Meet the Artist in Residence: Kira Buckel

Kira Buckel is an artist in residence at Main Street Arts. She’s working in one of our two studio spaces during the months of November–December 2016 (you can stop by the gallery to see her studio and works in progress). We asked Kira a few questions about her artwork, life, and more:

Kira Buckel working in her studio at Main Street Arts

Kira Buckel working in her studio at Main Street Arts

Q: To start this off, would you tell us about your background?

A: I grew up on the East End of Long Island and always enjoyed drawing as a child. I studied art in high school and through college. I graduated from Bard College with a BA in Studio Art this past May. As a recent graduate I’ve been working and living back home and looking for job opportunities in art.

Kira Buckel, "Infinite Kitchen" (detail), acrylic, gouache, painted collaged paper, PVA glue, tape on paper, 22’ x 7’, 2016.

Kira Buckel, “Infinite Kitchen” (detail), acrylic, gouache, painted collaged paper, PVA glue, tape on paper, 22’ x 7’, 2016.

Q: How would you describe your work? 

A: I usually work in a 2-D format, mostly painting and drawing, and occasionally printmaking. At college I explored sculpture as well, but settled back into painting for my senior thesis. Most recently I have been working with collaged paper that I paint or using found papers and incorporating them into paintings. I like to work representationally, usually of everyday reality, but mixed with the imagined in order to express a personal relationship to the subject of the painting.

Kira Buckel works on a new painting/collage

Kira Buckel works on a new painting/collage

Q: What is your process for creating a work of art?

A: I work from sketches and photos, but ultimately allow the materials I’m using to direct the process of painting. When working with collaged paper I sometimes peel off layers or use sandpaper to reveal what is underneath. I enjoy working this way because it is tactile and almost sculptural.

Kira creates her works by collaging painted paper

Kira creates her works by collaging painted paper

Kira Buckel, "On an Anxious Sea" (detail), acrylic, watercolor, painted collaged paper, PVA glue, tape on paper, 12’ x 6’4”, 2016.

Kira Buckel, “On an Anxious Sea” (detail), acrylic, watercolor, painted collaged paper, PVA glue, tape on paper, 12’ x 6’4”, 2016.

Q: Who is your favorite artist and why?

A: One of my favorite artists is Pierre Bonnard. I’m always inspired by how he transformed everyday scenes into otherworldly images through his paintings. His use of color is especially magical.

Q: What are your goals for this residency? Tell us about your current projects.

A: I want to make as many paintings as I can during my time here, using sketches and imagery from the past. I’d like to explore the Finger Lakes region and paint local scenes as well.


Q: What’s next for you?

A: Next I’ll be attending a residency at the Vermont Studio Center for the month of February. After that, I’m applying for other residencies and opportunities, and continuing the search for jobs in NYC or the northeast in general. Eventually I’d like to attend graduate school.


Q: Where else can we find you?

You can view my work at I’ll also be on Instagram soon!

Are you an artist looking for new opportunities? Apply for a residency at Main Street Arts! Artists in residence will have 24-hour access to a large studio on our second floor (with great natural light), the option to show work in the gallery, and the opportunity to teach paid workshops. Housing is available. Submissions are reviewed and residencies awarded quarterly.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Patrick Kana: The Rumson Low Table

I have had the pleasure of exhibiting my work at Main Street Arts for almost two years now, and I jumped at the opportunity to participate in this collaborative show.  Ceramic artist Peter Pincus and I have been looking forward to an chance to collaborate for some time now and this exhibition is a great fit.

The table I designed for this show is a fusion of new energy and expertise with a product I had made three years prior: The Rumson Table.  The Rumson Table was designed as a simple and elegant occasional table, with crisp hand-shaped details.  I chose Mahogany for the stand and Zebrawood for the top to bring a warmth and color contrast not typically seen in contemporary furniture.  While I enjoy the color tones and overall form, my goal was to create a companion coffee table with a lower, more gestural stance and refined proportions.  The original Rumson Table stands 30″ tall while the new Rumson Low Table stands 15″ tall and 36″ across.



I formally started my career as a furniture maker in 2007, training as an apprentice for master furniture maker and luthier Peter Dudley.  One apprenticeship led to another, and after receiving my degree in Architectural Studies and Studio Art from Hobart and William Smith Colleges, I continued to receive my MFA in Furniture Design from the prestigious School for American Crafts at RIT.  These experiences have cemented traditional craft execution in my practice alongside a contemporary design process.  Currently, my work is often inspired by botanical and marine biological forms, though there are times when the utility of an object takes precedence.  The Rumson Low table was a chance for me to refine the process by which I make this table.

While I often prioritize natural forms,  I am very driven by the selection of my material.  The majority of the wood I use is either milled from local logs, or sourced as reject material from lumber companies and sawyers.  In the case of the Zebrawood for the Rumson Low Table I was fortunate to obtain a sun-beaten pallet of African hardwoods that were destined for the dumpster. As I often discover, just beneath the grey weathered surface is warm color, texture, and most importantly, potential.




I begin by selecting boards for matching grain patterns for the table top, trying to balance uniformity, contrast, energy and visual rest in the wood grain.  I step mill the planks very carefully to guarantee stability over the lifetime of the piece, and lastly, edge joint each seam with a hand plane for a flawless glue-joint.  Simultaneously, I begin making patterns and templates for the base components, to not only ensure that each component becomes an exact match, but to also build upon my inventory of “visual vocabulary” from which to pull inspiration later on.





As you can see, I saw out the components for the base, and then cut the joinery.  Typically, joinery is cut first, then components cut out, but in my experience, I can attain more components per plank and waste very little wood in the process.  Although it’s slightly more labor intensive in the joinery-stages, it’s well worth it in my process.

At this point in the process, the components are still “blocky” to me.  I find my greatest enjoyment in the stages to come–laying out guidelines for the shaping process, and giving life to these components.  I add tapers, bevels, and progressing curves to the outer surfaces of each component, which not only adds dimension and depth, but gives them a vibrancy when light reflects off of the multiple surfaces.  My go-to tools for this process are spokeshaves, and Japanese rasps.  Some tools leave polished surfaces ready for finish, others leave behind a surface in need of careful sanding.





I pre-sand all components prior to assembly.  This makes for easy work refining details on smaller components rather than sanding details on a completely assembled, unwieldy piece. Assembly for a base like this is not as easy as it may seem. Precise clamping pads are made for each corner to guarantee perfect pressure on each joint, and yes, it requires a lot of clamps! When it assembles smoothly and nothing shifts during the process, you know you’ve done your job well.




Final touches are easily done at this point–cleaning up any glue, sanding any transitions, and my favorite, giving each sharp corner and edge a simple chamfer to make the piece soft to the touch.  Lastly, I finish all my work with a hand-rubbed oil varnish blend which not only allows the richness of these woods to pop, but also offers great protection for a utilitarian piece.



The finished piece retains crisp lines and curves, while having an updated and more gestural stance.  These details, plus the bulbous square top relate nicely to Peter Pincus’ porcelain urns.  While slightly drastic, I am very happy with the color contrast between our work. I believe it brings out different qualities in the work that may not have been evident without the other.

I currently live and work in Geneva, NY  where I create work on commission and speculation for clients around the country.  I am also the Studio Technician and teach as Adjunct Faculty for Hobart and William Smith Colleges.  I welcome visitors to my 4000 square foot furniture studio, where I have available space for fellow artists and woodworkers, along with a suite of fully restored 1940′s vintage woodworking equipment.

Stop by Main Street Arts to see Patrick Kana’s furniture in our current exhibition “Setting the Table” (runs through November 25th). You can see more of Patrick’s work online at or follow him on Instagram @pk_designermaker. You can contact Patrick with questions, comments, and orders at

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by furniture maker Chara Dow.

Call for Artists: 16th Annual Art Sale Benefiting Bethany House

Artists, are you looking for a way to do some good with your art? Consider donating your artwork to the 16th Annual Art Sale benefiting Bethany House!
The University of Rochester’s American Medical Women’s Association is hosting their 16th Annual Art Sale benefiting Bethany House, an emergency shelter for women and children. They’re seeking donations of art, gift cards, gift baskets, services, and more. Everything will be sold or auctioned with proceeds going to Bethany House. They are asking for donations to be received by Thanksgiving.
Work can be sent to:
University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry
601 Elmwood Ave, Box 601
Rochester, NY 14642
We will also be collecting artwork at Main Street Arts to deliver for donation! Stop by the gallery by Friday, November 18th with your donation and we’ll bring the work in for you. Please attach a business card or informational sheet with your name and contact information to your work, along with the suggested value of the item.
Click here for more information: Donation Request

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Chara Dow: Growth of a Sideboard

This table started the way many of my pieces start;  with a deadline and a vague idea.  I had purchased a beautiful, highly fingered slab of Flame Beech up in the Adirondacks a year before and the design grew out of the amount of life and movement flowing through the grain of the slab. I decided to make a sideboard so I could elevate the beech on top of a base which mirrored that organic form. For the legs I used Honey Locust from my collection. They were stripped down with a drawknife  and sanded to reveal their pink and yellow flesh, the angles of their wobbly knees and muscular hips.



After a lot of awkward arranging, re-arranging and turning each branch a dozen times I settled on a stance that called to me.  The legs were then numbered and angles marked. The four drawbored thru tenons were then cut and fit into the Beech. With rustic work even very traditional joinery likes this becomes extremely custom. Everything is done by eye, there are no exact formats or jigs to follow due to the nature of the organic form I’m working with. Each branch is different in size, shape and angle so the joint takes its own path to completion. Each of these joints is unique, with maple dowels running through and securing the pieces tightly into place.


img_0097After bracing each pair of legs with another locust branch I selected the material for the stretcher. I used Oriental Bittersweet Vine which is an invasive vine that chokes out many pockets of our beautiful native north eastern woods. I cut and pull it out of several local parks with permission. Shown here it is climbing in Corbett’s Glen Park before being cut. Once cut it is peeled and stored indoors where to dry.  I wanted to use the vines in the base because it was an ideal place to showcase the wild tangled way they grow and twist so perfectly around themselves, and anything that gets in their way on their path to the light.


The process is quiet and contemplative and  involves a lot of arranging, turning, clamping and then standing back and looking.  Taking it all apart and trying different vines. Each vine gets turned upside down and backwards, rejected and then re-invited until the lines and negative spaces feel balanced, strong and peaceful.  Then they are marked and slowly placed in one at time, shaking hands through coped joints with other vines and branches, creating more strength at every contact. I did not want to overwhelm any of the lines but give instead each vine the space it needed to display the unique path it had taken through space; the obstacles it wriggled around and overcame while growing.




I used chisels to carve the sharp right angles off the slab and bring it down to meet its asymmetrical base. Doing so created a highly tactile detail to run the finger tips along in passing. The slab had been air dried and has a subtle dish warp to it that I thoroughly enjoy and chose not to correct as I wanted to give a nod to the movement and growth in wood, a living material that never truly stops breathing and softly seething. Four hard maple bowtie keys were set into the slab to secure a crack running on the underside.


The chaotic messy shop space before it was deep cleaned for the finish to be applied.


 Multiple coats of a high quality durable oil based top coat were applied and the legs were additionally waxed and buffed. When the oil hits the Beech and Honey Locust all of the rich tones and deep figure pop and the warmth of the wood is radiated.


Before the opening I carved a Cherry serving spoon to accompany the turrine Richard provided for the show.




The rich natural lines of Richard Aerni’s ceramics married harmoniously with the sideboard. Here in the gallery it catches the natural light coming through the windows and casts wild shadows on the gallery floor. These materials may have been caught but they will never be tame.

Stop by Main Street Arts to see Chara Dow’s furniture in our current exhibition “Setting the Table” (runs through November 25th). You can see more of Chara’s work online at

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by painter Cherry Rahn.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Cherry Rahn: Stalking the Wild Still Life

I have lived in Geneva, NY since 1981, but I’ve spent time in many other places, including the UK, and many years in Canada.  My first solo show was at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 1989, after taking some studio courses there.  I made sculpture for the next 20 years.

My medium, subject matter and style varied a lot.  I made bronze figures and portraits, a multi-media installation, a series in Hydrocal about technology, and social-satirical “men in suits” figures.  I’ve also done set design and theater pieces for schools and community theater, and for my daughter’s circus production company.  I’ve been concentrating on painting since 2008, using gouache and then acrylic on canvas.

In my studio.  Photo: E. Kenas

In my studio. Photo: E. Kenas

Wild still life:  since it is now socially acceptable to use a cell phone to take photos  in all public situations, a vast opportunity has opened up.  In a cafe, restaurant or tea room, I can hunt around the room or the table top with my phone camera.  I use the low or peculiar lighting conditions and the chance encounters with objects and colors to collect raw visual material (I have never set up a still life.)  I then edit and re-compose an image and work from that photo.

The cafe paintings began in 2012 with views of the room, people, windows, inside and outside.  Now I have zoomed in to the more micro scene.

raw material

raw material

painting: Pair of Glasses

painting: Pair of Glasses

I love to play around on the cusp of abstraction and representation.  It’s tempting to go with the sheer colors and shapes, yet I can’t quite bear to “let go of that adorable salt shaker”, or whatever it may be.

Once again, I have shifted my subject matter.  I’m going more micro and working at the place where the water meets the land.  Here I am stalking the pebbles and lake grass.

at work.  photo: S. Lee

at work. photo: S. Lee

In my paintings, I want to present things that are there, but which we don’t usually see without a deliberate act of looking.

Stop by Main Street Arts to see Cherry Rahn’s paintings in our current exhibition “Setting the Table” (runs through November 25th). You can see more of Cherry’s work online at

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by printmaker Heather Swenson.