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Saturday, Apr 20, 2019

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In the studio with alumni artists

The inspiration and process behind artwork from The Bobcat Store


James Robinson, a 1999 graduate of the College of Fine Arts, and Natalie Keller Pariano, who earned her bachelor’s from the Scripps College of Communication in 2005 and master’s from the Patton College of Education in 2007, discovered their passion for art as young children. Through their time at Ohio University, each found and nurtured the creative inspiration to develop their craft, growing them into the businesses they are today: Athens Block and Natterdoodle.

Robinson and Pariano share their journeys as artists, including how their art found a home in The Bobcat Store.

James Robinson of Athens Block

James Robinson of Athens Block

Growing up in New York, James Robinson was constantly surrounded by art. With a mother who worked as an art director and illustrator, Robinson often brushed shoulders with notable artists. However, the defining moment in Robinson’s childhood was seeing the bronze cannons in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “I couldn’t believe how beautiful they were,” Robinson said. “When I found out that artillery really means ‘art which is strong,’ I knew why they were so beautiful. Only artists could make those cannons.”

James Robinson of Athens Block

Since then, it was Robinson’s fantasy to be a renaissance bronze sculptor. Traveling all over the world, he educated himself in all aspects of the art form. He moved to Athens in 1997 to pursue his master’s in sculpture at OHIO. As he settled into his new home, his focus shifted from bronze to bricks. “The first thing I did when I moved here was buy a house and as I re-did the backyard, I noticed I kept using those bricks!” he said. “They kind of get into your blood.”

The company responsible for these iconic bricks, Athens Block, was founded in 1891. However, the company could not survive the struggles of the Great Depression and closed its doors.

James Robinson of Athens Block

In 1999, Robinson graduated from OHIO with his masters in sculpture, along with his wife, Erin Robinson, who earned her bachelor’s in art education. Looking for a way to merge their work as artists, they re-established Athens Block in their home studio in 2001. “There was no question of how indicative the bricks are to our experience here,” Robinson said. “Everyone has a block story.”

 James Robinson of Athens Block

In buying the original company’s trademark and patents, Robinson’s goal is to repurpose Athens Block while preserving its history. Whether he’s working with bronze, clay, wood or even chocolate, Robinson takes pride in making collectibles that are handmade and local. “It’s about bringing it back in the way it used to exist, while at the same time in ways it has never existed,” he said. “Following the tradition and doing it the old-fashioned way.”

 James Robinson of Athens Block

Athens Block joined The Bobcat Store in 2009. The store provides Bobcats a collection of one-of-a-kind Athens Block items, including key chains, butcher blocks, ceramic mugs, office décor and studio tiles. For Robinson, the collection is a motivation to experiment and push his creativity. “The Bobcat Store has always been a big supporter of my ideas,” Robinson said. “It’s always a challenge to make new items, but part of the creative process is adding more to the collection; adding more to the story."

Natalie Keller Pariano of Natterdoodle
Photos courtesy of Natalie Keller Pariano

Natalie Keller Pariano of Natterdoodle

As a child, Natalie Keller Pariano’s doodling was a habit to help her pay attention in class. After a friend encouraged her to make it a polished hobby and share her artwork online, her doodles quickly drew the attention of others. “The first day I opened my webstore, everything I posted sold out,” Pariano said. “I felt very fortunate to see how many people were excited about my work online and felt even better sending my joy out to the world.”

Natalie Keller Pariano of Natterdoodle

Pariano’s company, Natterdoodle, is as whimsical and fun as its name. The mission is simple: “Sprinkle the world with positivity confetti.” She feels a responsibility to add more optimism to the world. Natterdoodles are a result of heartfelt hand-lettering combined with watercolor, ink and upcycled paper. Her off-the-cuff, positive penmenship is inspired by her friends, colors and words. “As a journalism major at OHIO, I’ve always had a love of words and writing,” she said. “That definitely plays into my art. When it comes to the actual art of lettering, I’m self-taught and play by my own rules.”

Natalie Keller Pariano of Natterdoodle

By day, Pariano is the Dean of Co-Curricular Design at Dennison University. By night and weekend, she is in her Columbus home studio, experimenting and creating new Natterdoodles. The balance can be challenging, but the rewards of both keep Pariano busy. “I love working with college students and leadership development, but Natterdoodle has also become a big passion for me,” Pariano said. “I’ve learned you can make time for the things that are exciting for you, but it doesn’t come without challenge.”

Natalie Keller Pariano of Natterdoodle

As a self-proclaimed “die-hard alumna Bobcat” who has never missed a single Homecoming since graduating, Pariano knew The Bobcat Store was a natural match for Natterdoodle. “I have always done a lot of OHIO-inspired pieces, so it was a blast working on a piece for my own alma mater,” Pariano said. While Bobcats can shop her OHIO Alma Mater Natterdoodle exclusively at The Bobcat Store, Pariano hopes to expand her collection. “It feels like an honor to make things people want to put in their homes,” she said. “My goal is to continue putting my art out there.”

Visit The Bobcat Store to shop more from artists like Athens Block Studio and Natterdoodle.

Alumni Show Bobcat Pride in Europe
By Kaitlyn Pacheco, BSJ ’17

Even when they’re across the pond, Bobcats can’t help but show off their green and white.

Bobcat Travel
Susan Francis, who received her bachelor’s degree in 1992 before graduating with her master’s degree in 2002, showed off her OHIO t-shirt in Dresden, Germany.

Bobcat Travel
1975 alumna Leslie Dale snapped a picture in a cab in London, England.

Bobcat Travel
Don Kondik, a 1968 alumnus, showed his Bobcat pride in Mijas, Spain.

Share your own #BobcatTravel photos on Instagram for #OHIOHC2016, themed “All Roads Lead Home.”