Oklahoma Artists: Hidden Gems of the State

In Oklahoma there are cities with history.

As time has gone by, many Oklahoma cities have formed their own unique, eclectic styles.     

Norman, with loud murals on sides of buildings. Downtown Oklahoma City, with boutiques on every corner. The OKC Paseo Art District, where local shops line the street with art, crafts, and more.

Behind each mural, is an inspired artist with a paint brush.

Behind every thread, is a needle waiting to sew.  

Student Shannon Abbott is a 21 year old who has a creative vision. As a dedicated cake decorator with a passion for clothes, Abbott needed an outlet to create.

“I have three big art forms,” she said. “I’ve been a cake decorator since I was 14, I’ve been making costumes for about five years, and I’ve been painting seriously for only a few years.”

Abbott finds her biggest joy in creating costumes.

“You can get so creative with a variety of materials,” she said. “Not only that, but it allows you to live out your disney princess dream, or tough woman warrior dream.”

Abbott feels costuming won’t be a career, so she is putting her cooking to use and creating her own restaurant.

“I have had people offer to pay for my cupcakes, so maybe baking one day if I’m lucky,” she said.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in Oklahoma there are 140 employment opportunities for art directors, 60 for craft artists positions, and about eight for fine artists such painters or sculptors. The BLS report shows about 100 multimedia positions, 600 floral designer positions, 630 spots for producers and directors, 240 commercial and industrial, and roughly 190 opportunities for set and exhibit designers.

While opportunity is limited for artists in Oklahoma, others find their craft as a way to find themselves.

Attorney Ginny Henson found her creative side through painting. Her weapon of choice: oil paints.

“I’ve always drawn and painted, but never took it seriously until two years ago,” Henson said. “I like to work in oil because it’s so forgiving. Oil paint takes much longer to dry so mistakes are more easily corrected. I make a lot of mistakes so I need a forgiving medium.”

Henson decided to get serious when her kids moved out on their own. “I wanted something that got me out of my left brain,” she said. “[Something] I didn’t have to over analyze.”

While Henson’s family is interested in fine arts, she is the only person who paints or draws.

“Its something I can get lost in. I can get in the zone, and lose track of time,” she said.

When thinking of art, the goal for one artist is paint to paper.

Raymond Roberts likes to get his hands dirty.

Roberts established his business in making knives, and engagement rings when he realized he had extra time to dedicate to his craft.

“I always liked things that were a little bit… different,” he said. “I was really fed up with the dull knives we had at home, also I figured a knife would be an awesome present for my brother!”

Roberts was drawn to creating rings after reading an article online. “It really intrigued me, so I gave it a shot! Quite a few people thought [my work] was pretty good so I kept doing them,” he said.

Roberts has been making knives and rings for over a year now.

“In a profession sense, it has become a business in part.” he said, “Through being a waiter, I am exposed to a lot of people with a lot of interests which has allowed me to grow this hobby into a business.”

Roberts makes a variety of styles, and prices vary from $70-$350.

“The blades are partially forged and partially stock removal. I don’t call myself a ‘bladesmith’ but rather a ‘knife maker’,” he said. Stock removal is the process where you remove material to make the shape and beveling of the knife.

Roberts has currently opened shop on a common craftsman site, known as Etsy, and worked with Norman’s local jewelry shop Brockhaus Jewelry to start stocking his rings in an established and respected business front.

As Roberts creates inventory, and deals with the growing pains of creating a business,  he says customers, friends, and family, have been supportive through his process.

“I have several repeating customers, and the chef at my restaurant has gotten me business because he likes the knives I make and tells people about them,” he said.

While artists vary from craft and experience, Oklahoma is filled with people who have a need to create.

A community unlike others, the hidden gems of the state.

Art suplies laid out/ Photo credits: Cici Simon

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