance. I think everybody should do that, you’re building your own character and not looking like somebody on So You Think You Can Dance…That’s what my grandfather told me at 14, that as an artist you want them to see you. You don’t want them to see Donatello, you want them to see YOU. Then people respect where you came from and what you've done to get there.”

How did you start I. Am D.A.N.C.E.?
“It started about 5 years ago. A friend and I were talking about some of the things we had dealt with in the industry with dancing and art… I knew I wanted to build something that was not just for dancing, but for the arts overall, performance and visual art. Together we built I. Am D.A.N.C.E... "I Am Determined And Never Concealing Energy.”… We provide community programs and events throughout the midwest. We have two chapters, Columbus, Ohio, which is our home base, and Cleveland, Ohio.“

How do you integrate all these disciplines you are describing?
“…My dad told me, “Get to the basics.” And the simple thing is that every artist wants a platform… [We build] different events for performance and visual. For example we have a day called Eye Experience. It was founded by Nick Kelly, president of our Cleveland chapter. Eye Experience [was developed] to display other arts: poetry, dance and photography. The event has become a great success in Cleveland and we hope to [continue to] take it to new levels and [provide] opportunities for others."


“…As an artist, you can’t conceal yourself. Art is weird or people say we [artists] are weird. But we’re the ones that are creating everything that people do now. From photography, from dancing, to writers, we create everything that inspires people to want to do!”

Find Donald:

I Am D.A.N.C.E.:

artist, Craft, jewelry, Ohio

Hannah Hoffman

This is Hannah Hoffman. She is a jewelry designer.

“I studied glass at Ohio State. A friend and I were making glass pendants… We were wanting to learn how to make bezels to set the glass. I was getting close to graduation.”

Soon after graduation, she took a jewelry class at the Columbus Cultural Arts Center.

“It kind of worked out, because glass equipment is so expensive. There is a lot you can do with basic metal tools at home. I wanted to continue making art and jewelry-making was very accessible.”

How often are you creating new pieces?

“I feel like, often. I do a lot of production work. You have to do a lot of production work to make any money. But I’m always trying to experiment. I usually end up experimenting with my mistakes. I’ll heat something too hot, or melt something, or bend a wire in a way I can’t bend it back. That’s how a lot of new pieces happen. I also sketch and create things in that way.

Pierre the cat has little interest in jewelry making.

“These [earrings that I am wearing] are new. These were an accident. They were pieces of scrap and I put them together. They ended up looking really cool. I would wanna wear these, I thought. So I should make them. They are an asymmetrical set.”


What has been your favorite part of having your own business?

“I like the independence. I like being able to choose how I spend my day… I can take a break in the middle of the day and go to the gym or yoga.

“I never expected to run my own business. I’m still surprised that I do it. People will say, ‘Oh, this is Hannah, she runs her own business.’ And I think Me? Oh yeah! I forget! Sometimes I feel like I’m just playing around. It’s fun to look back and see how my work has progressed. And get feedback. Some people have been interested in what I’ve been doing the whole time. So that feels good. And I get to do something that requires fire. That’s a huge bonus."