ATLANTA - Local man uses handmade pens to craft messages of hope:
With just a single ink pen, Tim Cullen can tell a story that spans generations.
Out of his home workshop in Canton, Cullen crafts exquisite writing tools, doing his own wood and metal work and using materials deeply rooted in pop culture history.
"This is actually the wood from the Shawshank Redemption tree,” says Cullen, holding up a piece of wood that he’ll eventually transform into one of his unique creations.
What started as a hobby more than a decade ago has turned into a business, called Hooligan Pens — and Cullen’s work is now sought-after around the world.
"You know, I like to stay humble, but I can say that I'm well-known somewhat throughout the custom pen-making world ... and that most people who make pens know who I am,” he says. But ask him what really makes him proud, and Cullen will point to his Hooligan Georgia Beat Cancer Pen Project Facebook page, on which he chronicles his work making one-of-a-kind pens for people battling cancer.
"Several years ago, when I was still working in Southern California, my boss ... was going through breast cancer,” says Cullen. "And I decided to make her a pen. And then I got the idea, and I've been making them ever since."
Cullen’s latest project is a pen for Mississippi resident Eric Wang; it’s a personal one for Cullen, who’s known the Wang family for more than 30 years.
"Eric is suffering from leukemia,” explains Cullen. "They looked for donors, and they thought they had a donor, but at the last minute the donor pulled out. And now the cancer treatment's not helping. So, he's in dire need of a bone marrow transplant."
Cullen says the pen will be orange — the color of the leukemia ribbon — and will feature Wang’s hockey number.
"And then, on the ring that I put around the cap, I hand-engrave the word ‘hope.’ Because that's the biggest thing, is that we always have hope there's going to be a cure, we always have hope that someone's going to find a donor."
Proving sometimes a pen doesn’t need to waste any ink at all to deliver a meaningful message.
Jewel celebrates 25th anniversary of debut album:
In hindsight, it seems obvious that Jewel’s 1995 debut album "Pieces of You" would be a massive hit.
But 25 years ago, the artist says there was nothing obvious about it.
“You know, I was discovered when I was homeless, which was crazy,” the singer-songwriter recalls. “I was not trying to get signed. I was living in my car … and I started singing in a coffee shop, really honest songs. I didn’t think I’d get discovered, and then the next thing I knew there was a bidding war over me.”
That bidding war led to a deal with Atlantic Records, which released "Pieces of You" in February of 1995. But it took many months of touring — including as an opening act for Bob Dylan — before the album finally took off.
“I was thinking about quitting the record and starting a second record, but he really believed in me,” Jewel recalls of Dylan. “He loved my lyrics. He would go over my lyrics with me, and be like, ‘What made you write that?’ And I was like, ‘I cannot believe Bob Dylan likes me! If nobody else likes me, I’m good with this!’”
Of course, people did like Pieces of You — a lot. Fueled by radio hits including “You Were Meant for Me” and “Foolish Games,” the album ended up selling an astonishing 12 million copies, becoming one of the best-selling debut albums in music history. And now, it’s poised to sell even more, thanks to a 25th-anniversary edition filled with demos, outtakes, and live performances.
“I wanted to be really honest and kind of have this little archaeological capsule of who I really was at 18, which isn’t all perfect. There’s one live performance from The Inner Change where it’s an entire hour set and you hear all my talking between the songs that isn’t on the records. It’s like having your most awkward high school photo come to life and talk for an hour! It doesn’t make me super comfortable! But it’s honest, so I decided to include it.”
And speaking of live performances, the artist is planning a virtual live show for Friday at 8 p.m., during which she’ll sing the entire album from start to finish for the first time ever.
“I have to re-learn a lot of lyrics that I haven’t sung in a long time! But I’m really looking forward to it,” says the Grammy nominee. “I rented out a beautiful theatre. I’m doing a huge art installation — I drew a huge 30-foot-tall painting that’ll be behind me. We have three cameras because I just didn’t want it to look like a Zoom concert, you know, where I’m sitting here.”
To purchase tickets for Friday show or to order the Pieces of You 25th anniversary collection (available in a 2-CD or 4-LP format, a deluxe box set, and as a digital download), click here.
R&B sensation Donell Jones talks new music after 7 year hiatus:
For over the last 25 years, the multifaceted Chicago native has experienced greatness and adversity during his musical journey. He's been signed to LaFace Records, has had many chart-topping hits, including unforgettable classic ballads that are fan favorites like “Where I Wanna Be,” “You Know What’s Up ft. TLC’s Left Eye,” and “Knocks Me Off My Feet” just to name a few.
Now Jones is back after taking a break from the industry with his latest single "Karma (Payback)." He's planning to drop his seventh studio album titled "100% free." You can keep up with Donell on Instagram @Donelljonesforever to listen to his new single click here.
Niecey Shaw joins us live via Skype from Classix 102.9. For more information click here.