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Special Guest Interview: Artist Amy Crehore

Ten Things I Had To Ask Amy!

While perusing the digital catacombs of the internet for interesting bits of ukulele arcanum, I was confronted by an image that drew me in like a fly to it’s “web”.

Tickler Ukulele #1

The image was that of an incredible hand-painted ukulele with a monkey and a little clown hanging from the sound hole. Once I was in the website of artist Amy Crehore, I was met by many more of these fantastic painted ukes and banjoleles, in addition to wonderful paintings, prints and  graphics that prominently featured ukuleles.

The Art of Amy Crehore

Something was definitely going on that I had no knowledge of. I needed to know more.

Tickler #1 Back

So, after an hour or so salivating over these gorgeous images of scantily clad island beauties and odd, sailor-cap wearing monkeys, I decided to contact Amy and see if I could get a few answers…

Amy Crehore

She obliged me, and what follows is our exclusive conversation, and a peek at some of her amazing work. Enjoy!

BeatNik:
In addition to your fantastic paintings on canvas of lovely ladies, mischievous monkeys and their ever-present ukuleles, you also paint those inhabitants on actual ukuleles! Tell us a little about how you got that idea?

Amy:
My husband, Lou Reimuller, is a part-time luthier. He built the first uke for me to paint. Tickler Uke #1. Being musicians and antique instrument collectors, we had been thinking about it for a very long time. The idea was spurred on a few years ago by Rick Turner who had wanted me to paint some of his. I had already done a series of paintings of monkeys and girls for various L.A. and Seattle art shows (example: The Blab! shows). I used the motif from one of my paintings for my first painted uke.

The Creature by Amy Crehore

Later, when I was contacting galleries in L.A. to set up a solo show, I had the idea that we could build some ukes to hang next to my fine art paintings as art objects and that the images could play into each other and tell a story. One gallery that I approached in Culver City was booked up, but another gallery offered to give me a show within a year. However, I realized that building the ukes from scratch would take too much time, so I started collecting antique specimens, mostly from the 1920s. This turned out to be a lot of fun and, at the same time, it was an education. These ukes reflect the design trends of the art deco period and I was happy to enhance them with my artwork.

Crehore Studio
The result was my “Dreamgirls and Ukes” fine art solo show in Los Angeles at Thinkspace. There were 13 painted ukes and 15 oil paintings. The show was written up in Inked Magazine and various others.
B:
Where do you find the ukes?
A:
That’s my little secret.
B:
Are they vintage, toy or custom-made?
A:
None of them are toys. Although they are as cute as toys. A lot of my ukes are vintage ukes from the 1920s (I call them my Tickleroos), but a couple of them have been designed by me and custom built by Lou. We are now working on Tickler #3 from scratch which will be a concert uke. Tickler #2 is a pineapple uke. (I’m so proud of that one!)
Tickler #2
B:
After you paint them, are they still playable?
A:
They are all playable and sound great, and in the case of vintage, they have either been lovingly restored to playability or happen to be in mint condition. I would not have it any other way. However, one may not want to play them very often, but rather treat them as fine art collectibles and one-of-a-kind examples of my art. After all, the best specimens in the finest instrument collections are ones that have not been destroyed by playing. Some are quite rare.
B:
I heard you are also in a band – are ukuleles part of your music, as well?
A:
Yes. The ukulele fits well into the type of music I play with my husband – authentic jugband, early jazz and blues of the 20s and 30s. We prefer the sound of the black musicians of that period.

The Hokum Scorchers
My band ,The Hokum Scorchers, played music at the opening of my “Dreamgirls and Ukes” show last year.
Lou played a banjo-uke on a couple of numbers.

B:
Where is the most interesting place we might see one of your painted ukes hanging?
A:
In a contemporary art collection.

Ol' Whatsisname...

B:
Does the monkey with the hat have a name?

A:
You just gave me the idea for a contest for my blog. (Little Hokum Rag)
Buy This T-Shirt!
B:
Tickler Ukulele’s – a great T-shirt design, but is it a real company?
A:
Of course. 🙂
B:
Where can our readers acquire some Amy Crehore art and merchandise?
A:
There are prints and t-shirts at www.amycrehore.com
(contact amy@amycrehore.com to inquire about original paintings and fine art ukes)
B:
Last question: Banjolele or Ukulele?
A:
Whether it be in the form of a banjo or a little guitar or a pineapple-shape, each one has it’s own voice, lending itself to different types of songs.  I love the sounds of both as well as the design details.
Banjo-ukes make great little canvases to paint on. Soprano ukes have a strong tradition of novelty designs.
Loving the history of art and music as I do, having been a professional illustrator as well as a fine art painter my whole life, a musician and vintage instrument collector, it all goes together.
B:
Amy Crehore’s Tickler Ukuleles – Music for the eyes.
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Uke Got Art Skillz? ANOTHER Uke Contest…

Look at this SWEET Tiki Ukulele poster:

Last Year's (2009) Winning Poster

There’s still time to get out your digital brushes, waxy crayons and fingerpaints and enter the 2010 Wine Country Uke Fest poster competiton – deadline for entries is May 21, 2010.

This baby could be yours!

The winner will win an amazing, Sonny “D” Ohta-san Bell-shape Concert ‘ukulele handmade in Hawai’i by Sonny Dahlin–’ukulele builder for the stars. The sound board is Alaskan yellow cedar with blond koa back and sides. It has an ebony fretboard with 14 exposed frets (19 total), a neck of African mahogany, and koa crown. The tuners are made by Schaller–silver with pearloid buttons.  The rosette is olivewood and the bindings are maple.  It is beautifully balanced and has fret markers on the top of the fretboard and down the side, so you can see them while you’re playing.

Go to http://winecountryukefest.com/festival-updates/ for contest rules and submission links.

I will be posting a separate article soon about this amazing festival, scheduled for September 11 – 12, 2010 in  St. Helena, California. But you can get all the info you need now at WineCountryUkeFest.com!

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A New Luthier Is Born!

Tim Nicol is a cabinetmaker and lecturer, but that may all change once the ukulele community gets a look at his latest creation – award-winning creation, that is!

UkeCanPlay member Tim Nicol with his Royal Darwin Award winning ukulele

“I have been lecturing a Cabinetmaking qualification which equates to kitchen, bathroom, office fit outs counters and solid timber furniture production.”

But ol’ Kris Kringle threw a little inspiration his way. “I was given a ukulele last Christmas and, as a rather passionate cabinetmaker, was immediately riveted by the construction of the instrument,” Mr Nicol said.

“I studied it for a time and thought ‘hey, I can make one of these myself’!” he said.

“I signed up to an online ukulele-making forum to learn how best to construct it, string it, tune it and, perhaps most importantly, where to source the parts (Hawaii) and from then on it was all systems go,” Tim said.

After a few months of precision craftsmanship, his first ukulele was born. Built in both his spare time and on campus as a training tool for his lecture students, it was completed just in time to submit as an entry for the Royal Darwin Show at Charles Darwin University in Australia.

“I thought I would enter it as a way of demonstrating the vast array of objects that can be created using cabinetmaking skills,” he said.

Tim’s gorgeous ukulele actually went on to win not only the Functional Woodwork category, but also the ultimate accolade of Best Woodwork piece overall.

“I hope it’s showed to both my students and the general public how diverse a field to which carpentry skills can be applied,” he said.

Spurred on by his success, Mr Nicol has just finished work on his fourth instrument, a larger ukulele tenor.

Tim's tenor - who wants one? I DO!!!

“I must confess, it’s become a bit of an addiction,” he said.

Well, Tim, glad your addicted because you may just find it’s all you ever get to do from now on…

Well done, friend!

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By The Time Uke Get To Phoenix…

Ukulele Ray Opening Reception

Thu., April 22, 6:00pm-9:00pm
ArtSpace on Sixth
Price: free

Reposted from Phoenix New Times

Ray It Forward

Ukulele + lunchbox = great art

By Laura Hahnefeld

Uke Can Have Your Lunch And Eat It Too!

The list of celebrities for whom Tempe-based artist and entertainer Ukulele Ray has created his custom “Lunchbox-A-Leles” read like a People magazine who’s who. He’s made a left-handed “Yellow Submarine” original as a birthday present for Paul McCartney, a KISS creation for Gene Simmons, and a Spongebob Squarepants product for Prescott native porn star (and contributor to Tiger Woods’ marital woes) Holly Sampson. About Sampson, Ray jokes, “I thought it might help her clean things up.”

Starting out as an oddball idea posted online in 2006, Ray’s Lunchbox-A-Lele (a ukulele/lunchbox suitable for playing and packing a sandwich) was an overnight success. Since then, the fancy’s taken flight, with several LAL’s featured in San Francisco’s SOMARTS and the Andy Warhol Museum. Now, there’s talk of mass production and Ukulele Ray is getting out of the instrument-making biz and putting the last of his prototypes up for grabs.

Check out Ray, his uke-nique creations, and a live performance at Artspace on Sixth.