We are blessed to have an incredibly gifted group of artisans,
craftsmen, and artists in our collective.
Our collective is composed of a diverse group of very interesting and talented individuals. We have a nice mix of men and women of different age groups, and different interpretations of the world around us. They are for the most part South Carolinians, but we have a few from North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. We even let a yankee slip in here somehow! We have a membership of individualists, but there are some commonalities also. One trait they all share is their passion, some so much so, you might say they are obsessive, which pleases me greatly because that is one trait I can share with them. Sad to say, I am the only non-artisan in the group and can only stand in awe at their work. Other strong characteristics they share are their originality, vision, and creativity. They have the ability to create something that never existed before in their mind and then turn that thought, that idea, into a physical reality. They possess the power of connectivity, the ability to connect you to different times, places and people through that creation. You can run your hand over the thousand growth rings in a table top and it has the potential to connect you to the man 150 years ago that cut the “Old Growth” tree out of the swamp. You have the potential to make a connection to the artist himself through the object you touch or see. That piece can evoke feelings or emotions in you and connect you to yourself in a different, new way. Ownership of these heirloom quality pieces can even connect you to your yet unborn descendants for generations to come. They have so much talent, they are almost scary. Sometimes I tell them they are not artisans, Craftsmen, or artists, but rather they are magicians! We now number 60. Our goal is to have 100 active members by the end of the year, and to maintain the same extremely high quality of our offerings. We do not accept work into the gallery just on the basis of what will sell. There will always be a high standard of quality here, with a theme of uniqueness, of our history and our heritage, our region, and our way of life.
They have one more thing in common. I respect every one of them.
"He is part businessman, part archaeologist, part historian, and part adventurer". So read the Florence Dailey News article back in 2004 regarding "Capt. Alec" Blalock and his SCUBA Charter Guide Service. After 15 years running SCUBA charters, Blalock made the difficult decision to retire from hunting one kind of underwater treasure (fossils & artifacts) in favor of hunting a different underwater treasure. ('sinker' logs). The 70 year old waterman says "I will continue to pull my own underwater logs for as long as my health allows me. It is just as exciting to recover a 800 year old log that has been lost underwater for 130 years as it is to find an Indian point that was lost to the water 8,000 years ago". His business consisted of locating and recovering these lost logs and then having them sawn into rare, high-quality lumber to market to professional and highly skilled hobby woodworkers. Then life took one of those unexpected turns - He was approached by Greater Bishopville, Inc. a downtown revitalization project funded by $1,000,000 from an anonymous donor. This group is composed of long-time community supporters who have dedicated themselves to fulfilling the dream of re-inventing downtown Bishopville to restore it to its former state as a vibrant small southern town. Blalock himself picks up the story from here. "I got a call to come talk to a representative of GB, Inc. He asked me if I would be interested in being considered as one of 5 unique businesses that were going to seeded by providing a suitable retail space at a reduced cost. I said yes, gave them my business proposal, they said yes, I proposed to artists, craftsmen, and artisans, and 60 of them said yes and a year later THE SWAMP LOG Artisans Gallery is a reality. This is not a dream come true, as it would have been an unattainable dream for me alone. Looking back at my past, I see I have been working on a multitude of pieces of the puzzle necessary to be able to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity without ever realizing that I was working toward this". Alec shares with us that he has always been drawn to, and happiest in the outdoors, especially on, in, and under the water. History and things old fascinate him, and this is reflected in his store. He admits to being frustrated by his lack of talents in many areas and says he can't draw or paint, can't sing or play a musical instrument, or do woodwork, that he is sadly missing mechanical and technical skills. When I point out that it is an expression of creativity to be able to put together such an eclectic group of artisans and a gallery to present them in he smiles and says "Yes!" Everything about his gallery shouts creativity.