ALACHUA – In a peaceful wooded area just outside Alachua sits a neat-as-a-pin, well-designed studio that belongs to an internationally known potter and researcher on the use of crystalline glazes for pottery.

Tilton Pottery houses the studio and showroom of John Tilton, 69, creator of one-of-a-kind distinctive pottery. His porcelain pots feature mainly crystalline art glazes, zinc crystals and copper red.

“Crystalline glazes and crystals are symbols for growth,” Tilton said. “I want my pots to seem organic and timeless, and the crystalline glazes really complement those elements.”

Tilton accidentally stumbled upon pottery as a profession in 1968. His wife at the time asked him to check out a pottery course for her at Reitz Union at the University of Florida.

“At the time I was working on my Ph.D. in Mathematics, and was in my third year of graduate school at the University of Florida,” he said. After talking with the pottery instructor, he became interested himself. When his wife took the course, he decided to join her.

By the time he completed the course, the instructor suggested he take a ceramics class at UF.

“I just kind of kept taking ceramics classes, and at one point, it just seemed to overtake me,” he said. “I found that I was more interested in doing that than I was in doing mathematics.”

“Up until then, I had always thought I would continue with math, but it ended up not happening that way.” Ultimately, he obtained his M.F.A. Ceramics at the University of South Florida in 1972.

Ceramics was something tangible that he could hand to people and that they could actually understand, he said. “When I had to defend my Master’s Thesis, there were only eight people there. That was the number of people in Gainesville that could understand me. Yes, I was working on something that could be incredible, but it is not something people could understand,” he said.

He admits that pottery hasn’t been the kind of financial success he would have had as a mathematician, but he says he hasn’t regretted the choice at all.

His research into the best techniques, firing temperatures and development of specialized tools he uses to perfect his use of crystalline glazes led to a presentation on matte crystalline glazes at a conference in Kansas City, Mo., in 2005.

Despite having his work has been featured in 12 publications throughout his 38-year career, Tilton remains humble.

His work is displayed in the collections of the Walt Disney Corporation, the Sun Bank of Orlando and the Lowe Art Museum in Miami.

Tilton has decided to limit his exposure at outside shows and festivals this year.

“Traveling to shows is exhausting and time-consuming,” he said. “I would rather spend my time on my pottery.” He is planning to concentrate his marketing efforts on conducting a couple of shows each year at his studio at the Temple of the Universe in Alachua and hopes to get more exposure through the internet.

“I like to have events here at my studio. People who visit can feel the energy of the place and feel the spirit of where I’ve made the artwork,” he said.

Tilton attracts a substantial number of people to his studio, according to a collector of his art.

“When John holds a show at his studio, people come in droves, even from out of state,” said Sandra Matasick, Gainesville jewelry artist and collector of Tilton’s work. “They just don’t come to buy one pot,” she said. “They buy several of his pieces at one time.”

Tilton believes his type of pottery does not lend itself as well to art festivals, although he has done plenty of them in the past. Locally, his work has been shown for years at the Spring Arts Festival in Gainesville and was chosen to be the poster and T-shirt art for the festival in 2006. His work has also appeared locally at the Downtown Art Festival and the Gainesville Fine Arts Association’s Fall Show.

“At a show, you have to display something flashy that will catch the viewer’s eye quickly as they walk by,” he said. “I am not making pieces that jump out at you.”

Although his art is decorative, Tilton said some people need to sit with the piece quietly for a few minutes in order to begin to see the spirit of the work. After years of really strong commitment to a chosen art, he believes the artwork takes on the shape of the spirit.

“I think if I’m able to make it where it has spirit, and the spirit is flowing through me into it as I create it, then the link is available also to the right person that is looking at it,” he said. “The spirit of it will make them see it in a different way.”

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ALACHUA – A legal food fight is heating up between two area restaurants.

Newberry Backyard BBQ has filed a lawsuit against Bev’s Burgers in High Springs, alleging a consultant for both restaurants gave Bev’s private business information.

The complaint was electronically filed on Oct. 15 by Angela Salisbury and her Newberry Backyard BBQ against Bev’s Burgers, owner Beverly Miller and consultant Rocco T. Voglio.

Voglio was the original owner of Newberry Backyard BBQ, incorporating the restaurant in 1998. In 2007, he sold the business to Tri-County Restaurants, Inc.

In 2012, Tri-County sold Newberry Backyard BBQ to Salisbury.

According to the lawsuit filed by the Backyard BBQ, Salisbury entered into an agreement with Voglio in 2013, with Voglio agreeing he would not enter into, be a partner of, be employed by or consult in any barbecue restaurants or restaurants serving barbecue within a 35-mile radius of Newberry. He also agreed to be a consultant for the Backyard BBQ, in order to promote and grow the business.

As a consultant, he was in a position of trust, according to the complaint, having access to confidential business information such as recipes, vendor lists, marketing techniques and client information.

Voglio began providing consulting service to Bev’s Burgers, for the purpose of expanding the restaurants business model to include barbecue foods and to compete directly with Newberry Backyard BBQ, the complaint alleges.

The recipe for the “sloppy sandwich” sold by Newberry Backyard BBQ was one item Salisbury alleges was misused by Bev’s Burgers.

Bev’s Burgers is within the 35-mile radius covered by the agreement.

“Rather than spending their own time, money and effort to build their barbecue-related business,” the complaint reads, “Bev’s Burgers and Miller, in concert with Voglio, are seeking to replicate Backyard BBQ’s business model by using their confidential and proprietary information misappropriated by Voglio during his involvement with Backyard BBQ.”

Salisbury and Newberry Backyard BBQ sent a letter to Voglio on May 7, demanding he stop all activities violating the non-compete agreement. A letter was also sent to Miller and Bev’s Burgers requesting the same thing.

The letter also accuses Miller and Voglio of soliciting customers of Newberry Backyard BBQ while also defaming and slandering it.

The attorneys for Newberry Backyard BBQ asked for a trial by jury. The complaint also asked for a preliminary injunction to prevent Voglio from providing barbecue-related services to Bev’s Burgers.  

Salisbury is seeking damages in excess of $15,000, in addition to the return of the proprietary information and the dissolution of the relationship between Voglio and Bev’s Burgers.

On Oct. 18, Miller’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the case.

The motion maintains the contract was invalid because it offered no new considerations to Voglio. According to contract law, the motion reads, a valid contract has to offer consideration to each party. Consideration is the exchange of something of value for something of value. It continues to point out that the complaint fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted on several legal theories, including a “legal impossibility” and “failure to properly allege the elements of the cause of action.”

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Photo special to Alachua County Today

Grand Champion Mare Lovin' that Scotch. The horse is owned by High Springs resident Jeri Langman

 HIGH SPRINGS – The Sunshine State Buckskin Association (SSBA), an official charter of the American Buckskin Registry Association (ABRA), has judged a local mare as the winner in three SSBA state championships this past year.

Following her competition in 12 shows during 2013, Lovin’ that Scotch, a 9-year-old buckskin quarter horse mare owned by High Springs’ resident Jeri Langman was named Grand Champion Mare. She clenched her championships on Saturday, Dec. 14, at the Holiday Celebration Show at Canterbury Showplace, Newberry.

Lovin’ that Scotch competed in and won three classes.

“There are three show circuits with four shows each,” Langman said. “Each show has four judges. In order to win Grand Champion, Scotch had to win consistently from April to December.”

Everyone whose horse won a class throughout the year shows their horse again and is judged to determine which one is the best of all of the mares at the show. That mare becomes the Grand Champion Mare. The first runner-up is called the Reserve Champion Mare.

Horses that are ridden typically have 10-15 year show careers, Langman said. Halter horses like Scotch begin to be shown as a 1-year-old and are usually shown through their fifth or sixth year.

“It’s exceptional that a mare of her age is consistently winning,” she said.

In order to compete at that level, the horse has to be kept fit and well exercised throughout the year, tasks which Langman takes seriously and performs herself.

“Consistent grooming, the right food and correct exercise program must be maintained to keep her healthy, well-muscled and to keep her coat shiny, just like in a dog show competition,” she said.

The horse is considered a show favorite, Langman said.

“She loves to compete,” Langman said. “She’s just a perfect show horse. She is sweet, cooperative and a fun mare to own,” she said.

Langman first saw the horse when she was younger and liked her immediately. She was Reserve Champion when she was a foal.

“I thought she was absolutely gorgeous and fell in love with her," Langman said. “I raved about her to my friends, who owned her by that time.”

Langman and her friends worked out a deal for Langman to own the horse.

While the horse was basically trained when she got her, she has worked to keep her conditioned and properly exercised, particularly with help from Barbara Pless, a professional trainer from Ocala.

“I have known her for 30 years and she helps me work with Scotch to prepare her for a show,” she said.

While there are no cash prizes for winning horses at the state level, larger and larger ribbons are awarded the higher the competition level that is won.

“It’s mostly for the prestige of winning at that level,” Langman said. “Later, when she is bred, her babies will be more valuable and more prestigious because of the competition level Scotch achieves.”

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ALACHUA – A local biotechnology company helped replace a nerve tissue for a Navy veteran, allowing him to become the first nerve tissue recipient in the Rose Parade.

For nearly a decade, the American Association of Tissue Banks has sponsored the Donate Life Rose Parade float, a memorial to organ and tissue donors. The theme of the 2014 float, “Light up the World,” represented the organization’s goal to save and improve lives through organ and tissue donation.

The 125th Rose Parade took place Jan. 1, 2014, starting at 8 a.m. in Pasadena, Calif.

Former Navy Corpsman Edward Bonfigio was serving in Afghanistan in August 2009 when his unit came under fire. Bonfigio was shot in the leg. After being transferred to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, he lost the use of his leg.

Due to the injury to his sciatic nerve, doctors told Bonfigio that they would have to amputate his leg. Bonfigio however pushed for an alternative. AxoGen, Inc., from Alachua, answered Bonfigio’s call and replaced his nerve tissue.

Thanks to the replacement tissue, Bonfigio was able to keep his leg. Without AxoGen’s Avance Nerve Graft technology, he would not be able to participate in the activities he does today.

The procedure removed a nerve from another part of his body and used it on the injury site. Since the tissue comes from the patient, the body doesn’t reject it.

“It is an honor to have provided the processed nerve allograft that contributed to saving his leg,” said AxoGen CEO Karen Zadarej in an earlier interview with Alachua County Today.

Since his surgery, Bonfigio was honored on the Donate Life Float in the Rose Parade and attends Pennsylvania State University, where he is a part of the Paralympics team.

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ALACHUA – School grades came out on Dec. 18 and Santa Fe High School sat among the top schools in Alachua County.

The high school, which was recently touted for its jump in graduation rates, received an A for its academic performance in the last year, according to preliminary high school grades released by the Department of Education.

The school went from a 75 percent graduation rate to an 84 percent senior graduation rate between 2011 and 2012.

Santa Fe High School principal Beth LeClear, has worked to bring the school grade from a B to an A over the last year by enforcing a closer relationship between advisors and students.

“Teachers needed things, so whatever teachers needed, we provided.”

LeClear said she knew that the high school was capable to be more than a B school. Her goal was to work with seniors that we in danger of not graduating. She said that many of the students at Santa Fe High School sat down and planned their academic calendars.

“When I got here, I said, ‘this is not a B school, this is an A school,'” she said.

The importance of earning an “A” has been great on the school, LeClear said. In a year where graduation rates are the highest in the county, $40,000 grants for new books and technology are awarded, and now an “A” for the school marks a great end to the year for Santa Fe High School, she added.

Only 240 schools in the state earned an A grade. Three of those schools came from Alachua County. Other than Santa Fe, P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School in Gainesville and Newberry High School also earned an A.

Hawthorne Middle/High School got an F this year, one of eight in the state.  

The community in Alachua has been a big factor in the success of Santa Fe High School, LeClear said.

“This community is so supportive of our school and our students,” LeClear said.

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CARL MCKINNEY/Alachua County Today

This is where the driver hit the building. The cracks run alongside the entire wall, which will require complete replacement.

ALACHUA – A driver crashed into the side of the McDonald’s in Alachua on Christmas.

At around 5 p.m. Christmas day, Justin Sintow, 23, was coming off Interstate 75. He failed to stop at the red light and rolled through the intersection, driving through bushes and straight into the McDonald’s building, said Jesse Sandusky, public information officer for the Alachua Police Department.

He was driving a 2013 silver Audi. Sintow was the only person in the vehicle and did not appear to be injured, Sandusky said.

The entire wall he crashed into will have to be replaced, said a maintenance worker at the restaurant.

“He was lucky,” the worker said. The McDonald’s was closed, so nobody was inside the building.

When the driver went through the bushes, his car ripped the Christmas decorations on them and scattered them near the wall.

Sintow was arrested and charged with failing to stop at a red light and driving under the influence, but not necessarily of alcohol.

The investigation is ongoing, Sandusky said, and the DUI could possibly be related to narcotics.

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HIGH SPRINGS – From the Monster Mash to Jingle Bells, from the walking dead to Santa Claus. How did a Haunted House in October bring gifts to children in December? It was done through the High Springs Lions Club's (HSLC) Madness and Mayhem 2 Haunted House and Graveyard held this past October, the largest fundraising event held in the history of the club.

The High Springs Lions Club had never before attempted a feat of such magnitude. It took the cooperation from the Lions, a few civic-minded local businesses and other volunteers from the community to pull it off. Over 60 volunteers devoted hundreds of hours planning, meeting, rehearsing and working event nights for one of the scariest haunts in Florida. All of this was done for a good cause.

Recipients of the funds raised from the HSLC Madness and Mayhem 2 Haunted House and Graveyard were discussed and decided at one of the earliest committee meetings. For the past four years, the HSLC had provided underprivileged children with Christmas presents. This year, they wanted to continue the tradition. So, The Catholic Charities Community Outreach Christmas Wishes was one of the charities chosen.   The same as the preceding years, Catholic Charities chose the children and provided the HSLC Lions with their gender, age, and Christmas wish list. Names of the children remained anonymous.

A budget of $40 was spent on each child. Members of the Lions club volunteered many hours of their time shopping to fulfill the children's Christmas wishes. Lions Phil and Stephenie Griffith took on the shopping for a family of nine children.

“I spent three hours at Toys R Us and had a lot of fun choosing gifts for the children,” he said.

Lion Mark Moomaw’s wife, Amy, and their daughter Alyssa, bought gifts for 16 of the 38 children on the Catholic Charities list.  

“They spent two days shopping for all those children,” Mark said.

The High Springs Lions Club’ Madness and Mayhem was an incredibly successful fundraiser and will continue as an annual event to help provide great things, such as Christmas gifts to needy children, for their local community.

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