Written and Photographed by Leela Cyd
From newer relationships to going on 35 years together, the art of making a life and making art together is complex. Six local couples engaged in different disciplines share how they discuss ideas, collaborate, cohabitate and continue on their creative paths together. Some of the individuals are in a parallel field, but all of the pairs overlap and influence each other.
Rebekah Miles and Mark Churchill let us in on their ceramics world, while Toni Scott and Darin Scott give a glimpse into installation art and feature films. Frederick Janka and John C. Connelly support artists and create conversations around art through running a nonprofit art space and dealing art, respectively. Sally England’s medium is fiber woven into elaborate sculptural forms, while her husband Nick Stockton designs seasonal color stories for Patagonia. Dave Potter is the winemaker behind Muni and Potek wines and his wife Stephanie Dotson is a printmaker and teacher at Santa Barbara City College, while Linda Saccoccio is an abstract painter and her husband Barry Winick makes the abstract tangible, shaping spaces with light and luxe materials as an architect.
The common thread to all of these relationships ticking and humming through project highs and lows: good food, humor and support.
Toni Scott & Darin Scott
Their work. Inspired by her multicultural heritage, Toni works in everything from paintings to large-scale multi-media museum installations, lifelike sculptures cast in bronze, and carvings in marble, alabaster, soapstone and Douglas fir. Darin is a writer-director-producer of feature films and television.
The most challenging part of being together: “When you are both creative, there is very little of what other people call stability. But we wouldn’t have it any other way,” says Darin.
How does being with a fellow creative affect your relationship? “We understand the creative journey, says Toni. “We give each other the space and support to pursue our creative interests while at the same time encouraging one another. We both understand the challenges of being artists and celebrate the independence to express ourselves.” “We understand the hardships and turmoil of being a creative, which allows us to be very supportive of each other,” says Darin.
How do you talk shop? “Toni talks a lot about her work,” says Darin. “I tend to be more inner dialogue oriented, unless something really upsets me, then I’ll talk about it.”
How do you influence each other’s work? “Though love and support. Allowing each of us to ‘be’ and to explore our creative selves,” says Toni.
Where do you refresh and refuel creatively in Santa Barbara? “The beach is our favorite place to go! Beautiful, serene and peaceful. We love to eat out, go to the movies and art events, or simply walk our dog King Tut on the wonderful trails here,” says Toni.
Linda Saccoccio & Barry Winick
Their work. “My work is informed by daily life and something that I feel is behind all of it… My painting is both abstract and poetic, as my poetry can be abstract and colorful. Both are using language and translation to hone in on something new and real, something experiential,” says Linda.
“My design studio is in the corrugated Corten steel building in Santa Barbara, where I have the pleasure of collaborating with eight talented architects. Our work includes coastal residential properties and refined luxury retail buildings for Louis Vuitton, Fendi and Hermes,” says Barry. “We focus on the design of elegantly ordered spaces, with sublime proportions in which we utilize light and textural form to sculpt space. Our signature style is the use of fine materials that enhance the sensual and harmonious atmosphere of our architecture.”
How do you influence each other’s work? “Perhaps the awareness of what we each focus on, what we care about in art and architecture, that passion seems to flavor and influence our perception/perspective. It’s more like background music than a direct collaboration,” says Linda. “Barry’s office is a bit like a gallery of my work mixed with his architecture and assortment of inviting materials. Our awareness of each other’s work is like a hum, sometimes a thunder that we live with.”
What’s the best part of being together? “Our appreciation and value of culture is a high point, as well as our appreciation for fine food, vegetarian with a smattering of fish. We also have a good appetite for travel, new horizons … Anytime we can enjoy culture and food this way together, seems to be a key to balancing our busy work ventures,” says Linda. “We also love to share these things with our two creative daughters.”
Frederick Janka & John C. Connelly
Their work. Frederick is Executive Director of the Carolyn Glasoe Bailey Foundation, an almost three-year-old nonprofit organization, which supports the arts and sciences. After owning his own art gallery in Chelsea, New York City for 10 years, John is a curator and private art dealer who also helps to build and manage private art collections. “We both love working with and supporting artists,” says John.
How does being with a fellow creative affect your relationship? “It makes it all the more dynamic, fun, and inspiring when we are able to share the same language from different viewpoints,” says Frederick.
“Having someone you trust to be a sounding board and who you know will give you an honest answer is a gift,” says John. “Inspiring and pushing each other is key. It really is a constant collaboration in many ways and on many levels.”
Where in Santa Barbara to you go to refresh and refuel creatively? “We love our weekly Beach Club Thursdays with friends at Hendry’s Beach, and I continue to be inspired by the abundance of art in our lives, our art collection at home, and our artist and creative friends,” says Frederick.
“I enjoy gardening,” says John. “The California lifestyle allows me to relax and nurture in this way all year round. As a lifelong East Coaster the quality of life I have now in Santa Barbara (and Ojai) is profoundly life changing.”
How do you talk shop? “It’s a pretty constant stream of talk about art, artists, ideas and plans,” says John.
What’s the most challenging part of your relationship? “I’m an introvert by nature and Freddy’s an extrovert. He really enjoys talking to people,” says John. “Sometimes it’s hard to get a word in edgewise.”
Mark Churchill & Rebekah Miles
Their work. Rebekah makes hand painted and hand built one-of-a-kind ceramic pieces. “I want them to feel like heirlooms but also contemporary. They are high fired by Mark—my sweetheart!” Mark’s work is “porcelain and stoneware made on the wheel and influenced by traditional Japanese ceramics, Southwest Native American pottery and abstract expressionism.”
How does being with a fellow creative affect your relationship? “We have long days apart, and yet there’s a lot of communication about our work both during the day and often when we finally see each other. We try to turn off (the work conversation) and focus on each other and our daughter. It’s also validating to have feedback from someone you love that happens to also have a keen understanding and appreciation for what you’re doing creatively. Mark has a really good eye, which shows in the quality and standards he holds for his own work,” says Rebekah.
“For me, I’m just a fan,” says Mark. “Rebekah’s work is so strange and magical to me that I just enjoy getting to be around to watch her process unfold. It’s endlessly fascinating to see what she comes up with each day, and so there’s this natural intimacy for us in it that we share. Also, neither of us are ‘tortured’ artists really. I don’t think either of us really ever gets blocked. We certainly don’t always succeed, but we both seem to have more inspiration than hours in the day. So to be with someone with equal enthusiasm about making things is a really warm feeling.”
Sally England & Nick Stockton
Their work. Sally is a fiber artist making wall hangings and sculpture using mostly knotting (macramé) techniques. Nick works as a Color Designer for Patagonia and also does pottery inspired by Korean and Japanese work, as well as expressing himself creatively in food.
How does being with a fellow creative affect your relationship? “We are project people. If we aren’t working on our own individual creative projects we are working on projects together around the house, like building out our van, or the studio that we built that sits in our backyard,” says Sally.
Where in Santa Barbara to you go to refresh and refuel creatively? “The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA Santa Barbara), the Saturday Fisherman’s Market and Warbler Records,” says Nick.
How do you influence each other’s work? ”Having worked together on so many projects over the past 13 years allows us to have a very open and honest dialogue, despite not always agreeing. We feed off of each others creativity, and are always bouncing ideas off of each other and are always there to support one another’s creative endeavors in any way we can,” says Sally.
What’s the best part of being together? “Having someone that shares your passions,” says Nick. “Being in a relationship where your partner supports your personal growth, and the happiness that comes from being able to laugh with, and at one another,” says Sally.
Stephanie Dotson & Dave Potter
Their work. Stephanie is a printmaker who works to “combine the language of different materials to create a new patois, in a mish-mash of process colors and weavings and large textural collage.” She is also an instructor at Santa Barbara City College. Winemaker Dave Potter is the man behind Municipal Winemakers and Potek Winery.
How does being with a fellow creative affect your relationship? “We’re not the same creative so it works out great,” says Stephanie. “There’s a mutual respect and a healthy distance so there’s still the magic of witnessing the other’s process as an outsider.”
How do you influence each other’s work? “I think that being with Steph has had a huge impact on what Municipal Winemakers is,” says Dave. “ If you think about how the winery presents itself, and interacts with people, it’s squarely based in a philosophy not dissimilar to printmaking. We have screen printers do our design. The wines are made and sold in an unpretentious way. Winemaking is a process craft like printmaking. We both use presses!”
“We’re often each other’s sounding boards but I don’t think I’ve ever influenced the direction of a wine or Dave has changed my work,” says Stephanie. “I think we use each other to gauge how an audience outside of our field will see our work. We both can be pretty niche, Dave is probably a little more beholden to being accessible to an audience while I tend to be skeptical of things that are too pleasing.”
Originally published in the Winter 2019 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.