Take the leap.

ARTIST PROFILES, part 1: Tim Swezy, Chris Wilson, and FOCSI

We’ve asked you to “give us a word” for Durham, and vote for your favorites to select Durham’s 50-word manifesto for its future. Now, the 21 artists and we ask you again to support and participate in the creation of their work, inspired by the words you’ve selected.

But who are these artists? what are they making? 

Glad you asked. For the next couple of weeks, we will be featuring the artists who are participating in Stitch to produce artworks from the words nominated for Durham.

Today, we have a triple-header!

Tim Swezy and STITCH

Interdisciplinary artist & designer Tim Swezy is a recent translpant to Durham, by way of a couple of dozens (!) of places around the continental US, and expresses a deep admiration for the town: “Durham… has the best of what I love about big metro areas like Chicago and New York: great food, culture, and people mixed with the accessibility and livability of a small town,” he says. Truly curious and open to new ideas, he is dedicated to finding connections in disparate places and ideas.

His idea: Pick your favorite Durham landmark and a STITCH word, and he will combine them into a preparatory drawing for a fictional (for now?) installation art project rendered in ink and art marker. Pictured to the left is his “prototype” drawing using the word “Stitch” and the downtown. Collaborate with him & virtually deface your favorite building, comment on an aspect of local culture, explore a slice of Durham’s psychogeography, or simply replace an ugly outdoor advertisement.

“I think the work could serve as a great jumping off point for discussions about the relationship between the built environment and our perceptions or interactions with it. On the other hand, words larger than life invading and insinuating themselves into the landscape is just really cool.”

He’ll be at Art Walk popup shop this weekend with several other participating artists. Please come and say hi!

Chris Wilson's chalkboard sign sample

Chris Wilson will create a custom chalkboard sign for you.

Chris Wilson

I’ve known Chris now for a good few years and always thought about asking her to collaborate with us. When we met, through a mutual friend (hi AM & BW!), and learned that she was one of the chalkboard artists in the Durham Whole Foods for the past 12 years(! she’s had a few more people in the mix to help her out in the recent years) I was like, “that is the coolest job!”

For Stitch, she will create, from your idea, business, events or announcements, on a hand-made (by Steve Peters of Peters Design Works, here in Durham) wooden board using chalk markers. She will hand letter all the text on the board. All custom, made-to-order. But at the same time, ephemeral and time/location specific. Romantic, isn’t it? You can have it done for your own private event, for your business (if you’d like to keep the board, there will be a little extra cost to you), or make a beautiful, public announcement to the world around you (marriage proposal, anyone?)

Her hand-lettered signs are truly works of art. She says that the sign-making “has been a mostly secret way of sharing my art with Durham. This is good as I am very shy.” But she and I both agree that it’s about time for her to step out and show her face!

Chris grew up in Durham and says “My entire life and all the parts of it that I find important, happened here. I love Durham and am happy to add to Durham by helping to build a stronger art community.”

Asked about her secret inspiration spot in Durham, she tells us: “I’m not sure it is much of a secret… But there is a magnolia grove on Duke’s East Campus that I love LOVE! to visit. Entire poems could be written about this place.”

Her Stitch special board will be on display at our Art Walk popup store this weekend as well.

Focsi and their sketch of "vintage hot rod" piece

Focsi and their sketch of “vintage hot rod” piece


Focsi is Erika “FocsiMama” Parker and Jamaul Phillip Smith, a husband and wife creative team. “We create to share our message of YABJAYA, which means: You Are Beautiful Just As You Are. We love creating together and sharing those creations with those who are interested.”

About their creative process, Erika explains: “We brainstorm whenever we see or hear something that inspires us. Then just get to creating.” I watched the whole process unfold at our Labour Love event, where we met and subsequently decided that they simply must participate. Erika and Jamaul huddled for a quick “what are we gonna do” conference, then Jamaul perfectly synched his drawing session to the event’s start and end time! Our boss man sat through the whole session, mesmerized, as simple lines and shades slowly turned into a vintage hot rod with a lady sitting atop it.

For Stitch, they are creating works centered around vintage hot rods and old school bicycles incorporating the words of your choice (the image to the left is inspired by: bicyclicious, eclectic, soul, and love.) There are two rewards: 18″ x 24″ acrylic paintings ($175) and  16″ x 20″ graphite drawings ($125). The team will make two of each, so that’s four lucky folks who will take home these lovely pieces.

“We want to create pieces for people with an appreciation not only for art but also for history. Intersecting art with various moments in pop culture history make for an interesting and multilayer-ed conversation if you listen with your eyes.”

Durham is a new, adopted home for the team. “Being new to the city, we wanted to jump into our new community with both feet and contribute something special to fabric of Durham story.”

The team hopes that Stitch and its artworks “become the catalyst to create Durham-specific branding for the city that gets incorporated on buildings, on public transportation, new business, etc.” Let’s hope we can trigger something!

And this just in: Jamaul will do a live-drawing session at our popup storefront event during the Durham Art Walk, on Saturday at 1pm!