South of Conneaut, on Weaver Road, three adult, retired siblings—JoAnn, Diane and John Davey—share a house, expenses and craft room.
JoAnn is the artist of the trio, although each sibling has inherited the artistic bent of their mother, a seamstress with an eye for fashion. Diane, a quilter, followed in her mother’s vein. John repurposes discarded picture frames, which works well for JoAnn, who paints with a variety of media that ends up framed in John’s efforts.
Just about any media, subject or material is fair game for JoAnn’s art. “The only thing I don’t do is oil,” Davey says while freshening up her space at Bridge Street Art Works in Ashtabula Harbor. “But that is only because of the expense of oil.”
Her framed work at the Bridge Street gallery is weighted toward whimsical animals ranging from the household cat to a giraffe, but her matted, unframed watercolors offer an original seascape for what many artists charge for a print of the original.
Davey is retired, so she does not have to worry about art paying the living expenses. But it does need to support itself.
“I just want to sell my (paintings) and make a little bit more money so I can keep going,” she says.
She tried the online arts and crafts market, Etsy, but found the competition overwhelming. An invitation to exhibit at the Conneaut Arts Center several years ago opened the door to a local market that eventually led to her test the waters at Bridge Street Art Works.
“I’m just getting my feet wet here,” says Davey, who signed on in the fall of 2017. “I hope when people come in here they will buy my art; I sold three paintings in the first month.”
Winter is a slow time for just about any business except purveyors of warmth and comfort foods. But Davey plans to stick with the ARt Works through the winter and spring so she’ll a good supply on the walls when the summer breezes and shoppers return to Bridge Street. The supply won’t be a problem.
“There are lots and lots of paintings on the walls of the craft room,” she says. “They are just waiting to be brought here.”
Davey traces her interest and training in art back to her childhood, when as a pre-teen she rode the bus from Parma Heights to art museums and schools in downtown Cleveland.
“In those days a young girl could go downtown without any worry about it,” she says. “I would go to the Cleveland Museum of Art and Cooper School of Art for classes. I’d get on the bus and sit right behind the bus driver.”
Jobs, three children, a divorce and several moves left little time for art during her working years, although at least one job gave her some art experience while living near Aspen, Colo. She worked “down valley” in a shop that produced painted sweatshirts for the tourist trade.
In 2000 Davey came to Conneaut to assist her aging parents. “My brother was here. Our parents were ill and we decided to come here to take care of them,” she says.
Retirement finally gave her time to immerse herself in art. Her varied interests include cartooning; she uses her Facebook page as an outlet for that work. She also enjoys creating collages from found items, such as a worn pair of tennis shoes set against a background of Lake Erie sand and shells. She’s never met a piece of slate or glass that she couldn’t embellish with tole painting. And she uses watercolors to create unique greeting cards, sold at Bridge Street Art Works for less than the cost of a fancy card run off on ress by the thousands.
She finds her inspiration in magazines and life.
“I don’t know what is next,” she admits. “When I decide, I’ll let you know. … Whatever catches my eye, becomes art.”
Davey takes a laid back approach to art. “The thing about art is that if you don’t like it the first time, you can do it over again,” she says. But creating has a serious side for her, as well; as serious as breathing.
“If I thought about how (how little she makes per hour on a piece), I’d get depressed,” Davey says. “I can’t put a value on my time, because I can’t help but do art.”
The challenge for Davey, as for all artists, is figuring out what will sell.
“What I find fascinating is what makes somebody want to buy a painting. It has to be something very, very personal for them,” she says.
See Davey’s work and that of dozens of other Northeast Ohio artists at Bridge Street Art Works, 1009 Bridge St., Ashtabula Harbor, Ohio.