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Warren woman discovers new ways to sculpt artsy creations

Staff photo / R. Michael Semple Alice Chow, 75, goes through her box of wares that are made out of recycled materials. She sells her creations at the Trumbull Art Gallery gift shop, with all profits to benefit the organization.

WARREN — Alice Chow began sculpting before she could read.

“I loved when it rained and mud puddles brought up the clay,” she said. “I can remember being 3 years old and taking clay and making cups and dishes and putting them on a plank so they could dry out.”

Years later, she taught ceramics and sculpture in Warren City Schools. Sometime after retirement in 2005, things began to change.

“I had to quit ceramics because my childhood asthma came back,” said Chow, 75. “I couldn’t be around clay dust. So I had to find another outlet.”

She picked up scraps of fabric and decorations and started creating purses and pouches primarily from what used to be jeans pockets.

“These started out as something for my granddaughter. She loved it,” Chow said. “She asked me to make more for her friends. She took them to school and started selling them.”

Chow realized she had something. But what to do with idea?

It was Warren icon James Friend who hired her into Warren City Schools, and Friend who always made sure Warren schools had art shows at the

Trumbull Art Gallery. Friend, an artist himself, was a supporter of the nonprofit gallery created in 1957 by a group of art patrons and practitioners interested in promoting local artists.

Chow said she began selling her purses and pouches in the TAG gift shop, with all profits to benefit the organization.

“It keeps them running for art shows for the kids and for other artists,” Chow said. “I started in 2018. They became good sellers. I probably sold over 100,” mostly in the $10 to $25 range.

“We do sell you because you’re very original,” TAG Executive Director Pat Galgozy said. “There’s nothing like it. She supports us in a wonderful way.”

TRY NEW THINGS

Chow’s brand — Hip Pockets Recreated by Alice C. — features recycled denim and other materials and pieces.

“Basically, I treat it like a collage. You find interesting pockets and decide what will go with it,” she said.

She scouts stores and home project scrap piles for beads, patches, belts, straps, trinkets, materials and anything else that can be used as decorations.

“I say if it’s left over, use it up,” she said. “To me, it’s a lot like making a collage.”

Designs with hearts, pugs, unicorns, bedazzled, whatever she can find. The straps can be made from cloth, jump ropes, dog leashes or anything else that strikes her fancy. For boys, smaller pouches can hook onto their belts.

It’s the latest canvas in Chow’s artistic life.

“Continue to try new things,” she said. “Don’t just sit around. The more you stay in the house, the more times you have to sweep the floor.”

BEGINNINGS

Growing up, Chow took the bus to school in Jamestown, Pa. She said that in grade school, she become known as the class artist “because I could draw a star. … By middle school, if they needed a poster made, it was always given to me to make it. We didn’t have computers to crank them out.”

In high school, “my art teacher challenged me to work with materials in different ways,” she said. “Often, an odd mix of boxes would become a sculpture or clay was explored for making different shapes and textures.

“At home, my dad often let me have a hammer and nails to create something out of wood. I even tried to sign up for wood shop at school, but girls were not allowed in the 1960s.

“By college at East Carolina University, I pursued a BFA with a major in ceramics and sculpture. In sculpture classes, I was given a welding torch to create a three image using brass rods and a bonding material to create some solid shapes. We were even encouraged to incorporate wood pieces in our art works, both in ceramic and sculpture classes.

“So, take that Mr. Woodshop,” she said. “Continue to try new things.”

LOVE AND TEACHING

“I met my husband in college. He had graduated from the University of Tapei. He came here with $80 in his pocket.”

Wei-fu Chow (pronounced “Zhou”) took a job peeling onions in a Chinese restaurant to earn money for school. It was while he was working on his business degree at East Carolina University that he met Alice.

“He was a blind date set up by my college roommate,” she said. “He also carried a talent and a very love of the arts. In high school in Taiwan, he was rated No. 2 in all of Taiwan for his painting ability. After our first date, he was there for me to carry clay, that we had to mix up outside, up three flights of stairs for me to use in my classes. This common interest brought us together.”

After they married, they moved to Youngstown, where he worked as a supervisor with Red Barn, tasked with responsibilities for opening up new stores each year in Youngstown, Austintown and North Canton.

“Eventually, he was hired at RMI, becoming the manager of appropriations and planning. I went back to college to receive a B.S. in art education at Kent State University. Wei-fu retired at 55 years old in 1991 and the next day enrolled in art classes at Kent State,” she said. “Follow your passions.”

Meanwhile, Alice Chow landed a job in 1970 with Warren City Schools,primarily teaching art for grades kindergarten to eighth grade.

“Love of creating was always a focus in my classrooms,” she said. “We used fabric scraps for puppets, scarecrows, and collages We stenciled and or dyed T-shirts. We made coiled pots, pendants, and small sculptures out of clay. We stitched designs in plastic mesh. And, I have often said I should write a book on 1001 ways to use an egg carton.”

In 1990, she returned to school at Youngstown State University, “earning a degree in secondary art education and validation for teaching gifted in the arts. The last nine years (of teaching) were to coordinate the arts for new state standards and identification of gifted students within Warren schools. I worked with The Ohio Alliance for Arts Education in Columbus and , through them, with the Kennedy Center for the Arts.”

bcole@tribtoday.com

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