Lisa Kostelak

Art by

Lisa Kostelak

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“I have been making baskets for 35 years,” says Lisa Kostelak of Colville, WA.

“I made my first basket in a craft store in a mall in Florida, when I was in just the right place at the right time.

“Though I had been interested in learning for a long time, it was hard to know where to start in the old, pre-Internet days.”

Today’s technology worship aside, one of the best ways to learn a craft that employs our hands, hearts, and brain is from an actual person who learned how to do it from another actual person. And it is for this reason that Kostelak, who taught herself painstakingly through books and a tremendous amount of trial and error, passes on what she knows through teaching small, personal classes. Basket Making 101, contrary to what we’ve been told all these years, is not an easy A.

Lisa Kostelak

white basket trio birch bark woven lisa kostelak

Basket Making — Lisa Kostelak Perfects an Ancient Art

baskets rattan organic cedar rushes woven lisa kostelak

Surrounded by grasses and trees, a series of hand-woven baskets by Colville, WA, artist Lisa Kostelak, celebrates the natural world.

Once upon a time, and not that long ago, there was no plastic. For thousands of years of human history, if people wanted to carry something around, from babies to drinking water, they wove a basket. It took, and takes, skill, patience, and an eye for artistry to create a useful basket.

“I have been making baskets for 35 years,” says Lisa Kostelak of Colville, WA.

“I made my first basket in a craft store in a mall in Florida, when I was in just the right place at the right time.

“Though I had been interested in learning for a long time, it was hard to know where to start in the old, pre-Internet days.”

dandelion birch bark rattan woven basket artisan lisa kostelak

It’s about two-inches high. This little basket is woven from dandelion stems, birch bark, and rattan. By Colville, WA, artisan Lisa Kostelak

Today’s technology worship aside, one of the best ways to learn a craft that employs our hands, hearts, and brain is from an actual person who learned how to do it from another actual person. And it is for this reason that Kostelak, who taught herself painstakingly through books and a tremendous amount of trial and error, passes on what she knows through teaching small, personal classes. Basket Making 101, contrary to what we’ve been told all these years, is not an easy A.

Basket Making 101 Is Not an Easy Class

“I learned to weave using rattan, which is a readily available material from Southeast Asia. It is lovely to work with, and I still use it to make many baskets.

“Over the years I have expanded, using material that I forage locally, including cedar bark, tules or rushes, birch bark, bear grass, red osier, even dandelion stems. I am always on the lookout for stuff to weave with.”

white basket trio birch bark woven lisa kostelak

They’re graceful, elegant, yet connected to the earth. The bark-based handles of this trio of baskets adds the perfect finishing touch. By Colville basket weaver Lisa Kostelak.

So it’s not just a matter of unpacking a cardboard box of materials and following a sheet of directions. For Kostelak, basket making involves a solid knowledge of plants and their environment, as well what to harvest, when and how, and what to do with it afterwards to prepare it for weaving. (Show of hands here: who in the room has even heard of “red osier” or “tules,” much less knows how to identify and gather them?)

“I forage anywhere — my backyard, where I’ve planted willow, juncus, red osier, to weave with. I also use my fruit tree pruning, among other garden plants.

“My tules, or rushes, I get from a friend’s pond. We have a nice visit, then cut rushes and load them into my van.”

Sustainable Thinking

For cedar, she gets permission from a private landowner to select a tree that is damaged and will need to be taken down. Once it is cut, she strips off the outer bark, then peels the inner bark or cambium layer, which she coils up and cures for a year before soaking and cutting it into strips for weaving. On hikes through the Colville National Forest, she looks for bear grass, birch bark from dead trees, scouring rush, and whatever else catches her eye.

white basket woven handle lisa kostelak artisan

The basket itself has something to say about its final shape and form. By Lisa Kostelak, artisan weaver from Colville, WA.

“I always ask before harvesting live material,” Kostelak says, because an essential part of making baskets — by real, regular people throughout history — has been working with the environment, not against it. In today’s arena of industrial, profit-driven, multi-billion, even -trillion, dollar corporations, this respect for, and awareness of, sustainability is becoming as lost as the knowledge of making baskets.

“I love working in 3D, with shapes, textures, and colors, making something that is functional and beautiful,” Kostelak says. Her studio, she adds, was formerly known as the family room. With the kids grown and flown, she has commandeered the entire space, with foraged materials stashed everywhere.

“I love spending time there, with the music turned up as loud as it goes, just getting into the rhythm of the weave.”

Baskets Are Timeless Technology

Kostelak sells her work through area shops and regional craft shows, and her wares have found homes from Seattle to San Francisco, from New York to Florida, from Nova Scotia to New Zealand. There is no end to creative inspiration, she says, because the materials themselves are dynamic, redolent of life, tactile, and almost demanding to be touched, handled, interlinked and intertwined.

“I get new ideas while I work. Sometimes I get an idea from the colors or textures of material stored together. Sometimes I dream a basket, and write it down when I wake up.”

The skill, and the baskets, transcend time, and there is a rush (no pun intended) to creating something that artisans have been making for far, far longer than industry has churned out plastic bags and petro-chemical products. There’s a human touch that endures from one age to the next.

This is good to remember the next time we overhear someone scoffing that a class is as easy as Basket Making 101. We can be free to retort,

“Have you ever actually woven a basket? It’s not as easy as you think.”

Wenaha GalleryLisa Kostelak is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from April 20 through May 17, 2021.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

 

Lisa Hill

Art by

Lisa Hill

“In my classes and in my own painting, it’s very important to understand color relationships and learn mixing skills,” says Lisa Hill, a watercolor painter from Richland who has been teaching private classes for 10 years.

“I always use a limited palette of about five paint colors per painting, and my beginning students have only five tubes of paint to manage and master.

“The color mixing possibilities are endless. We often complete an entire painting with the ideal color primaries: Phthalo Blue, Quinacridone Pink, and Hansa Yellow Medium.

“You can mix thousands of colors with these three paints.”

Color theory, she adds, spans the disciplines of both art and science, as does the medium of watercolor itself. Successfully working with water on paper involves a tremendous amount of observation, experimentation, and questioning.

“Understanding how water behaves puts the artist in charge (mostly) of what happens to the paint on the paper.”

Lisa Hill

Opuntia Fruit colorful Southwest watercolor Lisa Hill

Maverick Thinker and Doer — Watercolors by Lisa Hill

morning glory floral flower maverick watercolor painting lisa hill

It takes a maverick to paint what she wants, how she wants to, without listening to voices seeking to control her thoughts and actions. Morning Glories, original watercolor painting by Lisa Hill.

Movies, ads, pop music– they theoretically encourage people to be mavericks, to do things their way. As My Way, the song popularized by Frank Sinatra, croons,

“What is a man, what has he got? If not himself, then he has naught.”

But in real life — not the make-believe one of movies, ads, pop music — doing it your way isn’t cool or easy, and those who persist fight against a relentless wave of mass media impelled social conformity that seeks to keep them down, submissive, obedient, boring.

“Do it our way,” is the message. “And call it your way.”

rocks colorful maverick watercolor painting texture lisa hill

Rocks aren’t just gray. But it takes a wise, creative, maverick eye to see this. Rock Solid, original watercolor painting by Lisa Hill.

Watercolor painter Lisa Hill isn’t interested in this message. As a representational painter of flowers and foliage, she is fully aware of the industrial and urban art world’s decree that representational work is passe, demoded, archaic. What she hears from the “modern” art movement — which, ironically, began in the late 19th century — is that “true artists” focus on abstract.

She dissents.

Representational and Realistic

“I have always been attracted to realistic representational art,” the Richland, WA, artist says.

“While I respect and can appreciate the skill and knowledge involved in creating purely abstract or vaguely realistic art, it does not move me.

“And I take exception to negative attitudes and comments about the realistic style I love. It is often described with discouraging and depressing adjectives: belabored, overworked, too technical, muddy, fussy, tight, tedious, photographic, controlled, imitative, copied, conservative, unimaginative, stifled, calculated, rigid, stiff, not ‘fresh.'” Why not words like meticulous, detail-minded, skillful, precise, accurate, competent, imaginative, energizing, dexterous, proficient, adept, observant, and beautiful?

Several years ago, she adds, she found this statement by French painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919):

“Why shouldn’t art be pretty? There are enough unpleasant things in the world.”

Delicate flower floral garden watercolor painting Lisa Hill

Renoir is right: what could possibly be wrong with painting beautiful things? Delicate, original watercolor painting by Lisa Hill of Richland, WA.

This way of looking at things, she feels, is a timeless one — neither contemporary nor nostalgic, trendy nor outmoded — an attitude that allows freedom of expression for artists to use their creativity in conjunction with their skills and interests, not to mention their maverick personalities.

“I have a lot of plant knowledge and thoroughly enjoy gardening,” Hill says, explaining that, before she turned to art, she spent years working in ornamental horticulture and landscape design.

“It’s natural for me that the subject I most love to paint are flowers and foliage. I don’t think that I am making a statement by painting these things — I just love them.”

Science & Art: A Maverick Combo

Another thing she loves — really, really loves — is the watercolor technique. It is a blend of maverick magic and science, skill with the willingness to play with chance. The medium requires the artist to observe, question, experiment, analyze, examine, speculate, study — in short, do everything you would expect both a scientist and an artist to do.

Opuntia Fruit colorful Southwest watercolor Lisa Hill

Definitely not ordinary but unusual — which is pretty much the definition of maverick. Opuntia Fruit, original watercolor painting by Lisa Hill.

“Understanding how water behaves puts the artist in charge (mostly) of what happens to the paint on the paper.

“Why do backruns develop? How do I get the paint to spread out and dissipate? Why does this passage look streaked and blotchy when I wanted a smooth wash?

“The answers are almost always related to the water: how much is on the brush, the paper, and in the puddle of paint.”

Getting those answers, and thereby achieving success with watercolor techniques, requires a high level of scientific knowledge of the behavior of water.

Sing It, Frank; Paint It, Lisa

If she sounds like a teacher, that’s because she is. Ten years ago, Hill and her husband tore the roof off their garage and built a second-level, spacious studio complete with bathroom, kitchenette, storage, windows, and enough room for four students. She holds regular classes for beginning, intermediate, and advanced (“I very specifically do NOT mix beginners with experienced painters if I can help it”) — once a week per class, three hours at a time, over four weeks. Many students return, progressing from beginner to experienced, and this keeps her on her toes.

“I have to come up with new, interesting, challenging projects all the time.”

Not that she’s complaining, because, you see, painting itself is new, interesting, and challenging. In the world of representational art, there is no limit to the creativity, exploration, inspiration, and driving force to learn and see and capture light and color, emotion and movement.

It takes a maverick to understand and do this.

Or, back to Frank and his crooning,

“I faced it all and I stood tall and did it my way.”

Or better yet, in Hill’s own words,

“I paint what I want when I’m ready.”

Wenaha GalleryLisa Hill is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from April 6 through May 3, 2021.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

 

angel girl string thread art card kneeling lois hemphill

Creative Threads — String Art Cards by Lois Hemphill

string thread greeting card art butterfly lois hemphill

Created in string, a butterfly is an inviting and joyful image by Dayton artist Lois Hemphill

Human beings were given hands and hearts, eyes and brains for a reason. We were born to create, innovate, try and fail, and try again until we achieve what we’re aiming for.

angel girl string thread art card kneeling lois hemphill

Using different weights and colors of thread, Hemphill creates a sense of light shining. Angel, string art card by Lois Hemphill.

Dayton, WA, artist Lois Hemphill fully understands this process, because it’s what she does all the time. With a focus on making folded greeting cards using combined mediums and different techniques, Hemphill uses not only paper, ink, and stamps, but also punch needle and thread to create one of a kind, intricate images on stitched cards.

“Some people call it string art, others call it pricking, pin, or thread art, because you create points or holes in the paper first,” Hemphill explains. “You can use a hatpin or something like that; I actually have a utensil that I bought that punches the holes.”

Drawing with String

Using a computer software drawing program, Hemphill designs an image for a card. She then punches precisely placed holes in card stock, after which she strings thread, in varying colors and thicknesses, between the points to fill in the design. The result is a textured two-dimensional surface, with a finished image composed of a series of straight lines, geometrically composed. It takes time, a steady hand, and a willingness to start all over, if necessary, if the thread and the points get off.

“I like to say that there is no mistake, only an opportunity for embellishment,” Hemphill says, explaining that she and the various people she gets together with through the years from the craft group she started in 2007, decided to accept that human error occurs, and it’s part of the creative process.

“When we started looking at it that way, we found that the process of correcting the mistake often resulted in something better than we originally planned.

“We also found that we weren’t so afraid about making mistakes.”

Pushing Past Fear

Fear suffocates creativity, and learning how to push past it is a huge benefit to not only artistry, but living in general. Hemphill recalls an occasion, shortly after she was given a bridal shower, when her then fiance, now husband, used creative thought to conquer fear. It was a life lesson that has inspired her through the years:

stained glass thread string art greeting card lois hemphill

The colorful design of stained glass shines through Lois Hemphill’s string art card, Stained Glass Cross.

“We were washing the cookware and dishes that I had received at the shower, and I was very quiet. He asked me what was wrong and I said, ‘Nothing.’

“He knew me well enough to know something was bugging me, so eventually I said, ‘I’m afraid I won’t be able to cook good enough for you,’ (because he was always talking about what good foods his mother would fix). And then I started to cry!”

The next day the couple went to the store where David, her fiance, invited her to choose the cookbook of her choice and he would pay for it.

“I chose the 1962 edition of good Housekeeping, which I still have today. Years later, all three of our children wanted me to find the exact same edition for each of them — which I did.”

What she also did was learn to cook, to the point that her prowess is now so advanced that she is repeatedly asked to publish a cookbook of her own. But it took pushing past the fear. It’s what makes a good cook, a confident person, and an artist who is willing to try out new techniques and master them.

A String of Projects

strawberry jam string thread greeting card art lois hemphill

Culinary art requires creativity and fearlessness. Strawberry Jam string art card by Lois Hemphill of Dayton, WA

Hemphill works out of her house’s large recreational room, which contains all her crafting supplies. Through the years, she has taught people how to make both stamped and string art cards. She usually works on several projects at a time, and in addition to selling her cards in local venues, she has donated them to the Dayton hospital gift shop. Her next project, in addition to putting together that cookbook, is building a website to showcase her card artwork online.

“My mind is always thinking of things to do, and I don’t have enough hours in the day to do everything,” Hemphill says.

“Fortunately, I only need 6-7 hours of sleep, which helps some.

“My sister has told me more than once that I will still be creating and trying out new craft ideas and recipes up to just before I die.

“It keeps me young at heart!”

Wenaha GalleryLois Hemphill is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from March 23 through April 19, 2021.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

 

 

 

Steph Bucci

Art by

Steph Bucci

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“I’ve always enjoyed ‘making stuff,’” says watercolor painter Steph Bucci of West Richland.

“Somewhere along the line in adulthood, I became curious about watercolor, and through the years I said to my husband, Bud, ‘When we retire, I want to learn watercolor.’ I don’t know why I relegated the idea to a retirement pastime, or what kept me from pursuing it earlier.”

A self-motivated student who learns best by reading and imitating, Bucci decided not to wait for retirement but to delve into the world of art NOW – acrylics, colored pencils, markers, watercolor, mixed media. She asked questions, found books, watched how-to videos, and painted painted painted. And as the years went by, she learned more and more and got better and better.

“I have painted a wide variety of subjects, often just to see if I can do it successfully.

“When I first started painting, I spent a lot of time on flowers; then I added animals. Essentially, I chose subjects that either challenged my skills (actually, everything challenged my skills!) or just seemed beautiful to me.”

Steph Bucci

Life Is Made for Living — Cat Paintings by Steph Bucci

cat life romance love kiss hug feline steph bucci art watercolor

Life is about relationships with one another. Cat Kisses, original watercolor painting by Steph Bucci.

Some people say life begins after high school. Others insist it really begins after retirement. But life, which goes on whether we choose to jump into it with joy or not, progresses forward when we move, learn, breathe, experience, get out, experiment, turn off the TV, take chances and just plain, well, live. When we wait, and wait, and wait, we don’t get to the things that we really want to do.

And that’s a waste of human creativity.

Artist Steph Bucci discovered this years ago when she found herself repeating the same sentence to her husband, Bud:

“When we retire . . . I want to learn watercolor.

cat dance life joy balance watercolor steph Bucci

Life is a dance that teaches us to balance. Cat Dance, original watercolor painting by West Richland, WA, artist Steph Bucci.

“I don’t know why I relegated the idea to a retirement pastime, or what kept me from pursuing it earlier.”

Why Wait? And Wait, and Wait?

But life, which was moving forward, invited her to join on the journey. With retirement far off in the horizon, she found herself with a home decor project to complete now.

“We felt some existing artwork no longer worked as well in its space.

“When costs for a replacement piece seemed high, Bud — always my great encourager and steady ally — said, ‘I think you can do it!'”

She did some research, bought paint, experimented on 4×6 practice canvases. She made mistakes, learned from those mistakes, and kept at it. Little realizing how different working on mini-canvases is from the 42 x 60 piece she was aiming to create, she refused to give up. Eventually, she finished the project, successfully.

“The painting still hangs in the living room, and my long-term desire to try watercolor was launched.”

A self-motivated student who learns best by reading and imitating, Bucci has worked in watercolor, batik watercolor, mixed media, colored pencils, markers, and acrylics. Describing herself as a minimalist, the West Richland, WA, artist paints out of a studio consisting of a small desk in her guest room, a couple shelves in the closet, and a petite, highly portable pochade box she made from two wooden cigar boxes, which hold her limited paint palette of eight colors, plus a tube of white gouache.

Small Space, Big Living

In this small space she works on big things, including illustrations for two children’s books about a rescued Golden Retriever named Gus. The first book in the series won three awards, including the Royal Dragonfly and Moonbeam, recognizing exemplary work in both editorial content and illustration.

Pinks cat mouse flowers friends feline watercolor art steph bucci

In many of her cat paintings, Steph Bucci incorporates a small mouse with and around the cat. Pinks, original watercolor painting by Steph Bucci.

Bucci approaches each project, each new technique, with an energy that carries her through, up, and over the learning curve. For a year, she focused on stylized cat paintings, experimenting with subject matter and composition, and incorporating, in many of the images, a small mouse.

“My dad’s pet nickname for me as a child (I’m petite) was ‘Mouse,’ or ‘Miss Mouse.” Early on in my painting experience I decided to include a mouse in my cat images as a pointer to that dear memory.

“The Mouse doesn’t make an appearance in 100% of the paintings, and her shape and style vary, but she’s getting more consistent. She embeds a touch of ‘Father’s Love’ in my images in a way I experienced it as a child.”

cat mouse life abstract friends together collage steph bucci watercolor feline art

Cat and mouse in the game of life — Cat Mouse Abstract, original watercolor painting by Steph Bucci.

Indeed, in all her work, the image of a Father’s love is always in the background. It is what inspires her to create, with everything she creates, beautiful things that are to be used and enjoyed.

A Father’s Love, and Creativity

“I believe appreciation of beauty and creativity is placed in all human beings by our Creator . . . and that it pleases Him when we use the abilities He’s given to express His creation in a meaningful way.

“I also think it pleases Him, as it does me, when I try to develop skills of expression. He enjoys my practice and my outcomes, and He’s really the source of all the creativity and skill.”

And no doubt He is also pleased that Bucci has chosen to live her life, as opposed to just waiting things out, as she discovers more about the world she lives in when she continues to explore it.

“Painting has brought me into contact with a wonderful new world of friends, people who have enriched my life, amazed me with their giftings, and encouraged me to branch out,” she reflects.

“I am so glad my husband encouraged me to take the plunge into the art world.”

Wenaha GallerySteph Bucci is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from March 9 through April 5, 2021.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

 

 

Leonard McCreary

Art by

Leonard McCreary

Like the air we breathe, time is not something that can be conglomerated, hoarded, or created out of nothing. No matter who we are, or who we think we are, we are given a limited supply.

And then there are trees. When it comes to time, they tend to enjoy a greater chunk of it than humans do. Sequoia, yew, Bristlecone pine — these have lived in the low to mid thousands of years. But even trees reach the end of their time, and when they do, Leonard McCreary has a means of keeping them going:

He makes clocks out of them.

The Salem, OR, artist has been working around wood for most of his 88 years, having worked as a logger and road builder with artistry on the side. He started making clocks 40 years ago.

“The father of a ‘kid’ I worked with in the woods gave me a 4′ x 7′ piece of redwood burl. I made a table out of it. After that, I discovered making clocks.

“Most of the wood I use is either cedar, maple, or black walnut, and I cut most of it myself when I was clearing land.”

Carol Betker

Art by

Carol Betker

Inspired by oil painters Richard Schmid, Jessica Zemsky, and Dreama Tolle Perry, Betker creates vibrant impressionistic paintings of florals, landscapes, animal portraits and equine art. Now retired from a career as art education teacher in Finley and Burbank public schools, Betker paints every day from her dining room studio. The natural light streaming through the windows there, she says, is perfect.

She prefers Alla Prima, a technique by which the artist applies wet paint on wet paint. She describes the experience in terms of skydiving:

“I know I’ll land eventually, but I have to learn to enjoy the process and not get uptight!”

Inspiration for each piece comes through the process of living, and Betker finds that, before she finishes one painting, she has one – or more – in mind for the following. The secret, she says, is simply showing up behind the easel.

“When you show up at the easel – not waiting to be inspired but simply showing up every day – you will BE inspired as you begin.”

artisan soap scent bars biker b bathworks

Scent with Love — Artisan Soap by Biker B’s Bathworks

artisan soap scent bars biker b bathworks

An array of artisan soap scent and color by Biker B’s Bathworks, owned by Meredith and Gene Bretz of Dayton, WA.

It’s pretty easy to guess what a soap named Pine Forest will smell like. Ditto with Apple Pie, Pumpkin Spice, Red Rose. Sea Breeze is more challenging, but your mind takes you there.

But what does a soap named Naked Man smell like?

Long ago, artisan soap maker Meredith Bretz confronted that question, and when she reached the answer, she found herself with two products that resonate with customers — Naked Man and Naked Lady soaps.

“There are flowers called Naked Ladies, and the scent is a light floral with powdery notes,” the Dayton soap artist, who co-owns Biker B’s Bathworks with her husband Gene, explains. “We started making it for about a year before some people were saying we needed to make a Naked Man soap.

bath salts truffles scent biker b bathworks artisan soap

Bath salts and truffles add a sense of luxury to one of the best parts of the day.

“We were selling in an indoor market at the time, so we had a contest. ‘What should a soap named Naked Man smell like?’ we asked our customers. They could submit their suggestions and then, at the end of the month, we picked the prominent scent that was suggested.”

It turns out that a Naked Man — after the bath, not before, Bretz emphasizes — is redolent of lime with a bit of cinnamon and touch of patchouli.

“Both of the Naked soaps are very popular,” Bretz says.

Just for Fun

Bretz and her husband began making soap in 1997, just because they thought it would be fun. With no intention of forming a business of it, they made a batch and shared it with friends and family. Soon there were requests for more, and after that, custom requests. For a long time, they didn’t even have a business name, because they didn’t consider themselves a business. When a vendor at a craft fair asked for their business license, they were in a state of surprise.

“We didn’t realize we needed one,” Bretz remembers.

Shaving kits for men include a mug, badger haired shaving brush, and a soap with a masculine scent

“The next thing we know, we’re at the office applying for the license and they ask us what our name was. We had no idea what our business name was.

“So Gene said, ‘How about Biker B’s?’ We both ride Harley-Davidsons and our last name begins with B. It sounded right.”

And so, a business was born. Living in Seattle at the time, the couple — who were both still working full time at the Seattle VA Hospital — created chemical mastery with little more than oil and lye, a stove and a sink. They started selling in Farmers Markets in Kent, then added Issaquah, Sammamish, and North Bend. From there, they added regional craft fairs and selling online.

They have moved a number of times since 1997, and are now retired in Dayton, but, Bretz says, “Though we are now retired from working away from home, we are definitely not retired.”

Experimenting with Scent

In addition to soap, Biker B’s creates reed diffusers, soy wax candles, bath salts, tub truffles, roll-on fragrances and other aromatic treats for the bath. Because the couple has never lost their desire to have fun at what they do, they are constantly experimenting, especially with scents.

soy candles scent color biker b bathworks gifts

Candles are an excellent way to add scent, and light, to one’s life.

“Boredom can set in, making the same things all the time, so we try to work along with the seasons.

“We have certain scents that are all year long, then we try to make season-related soaps, such as pumpkin in the fall, fruit scents in the summer and fall, to add to the ones we have all year long.”

The research and development for new scent blends, she says, is especially fun, and those ideas can come by taking a drive in the mountains, window down, and smelling the trees.

Custom Scent, and Names

“We try to custom blend our own scents, and the idea comes from something we smell, which we try to recreate. or, it can be that we see an interesting name somewhere and wonder what a soap of that name would smell like.”

Speaking of interesting names, they focus on those, going back and forth until they find the perfect nomenclature for their custom blends: Happy Hippie, Zen, Woodstock, Rasputin, Pacific Rain, Walk in the Woods, Palouse Falls, Nature’s Bath.

“The names of the soaps can be a conversation starter.”

Like, say, Naked Man.

Quality with quirky — it’s a chemistry that works as well as the saponification of oil with lye. Bretz and her husband have fun creating a unique, artisan item, and customers enjoy an affordable luxury item that isn’t stamped out from a machine. That human touch — it matters.

“That’s one of the biggest benefits of purchasing handcrafted soap: you know who made it and what is in it.”

Wenaha GalleryBiker B’s Bathworks is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from February 23 through March 22, 2021.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.