Steven Forbes-deSoule is a celebrated Raku sculptor — highly accomplished in the American form of the Japanese art, where the vessel is removed from the hot kiln and placed in combustible materials. His wife Lynn Powell Forbes, a retired Buncombe County Schools ESL specialist, is a master of the Japanese art of flower arrangement known as ikebana (she is president of the Asheville chapter of WNC Ikebana International).
Their simpatico passions unite in an idyllic intentional community in the Ox Creek section of Weaverville, where they’ve lived for almost 30 years. Besides being makers, they’re also discriminating collectors. Their collective eye for beauty — especially the three-dimensional variety — is on lavish display throughout their home.
Through joint replies via e-mail, Forbes-deSoule — a regular exhibitor at Blue Spiral 1 Gallery for years and an owner-member of cooperative Ariel Gallery — and Powell Forbes provided a vivid snapshot of their collecting life.
Did you discover and nurture a passion for collecting together?
Yes, we started collecting in the early ’80s. Our first piece was made by Paul Soldner, a famous California ceramicist who discovered American Raku. We purchased a second, much larger, winged vessel of his in 1987 at an Atlanta gallery featuring his work. He was at that opening and we enjoyed conversing with him.
Does your collection focus on representational work, abstract, both?
We’ve mostly collected abstract sculptural pieces in all mediums, but also have several original abstract paintings. … We’ve collected mostly American artists. Since moving to North Carolina, most of our purchases have been from nationally and internationally recognized artists in the Southeast.
Give us an idea about some of the artists whose work is pictured.
“Picasso’s Dog” was a commission by renowned glass artist Ginny Ruffner, who was a friend and neighbor of ours many years ago. She lives in Seattle now, where her glass sculptures sell for $50,000+. We also own work by Don Reitz, who was a big name in ceramics when I was starting out, and is known for both inspiring the re-emergence of salt-glaze pottery and for his large thrown pieces — six feet tall. Our face plates are by well-known artist and past head of the ceramics department at the University of Georgia, Andy Nassise.
Do you display your collection in a dedicated area, or are the pieces scattered throughout your home?
It’s everywhere. We move the table-top objects around every month or so and the larger sculptural pieces and the wall art pretty much stay in place. We designed our home to include plenty of wall space and lighted niches to enhance our three-dimensional collection.
Are you two on the same page when it comes to the things that hit you, or do you ever debate about acquiring something?
We mostly agree on the pieces we’ve collected. Unfortunately, we now have so much, there’s really no room for more. This is the problem that many collectors have as they move into their golden years.
Any long-time favorite pieces, or a recent acquisition that you’re jazzed about?
We pretty much love it all. It’s all about energy and pieces we are personally attracted to. Since Lynn started studying Ichiyo ikebana [a highly artistic, interpretive form of the practice] 14 years ago, she’s been collecting containers for floral arrangements. We recently purchased a tall vase from Dottie Baker, a member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild. We didn’t know her, but we sure do love this piece and enjoy it with or without an arrangement in it.
Have you connected with other collectors?
My [Steven’s] older brother was the original artist in our family, and he started collecting in his early twenties. I’m sure this rubbed off on me, but we eventually became steeped in art. We’re friends with other collectors, but collecting wasn’t the initial reason for our friendships.
Do your lives as a sculptor and an Ikebana practitioner inform what you gravitate to?
Yes, these things greatly influence our collecting decisions. We’ve both developed a keener eye over the years for three-dimensional art.
If you could sum up how you get your joy from collecting, what would that sound like?
For us, the art we’ve included in our collection is all about surrounding ourselves with others’ creative energy. This makes for a wonderful living experience, and a fun, interesting living space that provides positive energy for both of us.
Steven Forbes-deSoule, Weaverville, stevenforbesdesoule.com.
Lynn Powell Forbes, Weaverville, ikebanaasheville.org.