Local Talk: Interview with Local Artist Amy Putman

So excited to have you up at Local! Thank you for sharing your work with us. Tell us, your artistic approach all stems from your experience with your parents. What was it like to have parents that encouraged this direction?

Thank you for having me! I’m a huge fan of Local and so happy to be there.

My parents were a huge influence because they encouraged all things art.  From art lessons and books, to countless museum trips, art was valued and appreciated. My mom is a weaver and she would invite me into her loom-room to talk about design and analyze color. My dad’s interest was photography so he built a dark room in the basement and taught me how to process film and make prints. They also gave me honest, thoughtful feedback about my work which was important. I learned how to listen and figure out what was or wasn’t working.



You have a strong sense of activism in your personal life working on such influential programs like the Million Mom March for Common Sense Gun Laws on the National Mall in Washington DC. How has this mindset worked its way into your art?

I’m motivated by issues of social justice and this past year has magnified the polarization and divisiveness in the United States and around the world. I’ve been working on a number of mixed media pieces on canvas called the “Fence Series” which grew from the debate about building walls. It’s a look at what we love and what we fear, through the perspective of the fences that divide us.



Collage is a recent treatment for your work. It's candidly an area that is a bit of a juxtaposition for me as it seems extremely simple but on the other end - where do you start? So, where do you start and how do you know when it's done?

The process of creating a collage begins with the collection of images that will eventually be used to make it.  I have collected thousands of images in an ongoing, obsessive treasure hunt for whatever inspires me. When I’m not ripping up magazines I’m carefully cutting up the

images, creating puzzle pieces. Imagine having a puzzle box with thousands of pieces in it, but without a picture on the cover for guidance as you put it together.  I never plan what I’m making. It’s a spontaneous process which makes it fun as well as challenging. I always have several collages going at once because I won’t finish a collage until I find the perfect piece.  This can take days, weeks, or even months



You have quite the busy schedule showing locally here in NJ as well as other states but then jump into Europe to show in such richly artistic centers like Berlin.  Do you find that your work is interpreted very differently by market?

There is a lot of international interest in collage.  To my surprise, Instagram opened doors with exciting opportunities. Through it, I was invited to show in Berlin and also featured in a beautiful book called, “Making the Cut | The World’s Best Collage Artists Vol 1” published in Australia.


What has living in NJ meant to your POV on art and the artistic community? 

There’s a large and wonderfully diverse community of artists here and those I have met have been incredibly supportive and inspiring. Montclair has so much to offer for people interested in the arts, including the Montclair Art Museum, the Yard School of Art, and Studio Montclair with its beautiful new space for art shows on Bloomfield Ave. I believe that when you put yourself out there great things can happen, but many of the great things that are happening are because there’s so much interest in the arts here.



Please tell us about the work that you have up at Local?

This is a body of work that grew from my fascination with the surreal. I love the surprise element of the design process and how a collage reveals itself to me as I create it. I try to make art that engages the viewer so they keep looking and try to figure out what’s happening.


What's next? What are you working on presently?

I’m incredibly excited to be collaborating on a new series of mixed media pieces with an LA based internationally renowned photojournalist who focuses on human rights issues.


What’s your favorite coffee or tea beverage?

My favorite coffee is a latte especially when there’s a heart in the foam on top.



Local Talk: Interview with featured artist Darin Wacs

We connected first after discovering that we both were born and raised in NYC. I am grateful every day for such a rich childhood amongst the artist, musicians, and entrepreneurial business owners that made up my neighborhood of Greenwich Village. How did your particular art discipline emerge out of your respective NYC experience?

*I grew up with a father who was a fashion designer and painter and a mother who loved art....we spent all our free time at museums and galleries in NYC...



Is there a person or experience that was pivotal in sharpening your direction?

*In grad school at The School of Visual Arts..the painter Gary Stephan and the sculptor Judy Pfaff helped/forced me to define and stand up for what I was trying to do with my sculpture..


What words of inspiration do you share with anyone considering artistic expression?

*I would say to not be afraid to try new things even if they don't always work out...make a mess..


What is it about crafting objects out of raw materials that inspired your path?

 The texture and colors of raw materials go against my tendency to paint everything in bright colors..it was a challenge to see if they could work as a medium for me..


I’m always interested in artistic endeavors with over-emphasized scale - small or large. Is there a project that you feel like you nailed it relative to the size of the final piece (or pieces?)

*I think my large scale 'sculpture signs' in Palo Alto, CA are good examples of large public projects that draw viewers in and surprise them..I don't see them as sculptures that are also engaged in way finding but art that helps you find places.



I’m sort of going through this phase questioning what’s really real or just a figment of our imagination. Is it all just a dream? That said, tell us about the quote you selected from Alexander Calder to include on your site “The universe is real, but you can’t see it. You have to imagine it.” 

I love Calder..and the idea that art can create its own universe is magical to me..I think a lot of the work I make inhabits its own world.



I’m thrilled with the pieces you selected for Local. Please tell us about them.

From the first time I walked into Local I was struck by this idea that I wanted to make light fixtures that were also sculptures...I could picture how they would work in the space and how they might relate to my silkscreen prints..the three 'critter' pendants were painted with the palette of Local in mind to contrast with it and be a part of it..some of the other small sculptures were painted at the same time as the critter lights and show another form and scale which relates to the larger pendants..also I thought about what would work within the spaces that Local has for showing art. I am always taken by what a positive vibe Local has (thanks entirely to you and Adele) and felt like it was a perfect fit for the work I make which hopefully inspires an overstuffed feeling of joy and wonder. 



What does living in Montclair and being able to show your work here mean to you as an artist?

Montclair is a community with lots of creative people living in it..I know so many talented people and often meet new ones...this is the first time I'm showing sculpture here and its been wonderful.


What is your favorite coffee or tea beverage?

An iced latte



Local Talk: Interview with Susanna Emmet, founder of Zana's Bars

We're very excited to be partnering to offer Zana's bars at Local! Can you tell us about the genesis for creating this awesome brand?

I am thrilled to be partnering with Local, too! The genesis of Zana’s Bars is the commitment to feeding my children real food from Mother Nature, period. No additives, no preservatives, and above all, no added sugar. The body of research supporting the negative health effects of these things is large and growing. Processed sugar, in particular, is everywhere! I understand it’s yummy in treats, but on a day to day basis, in foods we eat to nourish us -- to give us energy, satisfy hunger, help us grow and thrive -- is hardly necessary. Fruits, nuts, seeds and whole grains can have explosive flavor on their own, and our bodies are designed to run on them. When I couldn’t find snacks to pack on the go that fit this bill and were affordable, I began making muesli bars. Feedback was terrific, and over the years I refined my recipes that I now bring to grateful customers. This makes me very happy.


As a parent, I'm regularly concerned about the types of food decisions my children are making. How has your food journey led you to this particular direction for kids and adults alike?

I think I mostly answered this question discussing the origins of Zana’s Bars, but I’ll take this opportunity to talk more about the importance of portability and snacks. Life moves quickly. People are busy and on the go. As parents, if we are lucky, we can plan good meals, but it’s much harder to control snacking habits for our children and ourselves. The majority of the stuff on the market to meet this need is full of ingredients that don’t give us what we need. Snacks are big pitfalls even for the best intentioned eaters, so I started making snack bars for this specific purpose.


Ok, let’s start with your base ingredient - Muesli. Once and for all - what is it and why did you decide on using it as a core element of the bars?

Muesli is traditionally a raw oat-based cereal that also includes fruits, nuts and seeds. It is excellent, pure stuff....that’s not very travel friendly. Granola bars, also based on a cereal, are ubiquitous and widely considered healthy. However, granola is baked and almost always contains lots of sugar. Most of the right ingredients are there, but the process detracts from its benefits. My decision to call my bars muesli bars is simply because I take the ingredients of muesli (with a twist of using popped amaranth in some instead of oats), and form it into a bar so it can be easily transported, stored and eaten.



Tell us about the other ingredients you use in your bars.

All my bars are date-based. Dates are incredibly sweet. Yes, it’s sugar, but kept in it’s original state with fiber, the body can process it healthily. Once dried, they can be mashed into a dough or paste-like substance into which I incorporate a variety of other natural ingredients for different flavors and nutritional balances. Most bars have sesame seeds and flaxseed meal kneaded into the dough. This adds little flavor but lots of nutritional benefits (iron, calcium, omega-3). They also either have oats or popped amaranth to bulk up the texture, substance and nutrition, and then their hallmark flavors: peanut & apple, coconut & apricot, cashew & fig, which, along with the dates, is really what you taste. And that’s all!


What are the different bars that you offer and if you can, please tell us a thing you love about each one.

Currently I offer the three I just mentioned: peanut & apple, coconut & apricot, cashew & fig. The first is a classic combo that I just find so satisfying. The coconut & apricot bar has the extra sweetness of the apricot coupled with the robust flavor of toasted coconut. This bar is probably the most popular. It feels like a lot happening in the mouth at the same time, and has the added benefit of the bright orange of the apricot and the white of the coconut that makes it visually appealing. The cashew & fig bar is rich and creamy, but has a nice crunch from the fig seeds that I enjoy.


You are officially an entrepreneur in this era of entrepreneurship. What has been the most valuable lesson you have learned thus far?

Just do it! I don’t mean that it’s not a lot of work and totally consuming, but I’ve learned that the best way to embark on the path of creating something out of nothing is not to do endless market research, hem and haw on branding, wait until the ‘perfect’ moment when the many, many pieces are aligned and ‘right’, etc., but rather to put on the market something that you know is pretty good and go from there. It’s an iterative process and always evolving. I like being open to feedback and change, learning from mistakes, and growing as I go.


What does local (as a concept/ philosophy) mean to you?

Local is where the day to day, the bread and butter, of our lives happens. It’s where we can effect change, express gratitude and appreciation, have meaningful connections and impact. It’s where we can literally create the world we want to live in. Our community. I’ve spent many years working in international affairs on issues that move me deeply and always will -- these are important -- but the local sphere is one that’s more personal and gratifying.


Can you tell us something about breakfast bars that only you or very few people know.

They’re very simple! What our bodies and brains need is delicious and accessible, don’t be fooled!


What is your favorite coffee or tea beverage?

Latte, hands down. Iced or hot, good coffee plus good milk always hits the spot. Thanks for bringing Montclair these things!