From reclaimed wood to art

Jun. 07, 2014 @ 12:37 PM

No matter how far North Carolinians travel, to borrow from James Taylor, “In my mind I’m going to Carolina.”
With her roots deep in Orange County soil, Kelly Champion Ooten remains connected to North Carolina, even though she now lives elsewhere. She graduated from Orange High, where her father was a teacher, in the early 1990s. Her mother was a teacher for 26 years in nearby Alamance County.
Ooten went on to attend Kings College in Charlotte, where she majored in retail merchandising. Ooten knew art expression would be important in her life. She also recognized her fondness for her state and the coast, and her connection to family and friends here in Orange County, would be facilitators in how she used art to share with others.
“My medium is reclaimed wood, and I use influences from the beach and statements and verses and other inspiration to produce my art,” Ooten said. Ooten decided to combine her experiences and her eye for appeal, establishing The Verdant Market as a source to show and sell her artwork. “It’s an ongoing process of finding weathered boards and discarded lumber, and my father spends most of his retirement helping me out!” Ooten said of her dad, Pete.
“Essentially, I reclaim wood and let colors and other ideas come to life on them,” she added.
From her Facebook page, “Gone to Carolina in my Mind” is a popular piece of artwork for which many local people are clamoring. “There are quotes that customers request, or Bible verses or just expressions of thought, such as, ‘Life‘s better in flip-flops,’ that I paint on these forgotten pieces of wood,” Ooten said.
The effort to gather this wood is one that her father is very much a part of. “Some of the sources require him to rip boards and remove nails and he does all of this and brings it to me. I use a jig-saw and I form it into whatever design I choose; I have learned a lot about wood working through this,” Ooten said. “I refer to it as wood pallet art; and each piece of wood is different; there are no standards here.”
Even though she lives in South Carolina, she delivers locally through her father in Hillsborough, and she will be at Hog Day this year with a booth.
Ooten says she chose the name Verdant because “it means the color of green, which is very powerful to me.” Green also, according to an emotion color reference, means willpower.
Through her local connection and her artistic abilities and the process of mending forgotten wood into art, Ooten uses willpower as the catalyst for her project. “This feels very natural and easy for me and I really enjoy going through the labor to provide for my customers,” Ooten said.
To reach The Verdant Market, search on Facebook or call Kelly Champion Ooten at 954-629-8235
For a feature or story idea, please contact Jason Hawkins at hawkinsoutdoors@msn.com.