At PHES Gallery: ‘Story Quilts’ exhibit invites poetic responses
If you’re an art-lover, you may already know about PHES, a small gallery in Carlsbad that has been attracting attention since its inception two years ago. It’s owned by a couple of longtime Encinitans, Paul Henry and Ellen Speert, who are now putting out a call for poetic responses to their current “Story Quilts” exhibition. Visit the gallery, write a poem inspired by one or more of your quilted favorites, and you’ll have a chance to perform it at a special event on June 25.
One of the pleasures of PHES is getting to meet the co-owners. Henry is a custom furniture-maker who also does antique restoration. Speert is an art therapist who leads workshops and retreats at her California Center for Creative Renewal in Encinitas. How the two originally got together could be the theme of a story quilt.
“We met dancing at a Harvard party,” Speert said. “It was 1976, and both of us were living in the Boston area. I was doing graduate work in art therapy and Paul had just opened his first furniture shop. Neither of us went to Harvard, but we each had a Harvard friend who’d invited us. I walked in and saw this cute guy on the dance floor, and the rest is history.”
Speert had been living and working in San Diego, so it was only natural for the two to go west. Within a few years, they were married, owned a house in Encinitas, and Henry had found a studio in Carlsbad that gave him enough space for his work. About 20 years later, when the property went up for sale, they bought it. About 20 years after that, when Covid came marching in, the cottage next to his studio became vacant.
“Up until then, we’d always kept our work things separate,” Henry said. “Covid gave us this crazy idea for our first joint project.”
The cottage needed a lot of work, but it had “good bones,” so they decided to turn it into a “creative gathering space” for folks in and around San Diego County. Reconstructing the place became their pandemic-time project, and PHES Gallery opened to the public in July 2021, with their joined initials forming its name. “We both have our titles,” said Henry. “She’s director of artistic relations and I’m the facilities manager.”
They had 11 artists in their first show, and there are 11 in the current exhibition. Is 11 their lucky number?
“I invited 13 for the first show, but only 11 could make it,” said Speert. “I invited 12 artists for this one, but only 11 could.”
She had looked at quilt artists’ websites, searching for pieces that seemed to have a story behind them. “I chose the ones I wanted,” she said. “But each quilt only gives us the title. We’re free to create our own stories from what we see.”
If you’re a poet or a would-be poet, the deadline for sending in your entry is June 11. There will be prizes for the top three poems, selected by Marit Anderson, who leads Awaken the Poet Within, a monthly poetry group at the Encinitas Library.
The quilts come in varied sizes and styles. You can see them all on the PHES website, but it’s much more impressive to see them in person. For submission details, go to phesgallery.com/call-for-poets/ And whether or not you’re a poet, you’re sure to enjoy the June 25 event, which will also include live music, and plenty of interesting people to meet and greet.
Location: 2633 State Street, Carlsbad
Hours: Thursday-Saturday, 2-7 p.m., and by appointment.
Phone, website: 760-696-3022; phesgallery.com
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