• Beaufort Lifestyle Magazine

story by Carol Lauvray     photos by John Wollwerth

Musician Michael Johns and his wife Michelle discovered Beaufort like so many of us who live here—they stopped in Beaufort while on vacation and fell in love with this picturesque coastal town and its friendly residents. Michael says that Beaufort’s reasonable cost of living and lack of traffic were additional enticements, so they purchased their home on Lady’s Island in Royal Pines 15 years ago and moved here permanently in 2011. And like so many who have relocated to Beaufort, Michael has found new direction in his life in our community. He explains that after moving to Beaufort, he was amazed to learn about the quality of music being presented in the “top-notch” USCB Chamber Music Concert Series. “To hear music of this caliber you’d expect to have to go to New York, Chicago or London—the USCB Chamber Music Concert Series is on the level of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center!”

Music—A Lifelong Vocation and Avocation

     Now retired from his professional performing career, Michael has found a new musical direction in Beaufort—immersing himself in the USCB Chamber Music Concert Series. He writes the program notes for each Chamber Music Concert and presents a pre-concert lecture to discuss the composers and music featured in each concert. These free, two-hour pre-concert lectures are presented in conjunction with both the University of South Carolina Beaufort (USCB) and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) and are open to the public. Michael says the lectures are designed for music lovers. You do not need to be a trained musician to attend. “I select approximately 50 recorded musical excerpts from the upcoming concert and play them during the lecture, discussing what concert-goers can expect to hear that weekend. I want to help those who attend my lectures have a richer, deeper experience and be more engaged in the music when they attend one of the Chamber Music Concerts,” he says.

     “Chamber music is different from other musical styles,” Michael explains. “What you experience with chamber music is a different inflection. Because it is acoustic music and involves a smaller number of instruments—perhaps a piano, violin and cello trio or string quartet—chamber music is more intimate and tender than the amplified music from a larger ensemble. Chamber music is like an intimate conversation. While listening to it, you tend to lean forward in your seat as if you’re overhearing a conversation, but when you’re listening to amplified music, you lean back and the music washes over you.”

     A lifelong musician, Michael grew up in north-central Connecticut in a musical family. “Both my maternal and paternal grandparents had musical backgrounds. My grandmother was in the first class of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, my parents met in their college band, and my dad was a public school music teacher in Manchester, Connecticut. Two of my three siblings also are musical—my brother played with the Metropolitan Opera for 45 years,” he adds.

     Michael earned his Bachelors Degree in French Horn Performance from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and both his Masters Degree in Music History and Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) Degree in French Horn Performance from Temple University in Philadelphia. He has performed on the French Horn with symphony, ballet and opera orchestras, in recital and chamber music. “I’ve played with the Delaware and Boston Symphony Orchestras and the Philadelphia Orchestra, and for Riccardo Muti, now the music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, for Seiji Ozawa, the former music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and for Arthur Fiedler, the long-time conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, as well as for many others,” says Michael. “As a freelance musician, I’ve worn many hats—I’ve done quite a lot of teaching, conducting, record producing and coaching chamber ensembles. I’ve taught children in community music schools, as well as college and graduate students, many of them specializing in playing the French Horn. I’ve also taught teachers in both music and education courses, including music appreciation and music history.”

Appreciating the Chamber Music Concert Series at USCB

     The University of South Carolina Beaufort says this on its website about the Chamber Music Concerts: “Since 1979, the USCB Chamber Music Concert Series has presented internationally renowned artists, such as pianists Jean-Yves Thibaudet and Jeremy Denk, violinists Joshua Bell and Robert McDuffie, flautist Paula Robison, cellist Carter Brey, and the Brooklyn Rider, Emerson, Tokyo and St. Lawrence Quartets.”

     “With Charles Wadsworth, credited by many with reviving interest in chamber music at Lincoln Center and at Spoleto Festivals in Italy and Charleston, and Edward Arron, director of the amazingly popular and critically acclaimed New York Metropolitan Museum chamber music series for 10 years, the quality of the musical selections and the talents of the artists have surprised and delighted audiences who come from throughout the region.”

     Michael Johns will present the final free, two-hour pre-concert lecture for this Chamber Music season on Friday, April 20th from 10:00 AM to noon in the Sandstone Building in OLLI classroom 124 (prior registration through OLLI is requested). During this pre-concert lecture, Michael will present multiple recorded excerpts and discuss what concert-goers can expect to hear to help enhance their listening pleasure during the concert, which will be held that weekend on Sunday, April 22nd at the USCB Performing Arts Center at 5:00 PM. Michael says, “The repertoire for this concert includes music of polished elegance, grave serenity, and exuberant joy by Haydn, Chopin, Shostakovich, and Dvorak.”

     Franz Joseph Haydn’s String Trio in G Major, Opus 53, No. 1 represents a relatively obscure instrumentation, playing in a classical style with great symmetry, balance and natural melodies that are tuneful (i.e., you can whistle them). It offers pleasing variety, but nothing shocking. Haydn’s music reflects graceful and uplifting feelings and is triumphant at times, however, to get to the triumph Haydn takes us through some stormy music,” Michael says.

     Frederic Chopin’s Waltz in c-sharp minor for Solo Piano, Opus 64, No. 2 (1847) is Chopin’s most frequently performed and recorded waltz. It is a wistful and atmospheric piece in a minor key, according to Michael.

     Dmitri Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet in g minor, Opus 57 was composed during World War II. “During his career, Shostakovich was in and out of favor with the Communist authorities and feared for his life, so he was careful not to anger them. This fiercely strong music communicates moments of deep, searing sadness. By interjecting dissonant notes and elements of sarcasm, Shostakovich conveys his contempt for Soviet ideology,” explains Michael.

     Antonin Dvorak’s Piano Quintet in A Major, Opus 81 fills the entire second half of the concert. Michael says, “The music is jubilant, festive and joyful and is in the style of Dvorak’s New World Symphony.”

The Future of the USCB Chamber Music Concert Series

     At the opening concert of the USCB Chamber Music Concert Series’ 38th season late last year, Chancellor Al Panu announced the establishment of the USCB Chamber Music Endowment and invited the 350 audience members to join with him and Artistic Director Edward Arron to celebrate and support the new endowment as a way to “…ensure that the music of world’s finest classical composers will continue to be played by some of the world’s finest musicians at the USCB Center for Arts.” The endowment was established to underwrite the future of Chamber Music at the University and within the Beaufort community, he added.

     Michael Johns recently shared that Music Director Edward Arron told him it is the responsibility of the USCB Chamber Music Series Board to get the message out to the Beaufort community about this premier music series so people will come to the performances, and it is the musicians’ obligation to play so well and with such conviction that the audiences want to come back to hear more.

In recognition of her great work throughout the Beaufort community and surrounding areas, Connie Wegmann has been awarded the 2018 Woman of the Year Award. As a longstanding volunteer worker, Connie Wegmann is the epitome of this description for her community. She has passionately volunteered in the Beaufort community for over two decades.

   The 2018 Woman of the Year Award was presented to Connie at Women United’s Power of the Purse event sponsored by Beaufort Memorial on March 1st at the Dataw Island Clubhouse.  The Woman of the Year Award was created by the United Way of the Lowcountry Women United to honor the outstanding women in Beaufort and Jasper Counties who have made a powerful impact on the local community through their volunteer efforts, and who have served as a role model for inspiration and achievement of other women.

    Connie is an avid believer in volunteering in your community, and she encourages volunteering to everyone she knows.  She says, “I feel very blessed to have been given the opportunity to have extra time, which allows me to volunteer. It is important to do what you can, and never take life for granted.”

   Connie grew up in a military family, always moving around.  In 1994, she and her husband planted roots here in Beaufort when the military sent him here to serve.

   Connie’s dedication to the Beaufort community began during the 1990’s when her sons attended Lady’s Island Elementary School.  Connie quickly jumped on board and led the School Improvement Council, diligently working to enhance the learning environment for all students, eventually helping them transition to the newly built Coosa Elementary School.

   While her boys were young, she began volunteering with Parris Island’s Navy and Marine Corps Relief Society where she gave financial guidance and assistance to service members during times of need.  While with the NMCRS, she became the Chairman of Volunteers overseeing all the volunteers within the organization.

   She served five years as the treasurer for Beaufort Academy’s Blue-White Sports Club. She devoted countless hours to working concession stands and raising funds for the school’s sports programs. She and her husband, Jim, were even awarded the Halbert Award, Beaufort Academy’s Highest Award for years of volunteer service.

   As an active member of St. Peter’s Catholic Church, she has served as Sunday Greeter, Moms Ministry, worked with the church’s food pantry and St. Vincent De Paul Society.  She has worked in many capacities of the church’s major fundraisers including Fall Bazaar, Homes for the Holidays and St. Peter’s Oyster Roast and Micro Brew Festival.

    For the past four years, Connie has volunteered with the United Way of the Lowcountry, serving on the Community Impact Committee.  Due to her hard work on that committee, she was recently asked to take a leadership position as the Panel Chair for the Community Impact Evaluation.  In this capacity, Connie evaluates applications from agencies seeking program funding through the United Way. Her duties include the strict review of applicants, including a review of finances and site visits. Her work ensures that the United Way invests in programs that provide quality services and community partners with the highest levels of accountability and transparency. When a local agency needed guidance regarding financial matters, once again, Connie selflessly offered her talents to mentor the non-profit on fiscal accountability and stewardship.

   This year Connie worked with preparing backpacks for children in the community as part of Women United’s Operation Backpack, where more than 600 backpacks full of school supplies and uniform shirts were donated to children in need this school year.

   In 2014, Connie joined Dragonboat Beaufort (cancer supporter/survivor non-profit).  Connie was looking for an exercise opportunity and wanted time on the beautiful waters of Beaufort. However, the Dragonboat Beaufort Team realized her talents and she quickly assumed a supervisory role. Along with her stellar work ethic, Connie brought a wealth of knowledge from her background in both the accounting and community service areas. She swiftly and singlehandedly revived the charities Outreach Committee implementing a vetting and distribution system that, in just the past two years, has given over $40,000 in small, personal grants to nearly 160 neighbors in Beaufort County, who have been stricken with cancer.

   Connie is an active paddler and a coach for Dragonboat Beaufort’s competitive racing team, which serves as a form of physical and emotional therapy for those recovering from the devastating effects of cancer. This year, Connie will proudly serve as the Director for the Dragonboat Beaufort’s annual Race Day supervising all aspects of the charities premier fundraising event that will be held on Saturday, June 23rd from 8 AM until 4 PM at Waterfront Park.  There are several sponsorship opportunities ranging from $500.00 to $1500.00 for anyone wishing to participate and be a sponsor of this worthy event.  The Dragonboat Beaufort Race Day Festival in 2017 assisted 88 cancer patients in various areas consisting of utility assistance, housing assistance, transportation assistance, medical costs assistance and food assistance.

   A passion for volunteering, and a heart for giving, that is Connie Wegmann, the 2018 Woman of the Year.

by Cindy Reid     photos by Paul Nurnberg

One of the last remaining undeveloped Sea Islands in Lowcountry, Hunting Island is a 5000-acre; semitropical barrier island located 15 miles east of Beaufort, South Carolina. It is part of the ACE Basin estuarine reserve area and the most visited park in South Carolina.  www.friendsofhuntingisland.org

     On October 7, 2016, nature called on Hunting Island in the form of Hurricane Matthew and South Carolina’s beloved state park was forever changed. Massive trees were downed throughout the island, the campgrounds were decimated, the fishing pier was partially destroyed and the park was officially closed until further notice. After much effort, the park reopened in August 2017 . But then came Tropical Storm Irma, and the park suffered another blow when the storm left considerable flooding in its wake.

     But all was not lost as many hands, from the park service , Friends of Hunting Island and other volunteers, worked diligently to get their beloved Hunting Island open again, which it did in January 2018. But much work remains, and on January 22, the South Carolina Department of Parks and Tourism released a proposal to restore Hunting Island.

     Artist Robert Hild had an epiphany soon after reading that report. As he writes in “The Project: Epiphany-a moment of a sudden revelation or insight”….  “ For the time prior to Matthew, this place was a regular low tide walk for my dog Patrick and me. That place became a very special visual ever-changing feast for the eyes. It was a beautiful constant changing huge game of ‘pickup sticks’ that you could walk through with darting sanderlings and play of light, sand, water and tree limbs. Some folks see erosion. I see nature at work, a surreal visual festival.”

     As a response to the damage done to the island and the need for funding to truly restore it, Hild is contributing in his way – as an artist. He decided to return to his painting after a seventeen year hiatus and donate his watercolor impressions of the pre-hurricane island to help with the reconstruction after it. In these works he  …”felt the connection of the basic elements of the coast, water and wood, the sea and this boneyard. “Truly the watercolors and handmade paper are blended into timeless works of art by a master watercolorist.

 The Artist

     Hild is a painter, printmaker and an art educator, and has worked and taught in Pennsylvania, Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia. He is a member of the American Watercolor Society and received a Doctorate of Arts from Carnegie Mellon University in Screen Printmaking. His work has appeared in more than 155 juried and invited exhibitions, including eight American Watercolor Society shows at the National Galleries in New York, National Academies of Design, and two Butler Institute Mid Year Annuals in Youngstown, Ohio and state wide water color exhibitions in Pennsylvania, Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia.

     Hild lived a full year in Beaufort sixteen years ago. He says, “I returned to stay four years ago. During my 16 year ago stay, I visited Hunting Island at least once a week that resulted in a body of work. Also during that year, I taught art courses at USCB, TCL and had an art exhibit at the Beaufort Library in January 2000.” His exhibit of screen prints illustrated the ebb and flow of the environment, and upon his return to the lowcountry, the park has been a major element in Hild’s life. He says, “Since my return I have visited the north end of Hunting Island at least every week to walk and look.” Fascinated particularly by the “boneyard” north of the lighthouse, Hild made a series of photographs of this land/seascape between 2013 -2016. Little of what Hild captured in photographs is still there. He painted the body of work for the upcoming exhibit and sale from a selection of these images, so that others could see ‘what is no more’. He says, “This is for me to give back something that Hunting Island has given me. Not erosion but a festival of Nature at work.”

     Hild’s studies in art are neither limited to the physical world or the abstract. He says, “The more I consider all of my works, I realize that they all feature strong aspects of light and its effects.”

     Nature’s Shifting Scenes @ Hunting Island (2013-2016)

     Hild has donated thirty new watercolor works to be exhibited at the University South Carolina Center for the Arts May 3-31, 2018 with all proceeds from the sale of the art going to the Friends of Hunting Island in support of the continuing recovery efforts needed at the park. The opening reception will be Thursday, May 3 at 5:30 PM. Original watercolors, note cards and posters will be on sale beginning   April 1 at www.friendsofhuntingisland.org

     Hild says, “Everyone has a point of view. We see differently. We come from near and far. Hunting Island Nature Preserve is for us to see. It is a unique place. My reason to see is nature in action, a constant changing kaleidoscope. This is my vision to share. What is there today is different, what I saw is gone. I invite you to see what I saw.”

story by Mindy Lucas

Beaufort native, Valerie Sayers, is the author of six novels including Who Do You Love and Brain Fever, which were named New York Times “Notable Books of the Year.” The film Due East was based on her novels Due East and How I Got Him Back. Sayers recently won her second Pushcart Prize for fiction and will be inducted into the South Carolina Academy of Authors, the Palmetto State’s literary hall of fame, on April 28, part of a weekend-long induction celebration to be held in Beaufort. She was a Beaufort High School student of Pat Conroy’s and serves on the board of directors of the Pat Conroy Literary Center. She now teaches English and fiction writing at the University of Notre Dame.

 Mindy Lucas: Let’s talk a little bit about your background. Were you born and raised here in Beaufort?

Valerie Sayers: Yep, born and raised. I was born in 1952. I was the fourth of seven kids. So I’m right in the middle. I went to Battery Creek Elementary, Beaufort Junior High and Beaufort High School.

     I left when I was 17 after my senior of high school. I was hell bent for New York City. I thought I was going to be an actor. I had been acting in the Beaufort Little Theater because that was my fantasy. My father had gone to Fordham University in New York [Where Valerie also went] and as it happened, they were starting a brand new experimental college at Lincoln Center with an emphasis in the arts.

ML: What were your parents like or what did they do?

VS: Well, my parents were Yankees.

ML: (laughing) Is that an occupation?

VS: (laughing) So many people in Beaufort are. My dad was a psychologist – a civilian psychologist at Parris Island and my mom was raising seven kids. So they were very supportive of my going to New York.

So I did. I took off and it took about six weeks probably for me to decide that I really didn’t want to be an actor, that it was a very hard and miserable and competitive life. So I spent a good portion of my college days figuring out the next step. But you know I had written all my life. I threw myself at literature courses in college even though I never declared an English major at the time.

ML:  Let’s talk about the town of Due East in your work, not to be confused with Due West, South Carolina. I believe I read where this is a thinly veiled Beaufort?

VS:  Yeah, it’s totally Beaufort. You know I’m not sure exactly why I didn’t call it Beaufort. I actually stole the name Due East from a dear friend, a writer friend and classmate. And I just took it.

ML: You’ve written about the town in your books Who Do You Love and Due East and in those books you also explore themes of relationships, loneliness, your characters’ inner desires or their plight. Can you describe the bigger themes of your work?

VS: I often have thought of my work, particularly certain novels and certain stories, as veering much more in the direction of very particular moments in history. So my novel Who Do You Love takes place in the 24 hours before John F. Kennedy is assassinated and is very much about the changing political terrain of the small town South.

     Or, in my novel Brain Fever, the main character, who is having a crack up, is actually consumed with the situation of the civil war in Bosnia and what’s happening to the Bosnian people even though half the novel takes place in this little Southern town. But that was inspired by people I knew in Beaufort who were anti-war activists during the Vietnam War for example. And that was a very lonely thing to be in Beaufort because, of course, it was such a military town.

ML: You’ve been compared to Carson McCullers and Flannery O’Connor for your characters and voice, possibly since the characters that people your world are a little askew or off course. What do you think of that comparison?

VS: You said it very well. I actually teach, as often as I can, a course in Southern Literature. I teach McCullers and O’Connor, both of whom I hold in very high esteem.

     When I was a young writer, it was Faulkner really that I fell love in love with. And the idea of using the place of Due East was absolutely a Faulknerian move. That was my own little homage to William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha.

     But certainly McCullers, O’Connor, and Walker Percy is each a great example of a Southern writer who had a really profound impact on my thinking about what it is a novel can do and should do. Those are all really important people to me and they, like all novelists I guess, are always interested in that central question of the individual in a culture and how often the individual feels estranged from a culture or estranged from even bigger questions—questions about existence and the, capital M, Meaning of, capital L, Life.

ML: Let’s circle back to your connection to this place—to Beaufort—and when you went to Beaufort High School, and, if you’d like, please tell your Conroy story.

VS: Pat was just a god. It’s just so funny to think how young he was then. Because we were, you know, 17 years old, 18 years old, 16 years old. He must have been 22 or 23 when he taught us.

     We just thought he was so sophisticated and witty and erudite. I thought he knew everything. Maybe he did. (laughing) He was very good at projecting that sense.

The memory that always strikes me most deeply and really moved me is when his parents came to visit our psychology class. I thought they were beautiful. They looked like the perfect parents for Pat Conroy. They kind of swept into the classroom, and they stayed for about 15 minutes and then swept back out. And Pat just gave this very together lecture. He was a big lecturer, which is quite a skill I’ve come to find out. But he could really talk at length, extemporaneously.

     He was very handsome and he projected all this self-confidence. So what was really moving about this moment was when, after they left and he saw them out, he came back and he was just white. And we could see that he was sweating and he sort of just broke the wall of authority that he held over us by saying, “That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.” It was a very humanizing moment, and I already adored him but I really, really liked him after that.

ML: As Pat was in 1988, you will be inducted into the South Carolina Academy of Authors this April in a ceremony here in Beaufort.  What has the thought of that been like for you?

VS: Well it’s such a lovely honor. It’s a real tickle that it will be in Beaufort. My mother will be 100 when that event happens. So I’m just holding my breath. She’s still getting around, so I hope she’ll be there because really that honor would be the ultimate for her.

“Forging & Welding Historic Railroad Parts into Words of Art”

story by Cindy Reid     photos by Susan DeLoach

To enter Cathy Pender Emmert and her father Jim Pender’s blacksmith workshop is to enter a wonderland of fire and noise, steel and iron, anvils and forges. Out of the midst of much machinery and who knows how many tools, Cathy and Jim have created an entire art form from previously discarded historical artifacts. And they have also created something else. They have forged a true father and daughter friendship.

Railroad Remnants 

     Cathy comes by her facility with tools and machinery by way of eighteen years of working at the family’s business, Pender Brothers Inc., a plumbing, welding and HVAC business established in Port Royal in 1985 by Cathy’s father Jim Pender and Johnny Pender, his brother. Cathy runs the welding office and she and Jim run the welding shop.

     The Railroad Remnants story really starts in 2014 when Pender Brothers, Inc. bought the contract to remove the last two and a half miles of the Port Royal railroad track.  From Railroad Remnants, “The Port Royal, SC Railroad…The railroad was chartered in 1856. Construction began in 1870 and was completed to Augusta, GA in 1873. It ran from 1870 until 2003 when it was abandoned. Then in 2011 the demo of it began to build what is now known as the Spanish Moss Trail, a bicycle/walking trail. For over 100 years it carried passengers, freight and future Marines to Port Royal.”

     Jim Pender says “We bought that contract to take up the tracks because it was right outside the shop and we could keep all the remnants from the rock to the spikes, crossties and rail. After we pulled it all up, we sold the crossties and rail.” But there were still thousands of spikes and other metal pieces left over.

     Cathy says, “I said don’t scrap it- we can do something with it.” So they repurposed industrial containers and stored about 25,000 railroad spikes and various metal clips and plates from the tracks for an undefined future use. And there they sat.

Word Spikes

     The idea to create art from the discarded spikes was born when Cathy was scrolling through Facebook two years ago. She says, “I saw a Christmas tree made from welded horseshoes and thought ‘I could make that,’ so I went in the shop and I made the Christmas tree. Then I started messing around and I made the words ‘Joy’ and ‘Love’ out of the old railroad spikes.” She took pictures of her work and put them on Facebook. She says, “Next thing I know I was taking orders.” Her Dad Jim chimes in, “She made one or two words and it made me jealous. So I joined in.”

     The process they use to create words from spikes starts with the bead blaster, a large piece of machinery which ‘blasts’ the metal with glass beads and takes the rust off. But Cathy says, “We like keeping the patina on the spikes so we have to be careful how much we blast them.” After the spikes come out of the bead blaster it is time to ‘heat and beat.’ The ‘heat’ part comes from putting the spikes in one of the two forges in their workshop.

     Cathy says, “Dad should have been born in the horse and buggy age, because he already had a coal and propane forges here at the shop, in fact they have been here for about 30 years.” They generally use the propane forge, which enables Cathy and Jim to control the temperature better than coal forge. After being in the forge for about 5 minutes, the spikes are around an astounding 2000 degrees hot.

     The ‘beat’ step is exactly as it sounds-  they beat the long part of the spikes in order to draw them  out from their original six to six and a half inches to eight inches, the length needed to make an individual letter. Have you ever tried to change the length of a piece of iron or steel by hand? It is as hard as it sounds. Jim was able to track down the only piece of equipment they bought, a ‘trip hammer’ which they use to lengthen the red hot spikes. Before the trip hammer, they would laboriously beat the spike on the anvil until they got the desired length. The trip hammer does the ‘beating for them,’ making the process significantly easier.

     They only have a short window of time to beat the spike into the desired shape of a letter or number. Those moments go rapidly and Cathy and Jim have become very adept at creating a letter quickly. These skills took hours of work to develop, as Jim says “It took time, and trial and error, to develop the letters from then to what we do now.”

     What they do with the finished letters is create names, all kinds of different names. They create family names, place names, business names, even pet names, that can hang on a wall, stand alone on a mantle or table, or even have stakes welded to them so they can stick in the ground.

Words of Art

     Every ‘word of art’ is a one of its kind because every letter created is distinct. One “A” is different from the other “A”’s because each spike is different, before and after it is forged and transformed into an individual letter. In addition, the two blacksmiths bring their own artistic sensibility to each piece. Cathy says, “I get excited with every word I start, even if I have made it before. Each is unique.”      Jim makes the point with several versions of the letter “E,” illustrating perfectly the individuality of each and every letter created. The letters then create words and as Jim says, “Much more go into a word than creating each letter. You have to keep the same height, make it look right, make it so you can hang it or put it on a stand. You need to gauge where it will balance, where to weld a hook.” A typical word takes four to six hours to create.

     Their work is more than the repurposing of old railroad spikes. “These are Port Royal artifacts,” Jim says, and “We turn history into heirlooms.” Jim also says, “We have a lot of pride in what we do. A letter we make might be acceptable to a lot of people but if we don’t like it we don’t use it.”

     In addition Cathy and Jim have created new and interesting projects that go beyond a family or place name, such as a five foot long sign for a local plantation, numerical coordinates and bottle openers and oyster knives. Cathy and Jim recently made two sets of deer antlers from the railroad spikes, both as gifts for retiring Marines. Jim also makes mini anvils using the railroad iron.

     They have also donated words of art to CAPA and to the SC Water Fowl Association for fundraisers. Their work is reaching all corners of the world, including Japan and Australia. Pretty good for a two person operation that only advertises on Facebook!


     Cathy says, “The best part is the relationship we’ve developed and the time spent with my Dad. My family is big and we have always been close, but its one thing to be close with your parents and it’s another to call them your friend. And I can truly say my parents are my friends, and once we started blacksmithing, that bond got closer. To me that is priceless, and makes the blacksmithing come easy.”   She says “This has been a huge bonding experience for both of us.” Jim’s pride in his daughter is evident and one can see how much he enjoys being in their business together.

Portable Blacksmiths 

     They have such a good time working together that they spent a considerable amount of time creating a portable blacksmith shop in order to take their shop on the road to craft shows and community events. Ingeniously they used a pop-up camper as the base, and it includes a portable forge so they can give demonstrations and create art at events. Jim got the idea from watching other crafters and what it entailed to be in a festival. He says, “You have to load all of your merchandise, tables and tent to go to the festival, unload it when you get there, load it all up to leave and unload it again when you get home. That’s a lot of loading and unloading; and all of our stuff is heavy.” Cathy says, “With our portable blacksmith shop there is much less to handle to participate in the craft fairs. Not to mention the crowd it draws because of its looks and the sound of our hammers hitting hot steel on the anvil. “

Forging Plans

     After two years of working together, Cathy and Jim are looking forward to continuing Railroad Remnants and taking their work to the next level. She has ideas that incorporate found driftwood and Jim’s mind is always working on the next project, such as the custom  trestle table he recently made from railroad pieces for a client. She says, “I have lots of ideas for the future. I never expected this when  I took ‘Love’ and ‘Joy’ to Facebook, it really has been a whirlwind!”

     Their genuine respect and affection for each other shines through their humor, and the jokes fly as much as the sparks from the anvil. When asked about retirement Jim answers that no, retirement is not an option because ”she works me like a borrowed mule. You can quote me on that.” Cathy laughs and says “The fun part is hanging out with him”.  To keep up with this father /daughter duo follow them on Facebook at : Railroad Remnants by Cathy Pender Emmert.

story by Emily Burgess     photos by Susan DeLoach

There are piles of things all around. Sticks covered in dried moss, branches of ferns, wax, hammers and pieces of jewelry in their beginning stages of development in a makeshift garage studio. “Organized chaos” is what she calls it and it is indicative of the artist’s mind that she possesses. She knows where each thing is and over time works to bring them to life as wearable art. JoAnn Graham, an unlikely silversmith, but one who is making her name known in the lowcountry.

     Graham began her art in silversmithing in 2004. She works with sterling, fine, and argentium silver, gold and steel to create unique and individual wearable art jewelry. All of her pieces are hand-fabricated, form-folded, forged and texturized.

     She received a Master of Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro in 1988.  Modeling the dance programs that had been so successful in North Carolina schools, Graham helped implement dance programs across the state of South Carolina as the first dance consultant for the State Department of Education of South Carolina.

     After years of serving, a hip replacement and back injury forced her to retire on disability. Graham had no intention of sitting idly once she healed and knew that she had to find a creative outlet.

     A friend gave her a brochure, which spurred her to attend the New Hampshire Institute of Art, Penland School of Arts and Crafts, Joseph Campbell, Sawtooth School for the Visual Arts in 2005. She later received her welding certification from the Technical College of the Lowcountry in 2011 where she studied with Michael Goode, Betty Helen Longhi, Ben Dyer and Chris Nelson.

     Everything she makes starts as flat pieces of sterling silver or wire. Graham finds inspiration from things she discovers in nature. With equipment like a crucible and kiln, she casts a mold of an object and eventually turns it into a piece of jewelry. Each and every piece she makes is truly a one-of-a-kind piece that can’t be exactly replicated making her collection unique.

     In true organized chaos form, Graham is working on anywhere from five to six pieces at one time. She creates a mold for one and hammers another, while placing the finishing touches on an additional piece. She will spend four or five days doing this before completing each distinct piece.

     Pins, bangles, cuffs with bamboo etched into the shiny metal, necklaces fired and manipulated into intricate links, earrings cast from the resurrection fern leaves found in downtown Beaufort. Graham’s jewelry is stunning to see in person and even more so after you understand the intense process it takes to create.

     “I choreograph in sterling silver,” says Graham. Her pieces are very abstract and she doesn’t like symmetry. She brings movement and fluidity to her work that stems from her dance background.  “It’s art. I made sure that was on my website. It’s wearable art.”

     Graham claims to be a terrible salesperson when it comes to marketing her jewelry, but she is passionate that those viewing or purchasing her pieces understand and feel the depth of what her pieces express in their own art form. She may have started out in dance and her medium may now be different, but it is all connected; it is all a creative expression of the person doing it.

     Making jewelry may have begun as a creative outlet that was meant to keep her mind and body agile in retirement, but as she learned, and fabricated jewelry it was evident that it could morph into more. Five years ago is when she says she got serious about her work and serious about making JoAnn Graham Collections successful.

     A huge aspect of making her collection successful includes more medial tasks such as creating and updating a website, marketing, ordering materials, keeping books and doing taxes. As exciting as these are in showing her success, it is also this that causes her the greatest obstacle. These tasks that are necessary for further accomplishment in her field, also take her away from time in her studio, her time creating and making and expressing herself through her art. Graham says that two-thirds of her time is spent on the behind the scenes tasks and only a third, actually spent constructing jewelry.

     “It is me, myself, and I,” Graham said. She is solely responsible for all things JoAnn Graham Collections including traveling to art shows and exhibitions throughout North and South Carolina and a few select shows in Georgia. She travels to between 7 and 15 shows a year and has had great success at them including placing first at Art in the Park in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2011 and again taking third place in 2013, as well as second place at Piccolo Spoleto last year.

     Her most recent show was the American Craft Show put on by the American Craft Council in Atlanta, Georgia, which is the biggest show she has done to date. Her next show is The Art Market at Historic Honey Horn in Hilton Head, South Carolina Saturday, April 30th through Sunday, May 1st.  Graham says that at every show she manages to find some connection back to Beaufort and the lowcountry. Whether it’s a person who resides in Beaufort or someone who knows someone in the lowcountry, she says it is so rewarding to continually find ties back to this place she loves.

     Graham originally moved to Beaufort County almost 24 years ago because she said it is where the best dance education programs were. Even after retirement, when she realized she could move anywhere, she couldn’t bring herself to leave the lowcountry.

     “I’m really lucky. I love the beach,” said Graham. Although, much of her inspiration for her pieces derives from nature, she says the nature specific to Beaufort and the lowcountry is what inspires her most. “I don’t find inspiration elsewhere like I do here. I’m always looking at different things, the shells, all sorts of things. You begin to view things with a different perspective which is why we have art.”

     Pieces from JoAnn Graham Collections can be purchased through her website, but Graham also offers private fittings and consultations in her home for those interested in her work. Additionally, her pieces will now be available at LaPetit Gallerie in Bluffton, South Carolina, as one of seven artists displayed.

     Graham is so passionate about creating and sharing her art of silversmithing that she will also be teaching classes at La Petit as a beginner’s introduction. Classes will begin April 1st and will be held the first Wednesday of each month from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Additional days and times will be available upon request. Graham says ideal class sizes are anywhere from three to ten people. The class fee is $50 and each attendee leaves with the product they make.

     As for the future of JoAnn Graham Collections, Graham has no intention of stopping anytime soon. Despite the workload that is solely hers, the artist inside of her can’t retire.  She plans to ride this out as long as possible, even if that means quitting the shows and exhibitions and exclusively working on fabricating jewelry.

     She has big plans for her pieces. She desires to move her collection in a more abstract direction and combine the individual techniques she has learned over the years into single pieces. Mixing metals that have been forged with something that has been cast, she hopes to have more constructed pieces available, as well as trying new techniques such as tap and die to finish off her pieces.

     JoAnn Graham is an artist through and through. The end of her dance career was not the end of her art. Her hard work and desire to find a unique niche in the world of art has led to a beautiful and exquisite collection of jewelry that others can enjoy again and again. It is clear that Graham is making a name for herself as a silversmith in the lowcountry.

story by Cindy Reid     photos by Paul Nurnberg

Beaufort Lifestyle recently got to meet Kip Leming, Lady’s Island resident and rock and roll veteran. He shared some of his story with us over coffee on a sunny morning.


     Born and raised in Hopewell, NJ, which is near Princeton, Kip started playing the bass at age 13. He said, “Everyone wanted to play guitar or drums, so being a bass player, I could be in as many bands as I wanted to be in. My first band played at sock hops and other various local functions and we used shopping carts to wheel our equipment because we didn’t have cars! Good thing the amp was on wheels.” Kip continued, “After a few bands, I discovered cars and girls and took a break from music for a couple of years. But then a friend needed a bass player and when I saw their “Marshall stack” I knew they were a good band. We called ourselves ‘Marshall Law’.” (FYI  … “At the request of Pete Townshend, Marshall produced an 8×12-inch cabinet on top of which the 1959 amplifier head was placed, giving rise to the Marshall stack, an iconic image for rock and roll. The size of the wall of Marshall stacks soon became an indicator of the band’s status” https://en.wikipedia.org)

     Kip adds, “At that time I went from that band to another band, which is what happens as bands come together, play for a while and then start to fracture. A bass player can try and hold a band together, both musically and socially, but change proved each band got better. There was always a place for a bass player!”

     Kip was doing well and in 1977 that lead to being noticed by a new group called Mistress, which had been formed by Rick Derringer’s (Rock & Roll Hootchie-koo) guitar player. Among the highlights, Mistress actually got to tape a demo in the studio owned by Jimi Hendrix in NYC.

     Kip says, “We were playing rock in a disco era- it was tough! “ He continues, “I became a luthier and started building acoustic guitars. I would build the whole body from scratch; another guy would build the neck and so forth. I would build two a day. We went to trade shows, met a lot of musicians, including the legendary Les Paul. That was a lot of fun.”

     Back at the band, the drummer from Mistress went on to join the New York band Riot. Kip says, “They put out two records which got great reviews and  they were going on tour opening for Sammy Hagar in Britain, when I got a phone call asking, “do you want to go?” Obviously the answer was yes!” he laughs, “I had three weeks to learn the show. Playing with Riot was a great time, we were playing hard rock and touring with Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, Rush and Kiss, which had great productions and you could see these legendary bands at their peak. These bands were professionals who knew exactly what they were doing. But watching them night after night, doing the same ‘spontaneous’ bits, you could see how the time and touring turns them into the equivalent of professional wrestling!”


     It wasn’t all rock and roll bands and life on the road. Kip says, “I always liked cars. Where I grew up in rural Hopewell, you had to have a car. I built a ’56 Chevy and drove it to high school. Back then you had to be good at fixing cars or know someone who was. “ He says, “Although I was still working as a musician, if you are not touring there is no money coming in. Touring is the only money you make in rock and roll. I needed  an income so I got a job at a foreign car repair shop washing cars. One day all the mechanics quit. At the time, I had a BMW and I had tools so I became the mechanic on the spot.”

     It was a great fit for this bass player. Kip says, “ After that I went to Porsche and after that I went to Mercedes Benz where I stayed for thirty years. I started as a technician and worked my way up to Service Manager. The cars are great and it was a great career. I went to Germany to their factories many times, I got to ride around Daytona with race car driver Johnny Rutherford , and have many other great experiences. Mercedes Benz is a wonderful company that really values their mechanics.”

Finding Beaufort

     Kip and his wife Cathy, a writer/editor and retired C-suite executive assistant from Bristol- Myers Squibb, moved to Beaufort six years ago. He says they originally started looking at property in Jacksonville, Florida and worked their way up the coast to Savannah, Georgia. He says, “We were in Savannah  and we rented a car and drove up to Beaufort to check it out. We loved it immediately and moved here two years later . We love it here, we love our neighborhood. In our old neighborhood up north, I knew the neighbor across the street and the one to our right. That was it. Here we walk outside and it’s ‘hi how is it going!’ We love the people and the friendliness here.” Their household includes two Cornish Rex cats, a Model T and a Harley.  Kip and Cathy’s son, Scott, lives in Pennsylvania and daughter, Marie, lives in Hilton Head.

     Not ready for retirement yet, Kip wanted to share his love of Beaufort with others. So, he is a realtor at Ballinger Real Estate. Kip says he enjoys taking classes and learning new things, in fact, he recently obtained his  Residential Electrician Certificate.

     You may recognize Kip from a feature in the Beaufort Hospital’s Living Well magazine. He says “I have a heart condition, elevated LP(a) , and when we were thinking about moving here I was worried about finding a doctor with expertise in my condition. Come to find out, Dr. Vyge on Lady’s Island actually wrote his thesis on it, so that worked out very well.”

     Kip says, “I am always in one or two bands, playing bass. I just started playing in a new band, RKs (short for  Rhythm Kings) We play pop, soul, R&B. We cover Amy Winehouse, Earth Wind and Fire, Al Green and Santana. I like all the stuff we play because I like all different kinds of music.” The RKs have played at Maggie’s Pub at Habersham and at Gullah Grub on St Helena Island and will be adding gigs as the weather warms up.

Lightning Round

Favorite current band?

     “Cadillac Three”- a Nashville band that is Led Zeppelin meets ZZ Top.

Favorite car?

     The Porsche 930. White.

Favorite Place in Beaufort?

     Anywhere on the water – I mean physically on the water in a boat. I recently learned how to sail at the Beaufort Yacht & Sail Club, found I really liked it and plan on continuing. I haven’t found a bad place here yet.

     Check out Kip’s page at The Metal Archives, https://www.metal-archives.com/artists/Kip_Leming/15275 and the many videos of Riot on You Tube. Rock On Beaufort!

The needs in our community are great as many working families struggle to make ends meet.  “Many of the clients we see at United Way of the Lowcountry are working parents trying to raise a family on a minimum wage salary in an area with a high cost of living and few affordable housing options,” said Chrystie Turner, Vice President of Community Impact for United Way of the Lowcountry.  “As many live paycheck to paycheck, any unforeseen financial burden can send a working family into a financial crisis.”

     United Way of the Lowcountry depends on the generosity of this community to help meet the immediate needs of our neighbors and reduce future needs.  To address those immediate needs, United Way funds well-known agencies and their internal HELPLINE.  Through United Way’s Community Impact process, the organization is also working to create a positive impact by focusing on four priority areas including Basic Needs, Education, Health and Income/ Family Stability.  In addition, the organization supports education through its comprehensive Reading Program, Read Indeed.  Evidenced based strategies are used to tutor children in elementary schools throughout Beaufort and Jasper Counties.

     The dollars donated to United Way of the Lowcountry stay local, helping people throughout Beaufort and Jasper Counties.  As the organization’s fiscal year wraps up this month, United Way is encouraging anyone who hasn’t given to this year’s Annual Campaign to donate $19 and anyone who has already given, to consider donating an additional $19.  You’re probably wondering why $19. This amount represents the 19% of children in Beaufort County living in poverty.  “We want to bring awareness to this issue and encourage everyone to get involved, says Tina Gentry, United Way of the Lowcountry President & CEO.  “Just imagine the impact it would make if everyone in our community donated just $19.”

     “My wife and I give to United Way because we know they are accountable for the dollars we invest,” says Charlie Francis, United Way of the Lowcountry de Tocqueville Co-Chairman.  “With this year’s Annual Campaign ending on March 31st, I ask you to please consider making a donation to this worthy organization.  No gift is too small. “

     By making a donation to United Way of the Lowcountry you could help provide:

Seniors with dietary specific home delivered meals

Students with one on one, in-school tutoring as well as books to help them read on grade level and succeed through United Way’s Read Indeed program

Students with the opportunity to attend a financial literacy workshop to establish positive spending habits early in life, stressing the importance of protecting your identity and credit

Homeless family members with housing, as well as case management, budget classes, employment services and education to secure housing when the family leaves the program

Primary care services for  low income, uninsured adults (Individuals who make too much to receive Medicaid, but not enough to be able to afford private insurance)

Electricity to a family in need to help keep the lights on and provide heat to keep children warm

     “Our Annual Campaign is not about the dollars raised, it’s about what those dollars will do to help us meet the immediate needs of our neighbors and build a stronger community,” says Tina Gentry, United Way of the Lowcountry President & CEO.

     To make a donation to United Way of the Lowcountry, visit www.uwlowcountry.org or mail a check to United Way of the Lowcountry at P.O. Box 202 Beaufort, SC 29901.  You can also text LOWCOUNTRY to 30306.