Ruth Allen

by Maggie See

 Artwork: Ruth Allen

Artwork: Ruth Allen

A transplant from Kentucky, spending the last 18 years here in Athens, GA has sent Ruth Allen on a path filled with art, yoga and the companionship of a pretty awesome little white hound named Cotton. She says, “He has a BIG personality and is a great source of inspiration. I love drawing the black kite he has over one eye and the ‘snowman face (of anxiety!)’ in the spots on one of his ears. He is such a character, and a big talker, too.” 

You’ve probably seen her art gracing the walls of The Grit, Earthfare, KA Artist Shop, the Lyndon House’s 40th Juried Show, the Flagpole cover and Hip Vintage. And shortly, you can find her work in the form of a 4 ft. by 8 ft. mural in the College Avenue Parking Deck, as one of the nine pieces installed for the “Art Decko” project organized by the Athens Area Arts Council. Creating the mural for Art Decko has inspired her to go even larger, and she’s got some pretty good location ideas up her sleeve (but we won’t spoil those just yet!).

 Artwork: Ruth Allen

Artwork: Ruth Allen

Her style as an artist is easily recognized by anyone lucky enough to have seen her work. She uses lines and colors in truly insightful ways, prompting the viewer into their own backstory for the image. She creates in a humble but intelligent way, weaving the digital with the analog, pulling material from what she knows best. “Nearly everything I draw or paint comes from my experience of the world around me and my reactions to and interactions with it. People, conflicts, animals, flowers, love, birds, trees, trips, everything.” 

As far as plans for the future, that’s a hard call to make when you’re living so wholly in the present. Ruth says, “I try not to push things, so much as be receptive to opportunities when I notice them. Because they are always there, it’s just maybe not always visible.” But it’s safe to say this yoga teacher is always working on ideas. She did spill the beans a little on some potential wearable Ruth Allen gear in the future and some home goods, along with a fully-printed, published children’s book (beyond her own hand-sewn version, which, honestly, sounds pretty cool). 

To keep up with Ruth Allen and her artistic adventures, you can find her work in real life hanging in Mama’s Boy at the Falls in May and at Flicker in June. You can also follow along on Instagram and Etsy at @10tinbluebirds and on Facebook at facebook.com/RuthAllendrawsandpaints.

Peter Loose

 Artwork: Peter Loose

Artwork: Peter Loose

by Maggie See

Have you ever heard of Bongo, the piano-playing dog? If you’ve heard of Peter Loose, chances are high that you’ve not only heard of Bongo, but you’re also a fan of his books: Bongo is a Happy Dog (1997) and Bongo Has Many Friends (2001). Written by his wife, Sandy, about Bongo—a little black-and-white dog that Peter had when he met her—Peter rounded these books out with the kind of fun and colorful illustrations that stick in your brain as a kid. The Bongo books have spread far and wide and are now enjoyed all over the world. You can find them locally at Junk in the Trunk, Avid Bookshop and the Athens Regional Library. Loose has been an Athens-area art staple for many years, but he didn’t start off here.

Peter grew up in Maryland in the 60s and 70s. Always fascinated by nature as a kid, he originally wanted to be a zoo keeper or the next Ranger Rick. While he and his wife now have a rooster, two hens, three goldfish, a boa and three tortoises, he technically never became a zoo keeper. Peter worked as a naturalist for the Audubon Society until he moved to Georgia in 1987 to work as a naturalist at Sandy Creek Nature Center. 

 Artwork: Peter Loose

Artwork: Peter Loose

The self-taught path to his unique, folky, “twenty hundred dots” style wasn’t always an easy one. Loose started with watercolors in an attempt to illustrate a field guide but quickly grew frustrated. It was messy. Peter worked that mess into splotches of color that he liked a little more, then he branched out into acrylics where he really found his footing. One of his first pieces was an eagle-shaped birdhouse for Habitat for Humanity fundraiser. He says that led to hundreds of requests for the birdhouses, and it was “like an art bomb went off.” 

That art bomb and resulting flood of birdhouse requests lead to Loose receiving a Georgia Council of the Arts grant. With that, he developed his iconic animal-shaped dulcimers. He’s made them in the shape of roosters, alligators, snakes, fish and groundhogs, and the list continues to grow. Now he has pieces of art all over the place. You can even find some of it in the background of the movie Nights in Rodanthe, or adorning the side of an entire school bus at the School Bus Graveyard in Alto, GA with a piece called Snakes on a Bus.

Peter participates in local events of all shapes and sizes, like the North Georgia Folk Festival and Roll Out the Barrels, and in 2015 he teamed up with Kip Ramey and the Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation (OCAF) to put on The Great Folk Art Parade: From Finster Forward, a celebration of folk art and the artists who make it. After the success of the parade, he wanted to spend the next few years creating and curating exhibits for galleries and museums while he and Sandy spend more time on their antiques business. To keep up with Peter and his colorful world, give him a follow on Instagram (@BONGOPETERLOOSE) and Facebook (Loose Dulcimers).

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Sara Fogle

by Maggie See

 Artwork: Sara Fogle

Artwork: Sara Fogle

Athens has its very own Wonder Woman, and her name is Sara Fogle. She’s a multi-talented tattoo artist and dog mom who owns her own business and spends her spare time at SBG Athens (and has even won some ribbons in fitness competitions). But don’t be intimidated—she’s normal like the rest of us and loves to kick back and watch Netflix with the dogs, also.

Sara is the owner of Chico Lou’s Fine Tattoos, located inside Model Citizen Salon on Prince Avenue since 2015. The shop was named after Chico Lou, a fancy and fantastic Chihuahua who was also the subject of her first pet portrait, featuring his favorite stuffed unicorn. Even though the world lost Chico Lou last year, Sara and her husband currently have a pack of three pretty awesome dogs: Chug, a Chihuahua/Pug mix; Diddy, a Chinese Crested; and Nugget, a Pug mix. 

Although Sara has been an artist her whole life, she had a breakthrough moment around seven years ago while waitressing downtown at The Grill. After overcoming a rough patch in life that unfortunately included a hand injury, she started to draw again and noticed a fellow waitress (and her eventual best friend) drawing on the back of her ticket book. Having only a pen, she was nervous about making a mistake. Luckily, she was reminded, “But isn’t that what art is? You make mistakes and keep going.” The sketches she did after that gave her the confidence she needed to really pursue a career in art, eventually opening Chico Lou’s. 

While her tattooing style varies from detailed, realistic pieces to more fantasy-type things, abstract linework, and really everything in between, Sara has a very distinct style in the pet portraits she does on paper. Her ability to capture the exact likeness of a loved one is nothing short of impressive. You can really tell she loves animals in the way she draws them. She says, “I’ve been told by art teachers that my art had to have something to say. It has to mean something. I guess mine says ‘I love dogs.’” 

 Sara, aka Wonder Woman, at Boo-le-Bark's 2017 Halloween parade.

Sara, aka Wonder Woman, at Boo-le-Bark's 2017 Halloween parade.

You may recognize Sara from the most recent Boo-le-Bark Parade where she walked in costume as Wonder Woman. That costume is the same she spent months making and wore to DragonCon for 2017. Twenty years after attending her first DragonCon, she put together this Wonder Woman costume that she says has been her favorite so far. “The best part was taking pictures with excited little girls. When I handed off my plastic sword, it was always received with reverence.” She even performed a wedding as Wonder Woman once! 

Bilateral carpal tunnel/cubital tunnel surgery in November slowed her down some and gave Sara a chance to realize that in 2018, she wants to remember to create art that truly brings her joy. If you’d like to keep up with her growing empire, be sure to follow Chico Lou’s Fine Tattoos on Facebook,and on Instagram at @saramachenart! 

Laura Eavenson

 Artwork: Laura Eavenson 

Artwork: Laura Eavenson 

by Maggie See

Laura Eavenson currently specializes in funky colorful pet portraits, but from the farm to the frame shop with four years in art school, her range of expertise is far from limited. She grew up with a pencil in her hand and has always opted to make her own lines instead of using coloring books. Laura preferred to draw horses as a kid, but life on a farm in Carnesville, GA provided for many more subjects. They raised cows but also had cats, chickens, goats, peacocks, rabbits, guineas, a mule and dogs. Although she planned to be a veterinarian at one time, the chance to shadow a vet showed her that bringing the animals to life through art was more her ideal path.

Laura’s recent pet portraits came from her involvement as a foster parent with Circle of Friends Animal Society (COFAS). Aside from having her own pet pals, a Boston mix named Roxie and a Pointer/Lab mix named Harper (both from local rescues themselves), she and her girlfriend are also occasional fosters for COFAS. Laura donated a custom portrait as a raffle prize to the Athens Pet Expo and used Roxie as her first model. The style took off after she placed Roxie’s portrait in the showroom at Athens Art and Frame at the request of her coworkers, and the commissions keep coming! 

 Artwork: Laura Eavenson

Artwork: Laura Eavenson

Her fluid, colorful style with cats and dogs can easily be traced to her broader approach to larger, abstract subjects. Laura says, “I view nature as a large and powerful force, so I love to make large paintings/drawings/multimedia pieces that reflect that.” For example, “instead of painting a wave, I like to try to paint my idea of a wave or the energy of it.” And working in a frame shop has influenced her in unexpected ways, as well, finding that she will retroactively realize the influence of something she encountered on the job after she’s already created a new piece. 

One of the most difficult parts of being an artist, according to Laura, is to find the balance between creating art and everything else in life. Art school provided the environment of encouragement and the time to just focus on art. Laura moved to Athens in 2014 after four years of studying art at Piedmont’s Demorest campus, where she even branched out some from painting to sculpture and metals. 

Now Laura and her girlfriend frequent parks like Sandy Creek and Ben Burton with their dogs as one way to achieve that balance. She says, “I always feel the most relaxed and inspired when I’m near the water, whether that’s paddle boarding a lake or just sitting by a river. Being outside helps me feel grounded.” Playing guitar and hanging out at Jittery Joes are good for the grounding, as well. Then she can throw the Twilight Zone on in the background and get back to painting. 

Being an artist is rewarding for Laura because it’s an outlet for her to express her feelings in a way that others may relate to. While she intends to keep painting funky pet portraits, she also plans to submit to some of the local juried shows around town and get “out there” more. So keep an eye out! 

For the time being, you can find more of Laura Eavenson’s work on Instagram at @lauraeavenson and on Facebook at @lauramonster17.

Bryn Rouse

 Artwork: Bryn Rouse

Artwork: Bryn Rouse

Bryn Rouse draws things. They’re usually in pen, and they’re always very cool. He creates elegantly simple yet charmingly-detailed drawings of animals, plants, food items and more. You may have seen some of his work on a can of Creature Comforts’ Epicurious, a shirt from Five & Ten, or on a shirt, the coasters and even the walls of The National. He also dabbled a bit in some red and blue 3D-type line work in the form of a Godzilla.

While honorably helping with his roommate’s three dogs, Oso, Zara and Pico, he doesn’t currently have a pet companion of his own. He still has fond memories of his childhood English Bulldog, Max, who was unfortunately gone way too soon in their partnership. But some future fur friend plans include possibly a dog or cat. More excitingly a goat, pig, or in true Georgia fashion, maybe even some chickens, aren’t out of the question.

Bryn’s love for art has always been there. But he got a boost of confidence in fourth grade when he won the second place title in a regional art competition with a drawing of a tiger done in graphite. After that, he “doodled” all the way to age 22 where his job as a bartender at The National found him kicking back after work with bar napkins and his ballpoint pen. When his boss, Peter Dale, noticed the drawings one night, Bryn was commissioned to design a postcard that could be handed out to regulars, and his current artistic endeavor blossomed from there.

 Artwork: Bryn Rouse

Artwork: Bryn Rouse

Other than getting to design Creature Comforts can art on Epicurious (although Bibo is his #1 favorite), and getting to draw a bison that now hangs on the wall of The National, another high point of life as an artist is getting asked to draw tattoo ideas for friends. He says this is an honor and to see his work on someone’s skin is moving. 

While he does love it, Bryn hopes to be able to cut his full-time food service industry job back some in the next few years and devote a lot more time to making a more expansive career out of his art. And since he’s a man of many talents, he would also love to get into some acting and music.

When it comes to the challenges of being an artist, Bryn says the hardest part used to be transitioning from drawing something for fun versus drawing something “as a task.” Overthinking, putting too much pressure on himself, and taking on any and all assignments are things he had to learn to overcome. But he now says, “The best way to make the best art is to channel your heart and the joy of creative expression into your work and to not view projects as tasks but rather as creative outlets.” To keep it simple, he says now he typically only agrees to draw things he knows he can execute well. 

You can find more of Bryn Rouse’s work on his Instagram page @brynscritterz or on his website at brynscritterz.com.

Olivia Howell: Greens of June

by Maggie See

 Artwork: Olivia Howell

Artwork: Olivia Howell

Olivia Howell, also known in the art world as Greens of June, takes ideas for her paintings from the plants and animals all around her. Currently residing in Chattanooga, TN after having lived in Colorado, she says several of her pieces have been inspired by the local zoo, a bird at the feeder or ducks at the pond, but it really just comes down to “common woodland animals” and “mountains and trees.” 

Her first pet was a turtle named Turbo. That progressed down the seemingly natural line of childhood pet companionship of hamster to fish to bird to cat. Now Olivia has a golden doodle who goes beyond normal dog duties and is her official “studio buddy,” as well.  

Olivia’s parents helped kick-start her art career by encouraging her into classes as a kid. That led to spending a lot of time in high school classes in fine art, so much that she usually ate lunch in the art room. She was then encouraged further by three professors at Harding University, “which is a tiny private college in the middle of nowhere Arkansas.” But credit for the titles of her biggest fan, best critic and manager, goes to her husband. He can also be found occasionally assisting Olivia at art markets.

As a child, Olivia spent a lot of time watching PBS nature documentaries, eventually falling in love with the original Planet Earth series. “Anything where I get to see the beauty of nature while also learning something about it is great.” Her style has also been influenced by the evolution from Classic Disney films to Pixar’s more digital take on animation, especially the lighting in the movie Tangled. Along with Kubo and the Two Strings and The Boxtrolls, Adventure Time also gets her imagination going. And a recent introduction to Miyazaki’s masterpiece Howl’s Moving Castle caught her eye with the mind-blowing background art.

 Artwork: Olivia Howell

Artwork: Olivia Howell

When asked what she would do with the opportunity to install a mural somewhere, Olivia referenced an existing one that she recently discovered on an old chimney remnant at Stringer’s Ridge by J.W. Butts (muteOn). “I love the idea of someone going through the woods and finding my hares circling the moon in an old crumbling wall, or walking down Main and catching a glimpse of my dancing jackalopes in an alley.” 

Although her art seems to naturally flow together, it’s not always easy to create. A recent snake painting caused Olivia a few anxious bits of necessary research, but it was a beautiful piece of work in the end, along with the triumph of semi-overcoming her fear. She says birds, specifically the feathers, can cause some problems as far as conveying the patters through paint. But elephants are typically always fun, as they’re “weird and unique.”

Other than watercolors, Olivia does like to revisit her old love of oils. She goes traditional with still lifes, portraits and landscapes. Digital painting is something she’s dabbled in, mostly self-taught, and would like to explore more. 

Find more of Olivia’s work on Instagram at @greensofjune and on Etsy at oliviahowellart.etsy.com!

End of the Road Studios: Robin Anne Cooper & Stan Dubose

by Maggie See

 Artwork: End of the Road Studios

Artwork: End of the Road Studios

Married on April Fool’s Day, Robin Anne Cooper and Stan Dubose are an artist power couple that have built a sanctuary of a studio in South Carolina. She takes strips of painted canvas and creates intricate collages and sculptures. And he is a master of clay, often pairing beautiful clay birds with awesome found antiques. They even team up occasionally to make what might be my favorite thing from End of the Road Studios: the date night flowers. 

 Let’s hear about your pet(s), either current or past. Are you cat people? Dog people? Exotic lizard people?

We have his-and-her pets. I came with a dog and cat. He came with a dog. Last year we lost my cat George, a great orange tabby, and his Chihuahua. Both were 17 years old. We have gotten a new cat Baby Dale Chihuly, who is a teeny tiny grey tabby, and an Italian greyhound named Winslow Homer Simpson. My dog Caesar is a miniature Labradoodle—I think he is criminally cute and way too smart for me.

 What professions, if any, did you have before taking on art full-time?

Stan is a full-time art teacher at Fair-Oak Elementary. He makes in the summer, weekends and evenings. I had a career as an internet programmer. It lasted about nine years before I took the leap to become a full-time artist about 14 years ago.

The two of you have different mediums as a main focus. Do you ever trade canvas for clay just for fun or collaborate on projects? Do you give each other opinions during the process?

 Artwork: End of the Road Studios

Artwork: End of the Road Studios

We do share opinions and ideas. As a matter of fact, we normally have a new theme for each Open Studio and create a sub-set of our art around the theme. Last time it was snails; prior to that it is has been flowers and chickens. Our theme for the Holiday Open Studio will be trees. I go and play with clay as a way for us to spend time together. That is how “date night flowers” came about. The black clay on the flowers was his way to tone down the happy glaze colors I wanted to use.

Your studio is in a big beautiful house that you have customized, including a kitchen floor tiled with pennies. What is your favorite detail that’s been added so far?

We broke ground on the studio the day we said “I do.” We used a lot of old materials and salvaged a lot from his family’s farms to give it the feeling of having always been here. We designed the space to function as a guest house when the studio doors are closed. We wanted our visitors to experience art in a home setting, to make the transition in their minds of how to use a piece easier or to challenge their notions of where to place art. For Robin, the favorite thing is the penny floor. For Stan, it is the doors on the bedroom celling (they all came from his grandmother’s house). We live next door. Robin says she can only have one space clean and public ready at a time.

Do you use the nature around the studio for inspiration? From where else in Walhalla do you draw ideas?

Yes, we use a whole lot of nature. Stan is a farm boy by birth. Our studio sits on his great-great-grandparents’ farm (and is an official South Carolina Century Farm). He loves plants; the more unusual the better. He lets the rest of the family focus on useful plants like collards, corn and tomatoes. Stan does a lot of fish plates, birds, turtles and other local animals. Robin uses a whole of dogs, cats and birds in her art. I think our ideas come from everywhere: our travels, our location and our crazy imaginations. Robin does have to remind herself that not all ideas are good ideas. Editing makes us all look a little better and a whole lot smarter. 

The way you use painted canvas pieces to build your collages, sculptures and faux taxidermy mounts is very unique. How many years has this process been evolving? What animal (or other subject matter) has proven to be the most challenging during execution?

I created this process when I decided to leap into art. Slowly I have added new tricks and techniques, but for the most part the evolution has been very slow (I must be a slow learner). I find that the most challenging subject to have been a bicycle—don’t know why, but it was something I had to redo several times.

Q&A with Will Eskridge: Animal Artist

by Maggie See

Will Eskridge is about as “Athens” as it gets. He’s an animal-loving musician with a passion for the color teal. Will’s current work features sharp geometric shapes with brilliantly-colored, impressionistic animals. From driving an “art car” and having dropped art for Free Art Friday to drawing inspiration from some of our best local animal hangouts, it was no question who I wanted to write about for this artist spotlight. Look out for his upcoming plans, including some studio night hangouts and a pretty awesome coloring book!

 

 Art: Will Eskridge

Art: Will Eskridge

First, let’s hear about your pet(s), either current or past!

Right now we have two dogs and two cats (rescues, of course). Lola and Norm Peterson are the dogs, and Alfred Hitchcock and Loretta are the cats. We’ve had a total of nine rescue animals at one time, and even a rescue Ball Python named Sue. The late but greats: Rushmore, Leeloo, Mr. Furley, Sophia, Peggy, Hank and my beloved childhood cat Kitty Picker have all entered my life and taught me many lessons.

 

The child of both a veterinarian and an artist and then taking on a career of graphic design, were there any other career paths that you considered? Was there almost an Astronaut Eskridge? 

Let’s see… veterinarian, geologist, forensic sketch artist, wolf biologist and archeologist to name a few. Most of these were fleeting ideas when I was much younger, but I tried to teach myself some things and researched to dig deeper. I love anything to do with outer space, except the height. I have acrophobia and have developed a fear of flying, so Astronaut Eskridge was never considered. I also have always loved the idea of running a drive-in theatre.

 

 Art: Will Eskridge

Art: Will Eskridge

How has living in Athens made an impact on your career as an artist? Are there any particular activities around town that inspire you? 

Oh, where do I start?! This town is full of energy and inspiration. I have been living here for a little over 10 years, and I keep discovering wonderful nooks and crannies. My favorite place is probably Sandy Creek Nature Center. That or Bear Hollow Zoo. Sandy Creek has the education center and beautiful hiking trails. Bear Hollow is a sanctuary for wildlife, which is in itself dear to my heart and great for animal inspiration and reference photos. Other favorites include Sweet Olive Farm, the State Botanical Gardens and the Greenway. 

My wife has an amazing love for plants, and she has done wonders to our home and yard. She has put a lot of love planting perennials, pollinators and other animal-friendly plants that attract butterflies, bees, birds, etc. to provide a nice little ecosystem right in our backyard. I really enjoy the simple things like hearing the owls and woodpeckers in my backyard. I love watching the hummingbirds come to our salvia bush in the mornings or our resident toad and skink that come around after a good rain. I made a bat house a few weeks ago, and hopefully we will get some bats to add to our mini-world. I love that Athens is a town where all this can happen.

 

You did a series of combination animals, like the Rambat and the Octobear. Would you let us in on a secret and share some of the discarded or rejected ideas that never got painted? If not, do you have any plans to do more? 

I am so glad you asked this! Just recently, I have decided to do more but as line drawings to be turned into a coloring book for kids and adults. I am in the planning/sketching stages but hope to have something definitive around the beginning of September. As far as throwaways for the original Creature Feature series, there was just one: Curse of the Coyotelk (coyote/elk hybrid). I mocked it up but never painted it. At the time it seemed too obvious and wasn’t ridiculous or weird enough for me. 

 

When painting animals, which features/characteristics are the most difficult? Which ones are the most fun?

Ah! Most difficult would have to be the ears or feet. Patterned coats, like spots, stripes, etc. are extremely tough. Because their markings are meant to be camouflage, it can be tough to discern highlights, mid-tones and shadows. The most fun are the eyes. They really are the windows to the soul. I also love fur, especially grizzly bear fur. You can really get the depth going because of the highlighted tips.

 

If you were to design a mural for any space in Athens, where would you choose and what would you do with it? 

A depiction of endangered Georgian species’ portraits on a sea-foam green background. The portraits would be composed one after the other in a line horizontally and either organized by size from largest to smallest or by conservation status. I think placement would be somewhere at Bear Hollow, Sandy Creek Nature Center or, for more impact, somewhere downtown like one of the parking garages so that people who might not be aware or normally pulled toward the natural world might stop and think.

 

Color and animals are constant themes in your work. What is your favorite color? What is your favorite animal? 

Tough question! I love color and animals so much. I’ll have to go with grizzly bear (or little brown bat) for animal and seafoam green (or hot pink) for color.

Dusty: R. Wood Studio

by Morgan Solomon

 Photo: Morgan Solomon

Photo: Morgan Solomon

When visiting R. Wood Studio, one can take in beautiful pieces of pottery and observe the process of pottery being made. Visitors with a keen eye might even notice a face peeking at them from one the pieces. This little face belongs to Dusty, the studio’s resident kitty. Dusty was a feral cat that adopted the studio as her new home, and now visitors can find this sweet orange and black cat when they come by the studio.  

R. Wood Studio was started by Rebecca Wood. Rebecca lived in Athens where she earned her degree in painting and drawing in 1977. After years of painting still lifes, Rebecca made the decision to try something new and eventually began to make pottery. Despite having no experience with pottery, Rebecca created beautiful plates, finding her new medium.

The studio has now been around for over 20 years and continues to produce beautiful pottery, ranging from brightly-colored plates to delicately-designed floral wall hangings. You can find pieces in many stores around Athens, as well as 22 other states across the country.

Dusty must have great taste in pottery and art, as she chose this colorful studio as her home. The more Dusty began to show up at the studio, the more the artists began to treat her like their own. They feed her and take her to the vet in order to make sure she is healthy, and she has everything she could possibly need. Dusty’s favorite thing to do is to lay inside of the different pottery pieces in the studio. While Dusty is very cute, she can also be the cause of mischief—she keeps the studio artists on their toes as they try to rescue any mice or lizards that Dusty might catch. Although she can cause trouble, they lover her “sweet and spicy” personality.

Dusty does come and go as she pleases from the studio, but no matter how often she leaves, she always comes back. She must have known that she would find a loving and welcoming family behind the bright doors of R. Wood Studio.

Gilly: Winterhawk Pottery & Home

by Morgan Solomon

 Photo: Morgan Solomon

Photo: Morgan Solomon

Gilly, a tan dog with big, pointed ears that look like they could hear for miles, peers around the legs of her owner, Leigh Ann Templeman. Her big eyes are wary yet excited; like she is happy to see you, but is not quite sure about your presence yet. She stands close to Leigh Ann, who is arranging some pottery on the shelf.

Leigh Ann owns Winterhawk Pottery & Home, a local Athens business on Macon Highway. Winterhawk Pottery was founded in 2000 by John Winterhawk. The pieces John created took inspiration from the artwork found in southeastern Native American burial and temple mounds. The pieces feature different images of mountains, bears, wolves and horses, all emphasized by rustic glazes and designs. John decided to retire in 2010 and Leigh Ann took over, continuing to create the beautiful pieces that represent Winterhawk Pottery. When the business relocated from Watkinsville to its’ current location, Leigh Ann introduced Winterhawk Home, a collection featuring home goods that complement the rustic pottery.

Gilly spends a good amount of time at the studio. When she is there, she does not leave Leigh Ann’s side; constantly following her, as though she is making sure Leigh Ann does not drop anything. If she ever did drop anything, Gilly’s big eyes seem to say that she would be there to catch it.

The Templeman family found Gilly and her two brothers on the side of the road in Rogersville, TN on December 30, 2010. They brought the three puppies back to Athens where they found homes for the boys and decided to keep the little girl. This was at the height of popularity of Kristen Wiig’s Saturday Night Live skit where she portrays Gilly, an interesting and humorous elementary school student who isconstantly causing trouble. Leigh Ann’s children had been quoting the skit all week, saying “Gilly?” in the same accusatory tone of Gilly’s teacher. The name seemed like a perfect fit for this silly puppy who still needed to grow into her ears.

Gilly’s unique name is not her only claim to fame. Over six years ago, Leigh Ann uploaded a video titled “Doggie Door Faceplant” to YouTube that features Gilly struggling to get her body through the doggie door, resulting in her doing a face plant. The video has over 300,000 views. The numerous views garnered a lot of attention, resulting in Gilly being offered multiple commercial deals. Her clip is featured in a Texas Wesleyan College commercial and one for Comcast XFINITY. Her big break even gave her the opportunity to bring in some money for her family.

Take a trip out to Winterhawk to have the opportunity to meet this charming star. As Gilly lays by Leigh Ann’s feet under the register, she looks up with big sweet eyes. Her timid and sweet personality does not give any hint that you are dealing with a local celebrity, but rather a look of concern about when her next treat is coming.