by SYDNAH KINGREA
The words "No One Alike" boldly and instinctively draw you into the charming cottage shop and studio of artist Kim Padula and her father, Bill Padula. The yearning to be unique and different and to be cherished for these qualities is ingrained in each of our souls and echoes in the mission of art itself. A visit to No One Alike connects you with these all too often buried desires. The strikingly vibrant colors and shapes created by Kim's marbling technique speak to the wild, unencumbered nature that is often lost in the busyness and day-to-day tasks of life.
A walk through the shop will take you past scores of marbling creations and hand crafted wooden knives and bangles, no piece alike. What you choose to take home, you'll never see a duplicate of.
Marbling, one of the biggest themes in No One Alike, is an ancient technique that originated in Japan in A.D. 1400, according to Kim. From Japan, the marbling technique made its way to Turkey and Florence, Italy, before arriving in the United States in colonial times. The traditional style of marbling maintains a uniform pattern throughout every square inch. Kim discovered the technique, and within 30 minutes of learning, immediately began experimenting with breaking the rules. Her own marbling is more free form or "abstract" marbling. The process requires distinct, calculated steps to be taken and will ultimately create a beautifully unique design.
Water and seaweed are first mixed in a small tub to create a gelatin. Then, acrylic paint is dropped onto the surface of the gelatin, and the dots begin to unfurl. Kim manipulates the surface to create her own stunning pattern. Materials from paper to silk or leather can be set into the tray upon which the pattern prints. Before those materials are united with the marbling solution, a laborious process to prepare the materials is undertaken, and once the design has set, more work is performed to protect the newly designed belts, clutches, scarves, journals and tote bags from damage. Each piece is designed for daily use, so the art can be worn without worry.
"I fell in love" was Kim's answer when I asked how her story brought her to Northeast Georgia.
"I first found this area late July of 2013 through a connection from my alma mater, Juniata College," Kim says. "I was invited to help fire an Anagama kiln (an ancient Japanese-style wood kiln) at Piedmont college in Demorest, Georgia. Along with studying mixed media art and theatre production as part of my undergraduate degree, I studied ceramics. This ancient kiln firing process is a week long labor intensive effort that must be maintained 24/7.
She continues, "During that week I found a strong artisan community and felt at home. I met potter Cody Trautner, who is the new owner of Hickory Flat Pottery, and now four years later we will be married this October.
No One Alike and Hickory Flat Pottery are 50 feet away from one another, and a path between the two has been established.
"No One Alike stands out in an area rich with potters, we offer a different take on utilitarian art," finished Kim.
When he is not at his corporate job selling metal recycling machinery worldwide, Kim's father, Bill Padula, contributes to No One Alike by crafting one of a kind knives, bangles, cutting boards and pens out of maple and Osage orange wood from Northeast Georgia. Using his contacts in the recycling industry, he also works with repurposed materials and sources rescued purpleheart wood from Barbados land fills and ironwood from New Mexico for his projects. Burls - bulbous growths on trees that will eventually kill them - can be removed and cut to create beautiful designs in wood art. This technique is exemplified in many of his pieces.
Bill Padula stabilizes all the wood he uses in his art. The process requires the wood to be vacuum-heated and epoxied, and this adds to the plasticity, endurance and longevity of his pieces. It also provides the wood with more of a defense against moisture and warping. Color can be added to the vacuum to create even more unique contrasts.
"My father has made almost every cabinet, table or shelving piece for our store himself, as well as my numerous marbling trays. We mostly work separately, and then our finished products stand together," answered Kim when asked about combination projects. She continued, "I have plans to create lamps together. Leather-upholstered furniture is in our future as well. This spring we will be introducing marbled candles with hand-turned wooden stands. Our mediums complement each other because they are both organic. The patterns in my marbling mimic the patterns of the Damascus steel and spalted maple lines in his hand-turned knife handles."
Kim offers custom marbling, including custom wall pieces for living rooms and bedrooms, in addition to her No One Alike store offerings.
Kim and her father stress that it is important to find the unique and one-of-a-kind in the mass-produced environment we live in. They believe art can be utilitarian and functional and still express the uniqueness of the individual and extol the virtues of individuality. No One Alike epitomizes this belief superbly.