Distinctly Downtown: Discovering the Zeal of Zeber-Martell

A sunny and warm autumn afternoon was the perfect day to visit the Zeber-Martell Gallery. The sun was shining through the giant windows, reflecting rays of orange, yellow, and green off of the brilliant pieces of art showcased in the gallery. We can thank our local artists for providing the city of Akron with this kind of vibrancy.  FullSizeRender (2)

Michael Martell and Claudia Zeber-Martell are the hearts and souls of this business. In 1975, the gallery was born in Spicer Town on the corner of Spicer and Exchange Streets. That was the era of boutiques, leather shops and record stores. The gallery outgrew itself and found a new home, after a few temporary spaces, in their current location in the Northside District next to Luigi’s and since, the gallery has not stopped growing.

At the time, all that was in the small area was Luigi’s, which was only open at night. The district has since then given birth to the Northside Lofts, Jilly’s Music Room, Akron Glass Works, Palladian Palette and the Akron Symphony Orchestra. This area has simply become a cultural outburst.

Before opening a retail gallery, traveling used to be a big part of Michael and Claudia’s art lifestyle. They would travel to various shows around the country, sell their pieces, and come home to make more. But recently, traveling has become much less frequent in order to focus on the downtown gallery.

FullSizeRender (4)The one show that they do keep close to their hearts is the Boston Mills Artfest each summer in order to stay close with their demographic of patrons who enjoy the artistic lifestyle.

Claudia and Michael are the torch-bearers of this business but they do bring in pieces from other artists as well. About 60% of the pieces are made by Michael and Claudia. Because of the large space, they sell pieces of 15 other artists in the gallery.

One of the most interesting aspects of the dynamics of this couple is that essentially every piece of art they sell, has been touched by both of them. They have been doing collaborative work for the past 25 years. Every piece that Michael makes, Claudia paints. “We have both had separate studios, separate bodies of work, but we always seem to come back together.”

Inspired by British studio potters, Michael taps into his aesthetic by following the strong sense of functionality he adopted from British studio potters. Claudia’s main focus is the painting of the artwork. In the past, she used acrylics to decorate the pottery but now uses glazes and stains. When breaking down the studio duties, Michael does the making and Claudia does the decorating. Even though this is the normal case, both of them can do any aspect of the creation of the pottery in order to keep the business thriving.

Michael compares the studio to the household. “You find that each have their own strengths and you divvy that up… We work better together than apart.”

FullSizeRenderTo help with the daily duties of the business, Michael and Claudia have three part-time employees to assist them through a variety of tasks. Michael and Claudia do the conceptual work and some of their employees do some assembling of jewelry, as well as casting, fabricating, cleaning, smoothing, and other preparation in order to fire the pottery pieces. This help is especially important during the holiday season when Christmas ornaments are in high demand.

One would think that he has been doing this since he was born, but Michael did not have any art training until college. He graduated from the University of Akron with a degree in ceramics and graphic design, as well as a graduate degree in Arts Administration. Pottery is his main expertise but his graphic design skills help him with the business and marketing side of things, such as making e-blasts and flyers.

In order to show support for small businesses and local artists, be sure to mark your calendar on November 28 for two reasons. This is Small Business Saturday, as well as Zeber-Martell’s Holiday Open House. Michael and Claudia would love to see anyone drop by for this special event.

Additionally, Saturday, December 5 is the monthly Artwalk.  Drop by the gallery to do more of your holiday shopping in Downtown Akron’s art district and check out some of the dining experiences around town throughout your night!

By: Audrey Fliegel
DAP intern

Distinctly Downtown: Zeber-Martell

For over 20 years Zeber-Martell Gallery & Clay Studio has been a fixture at their location on 43 Furnace Street in Akron. Owned and operated by Claudia Zeber-Martell and Michael Martel the gallery features a collection of unique and expertly hand crafted artwork.

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A gallery expansion completed in July of 2012 has only enhanced the experience of the Zeber-Martell gallery. Their windowed storefront invites passersby to explore the shop even before they enter. When you do enter you can explore the expansive showroom that features a variety of different works. Much of the work is done by Claudia and Michael, but the gallery also features artwork from eight other artists both local and from across the United States. The works themselves are created from clay, stainless steel, fiber, and glass. The artwork created is just as diverse as the materials used. The gallery offers functional art such as lighting, mugs, and jewelry as well as decorative art like vases, intricately designed tiled wall art, and holiday decorations.  Custom commissions are also accepted by request.

Zeber-Martell gallery also participates in the Downtown Akron Artwalk. The Artwalk takes place on the first Saturday of each month (except January) from 5-10 p.m. and features nearly two dozen venues. Some venues, such as Zeber-Martell, feature live music and shopping. Other destinations offer art exhibitions or dining. The city also offers free trolley service during the Artwalk allowing visitors to easily find and explore as many venues as they like.

Aside from the Artwalk Zeber-Martell offers events throughout the year. In the fall and spring they offer classes that instruct participants on creating decorative tile arrangements. In May they will be offering specials for Mother’s Day. During the next several holiday seasons their 12 Days of Christmas event will showcase commemorative Akron decorations, including a display holder, for customers to purchase. They plan to debut some of this new holiday work later this year in October.

Zeber-Martell Galleries & Clay Studio is one of the hidden gems of Akron’s Downtown. If you’re looking for a unique gift or simply want to explore what Akron’s artistic side has to offer its residents Zeber-Martell is the place to go. You can view some of the artwork available at the gallery at zeber-martell.com or at zeber-martell.blogspot.com. Their hours of operation are Monday through Saturday 11 a.m.-6 p.m.  They can be reached at 330-253-3808.

By: Michael Crossland
DAP intern