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The Begins: Art is all in the family


Four artists in the same Las Cruces family like to work alone in their various media, but they draw inspiration and support from each other.

The four – Nancy Frost Begin and sons Jason and Matt, along with Jason’s wife, Heather Rae Morton, will their artistic talents in a joint show 10-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 16-17, at 1982 Avenida de Antigua, which is Nancy’s in-home studio.

Nancy is a painter, woodworker, teacher and mother who will be showing her watercolors, oils, woodcuts and unique monster boxes during the show, which is free and open to the public.

Jason will play guitar, while Matt will display his handmade woodwork and Heather, who is married to Jason, will have her ceramics on display. You’re also likely to meet Jason and Heather’s 3-year-old daughter, Nova, who has her own electric guitar and is learning about artistic possibilities from her parents, uncle and grandmother.

Nancy is a native of Buffalo, New York, who moved to Las Cruces in 2007 with Bruce, her husband of 45 years. She comes from long line of artists, including both parents, her grandmother (a concert pianist and a quilter) and her sister, Susan Hanssen, a painter who lives in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, with whom Nancy often does themed workshops.

Perhaps Nancy’s most unusual art is her monster boxes, many made from basswood cut and shaped by Matt. From those pieces, she makes a small, hinged box. Each one has its own name and personality and is lined with pages from old children’s books and has a treasure inside.

Matt Begin’s craftsman-style woodworking uses no metal screws or nails, relying instead on mortise and tenon joints. Matt began doing woodwork in the woodshop of his family’s basement in New Hampshire and has always been drawn to its clean lines and simplicity, he said. He began making pieces for friends and family and wound up with a five-year backlog of orders. He’s creating an inventory of his work and is looking forward to a Las Cruces craft show soon that will feature his unique Toad Hollow creations.

“I’m doing something I love to do,” Matt said. “It’s so not 9-5. There is a certain flow, a quiet, a Zen-like meditative space” in woodworking.

Jason likes making electronic experimental electronic music in his in-home studio, where he also produces music for television and film. He’s been playing music by ear for more than 20 years and started playing the electric guitar in middle school. It was also about that time that Jason and his mother built a guitar from scratch. The mostly maple and mahogany electric guitar is unusual not only because it’s hand-made by a mother-son team but because it has slanted frets for optimal tension, which Jason said creates a more bell-like sound.

Jason has a BA in music technology and audio engineering from Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York.

Heather’s ceramics studio – Black Phoebe Ceramics – is the back half of the family garage, where she often is found working at 3 or 4 in the morning. Her business is named after a California bird that nested in the rafters of the San Diego ceramics studio and storefront she owned before she and Jason moved to Las Cruces about three years ago, “always finding ourselves drawn back to the surrounding beauty and color.”

Heather uses no molds, so all her creations are handmade on a potter’s wheel, including custom designs, shapes, sizes and colors for a wide range of both functional and decorative pieces.

“I keep my silhouettes very simple and focus most of my time on surface decoration,” she said. “Each glaze is an original recipe, which I develop and test in my studio glaze lab – definitely my favorite part of being a ceramic artist. I’ve made thousands of pieces for clients, interior designers and shops across the country.”

In Las Cruces, Heather’s work is regularly on display at Picacho Roasters, Spirit Winds, Mew & Co. and The Mandrake, in addition to exhibitions and workshops.

For more information, contact Nancy Begin at nancybegin@gmail.com, Matt Begin at mattier303@gmail.com, Jason Begin at jbegin76@gmail.com and Heather Rae Morton at heather@blackphoebeceramics.com.  


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