Like many people, you probably have some old, family art lying around your house tucked away in a closet or the attic. Maybe it’s an old jug that’s been passed down from generation to generation, or a card table given to you by your grandfather who loved to play a mean game of gin rummy. Maybe it’s a pair of candlesticks from your favorite great aunt.
The thing is, these precious items may not be your style or fit in with your home décor. But you want to keep them for the precious memories they’re connected to. So what’s a person to do?
Well, the answer comes from an incredibly talented artist named Sydney Gruber. Born in Memphis, Sydney now has a thriving art business based in Tuscaloosa, Ala. After graduating college, Sydney began working in a neuroscience lab, but the artist inside her was craving that “hands-on engagement and creativity,” she says. “I’ve always done some crafts in one form or another. I have a backbone in art.
“I started modestly,” Sydney says of how she began her art career. “I lived in a college town, so I would find wonderful wooden furniture on curbs and salvage them. Those pieces were my initial canvases.”
Sydney also began what became an apprenticeship, working under a local painter and his wife. “They gave me my first art show,” she says. “Then I started connecting with local arts in the community.”
As word got out about how Sydney was able to take special items from the past and repurpose them into beautiful pieces of cherished art, people started commissioning her to work with their sentimental pieces. “I like to create functional art,” she says. “I revitalize and rejuvenate pieces and breathe new life into them, while preserving yesterday’s memories.”
While Sydney is active on the art festival circuit, which casts a wide net and provides her with valuable information about what’s popular in the art world in different markets, she really enjoys working in a studio and creating one-of-a-kind pieces for her clients. “I love exploring creative expression,” she says. “I often use vibrant hues that encourage joy and use wares that play with your mind.”
Sydney’s remarkable art, filled with distinct swirls and patterns, seems to speak for itself as she gains “new commissions from referrals,” she says gratefully. She also hopes to book gallery shows to showcase her creations and recently landed a show at Kentuck Art Center & Museum in Northport, Ala.
“It’s my first real break. It’s been surreal and a dream! It’s a platform to engage the community and perpetuate the arts in such a great way.”
While Sydney enjoys abstract art, she’s also interested in imagery. “‘Made in Memphis’ is a series of paintings I created that showcases Memphis scenes. It’s hanging in an office in Memphis,” she says. “My parents still live in Memphis, so I visit every couple of months and pick up new art jobs there.”
Sydney connects to all the art she creates in one way or another, but there’s one piece that really resonated with her. “A fellow artist, who’s a carpenter, had dabbled in a clay project. He was making an elephant bust, and kind of set it aside for a year. He actually left it outside,” she explains of the sad bust that was falling apart and had seen better days. “I saw so much potential in this piece and asked him if I could ‘save’ the elephant.” After Sydney gave this elephant bust a stunning makeover, it was mounted onto a board and framed.
A lifelong chess player, Sydney also boasts an incredible partnership with ChessHouse.com. “I had ordered 300 bishop pieces from this chess company and hand painted all of them,” she explains. “The company thought it was rather unusual for someone to buy that many bishops, so they asked me who I was and what I was doing. An exciting relationship manifested as I began painting chess boards that are now sold on their site.”
Looking ahead, Sydney is hoping to land more gallery shows and will continue working with elderly patients and daycares as she does now. She’s also planning a kid’s summer art camp. “Working with your hands is good for the soul,” she says.
“I strive to match reason with passion and to strike the balance between living like the salt of the earth and sucking the nectar out of life,” she says.
“In my own meandering experience as a devout student of behavior and art, I have found the values and ethos within both disciplines to have a mutually beneficial reciprocity. It has been my fortune to fashion this artful practice into my everyday inquiry by seeking answers to questions I hope never to cease asking. I love tackling new, unconventional mediums and collaborating to create custom works of art meant to bring a warm personal touch to clients’ homes.”