buckskin appaloosa horse beaded suncatcher tamara reily

Winter Hawk — Beaded Jewelry by Tamara Reily

buckskin appaloosa horse beaded suncatcher tamara reily

In Native American culture, the horse represents strength, passion, and great energy. The color of the horse, also, plays a big role in its meaning. Buckskin and Appaloosa Horse Beaded Sun Catchers by Tamara Reily

Whether or not you like winter doesn’t change the weather. What does change is how you feel about it.

And while many people groan about the cold, the long nights, the snow that makes driving difficult, Tamara Reily rejoices in the season.

“I named my business Winter Hawk because I enjoy winter time,” the Dayton, WA, bead and leather artist says.

“I love the cold crisp mornings when the frost hangs thick in the air, and the earth mother is blanketed in a white winter coat of snow. It reminds me of Alaska and all the time I spent outdoors running my dog team, exploring the frozen white wilderness that surrounded our home.

“I always have a sense of contentment while being outdoors in the wintertime.”

snowy owl beaded blue white necklace tamara reily

The Snowy Owl represents spiritual growth, a deep change releasing a lower state of being and embracing a higher purpose. Snowy Owl Beaded Necklace by Tamara Reily.

Reily, whose heritage includes Pawnee, a Native American people who historically lived in what are now Nebraska and Kansas and later Oklahoma, also connects with the red-tailed hawk, which she says she knows as a brother.

“I love to watch the hawk fly above me high in the sky while I sit upon the earth mother. Whenever my heart is burdened with the stress life brings he flies out from the woods, finds me in my time of need. Just watching Hawk fly in circles and dip and dive takes my mind to another place, a place of peace.”

Many Animals — Much Symbolism

Another place Reily finds a sense of peace is her studio, where she creates bead and leatherwork art drawing upon the symbolism of not only the Pawnee people, but many other Native American groups of North America. In addition to fashioning numerous types of bags (medicine, gathering, pipe, tobacco) which we focused on in an earlier article, Finessing Ancient Skills in a Modern World, Reily also designs and makes necklaces, bracelets, and earrings incorporating the rich symbolism of Native American culture.

“The many animal patterns that I bead have certain symbolisms. I enjoy sharing what they are to help people learn and understand Native cultures.

“For example, there is the Snowy Owl, which represents spiritual growth. Seeing Snowy Owl represents deep change resulting in the releasing of a lower state of being and embracing your higher purpose.

“The Grey Wolf represents loyalty and success. It is powerful, and heals humans who are sick. Grey Wolf is also a teacher, pathfinder, and survivalist.

sunrise beaded necklace summer winter colors tamara reily

The Sunrise Necklace incorporates the colors of dawn, which warm both summer and winter. By Tamara Reily

“The Tlingit (pronounced Klinket) Bear, as a spirit totem, as a power animal, can help teach you to trust your instincts and let go.

“And then there is the Horse, which symbolizes strength, passion, and great energy. In the Native American culture they also represent wealth and power.

“You will see a lot of my necklaces and patches with these animal totems on them.”

Winter Mountain Snow

Raised in Walla Walla, Reily has somehow or another managed to live in or near the mountains with appreciable winter snow. Years ago, she raised her children in the Yaak, a remote area of Montana, where she also began seriously beading (“working under lantern light as the long winters came and went”). From there she moved to Alaska to become a recreational dog musher, spending many winter nights running through the Alaska wilderness while the Northern Lights danced above her head.

Tlingit Bear beaded necklace tamara reily

The beaded Tlingit Bear Necklace honors the bear, a teacher who is often misunderstood. Bear is friendly, a symbol of strength learned, humility, and motherhood. By Tamara Reily

And in Dayton, in that studio of refuge, she surrounds herself with a “chaotic, creative mess.

“My studio is a small bedroom in the back of the house, where I put a small rolltop desk in a corner of the room. It has lots of drawers to put my treasures I have collected for years to use in my artwork.

“The beads I’m using for a project are spread all over the desk. Piles of leather and containers of crow beads and wampum sit near the desk. Drawers and containers of beads are in every nook and cranny of the desk. Even a few of my favorite rocks sit atop the desk.”

Every piece she creates has meaning, Reily says. And every piece represents a proud people whose culture should be remembered and honored.

Honoring a Proud People

“My people who passed on before me were from the Pawnee tribe, and making items from this tribe makes my heart happy.

“My pride for the Native Americans shows in my many items I make or bead.”

And although the winters of Dayton are milder than what Reily encountered in Montana or Alaska, it is the perfect place for doing what she does now, regardless of the season. All year round she beads. In the spring she sets up a tipi in her yard and invites people from throughout the area to gather and talk, teach, and share each other’s culture with one another. And every day, in every season, she finds opportunity to appreciate life, breath, and earth.

“Touch Mother Earth as much as you can. The soil is where we came from, and it is where we will go.

“We are a part of all things.”

Wenaha GalleryTamara Reily is the featured 3D Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from February 1, 2022 through February 28. Her 2D work, which includes leather and beadwork bags, is featured through February 14.

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.

 

 

candles self love natural beeswax healing sierra faflik

Natural and Calm — Candles and More by Sierra Faflik

candles self love natural beeswax healing sierra faflik

Faflik’s self-love candles feature natural beeswax, botanicals, crystals, and a pendant.

“Do you want fries with that?”

It’s a familiar question for anyone ordering a fast-food burger, and as a statement it accurately represents the iconic “American” way of life. Fast food, hectic schedule, overworked, overanxious, stressed out, and, most lately, pumped with fear.

For this reason, it’s time to change that question to one that is more meaningful, and well, essential:

“Do you want some peace today? Or calm? Tranquility? Serenity?

beeswax candles natural colorful sierra faflik gifts

Faflik creates blends of colors that are rich and deep for her candles made from natural and white beeswax.

“Maybe even a little happiness?”

And while politicians, techno-magnates and mega-corporations eschew concern for this question, everyday people are looking for the answer. Sierra Faflik understands this deep, driving need to find peace, having embarked on that journey long ago. The Dayton, WA, artist focuses on using natural ingredients, herbs and botanicals, crystals, and scents that don’t overpower the senses when she creates her candles, personal care products, and jewelry.

Getting in Touch with the Natural World

“My artwork is about relaxation, self love, and getting in touch with ourselves and the world around us,” Faflik says.

“With the constant bombardment of distractions and stressors associated with modern life, it’s easy to forget the natural beauty that surrounds us. My hope is that by lighting a unique candle, drawing a bath with salts and flowers, or wearing a calming crystal in some form, we can have a second to slow down and be reminded of that beauty.”

candles tins apricot coconut wax sierra faflik

Faflik uses a combination of apricot and coconut wax for her tinned candles. She embellishes these with botanicals and crystals.

As a dispatcher with Columbia County, Faflik is aware of what stress looks like. And with a background in personal training, she knows the importance of de-stressing, eating real food, and seeking out natural, non-chemical-laden products for consumption and use. For her candles, she uses a blend of apricot and coconut wax, or beeswax.

“When I first began making candles in 2015, I would get any candle wax I could find and use it.

“As I began researching different ingredients, I discovered that most of what is available at stores (whether raw ingredients or finished products) is full of lots of harmful chemicals and is not something you want burning in your home.

Organic Herbs and Botanicals

“To most of my container candles and my plain pillar molds, I add various organic herbs and flowers as an embellishment, as well as specific crystals.

“I do this so that when paired with a particular color or scent, the candles will be for a specific purpose or intention.”

bath salts himalayan crystals calm relaxing sierra faflik

Lightly scented and embellished with botanicals, Faflik’s bath salts do not have the strong artificial scent of industrial made products.

As an example, she says, her self-love and relaxation candles are lightly scented with floral overtones. She chooses soft, calming colors such as white, light pink, or lavender and adds rose petals and lavender botanicals. The crystals she chooses are traditionally associated with certain properties, such as amethyst to remove negativity, or emerald and rose quartz for love.

When Faflik first started creating, she did so out of necessity. As a teenager she experimented with jewelry when she couldn’t find styles that fit who she was and what she liked. Bath salts she embarked upon several years ago because she couldn’t stand the overpowering scents of commercial products.

“My baseline mixture is Epsom salts, pink Himalayan sea salt, various essential oils, and a small amount of baking soda to counteract the oils.

“When I was pregnant, I was researching how much is absorbed into our bodies through our skin. I began adding various herbs and flowers to the salts to help further the detoxification and relaxation that come with a calming bath.”

Researching is Natural to Her

When Faflik talks about her art, the word “research” comes up a lot. An avid reader who is not afraid of questioning the status quo or media-approved narrative, she appreciates independent sites and maverick writers and thinkers. These provide perspective in a world where only certain voices, generally associated with industry and big business, are promoted.

“I use natural products for several reasons. I first began going ‘back to the basics’ with food, when I realized that our bodies don’t know how to recognize artificial ingredients and overly processed foods. That research sent me down a rabbit hole of how our bodies respond to so many of the chemically derived artifacts we use every day.

“Basically, I try to use ingredients for all my projects that someone could eat and not have any discomfort from. I want to add joy to people’s lives, not more stress.”

Wenaha GallerySierra Faflik is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from November 2 through November 29, 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.

 

 

 

 

gaggle geese honking communicating water bucket jordan henderson art

From Geese to Covid-19 — Jordan Henderson Communicates in Oil

gaggle geese honking communicating water bucket jordan henderson art

Communication takes many forms, some louder, some quieter than others. Gaggle of Geese by the Water Bucket, original oil painting by Jordan Henderson.

“That speaks to me.”

Those four words are invaluable praise to a two-dimensional visual artist. To one who applies paint to a substrate, communication involves not just creating an image, but an image that asks a question, tells a story, invites the viewer to step in and listen. For fine art painter Jordan Henderson, painting creates conversation.

“I view painting as a means of communication,” the Dayton, WA, artist says.

“The painter projects their vision onto the canvas by physically applying pigment in such a way as to convey that vision, refines it as long as the painter wishes to, and then the audience can see what the painter envisioned by looking at the canvas.”

longhorn cow cattle livestock communicating painting country jordan henderson

The tilt of its head communicates a sense of inquisitiveness and curiosity. Longhorn Cow, original oil painting by Jordan Henderson.

But it’s not a quick process, he adds — neither the act of painting itself, nor interpretation on the part of the viewer. Appreciating a painting, similar to getting to know and genuinely communicate with another human being, takes time, intensity, and effort.

Communicating Takes Time and Intention

“I am going to draw from popular culture here to make a point. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books this very slow speaking character (Treebeard) says of his slow language (Old Entish), ‘It is a lovely language, but it takes a very long time saying anything in it, because we do not say anything in it, unless it is worth taking a long time to say, and to listen to.’

“Well, that statement is a good analogy for an important aspect of painting. Painting is a lovely language, but it takes a long time to say anything in it compared to other forms of communication.”

studio landscape country view trees hills rural jordan henderson art

The country landscape communicates its message of contemplation and peace. Studio View, original oil painting by Jordan Henderson.

When you look at a painting, Henderson continues, you are looking at subject matter through an artist’s eyes. It is for this reason that Henderson, who grew up on a farm and developed a keen appreciation for barnyard fowl, cattle, goats, and horses, so enjoys painting them. The animals are so ordinary to most people, he explains, that few take time to stop and appreciate their charm and beauty. Or, as Treebeard might expound,

“By painting say, geese, I first make the value judgment that they are worthy of taking a long time to say something about, and then I can communicate with the viewer, ‘Look at this bird’s attitude,’ or ‘Look at how the light falls on these feathers.'”

If successful, he won’t so much have breathed new life into the subject matter as have conveyed worthy elements that were there all along. The geese are worth painting, because they’re worth talking about.

Geese, and Covid-19

This conveyance, he adds, goes beyond the barnyard into the political paddock, where Henderson explores the repercussions and reverberations of  deeply controversial topics, most recently, Covid-19. It is a subject matter he began focusing upon in Spring 2020 and continues into the present.

“My allegorical Covid-19 paintings might seem like a 180-degree turn from painting geese, but actually it is rather similar: Orwellian doublespeak, contempt for the rights of individual human beings, and total nonsense put forth as unquestionable truth, have become so commonplace that people fail to see their brutal significance, just as easily as they overlook the beauty of a domestic animal.

aititlan guatemala market people shopping communicating colorful art jordan henderson

What better way to communicate than face to face, person to person, up close and personal, than in a colorful market setting? Aititlan Market, original oil painting by Jordan Henderson.

“Painting is every bit as useful for shedding light on these things, communicating their existence, as it is for highlighting beauty.”

Henderson’s Covid-19 paintings have attracted the notice and attention of independent media, including GlobalResearch.ca, Off-Guardian.org, WinterOak.org.uk/, Nevermore.Media, MuchAdoAboutCorona.ca, and LockDownSceptics.org. These and others have published Henderson’s images online or in print. The description and story of the paintings have been translated into other news platforms in French, Spanish, German Chinese, and Slovenian. He has been interviewed and appeared on podcasts by John Manley of Much Ado about Corona and Richard Jacobs of FindingGeniusPodcast.com. A number of indie book authors have approached him about doing the cover art for their books.

Communicating around the Globe

Henderson has sold prints and originals of both barnyard and political paintings throughout the world. One buyer in the UK purchased the originals of White and Grey Geese, featuring, well, geese, and Safe and Sanitized, an allegorical Covid-19 image of handcuffed skeletal hands holding aloft a skull gagged with a medical face mask, to hang together in his home. He wrote Henderson that visitors expressed approbation of each.

And whether he’s painting gaggles of geese or skulls in masks, Henderson appreciates the marriage of high tech digital communication with the timeless tech of oil painting. Combined they communicate, literally, across the globe.

“Oil painting is old tech, but it is also high tech in the literal sense that it is a highly developed technology, with hundreds of years’ worth of trial and error, and contributions by artist and art suppliers.

“I want a medium that I can use to say exactly what I want to say and how I want to say it. I can do that with oil paint. The medium doesn’t get in my way, and does basically whatever I want it to.”

Wenaha GalleryJordan Henderson is the featured Art Event artists from June 29 to July 26.

Contact Wenaha 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.

 

balsam root flowers watercolor sketch woods trees helen boland

Sketch, Draw, Paint, Create — The Art of Helen Boland

mountain palouse landscape view watercolor painting wilderness helen boland

Whether painting or sketching, Helen Boland connects with nature on both an artistic and scientific level. Palouse Farmland View, original watercolor painting by Helen Boland.

Too many people, when stuck in a waiting room, spend the time head down, eyes glazed, fingers swiping as they scroll through their phone.

Not so Helen Boland. The Walla Walla, WA, artist carries sketch pad, pen, pencils, even brush and portable paints with her everywhere she goes. Everything she sees, every place she visits, provides an inspiration to capture, on paper, the world around her.

“Waiting in airports or for appointments are opportunities to sketch, capture characters and scenes, and practice technique,” Boland says.

wild garden sketch landscape mountains wilderness watercolor helen boland

Nature’s hand does the planting and cultivation at Wild Garden at the Top. Original watercolor painting by Helen Boland.

“Sketching helps me focus and occupies me while waiting. There is no boredom or impatience. Sketching helps me to be present in the moment.”

This form of daily art practice, she adds, increases her awareness of color, light, and shadow, in addition to fluidity and attention to form. By the time she gets officially behind the easel — which may be at her studio/house, or in the forest as she paints plein air — she embarks upon a more detailed and concentrated form of artistic expression.

Sketching and Painting in Many Media

“I work in watercolor, ink, acrylics, pastel, and also collage,” Boland says.

“As a retired science teacher, homestead farmer, and lifelong naturalist, I focus on art that reflects my love of animals, nature, and landscape. I move between detail, realism, and impression.”

balsam root flowers watercolor sketch woods trees helen boland

Flowers attract the eye and attention of both the scientist and artist within. Balsam Root, original watercolor painting by Helen Boland.

Her habit of sketching and drawing and painting anytime, anywhere, stems from when she was “an often ill but oddly energetic child.

“My mother frequently handed me crayons, pencils and a pad to pacify me during wait time in doctors’ offices or during long visits with relatives when all that was spoken was Portuguese.”

She describes drawing as a permissible activity when she was hospitalized or ill with fever. When convalescing outside, she took note of minute details of light, shadow, and color. She even took advantage of fevers, which brought her view slightly out of focus and allowed her to observe the surrounding world as if it were a Monet painting.

“This is my foundation as an artist as well as a biologist,” Boland says, explaining that while science took the lead in her professional career, she often used art expression as a means of processing, understanding, and teaching scientific concepts. Now retired, she focuses on painting full time, in fulfillment of a promise she made to herself years ago while pursuing her professional teaching career, raising a family, and running a small homestead farm.

Focusing Strongly on Each Painting

“My paintings are like my offspring that I set free. I have a true experience with each one, and they all reflect a piece of me and a moment in my life.

ponderosa pine woods tree forest wilderness helen boland watercolor

The forest is a silent and peaceful place, one worth painting and sketching. Ponderosa Hillside by Helen Boland.

“When I paint a person or an animal, I speak to it, and in a way it speaks back. I develop a love and a relationship through the painting process.

“And then I let them go.”

Some of the places where Boland has let her paintings go to are collectors’ homes in Walla Walla and Eastern Washington, Massachusetts, Colorado, California, Canada, and a goat farm in New Jersey, among others. She has regularly participated in the Artwalla Art Squared event, as well as been a featured artist in the organization’s First Friday Pop Up. She has shown her work at art walks and events throughout the Walla Walla, Dayton, and Tri-Cities regions. And for the last year and a half, she has participated in Sunday Self Portrait, an international Facebook group in which people from all over the world post their portrait, created from their image in a mirror, on Sundays.

Sunday Portraits

“I have posted one every Sunday for the past year and a half. That’s a lot of pictures of me!

“I have learned so much about the lives, experience, and art techniques from all over the world. This helps me keep perspective.

“It also has improved my skill at drawing the face, the same captive face, week after week. They all don’t show an accurate physical likeness of me, but they all show some aspect of me. I can look at the portraits and assess how I am doing emotionally and perhaps spiritually.”

Originally from rural Massachusetts and Vermont, Boland focuses her latest paintings on landscapes from Columbia and Walla Walla counties, reflecting her residence in each: her town home (and studio) is in Walla Walla, and she owns forest management property near Dayton. She is happiest both in the studio and out in the woods, because wherever she is, she is somehow drawing, painting, or sketching.

“Getting out on the land creates opportunities to observe, photograph, and find inspiration for art,” she says.

“The biologist and the artist within are both satisfied with my time spent in nature, both in my garden in town and the forest land in the Blue Mountains.

“My art reflects my world view and my deep love of the natural world.

“It is a truth in a moment.”

Wenaha GalleryHelen Boland is the featured Art Event artists from June 1 to June 28.

Contact Wenaha 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.

 

 

 

bee zinnia qr code artwork blocks lorna barth

QR Code Art — Lorna Barth’s Paintings Tell a Story

deer yorick skull qr code watercolor lorna barth

Dayton watercolor painter Lorna Barth embedded the QR Code for the framed print, At Last, Deer Yorick, in the lower left-hand corner of the print. Viewers scanning the code with their phone or tablet access the story behind the artwork.

We’re all hearing a lot about QR codes these days.

For the uninitiated, QR codes are matrix barcodes that smart phone or tablet cameras “read” when we point and scan. The square blocks of contrasting dark and white shapes contain long strings of information data — such as an Internet link leading to a web page — and eliminate the need to accurately type in all the letters, numbers, and symbols of the actual link.

“QR codes have been used for decades,” says Dayton, WA, watercolor artist Lorna Barth, who has developed a unique way to integrate them into her paintings.

quilt show tent boldman house original watercolor lorna barth

After the Quilt Show, original watercolor painting by Lorna Barth. On her original watercolor paintings, Barth affixes the QR code to the painting’s video to the artwork’s back.

“These little codes have become instant transport for almost everything from your grocery receipt to the information on any product.

“But they are SO BORING!

“And they take you to BORING PLACES. Or to places that sell you things, or boring information that nobody ever wants to read.”

So one day, while she was painting, she had an epiphany:

“What if they went to Art? or Poetry? or Both? It would give people just a little minute or two of respite to look at art, listen to gentle music, and chill without a sales pitch or ‘Subscribe,’ or anything. Random phone art.”

Innovating with Old and New

And from that moment, her lifelong art journey took a new direction. She combined old with new: paper and watercolor paint — items that have existed unobtrusively for centuries and millennia — with contemporary tech. Now, in many of her works she incorporates a QR code. With original paintings, she places the QR code on the back. With prints, she integrates it onto the substrate and into the image. Other times, she paints it as a separate painting to accompany the artwork.

Where it leads varies as well, but the destination, Barth is happy to say, isn’t boring.

“For many of my works, I make YouTube videos of the painting being done, or lead into the work to give the viewer an extended view of this piece of art,” Barth explains.

“These are not instructional videos, but time with the artist and the artwork in the creation of it.”

bee zinnia qr code artwork blocks lorna barth

Sometimes, Barth paints the QR code as a separate painting of its own. It then accompanies the work it describes. This is the code for the Bee and Zinnia nested art blocks series.

The codes themselves, she says, are independent artwork of their own, leading to other worlds and stories.

“The QR codes that accompany my paintings attest to the originality and authenticity of my work.

“They are short performance videos to go along with and tell the story behind the art the viewer is engaging with visually. They add a new level of engagement to the experience.”

Enjoying Art at the Bus Stop

This means, she adds, that her paintings impact in a multitude of places, not just the wall where they are hanging. Digitally, viewers access her art on the bus, at soccer practice, in a waiting room, over lunch with friends.

rock mountain blues landscape watercolor painting lorna barth

Rock Mountain Blues, original watercolor painting by Dayton artist Lorna Barth.

“The technology as part of the art has taken the art and put it in the hands (quite literally) of multiple viewers at the same time.”

As with all technology, there are glitches. Barth recalls the time she painted in plein air, on a golf cart at the Touchet Valley Golf Course in Dayton. After finishing the painting on site, she discovered that her tablet video camera had mysteriously stopped right after she started, and the only digital record she had was of her getting the paper wet prior to the first brush stroke. Other times, though the camera is rolling, Barth gets so involved in the creation of the piece that she forgets she is being recorded.

“My memory will be full, and the painting will be completed without any documentation.”

But the glitches are part of the journey. Every technical hiccup is an opportunity to learn, adjust, and finesse. And the ultimate result is worth it, because the fusion with technology adds dimension to the artwork, thereby enhancing the experience of both artist and viewer.

Multi-media and Multi-layer

“One of the most fulfilling aspects of multimedia artwork is the ability to experience the art on many levels.

“Yes, they are paintings, but there was so much more that went along with the creation of them. There was the place, the method, the action of painting, music, and then the travel of the artwork to multiple venues.”

This blend of old and new — watercolor and QR codes leading to video — is the perfect combination, Barth says.

“It makes artistic expression take on multiple layers of experience and transportability that has never before been available until the digital age.”

Wenaha GalleryLorna Barth is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from May 4 through May 31, 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.

 

 

candy nuts toffee chocolate mama monacelli gift basket

Candy Is Dandy — Artisan Sweets by Mama Monacelli

candy nuts toffee chocolate mama monacelli gift basket

From sweet candy treats to savory nut snacks, Mama Monacelli says, “Eat caro, cara, eat!”

It’s no secret that most people don’t like to see photos of themselves. (Especially candid ones!)

But most people do not have the unique situation that Nancy Monacelli has. The Walla Walla candy maker, who creates artisan toffees, brittles, chocolates, and snacks, needed an image for her packaging logo, and, in her own words,

english toffee candy chocolate mama monacelli

The English Toffee candy that started the flunking of Mama Monacelli’s retirement.

“I couldn’t abide the thought of looking at my own face all day.”

So, she and her graphic designer put their heads together, and went looking for a suitable face.

“I told him I wanted an older, Italian-looking, ‘How you gonna get a wife; you’re so skinny,’ kind of woman,” Monacelli recalls.

“He found a public domain image and said he thought he had just the thing if I didn’t mind being associated with a perfect stranger. I told him, if she was perfect, what more could I want?”

It Started out as Christmas Candy

So Nancy, as she is packaging up her many handcrafted treats for sale, does not have to face her face. And she can focus on what she really gets excited about: making candy using recipes that she has developed over decades.

“Basically, my business started as ‘the Christmas candy,” Monacelli explains.

“For years, I made baskets for family, friends, and co-workers, as well as to take to gatherings to donate to events. My kids told me for decades that I should ‘sell this stuff,’ so I finally listened to them.”

chocolate candy bark flavored sweet snack mama monacelli

Nine flavors and counting: Mama Monacelli works on new candy innovations in the winter

At the time, Monacelli was winding down a 30-plus-year career in general manufacturing, manufacturing software, and consulting, and she thought that candy making would be a pleasant diversion for her upcoming retirement. In 2017, less than four months after she made this decision, she was not only licensed and running, but well beyond the dabbling or hobby stage. She found herself with a business that was taking on a life — and a very robust and growing one — of its own.

“Basically,” Monacelli wryly observes, “I flunked retirement.”

Expanding Offerings

Now, Monacelli spends her days at the Blue Mountain Station in Dayton, where she operates a commercial kitchen in back and retail store in front. Fridays and Saturdays from spring through fall, while husband Richard minds the candy shop, Nancy heads to the Walla Walla and Richland Farmers Markets. In the winter, she focuses on new product development. This is an endeavor that not only stretches creativity, but the waistband as well.

bobpop candy snack popcorn mama monacelli

Bob the family dog was instrumental in the naming — and the research and development — of Monacelli’s candy popcorn treat, BobPop

“I generally do new product development in the first quarter of the year, when things are slower, so I tend to gain weight after the holidays, unlike most folks,” Monacelli says.

“There is a fair amount of trial and error, as you might guess, and my family are my guinea pigs. They really like the batches that I declare to be failures!”

Through the years, Monacelli has developed an array of flavors, building upon the signature English toffee candy that led to her initial flunking of retirement. She has added to that Maple toffee, nine flavors of chocolate barks; two brittles; seven “enhanced” almond snacks, and BobPop, a sweet and salty popcorn treat, “with a zing.”

Bob the Dog and Candy Tasting

“For the popcorn snack, I did the R&D in my home kitchen and our dog, Bob, was the preferred guinea pig — he really likes the stuff. So, around the house, we started referring to it as BobPop.

“When I was satisfied with the recipe and ready to go into production, we tried and tried to come up with another name. Failing, we just left it at BobPop, the only product that is named after a pet!”

With each of her candy and snack products, Monacelli is adamant that the ingredients be “real.”

Keeping that in mind, she seeks out the best she can find, locally when she can. There are no artificial flavorings or ingredients.

“The decision to use real, high quality, fresh ingredients is consistent with our approach to food and life,” Monacelli says. “Our chocolates are dairy and soy free; all of our products are gluten free. We are very careful in our sourcing, and sensitive to dietary issues.”

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Look closely, and you can see what Mama Monacelli really looks like

In addition to selling her artisan candies through her retail site and the Farmers Markets, Monacelli offers her products at specialty shops from Chelan to Glacier National Park. She has participated in the Prosser Balloon Festival and Walla Walla Fairgrounds Enchanted Christmas Market, and looks to keep expanding, just . . . not the waistline.

The Woman Behind the Face

So — what does Nancy, Mama Monacelli, really look like? That’s a mystery that is best solved when you meet her in person. But even if she doesn’t look like the woman on the package, she is, most definitely, Mama.

“The name was my daughter’s idea.

“I have five children, four step-children, a foster daughter, countless ‘spares,’ and now their children (12 and counting). So the ‘Mama’ moniker has been well used.”

Maybe, just maybe, Mama didn’t flunk retirement after all.

Wenaha GalleryMama Monacelli’s Candy is the featured  Art Event from January 27 through February 22 at Wenaha Gallery. A large selection of chocolates, toffees, and BobPop, will be at the gallery. Samples will be available.

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 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

cats felines animals box braldt bralds

Give Differently, and Conquer the January Blues

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When it comes to giving, why box ourselves to a certain way of thinking? Six Pack, art print by Braldt Bralds

After the hustle and bustle and giving of the holidays, January can seem like a bleak month.

The presents are all unwrapped, some already exchanged. New Year’s Resolutions have been dutifully made with subsequent feelings of failure to come. April 15 is closer than it was last month, and the credit card bills will soon arrive.

Yep. It’s bleak.

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Every season, every month, has its moment of beauty and goodness — even January. Sleigh Ride at Apple Creek, fine art edition print by William Phillips

But it doesn’t have to be. The same feelings of joy that stem from giving and that we experienced short weeks ago, don’t have to end because the holiday hype has. And money isn’t a factor: we can give five incredible gifts year round without having to spend a cent. As an added bonus, these gifts don’t even require time. Just effort.

And because gifts are never obligatory, we don’t HAVE to do these five acts of grace. In the spirit of experimentation, however, it’s worth considering giving them a try. So . . . let’s brighten up January (and February, and beyond) by giving five things we can’t tuck inside a box:

Graceful Giving

1) Give the benefit of the doubt. We all know someone who’s chronically late, or never pays their portion of the bill, or makes promises they don’t keep. And they are irritating. But the next time irritating happens, instead of thinking,  “They did it again! I’m so TIRED of them,” we have the option to gently muse, “Hmm. Maybe there’s something going on that I don’t know about. Maybe there are hidden circumstances in their life or their background (of course there are!) that are a factor in why they do this.”

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Listening is a skill that is a valuable as speaking. Indian Stories, fine art edition print by Morgan Weistling

Obviously, we don’t want to be walked over (in our society, that’s as bad as looking uncool), but we also don’t want to box people in. It’s always worth remembering that, if we have nine pieces of information out of 10 (and we usually don’t have that many), we’re missing the whole story.

2) Give it a miss. The next time we’re in a conversation, and we think up something incredibly witty that plays upon what someone just said, let’s skip saying it. Just this once, we can opt to not to be funny or amusing or witty. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with being funny or amusing or witty, but — more times than we like to think — humor is at the expense of someone else. It’s not that we’ll never ever ever in our whole life make a joke again. Just this one time.

Listening Is a Gift

3) Give an ear. Genuinely listening to another person is incredibly difficult. We frequently want to add our own thoughts, give advice, or persuade them to our way of thinking. The first element is part of making conversation, the second is worth providing only when asked for, the third can easily be dispensed with. Cultivating the ability to listen is a skill that requires daily practice.

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Our heart speaks all the time, but if we don’t take time to listen, we won’t hear. To Search Within, fine art edition print by Steve Hanks.

4) Pass it on. (Yes, this is a deliberate decision to not start the sentence with “Give.” Why be predictable all the time?) All of us have items in our home that we have received good use from, but no longer need. It’s tempting to think, “This is in great shape: I could sell it for half the new price and make a little fun money.” Who can’t use a little more fun money? But then again, there are people who could really use the item we no longer need, but don’t have the money — fun or not — to buy it. Try this: ask God (or, if you’re not on speaking terms with Him, the general universe), “Do you know anyone who could use this?” and see what happens.

When We Give, We Receive Beauty

5) Give it a try. We are well trained to put ourselves, and our efforts, down. Our feet are too big, our dreams outlandish, our finances meager, our skills insufficient, our personality the wrong type, to make a difference. Bosh. If you’re used to analyzing your way through everything, ensuring that it is sensible, scientific, reasonable, or profitable enough to work, let your heart speak over your brain now and then and see what it says.

Yes, one small act of kindness makes a difference: one smile, one word of encouragement, one can of soup to the food bank, one biting back a retort, one package of toilet paper to the homeless shelter, one dollar, one letter, one hour, one idea.

The best thing about any one of these five gifts of grace is that, not only do they make a difference in the world around us, the make a change in us ourselves. And that’s a gift worth treasuring.

Wenaha GalleryThe Annual Canned Food Drive is the Art Event through January 31, 2020 at Wenaha Gallery. For every canned food item brought into the gallery through January 31, the giver receives $2 off their next custom framing order, up to 20% off total. All proceeds benefit the Dayton Community Food Bank.

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 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.