Tag Archives: creating

Required Listening

June 11, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

For years, Chelsea Balzer and Matt Walker ran in the same circles, but somehow didn’t cross paths until Balzer joined the art performance group aetherplough in 2010 and was suddenly thrust into a musical relationship with Walker. Their undeniable compatibility was too much to ignore, and the duo soon formed their own outfit—Vital Organs—a band that fosters Walker’s unquenchable thirst for bold melodies and cinematic qualities, but is danceable at the same time. 

“Back in the day, I was exclusively into hard rock music,” Walker says. “In recent years, I had been dying to write something that made me want to dance.”

Balzer, on the other hand, gravitated toward country artists like Reba McEntire and early LeAnn Rimes because of her father, a loyal country music fan. 

“I would perform for our neighbors and their friends, which I think helped me develop that frontwoman identity from early on,” Balzer says. “But once I hit middle school, I was pretty into Alanis Morissette and Fiona Apple, and then soon after I got into stuff like Nine Inch Nails, P.J. Harvey, and The Cure. I’ve always loved vocalists who are brave and provocative—from Christina Aguilera to Zach de la Rocha.” 

Fortunately, Vital Organs isn’t their first endeavor, as aetherplough thoroughly prepared them for what they would do in the future. The collective was built on collaborative creativity and taught them how to compromise.

“It always felt a little like we had no idea what we were doing at the beginning of a project,” Walker says. “As more people threw in their ideas and questions, it would start to take on a life of its own, and suddenly you’re rehearsing a full piece that you all helped bring into being. It was magical.

“I would say our whole philosophy for creating and collaborating is informed by that experience,” he continues. “aetherplough taught us to say, ‘Yes,’ to go all in, to be flexible, and also to listen to each other in a dasdrtist, and I’m so grateful to have been encouraged to play and explore in that community.”

“I personally feel that it taught me to think of all art and performance as ritual that has the power to change its players,” Balzer adds. 

Officially established in 2015, Vital Organs dove right in and pulled from Omaha’s rich musical community, including Make Believe Recordings’ CEO/engineer Rick Carson. The Grammy Award-nominated producer worked on the group’s debut album, The Hysterical Hunger, a decision they didn’t hesitate to make once they fully realized Carson’s “rare combination of expertise, intuition, and top-notch gear.” The album itself gave Balzer and Walker opportunities to explore feminist ideals and the theme of honoring inner desires. 

“We were both going through some real loss, and we needed to rediscover some kind of inner guidance toward true north,” Balzer explains. “For us, that feels like a hunger. We liked the idea of reclaiming the word ‘hysteria,’ which has previously been used as a weapon against women and as a form of gaslighting, but ultimately implies that emotion itself is untrustworthy and that giving yourself over to an experience is dangerous and even insane. We feel that this message is really prevalent in society today and continues to cause harm. We wanted the album to be a way of proclaiming to ourselves and others that we are taking the leap and giving in to that hunger.” 

Drawn to synthesizers and soaring melodies, Vital Organs is actively honing in on its distinctive sound. However, they’re admittedly still trying to figure out how to navigate the rough waters as an indie band. 

“It’s a lot of work and also a lot of head-scratching,” Walker says. “We have been both discouraged and really honored by the process of getting our work ‘out there.’ Some aspects of it are much harder than we anticipated, and yet there are these people who seem to appear from thin air and develop this relationship with your music, and really want to help you succeed. That has been a beautiful experience.”

Vital Organs plans on hitting the road this summer, despite Balzer being in grad school in Boston and Walker busy working at Omaha Children’s Museum. They managed to carve out a few weeks to play some new cities and share the bill with other bands. 

“We know that the music will always mean something different to us than it means to others,” Walker says. “Every song reflects a time in our lives and a message we felt we needed to express. At the same time, we hear the songs and sort of forget that we wrote them. There is a kind of energetic release that comes from finishing songs and letting them exist in the world. It feels simultaneously intimate and mysterious.” 

facebook.com/vitalorgansband

This article was printed in the May/June 2017 edition of Encounter.

 

Sleek Home Spa

March 30, 2017 by
Photography by Tom Grady

Liz spends five days a week working with fellow designers, consulting on schemes, meeting with clients, and creating unique finish combinations. Proficiency in AutoCAD, Revit, Photoshop, and Illustrator enable her to generate creative solutions no matter the project size.

CAPTION (cabinets): A custom vanity (above) warms the bathroom with wood cabinets and pendant lighting. To create a modern spa shower (right), pebble floor and wall details contrast with the smooth walls and ceiling.

CAPTION (bathroom):
Photos show how the bathroom looked before the transformation.

Like all great home renovations, the project began with an idea. An Omaha couple contacted me at The Interior Design Firm; they wanted to mimic the relaxing modern aesthetic of a high-end spa in their home.

After attaining a list of design requirements for their master bathroom, I began conceptualizing how to realize my clients’ initial idea. The look that the couple desired would require a spacious layout, sleek finishes, and lustrous natural and artificial lighting. That’s when my work really began.

The project started in earnest as I analyzed the current space to figure out how much larger the bathroom needed to be to accommodate every element requested by the clients. The greatest challenge was that the original square footage of the space was not large enough to bring this desired bathroom into reality.

In the end, some features of the space stayed in the same location (such as the stool and vanity). To create the spacious layout the client wanted, the tub needed to move back a few feet to allow for proper circulation in the bathroom. The existing shower was wedged in a corner, and was one of the main reasons for the renovation.

With the help of a contractor, Sudbeck Homes, the exterior wall behind the existing tub was extended 10 feet to make way for the new walk-in shower. The new shower is an extraordinary 8.5 feet by 8.5 feet, outfitted with two fixed shower heads, one hand-held, body sprayers, and a rain-head.

The couple was cognizant of their long-term needs in the home, so a bench was added next to the handheld shower head. Keeping with the modern minimalist style, two recessed niches were created so the personal hygiene items could be tucked away (to avoid creating clutter).

Moving the wall made a world of difference for the space. The tub location moved back several feet and anchored the room. The organic free-standing tub is a focal point as you enter from the doorway. It is the perfect setting to find peace and relaxation. The additional square footage in the space makes the room feel quite grandiose.

After deciding where each element needed to go in the space, I diverted my focus to the finishes. To create this tranquil retreat, we started looking at color palettes that would be cohesive with the existing finishes in the home.

With French doors going into the bathroom, the finishes needed to vibe with the colors in the rest of their master bedroom. The home has light oak woodwork and warm tones. To achieve this harmony, I wanted to get rid of the existing curves and add modern, clean lines.

Gray was the color direction that the clients and I agreed on, but making it blend with the rest of the home meant that the gray tones had to be warm. Gray porcelain tile in the proper color family was applied to the floor, shower walls, shower ceiling, base, and the feature wall behind the tub.

The feature wall adds interest with the installed rectilinear porcelain tile. In keeping with the monochromatic color scheme, stone pebble tile was selected for the shower floor and the detail stripe in the shower.

When selecting the hard surfaces, the clients’ goal was minimal upkeep for the future. A Cambria quartz countertop was the perfect choice for their spa bath. This quartz was not only used for the counter, but also for the bench and niche shelves in the shower.

Making this space feel modern meant sticking to a few selections and color tones. To contrast the gray features, a solid wood vanity was added for warmth. All of the plumbing fixtures in the bathroom are smooth and contemporary, creating a waterfall effect when the water is turned on.

The lighting in the space greatly improved: cans were added in strategic locations, and pendants were placed above the sinks to supplement the can lighting. The simplicity of the pendants allows the chandelier to be the prime focus. The chandelier is a shining feature that captivates anyone walking into the bathroom.

Natural lighting was important in the bathroom, so windows were added in the shower on two walls. To keep with the minimal aesthetic, a frosted pattern glass was chosen for the windows so that window treatments were not necessary.

With the help of the contractor, this sophisticated bathroom was made possible. We turned this Omaha couple’s small idea into their ideal at-home spa.

Visit idfomaha.com/liz-lempka for more information.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Home.

Open Studios,
 Open Minds

February 2, 2014 by

 “I’ve had all of these ideas swirling around in my head for the past two months,” explains Shanti Grumbine. The New Platz, New York-based artist was greeting visitors into her space during a recent Open Studios event at the acclaimed Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts. Today her ideas would be manifested in new ways; they would exist for the first time in the minds of others.

Grumbine had been working on a new series of wall sculptures made from the blue plastic sleeves used in the delivery of her New York Times, like the one shown in the accompanying photo.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about sacred geometry,” Grumbine explains to Dick Cook, who was visiting from Creston, IA. “Different religions, especially Islam, use geometric shapes in both art and text. It is a language all its own, and I’ve been abstracting these ideas into mosaics to create a sacred vocabulary using these throw-away plastic casings that protected the ephemeral words inside.”

The act of creating art can be a solitary, even lonely endeavor, but Grumbine was among the slate of 10 resident artists, including two from Brazil and one each from Ireland and Canada, who were engaged in the most social of art interactions. “Something magical happens when I see people react to my work,” continues Grumbine. “And it’s even more magical when I can talk to them about it while in the process of making it.”

Grumbine has since completed her three-month residency at the Bemis Center, but you can meet a new roster of artists at the next quarterly Open Studios event, which is free and open to the public.

“I know an artist like Shanti is creating 24 hours a day, even in her sleep state,” adds Cook while nodding to the neatly made bed in the corner of the live/work space. “I enjoy learning about artists, and this is a rare opportunity to do it on their terms, right here in the studio.”

Visit bemiscenter.org for a full list of upcoming Bemis Center events.