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A conjunction of man, woman, art at a St. Petersburg studio

ST. PETERSBURG — One thing is clear at the studio Mark Aeling and his fiancee Catherine Woods share: One person has to be in charge of a project.

Aeling and Woods have separate businesses. Aeling, 41, owns MGA Sculpture Studio while Woods, 48, owns C Glass Studio, which specializes in kiln-form glass.

Under one big roof in Midtown, they operate and blend their creative ideas. They're in the thick of finishing a contract deal for a Sparks, Nev., mixed-use entertainment plaza.

Aeling's business will provide sculptures that commemorate historic events and reflect the culture of the state, such as the Pony Express, which traveled through the area. In the middle of the studio stands a monumental sculpture of a horse with a rider on top. The work will later be cast in bronze.

Woods' business is constructing a colorful glass tower that will stand in the plaza. Some of her previous work can be seen in downtown St. Petersburg, including the sidewalk at 400 Beach Drive.

This job has been a two-year effort.

They both help each other in completing projects. Woods and Aeling moved here in 2005 from St. Louis, Mo. They settled on the area after a meticulous search for a town where they could support themselves as artists. "It had to have a nearby international airport," Woods said.

They had looked at Asheville, N.C., but the closest airport that met their criteria was three hours away in Charlotte, which was too far for the shipping they do. They also were looking for a town with an industrial base and a community that embraced the arts. "St. Petersburg was the right fit," Aeling said.

The venture has proved to be profitable but a learning process for both. They spend a lot of time planning out the logistics and production flow of their work. Woods handles a lot of the management of that. She posts large charts near the entrance of the studio that show schedules and which tasks have to be accomplished when.

Woods had worked previously in advertising, but Aeling has taught himself business as he goes along. He has invested in a variety of tools and equipment to expand his resources.

"They're both very versatile," said Jane McNeely, owner of Jane Designs Inc. in St. Louis, Mo., who worked with the pair on a previous project in Kansas City, Kan., and is now overseeing the current project.

They also have to take time to focus on the creative side, which can be a challenge with the competing pressures.

"Sometimes the best thing is to get up and walk around for a while. Then you come back to it," Woods said. To keep the environment at their studio relaxed, they play music, including jazzy numbers from singers like Amy Winehouse.

They also are comforted by the presence of their black Labrador, Anna, that roams around. Anna has claimed several places under workbenches that are comfortable for afternoon naps. The environment helps to strike the delicate balance that's needed to operate.

"In my experience it's rare to see artists operating in a business capacity," Aeling said. "They don't teach you how to do that in school," he added.

Austin Bogues can be reached at abogues@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8872.

A conjunction of man, woman, art at a St. Petersburg studio 12/09/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 5:40pm]

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