tea towel aprons by sewist kathy snow

Sew Happy — Fiber Artist Kathy Snow Creates the Perfect Gifts

tea towel aprons by sewist kathy snow

A series of decorative apron towels, to be used in the kitchen or worn by a doll, by sew happy sewist Kathy Snow

Santa Claus could use a person like Kathy Snow on his staff, and not just because her last name fits well into his company theme.

Nor is it because the Dayton sewist  (a recently coined term that combines the words “sew” and “artist”) creates doll clothes to fill the dream wardrobe of every child who owns and loves an 18-inch American Girl style doll.

holiday themed nostalgic hand sewn aprons by kathy snow

Holiday themed, hand sewn aprons with a nostalgic flair, by sewist Kathy Snow

Snow’s prowess with the sewing machine, and her ability to transform fabric, notions, lace, and buttons into intricately sewn items of art, approaches a proficiency that borders on wizardry, a level of achievement in line with what St. Nicholas demands at his North Pole shop.

Appropriate for the correlation, Snow discovered the magic of hand sewing as a 9-year-old child, fully launching into the craft in 7th grade, when she took a sewing class and decided to never stop.

The Sewist in the Studio

“I have made LOTS of things in my lifetime,” Snow says. “Dresses for myself, dresses for my daughter when she was growing up, costumes for her and my grandchildren. I have made many many things through the years that I have given away to family and friends.”

Snow’s present passion focuses on dresses, coats, nightgowns, jackets, slacks, skirts, and blouses for those 18-inch dolls, which she purchases on sale at box stores and decks out in fashion for every season. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have time to create a multiplicity of items from fabric, ranging from kitchen tea-towels that look like old fashioned aprons (and fit, incidentally, an 18-inch doll, should you happen to have one on hand) to quilts, from full-sized 1930s style aprons for full-sized humans to Christmas stockings.

quilted christmas stockings by sewist kathy snow

Quilted Christmas stockings by sewist Kathy Snow, sewing holiday happiness of which Santa would approve

“I  get involved in making other things that steer me away from the doll clothes,” Snow says. “I tend to start too many things at the same time, but I do  manage to get things done, just not as quickly as I once did.”

Business Is Sew Good

After all, she does this for fun, although like many endeavors we start, fall in love with, and get really proficient at doing, Snow has turned a lifetime love into a business, and operates a regular booth at the Village Shoppes in Dayton. After retiring four years ago from her position as a pharmacy technician, she finds time to spend in her basement sewing studio, complete with the ironing board that is supposed to easily fold away, but never does; a wall peg board loaded with thread and other notions; and a prominent sign that announces, MY HAPPY PLACE.

“And of course, I have cupboards of fabric and lots of totes full of fabric — Imagine that! Sometimes I wonder if I will get all of this sewed up into something.”

matching doll and girl frilly dresses by sewist kathy snow

Frilly, matching dresses to fit a doll and her girl, by sewist Kathy Snow, sewing good cheer throughout the year

And while Snow has been sewing pretty much all of her life, she’s managed to tuck in a few unexpected experiences between the seams, so to speak, offhandedly mentioning that she used to sing professionally, notably in California with the Doodletown Pipers, an easy listening group of the 1960s and early 1970s, as well as The Kids Next Door group at Walt Disney World in Florida, in 1972. After her daughter was born, she left the music business, but that’s when she discovered the County Fair:

“I entered several items I had made and won several First Place, Second Place, and Third Place ribbons.” If she wasn’t hooked on sewing before, she was now.

Sewing Happiness

But actually, it’s all about the sewing, whether the work sells (it does) or whether it wins ribbons (how can it not?). The items Snow creates in her Happy Place spread a message of joy to whoever buys or receives the final work, and in these glad tidings, Santa would be pleased as well, because Snow’s mission statement closely parallels his own.

“This is something that I choose to do for fun, and hopefully if I sell some things that make others happy, that makes me happy.

“That’s what I want to do: make others happy with the things I create.”

Wenaha Gallery

Kathy Snow is the featured Pacific Northwest artist at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, December 4 through Saturday, December 30, 2017.   

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.

 

Gathering Wool — The Felt Art of Linnea Keatts

felted wool scarf with silk highlights linnea keatts felt artist

A felted scarf with gossamer drape, by Walla Walla felt artist Linnea Keatts

Some of the most enduring technology is the oldest.

Long before the development of Kevlar vests, Roman soldiers wore felted breastplates to deflect arrows. And even longer before that in Turkey, evidence of felting — non-woven fabric created when sheep’s wool and other natural animal fibers are subjected to heat, moisture, and agitation — dates back to 6500 BC.

felted wool santa squares felt artist linnea keatts

Sweet Little Lady and Pierre, felted art squares by Walla Walla felt artist Linnea Keatts

“Felting is an old hand craft,” says Linnea Keatts, a fiber artist who, over 40 years, has explored weaving, Navaho Weaving, creative stitchery, knitting, and felting.

“The techniques are quite simple using controlled shrinkage of carded wool, soapy water, manipulation, and agitation to create a fine lightweight fabric. This technique is called Nuno-felting or wet felting.”

Some people, who have accidentally tossed Aunt Minerva’s Christmas gift of hand-knit, woolen sweater into the washing machine, have discovered — to their chagrin or relief, depending upon Aunt Minerva’s skill and taste — that wool turns into a completely different, um, animal, when it encounters hot, soapy, moving water.

Felting by Choice, Not Accident

Keatts embraces the felt process by choice and design, creating everything from lightweight, gossamer scarves out of merino fleece and silk to heavier, three-dimensional pieces shaped into purses, vases, and bowls. Recently, she has been incorporating recycled fabrics and silk embellishments into the mix, blending them with the wool to create pictures and special design elements.

textured felt layered wool square linnea keatts

A layered, textured, wool felted square by Walla Walla felt artist Linnea Keatts

“It’s fascinating to watch the colors of the fleece and fabric designs blend together,” the Walla Walla artist says. “The shrinkage that occurs during the felting process creates unique designs in the finished product.”

From the very first felting class she took in 1981, with the thought that, “Hmm . . . this would be interesting to learn,” Keatts has developed her artistry and skill through hours of practice, as well as numerous classes and workshops. Several of these took place in Norway where she lived on and off during her career as an Occupational Therapist. Instrumental in founding, and later directing an occupational therapy school in Trondheim, Norway, Keatts later hosted in Walla Walla, with her husband, 25 Norwegian students for their three-month long OT internships.

Wasting Time on Video Games, Not Felting

One of these students is the reason why her home studio, where she works prodigiously to create her art, is called The Wasting Time Room.

wearable wool felt art clothing linnea keatts

A collection and selection of wearable, wool, felted artwork by Walla Walla felt artist Linnea Keatts

“At the time the student was staying with us, from 1999 to 2000, the space was only a room with a TV, where he and his friends played X-Box and other games,” Keatts explains, adding that the student himself aptly named the space. “We have since redone the room, but the name stayed.

“The TV is still there and I do tend to watch and work at times — but I am wasting time with the watching, not the felting!”

Upon retirement in 2005, Keatts devoted more time to felting, but found that she didn’t have as much time as she wanted because she also served as Master Gardener through the Washington State University Extension program, participated in the Choral Society and Walla Walla Community Band, and volunteered as hosting coordinator for the American Field Service International Exchange Program in Walla Walla, Columbia, and Garfield counties.

“Needless to say, there was enough to do in retirement!” Keatts observes.

Too much, in fact. In 2015 Keatts scaled back,  focusing  primarily on felting. But because she wants others to know about this ancient craft, she took on another project and began teaching classes through the Quest program at Walla Walla Community College.

“My statement with my felting and especially with my teaching is for the students to learn to enjoy this amazing craft and make something that makes them happy and satisfied,” Keatts says. “In my scarf classes, I always tell them they will go home with something beautiful, and so far that has happened to the 20+ students I have had.”

Penguins, Penguins, and More Felt Wool Penguins

Always up for a personal challenge, Keatts used a trip to Antarctica as the springboard for her penguin project, in which she created 10 felted penguins, representing double the number of species she had observed on her trip. One penguin found its home in the office of a University of Washington professor involved in researching Magellanic Penguins of southern Chile.

wool felt artist linnea keatts and felted penguin

Wool felt artist Linnea Keatts with one of her felted penguins

“The professor can enjoy him without worrying about  being attacked by his very sharp beak!”

Locally, Keatts is a member of ArtWalla of Walla Walla and Arts Portal of Milton-Freewater, and on a more global note, the International Feltmakers Association in London, England. She recently participated in Art Squared at Cavu Cellars.

“My goal as a felt artist is to make beautiful things that are pleasing and also practical,” Keatts says. “And my goal as a teacher is to encourage others to try this unique activity by exploring and expanding their creativity.”

 

Wenaha Gallery

Linnea Keatts is the featured Pacific Northwest artist at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, October 9 through Saturday, November 11, 2017.  She will be at the gallery in person Saturday, October 7, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., during Wenaha Gallery’s Art Walk, part of the Dayton on Tour and Fall Festival Celebration. She will be joined by Dayton watercolor artist Jill Ingram; Walla Walla musician Roy Anderson; Winthrop basket weaver and singer Lauralee Northcott; and Richland watercolor painter Maja Shaw.

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.

 

 

side view woven pine needle basket northcott

Weaving Wisdom: The Basket Art of Lauralee Northcott

basket weaving native american blue beads northcott

A hand-woven, Ponderosa Pine needle basket featuring blue beads and color weaving, by Lauralee Northcott

 

It’s funny that, when we want to describe an easy course at a university, we roll our eyes and say, “It’s, um . . . like Basket Weaving 101, you know?”  — because basket weaving, an art that dates back more than 9,000 years, isn’t easy at all.

“I gather my needles for baskets from Ponderosa Pine trees mostly here in the Methow Valley,” explains basket artist Lauralee Northcott of Winthrop. “After removing the connective end and washing the needles, I put them in a bath of water and glycerin and boil them for about three hours.

Cherish ponderosa pine needle hand woven basket northcott

Cherish — Ponderosa Pine needle basket by Winthrop weaver Lauralee Northcott

“They’re cooled, rinsed, and left to dry for a month. Now they are ready to weave.”

With weaving comes the eye for detail, an incorporation of color and beadwork, and the swift, deft hand movements that, after a while, leave one’s fingers feeling stiff.

“All basket making requires patience and perfection,” Northcott says. “While weaving is relaxing, it is also physically demanding, and requires a lot of time.  But the payoff of making a beautiful item to go out into the world is very satisfying.”

Basket Weaving and Country Music

Northcott’s fascination with and ability to create baskets joins with a plethora of other life skills, including a career (now retired) as a public school teacher, 30 years as a wilderness horseback trail guide and pack cook, motivational speaker, and professional singer/musician whose group, Horse Crazy Cowgirl Band, was the 2015 Western Music Association’s Group of the Year. That same year, their album, “All I Need,” soared to the #2 spot of the U.S. Western Music Category.

woven ponderosa pine needle native american basket northcott red beads

A hand-woven, Ponderosa Pine needle basket with red bead embellishment, by Lauralee Northcott

“Our shows feature great music, cowboy poetry, and lots of humor,” Northcott says, adding that they often travel with poet/comedian Dave McClure. One day, the group was rehearsing a skit involving the pretend product, Buck’s Crack Cream — “It was set to the tune of the George Jones song, ‘He Stopped Lovin’ Her Today,” Northcott remembers. “Dave had changed the lyrics to, ‘He stopped rubbing there today; Buck’s Crack Cream took the itch away.'”

In the midst of practicing, Northcott glanced over at McClure’s mother, Jeri,  who was sitting on the hotel bed with a low cardboard box in her lap.

“Inside the box were pine needles. Her fingers were moving swiftly as she wove the needles into a coil — I was drawn to her  immediately. The color variety of the needles, and the way they looked as they formed a circle was absolutely rich and vibrant.

deep woven basket beads and shells native american northcott

A deep woven pine needle basket, embellished by beads and shells, by Lauralee Northcott

“I was instantly smitten, and knew I wanted to make a pine needle basket.”

Persistence and Patience

She hasn’t stopped since, but then again, Lauralee Northcott is rarely still. Two years ago, she traveled to the Nevada State Museum in Carson City to see the work of basket maker Dat So La Lee, a member of the Washoe tribe who lived from 1829 to 1925. Dat So La Lee’s work, which Northcott describes as flawless, required a particularly gifted mathematical mind in order to produce the patterns for which she is famous.

“I read that one of her baskets recently sold at an auction for more than one million dollars,” Northcott says. Northcott had tried once before to see the famous basket maker’s work, but was turned away because of museum renovations. The second time around, her luck wasn’t much better when the desk man in uniform brushed her aside with the news that the work was still unavailable for viewing.

“I felt dismissed. I stood for a moment to gather myself and then in a polite voice asked to speak to the curator. He picked up the phone, making no eye contact, and made a call. ‘He’ll be right out,’ was all I heard as the man turned away.”

side view woven pine needle basket northcott

Side view of a blue beaded, hand-woven, Ponderosa Pine needle basket by Lauralee Northcott

Persistence paid off, and for the next hour Northcott enjoyed a personal tour conducted by a man who loved and appreciated the work of a master. Northcott found herself crying tears of awe as she watched, listened, viewed, and, in her words, “literally heard voices coming from the basket makers in that room. I could feel emotions being emitted by the baskets, and sensed warmth from their creators.”

Small World, Big Connections

In one of those small world moments, when Northcott mentioned she was from Winthrop, WA, a town of 300 people, the curator started and said, “My brother lives in Winthrop!”

Northcott makes friends wherever she goes.

“The most lasting takeway from the Carson City Museum experience was the deeply spiritual realization that we are truly all connected through time,” she reflects.

“Weaving gives the same gift to me as it did to Dat So La Lee and all weavers: your breathing slows down and your mind relaxes as the work takes you along.

“Really, I think peace is a gift from all craftsmanship. The force of creativity works through us in many ways, and it is our task to get out of the way.”

Wenaha Gallery

Lauralee Northcott will be at Wenaha Gallery in person Saturday, September 16, from 1 to 4 p.m.  to talk about and demonstrate basket making; free refreshments by Savonnah, the gallery’s framer who is also a professional chef, are also featured. Northcott will return to the gallery Saturday, October 7, as a featured speaker at Wenaha Gallery’s ArtWalk. Northcott’s Art Event, featuring a collection of her baskets, starts Monday, September 11 and runs through Saturday, October 7, 2017. 

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.

rabbit garden pottery ceramic tile wilburton

Pottering in the Garden — Hand-carved Tiles by Wilburton Pottery

garden tiles nature theme wilburton pottery

A compendium of 4-inch, nature-inspires, hand-carved art garden tiles by Wilburton Pottery

It’s difficult to see how 14th century Chinese history and the 21st century design of printed circuit boards relate to a successful business of creating hand-carved garden tiles. Difficult, however,  is not impossible.

frog dragonfly grapes garden wilburton pottery

A frog and dragonfly in the garden — hand-carved pottery tile by Wilburton Pottery

For Bob Jewett, the potter and painter half of Wilburton Pottery of Bellevue, WA, it’s all part of a rich life history, one that started out with two masters degrees and the pursuit of a PhD.

“Bob stayed in college until he was 35,” says Iris Jewett, the other half of the marriage and the business (she’s the glazer). “He was getting his PhD when he was advised there was no hope in getting a teaching position.

“This was in the 1970s  and there was little interest in Chinese history, especially the Ming dynasty.”

From the Ming Dynasty to Circuit Boards

So Bob did a 360 and started designing those printed circuit boards, originally working for large corporations in Los Angeles until moving to Seattle where the couple started their own business there. And while business was successful, something was missing, and Iris suspected what it could be.

“I suggested to Bob that he needed an artistic outlet, and he started taking ceramic classes at Bellevue Community College.” Iris remembers. “An inability to throw pots led him to hand build garden pots.”

So build garden pots, Bob did. Because the couple is avid about gardening (“fanatical, actually,” Iris says), Bob developed a method to make pottery that could be left  outside all year round, something that was not common at the time. He also focused on carving intricate designs in the pottery. In 1993, when the couple participated in the Bellevue Arts Fair with their wares, Wilburton Pottery officially launched.

And from Circuit Boards to Pottery Garden Tiles

Since that time, they have added hand-carved, hand-painted garden tiles which enthusiastic buyers use as art by the front door, in the garden, around the fireplace, in the kitchen, bathroom and all over the house. Designing circuit boards is long gone, replaced by a garden-themed pottery business that sells via Wilburton Pottery’s website, galleries, gift shops, and art fairs throughout the country.

wilburton pottery outdoor garden flowers

Pottery in the outdoor garden, by Wilburton Pottery

“We used to do 22 art fairs and garden shows a year,” Iris says. “I think we have stayed in over 600 hotel rooms during that time, and we became very efficient packers. Once we did the Salem Art Fair and realized we forgot our suitcases — that never happened again!

“Through the fairs, our tiles were sent by customers to family and friends around the world — a Japanese monastery, Finland, Australia, England, Holland, China, and more.”

So China does come back into the picture.

Serious about Pottery,  and Gardens

But the art festivals, with the incredible amount of time and traveling involved, slowed down to two per year as the couple focuses more on website sales and custom design orders. One steady venue for sales is the garden shop at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens, 53 acres of flora cultivation which receives more than 300,000 visitors per year. Bob and Iris started the organization in 1984, when they put up posters all over town inviting residents to attend the first meeting.

rabbit garden pottery ceramic tile wilburton

Rabbit in the Garden, one of Wilburton Pottery’s most popular designs

“Yes, just the two of us,” Iris confirms when asked if she and Bob were the original impetus for the Gardens’ existence. They now volunteer for various events, focusing especially on the Gingerbread display for the Garden D’Lights in December, and helping children make graham cracker houses.

“Mostly we quietly walk through the gardens and are overjoyed to see so many people there,” Iris says. “The Garden is located just a few blocks from our home.”

More Than 500 Garden Pottery Tile Designs

Back at that home, Bob and Iris work out of their various studios, Iris in “a lovely room with a skylight,” and Bob in “an unfinished garage that he was always going to improve, but never did.” Bob creates his intricate hand carvings — more than 500 designs and growing — in his den or outside among the plants, and images range from bunnies a la Beatrix Potter to blacksmiths working in a forge surrounded by vines. There are frogs, mermaids, beech wood forests, angels, grapevines, the Buddha and crickets — something for everyone, and every environment. Like plants in the garden, the ideas never stop growing.

“We purposefully make the tiles look old with cracks and an uneven border,” Iris says. “To quote our customers, they think the tiles add a peacefulness to life, and they enjoy the antique look.”

It’s a unique combination of something old — like the Ming Dynasty of China — and something new — 21st century technology — perfectly blended into an element timeless to human existence: the garden.

“We let the pottery speak for us,” Iris says.

 

Wenaha Gallery

Bob and Iris Jewett of Wilburton Pottery are the featured Pacific Northwest artists at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, August 28 through Saturday, September 23, 2017. 

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.

ceramic terra cotta pottery platter with cow mary briggs

Ceramic Terra Cotta — Functional Beauty by Mary Briggs

ceramic terra cotta pottery platter with cow mary briggs

Ceramic terra cotta platter, with painting of cow by Mary Briggs

Mary Briggs is a woman who rarely sits. So much is her desire to keep active that she changed specialties in college because her first choice, graphic design, was too sedentary.

“I was the kid whose foot was always wiggling,” Briggs says, explaining why she became a studio potter after earning her Master of Fine Arts in Ceramics at the University of Iowa.

ceramic terra cotta pottery vase mary briggs

Ceramic terra cotta pottery vase with romantic landscape painting by Mary Briggs

“The wedging of clay or manipulation of clay is a physical activity that might be likened to a baker or chef — moving around the kitchen and using your arms and creating a physical end product.”

Ceramic Terra Cotta Inspired by Folk Pottery

For the Eugene artist, the completed physical end product is terra cotta functional ceramicware — platters, plates, vases, candlestick holders, mugs — inspired by historical folk pottery as well as the works of 19th century Old Masters painters. Briggs began incorporating imagery on her work 15 years ago when she observed how brush marks and drip lines formed impressions of landscapes. It was a short, but significant, step to drawing period images on her work, adding to its sensation of timelessness and meaning.

She focused upon the 19th century landscape for its calming, romantic element, likening the feeling to that inspired by a country drive.

“I find rural life and nature to be calming and beautiful. By using that imagery on my work, I hope it brings a sense of calmness to those who encounter it.

“I also hope to create an awareness of how important nature is to all of us personally and globally.”

Nature: In the Garden and the Ceramic Studio

Nature, for Briggs, is an element that factors throughout her day and week, whether she is in the studio, creating a body of work that, from start to finish, can take up to three months,  or out in the gardens of area residents, who commission her skills in this area.

earthenware ceramic terra cotta painted mug mary briggs

An earthenware, terra cotta ceramic mug by Mary Briggs

“I work as a gardener for a week and then in my studio for a week,” Briggs explains, adding that she began gardening as a side job in graduate school, finding it a natural counterbalance to the intensity of studio work.

“It’s interesting to note that most potters are fabulous cooks and gardeners,” she observes. “It was not my experience that graphic designers were much interested in either of those. It was that sense of community that also attracted me to the field of ceramics.”

Briggs’s studio is based in the garage of her home, and has been renovated with added windows and insulation, additional electricity for her kiln, and ventilation. Because there is limited space for storing inventory, Briggs keeps her work moving, and a major means of doing this is through the Schaller Gallery of St. Joseph, Michigan, which represents some of the finest functional ceramic artists of the world. Most recently, gallery owner Anthony Schaller told Briggs to add Rebecca Sive — who may or may not be the Huffington Post writer who penned Every Day Is Election Day; Briggs isn’t sure  —  to her list of collectors.

ceramic painted landscape pottery platter mary briggs

A ceramic, painted landscape platter with gilded edging, by Mary Briggs

Dedicated to the Ceramic Art

Briggs has shown her pottery in group and solo exhibitions in galleries and universities in Minnesota, Michigan, Georgia, Tennessee, Montana , Wyoming, Indiana, and Oregon. Her work is in the permanent collection at Bermuda National Gallery, Contemporary Ceramics, and she has been published in Ceramics: Art & Perception, an international journal dedicated to ceramic art. Her art  also appears in the book, 500 Cups: Ceramic Explorations of Utility & Grace by Suzanne J. E. Tourtillott.

Ironically, though Briggs chose to leave graphic design for ceramics, its influence does not go unnoticed in her art.

“I think all my art classes in college have helped with my decoration process,” Briggs says. “From color theory to composition to art history: all those things are in my tool box.” Each piece is individually decorated, in accordance with its shape, size, and form, with the result that every ceramic Briggs creates is uniquely, singularly distinct.

Choosing Terra Cotta

ceramic earthenware terra cotta pottery vases mary briggs

Ceramic earthenware vases by pottery artist Mary Briggs

The very choice of terra cotta — known as poor man’s clay because it is not as dense and white as porcelain — is deliberate, with Briggs being drawn to its rustic quality and unexpected, but welcome, irregularities. It’s of the earth, after all, just like gardening.

In the end, Briggs says, that’s what it’s all about: the earth, and beautiful places, and exquisitely shaped ceramics that capture that beauty and encourage those who see the work.

“My work is not about politics or social commentary.

“It is simply meant to serve as a window into a peaceful place.”

Wenaha Gallery

Mary Briggs is the Featured Pacific Northwest Artist at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, August 14 through Saturday, September 9, 2017. 

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.

leather billfolds shelby sneva nanna grandma inspiration Bellingham

Leather Craft — Handcrafted Beauty from Bellingham Artist Shelby Sneva

leather billfolds shelby sneva nanna grandma inspiration Bellingham

Handcrafted leather billfolds by Bellingham artist Shelby Sneva, who credits her Nanna Grandma for opening up the world of art and sewing

It doesn’t matter whether you call her Nanna, Nona, Gramma, Grams, Babushka, Abuela, or any of the thousands of  variations of “Grandmother” — if that woman makes a positive influence on your life, she makes a lasting one.

Leather designer Shelby Sneva, who creates hand-crafted wallets, clutches, cuffs, shoulder bags, and jewelry from fine and reclaimed leather, credits her artistry today to a Singer sewing machine gifted by her Nanna when Sneva was six.

colorful bracelets by bellingham leather artist shelby sneva inspired by nanna

Colorful leather bracelets by Bellingham artist Shelby Sneva. It all started with the gift of a Singer sewing machine by Shelby’s Nanna Grandma.

“I always thought it was the most fantastic hunk of metal, gears and knobs!” the Bellingham artist remembers. “I fumbled around on that machine for several years, making outfits and teaching myself to be a crafty little stitcher.”

Nanna’s Lasting Gift

From crafty little stitcher, Sneva eventually graduated to professional artist, earning her BFA from Western Washington University with a primary focus on painting and sculpture. Ironically, despite taking every studio art class available at the university — from photography to fibers and fabrics, from papermaking to welding — Sneva didn’t discover her particular niche until her mother, an interior decorator, passed on some leather samples from her furniture business.

“That’s when the passion of  leatherworking was ignited,” Sneva says. Like many passions, it had been burning underneath, but so steadily and quietly she hadn’t recognized its importance. She simply accepted its existence as normal.

Leather and Sewing Are Timeless

Though Sneva had initially fallen in love with oil painting, to the point of moving to the East Coast to apprentice with landscape oil painter Curt Hanson, she never stopped the sewing she started when she was 6, and found greatest pleasure in creating fabric wallets and gifts for friends and family.

leather wallet handcrafted shelby sneva bellingham artist inspired by nanna

Handcrafted leather wallet by Bellingham artist Shelby Sneva, whose first art forays began with a gift from her Nanna Grandma at 6

The discovery of leather, then, was a momentous one, and in 2004 Sneva opened her business, Sown Designs, which she markets through Etsy, her online website, the Bellingham Farmers Market, and her studio in downtown Bellingham at the Waterfront Artists’ Studios.

“Thanks to the online marketplace,” Sneva says, “I have sold wallets all around the world — from Switzerland, Germany, London, Norway, Canada, and all over the U.S.” Sneva’s work has been juried into and vended at shows like Urban Craft Uprising and the Fremont Fair in Seattle, and is featured at more than a dozen gift and retail shops in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, California, and Alaska.

The Aroma of Leather in Bellingham

“I love the smell of leather,” Sneva says, adding that her studio exudes the aroma. “I am always learning new things, new techniques with leather work, so I am never bored!”

leather earrings by bellingham artist shelby sneva

A collection of leather earrings by Bellingham artist Shelby Sneva

From the discontinued leather samples passed on by her mother, Sneva has added a number of local stores and leather distributors to provide the materials for her work. The combination of working with local resources as well as reclaimed materials is a benefit to suppliers and clients, as well as to the environment, Sneva believes.

“It is my priority to connect with suppliers/buyers who also appreciate the effort, quality, and uniqueness of handmade pieces,” Sneva says.

“The great thing about my accessories is that they are all one of a kind. That makes it unique for the owner to have something no one else has, and it makes it fun for me to create without feeling like a factory.

leather cases by bellingham artist shelby sneva inspired by nanna grandma

A collection of leather cases by Bellingham artist Shelby Sneva, who began her art career at age 6, sewing on a Singer machine given to her by her nanna grandma

“I really pay attention to details with each wallet, using my sewing machine like a drawing tool to draw stitch patterns and make designs with leather geometric shapes and colors.” For her wallets, Sneva chooses upholstery leather, which she describes as durable and soft, acquiring a beautiful patina over time. Hand-crafted art, Sneva believes, becomes a part of its owners’ lives, adding dimension and beauty to the day.

A Nanna Aphorism

Quite recently, Sneva enjoyed one of those rare, but memorable full-circle moments that we all treasure when they happen.

“I was a presenting artist at our Bellingham Museum for Art Career Day,” Sneva explains. “As I spoke, I remembered participating in similar workshops with Spokane (where Sneva grew up) artists when I was a high school student and young aspiring artist.”

In effect, what goes around comes around, a timeless aphorism that sounds like something one’s Nanna, or Nona,  or Abuela, Babushka, Baba, Yaya, Oma, or Gram would say. But that only makes sense, because the things that woman says and does really do make the difference of a lifetime.

Wenaha Gallery

Shelby Sneva is the Featured Pacific Northwest Artist at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, July 17 through Saturday, August 12, 2017. 

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.

 

sculpture woman seated skirt pink shelia coe

The Dentist Artist — Sculpture by Shelia Coe

sculpture woman seated skirt pink shelia coe

Sculpted woman with fabric skirt by former dentist, now artist, Shelia Coe

Childhood Christmas gifts create lasting memories. Often, they even shape our future. And so it was for ceramic artist Shelia Coe . . . sort of. It just took a little longer than her mother, whose biggest desire was that her daughter grow up to be an artist, envisioned.

“My mother was a frustrated artist,” Coe remembers. “With six children, she didn’t have much time to pursue art, but she tried to channel me into becoming an artist. To that end, she bought me art supplies for every holiday, and dragged me along on her trips to paint barns and still lifes.”

cow sculpture by dentist artist shelia coe walla walla

Cow sculpture by dentist artist Shelia Coe of Walla Walla

Like so many things we plan for and try to direct, however, the future turned out differently, and instead of using her hands to wield a paintbrush or palette knife, Coe picked up the tools of dentistry, practicing the profession for more than 34 years.

“My mother was disappointed when I was accepted into dental school,” Coe says. “She said something like, ‘If you have to do something in the health field, couldn’t you at least be a medical illustrator?’

“I’ve gotta laugh at how it’s all turned out, and if she’s looking down, she’s probably happy to be getting her wish for me.”

Looking for a Creative Outlet

The latter part of those 34 years in dentistry, Coe spent in Walla Walla at a private practice, finishing out the final six of her career at Yellowhawk Clinic in Pendleton for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla. Upon retirement, she found her hands and mind seeking a creative outlet, and when the women in her spinning class at the YMCA suggested taking a sculpture class by Walla Walla artist Penny Michel, Coe decided to give it a try.

fish sculpture shelia coe dentist artist walla walla

Fish sculpture by Shelia Coe of Walla Walla. Coe worked as a dentist for 34 years before turning fulltime to art

“After the first class, I was hooked.

“For a week I could hardly sleep, thinking of all the things I wanted to try to make.”

Fortunately, her sleep patterns have returned to normal, with the added bonus of Coe continuing to explore a variety of subject matter, from people to animals to design work. The possibilities are endless, because Nature herself never runs out of providing ideas.

“I love nature, and as a child was always drawing horses and animals of all kinds along with plants — for awhile I wanted to be a botanist.

“So all kinds of things in nature inspire me, and oftentimes it can be a drawing or a photo, or the animal itself.

“I have made llamas, deer, horses, cows, fish, and sheep on a hill. I recently finished a horse that is 20 inches tall and 15 inches wide — the largest piece I have ever made.”

An Unusual Studio

Coe’s studio is split between Michel’s studio for classes and firing, and Coe’s home utility room and kitchen. And while the kitchen and laundry rooms are not generally associated with the wild, exuberant, abounding world of nature, they are good places to capture it. Kitchen implements, basic tools, and simple elements of nature — like pine cones, for texturizing — create mesmerizing effects when wielded in the right hands, and what hands are more accustomed to fine, precision work than that of a dentist?

horse sculpture shelia coe wenaha gallery

Horse sculpture by Shelia Coe, guest artist at Wenaha Gallery

“Sculpture, like dentistry, demands the use of the hands — but with loads more creative freedom (of course),” Coe observes.

Creative freedom or not, clay has its own rules, and part of learning to work with it is respecting its properties, taking the scientific approach to art, so to speak. Observation, theorization, deduction, experimentation, and the willingness to learn from failure all come into play, and Coe willingly gives time to each.

“My favorite part of creating sculpture is figuring out the structural and engineering aspect of each piece,” Coe explains. “It is not always easy to get the clay to do what you want it to.

“Glazing is also a challenge because they never look the same once they are fired. In fact, even the same glaze will look different depending upon its thickness and its position in the kiln. Glazes are very finicky.”

World Traveler

A member of ArtWalla, Coe takes advantage of classes, both in the area and out, to finesse and further her skills. An avid traveler, she also maintains a collection of her own, picking up pieces by local artists from areas such as Palau, Yap, Tibet and Tunisia as well as more mainstream destinations.

In the end, everything works together when it comes to art, life, and dreams. It may have taken awhile to get to the art part, but all the time Coe spent as a dentist shaped her hands to a fine and acute sensitivity, and sensibility.

Her mother would be pleased.

Wenaha Gallery

Shelia Coe is the Featured Pacific Northwest Artist at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, June 19 through Saturday, July 15, 2017. 

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.

 

 

Pink Roses out of office cubicle painting David Schatz Portland

Escaping the Office Cubicle — The Paintings of David Schatz

Pink Roses out of office cubicle painting David Schatz Portland

Out of the office cubicle with Pink Roses, Oil on Panel by Portland artist David Schatz, guest artist at Wenaha Gallery

Office cubicles are not known for being spacious, liberating, beautiful places.

Grey, carpeted, windowless, and with walls too low for privacy, the ubiquitous modern “office” is a venue that artist David Schatz left far behind on weekends and holidays, when he explored landscapes, floral gardens, and wildlife refuges in search of meaningful images to paint.

morning waldo lake original painting david schatz out of the office cubicle

Definitely outside of the office cubicle, Morning on Waldo Lake, original oil on canvas by David Schatz

“I try to capture the beauty of what I see outside and bring it inside,” the Portland, OR, artist explains.

“I have no agenda except for trying to find and express the beauty in this world.”

Schatz, who has been drawing and painting since high school when an aunt gave him a set of oil pastels, was told during university studies that he should find something else to do as he would never become a painter. In a characteristic combination of practicality with stubbornness, Schatz turned to circuit board design for the electronics industry as his day job, and pursued painting when he was, literally, free.

Fine Art & The Day Job

Ironically, the day job — which appears to have nothing to do with the finer nuances of fine art — benefited from Schatz’s artistic bent, requiring the sense of spatial relationship demanded by drawing and painting.

“My painting skills helped me to visualize how a circuit board would have to be arranged to fit the space available,” Schatz says.

“I got my first job in electronics because I could draw.”

One of the most challenging aspects of Schatz’s dual sets of skills — aside from the cubicle — had to do with Schatz’s coworkers because, outside of concerns to do with the job, there was nothing to talk about:

patience green plant with leaves david schatz acrylic painting

Patience, original acrylic by David Schatz, capturing the world outside of the office cubicle

“I was surrounded by engineering geeks who had no idea of why anyone would want to paint when he could be playing computer games,” Schatz recalls.

“For my part, I had no idea why anyone would want to play computer games when he could paint.”

Schatz speaks of this situation in the past, having “escaped the cube,” as he puts it, through retirement, and is presently pursuing the full time career in art that he was earlier assured he could not have. Carrying a camera with him everywhere (“So does everyone,” he notes wryly, “with their cell phones”), Schatz captures reference photos nearby — taking advantage of Portland’s many public gardens to find floral images — as well as across the country in Florida, where he haunts wildlife refuges.

Easygoing Birds

“The birds in the refuges know that they are safe, and ignore the photographers,” Schatz says. “The camera that I use has a wonderful zoom lens, and the birds do seem to be posing for us.

“There are often 5-10 photographers lined up shooting the same bird.”

stalker crane bird acrylic painting david schatz

The Stalker, original acrylic painting by David Schatz

But a reference photo is just that — a photo — until the artist shapes and forms it into a painting, incorporating light, shadow, atmospheric perspective, color, and that elusive sense of feeling and emotion resulting only after much careful attention from the artist’s hand and soul. The highly realistic nature of Schatz’s work commands that he work closely on a small area at a time, addressing with his brush a petal or rock until it’s precisely the way he wants it to be.

It is because of his method that Schatz prefers working with reference photos over painting in plein air.

“My passion is for nature and I will paint anything that I can photograph,” he says.

“But I am a slow painter, and anything that I choose to paint will be long gone before I get started painting!”

Schatz has sold his work throughout the Pacific Northwest, and his art has been spotlighted at watercolor society exhibits in both Texas and Louisiana. One of his works was featured on the front cover of the British edition of Best of Flower Painting, and his floral images have been published by Wild Wings, a licensing agency specializing in wildlife, Americana, and nostalgia images.

It’s all part of focusing on the natural world — flora and fauna — and bringing it, as Schatz determines, into the inside where it can be seen, appreciated, longed for, and loved. Fine art belongs everywhere including — and maybe especially — the office cubicle.

Wenaha Gallery

David Schatz is the Featured Pacific Northwest Artist at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, May 8 through Saturday, June 3, 2017. Schatz will be at the gallery Saturday, May 27 for a special two-person art show with Kennewick artist LuAnn Ostergaard, and both artists will be on hand to meet and greet visitors from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Free refreshments are provided.

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.

 

Tunisian inspired necklaces by Pamela Good Walla Walla

Exotic Tunisia & Walla Walla Wine Country — The Jewelry of Pamela Good

Tunisian inspired necklaces by Pamela Good Walla Walla

A touch of Tunisia: necklaces by Pamela Good, Wenaha Gallery guest artist.

They’re called souks — marketplaces or commercial quarters in Western Asia or North Africa, and most of us know what they “feel” like by imagining ourselves in the Indiana Jones movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark. The sights, sounds, smells, colors, people (even without the evil, black-robed swordsman confronting Indie), are all very exotic, alluringly unfamiliar in a fascinatingly romantic sort of way.

Tunisia inspired jewelry by Pamela Good Walla Walla

Tunisia-inspired jewelry by Pamela Good of Walla Walla

But for Walla Walla jewelry artist Pamela Good, who was born in Tunisia and has lived there, off and on, throughout her life, souks remind her of urban ethnic flea markets in the U.S. and Mexico.

“What makes the Tunisian Medinas so different are the narrow alleyways and switchbacks, the intense sounds of people talking a variety of languages, carts moving products, copper and brass hammerings and vendors calling to get your attention as you walk by,” Good says.

During a prolonged residence in North Africa during the 1970s and 80s, Good regularly walked the jewelry souks of Tunis, Sfax, and Djerba, seeking vintage beads, ancient findings, and precious and semi-precious stones to incorporate in her earrings and necklaces. One of her favorite merchants with which to work was Monsieur Ahmed, who through the years became a friend as well, tucking aside special finds for Good’s review.

Cork earrings walla walla wine country pamela good

Cork earrings, celebrating Walla Walla Wine Country, by Pamela Good.

“The first time I met him, he invited me for tea, and sitting inside his shop I shared what I was  looking for and how I was interested in designing jewelry integrating my Tunisian culture,” Good remembers. Afternoons with Monsieur Ahmed involved “sweet tea with almonds floating on top in a gold rimmed glass, and a tray of beads, stones, and/or vintage silver pieces.”

Some of these treasures Good still possesses, incorporating them in special designs that she creates as part of her jewelry business, which she focuses on outside her day job as program manager at AVID, an educational organization preparing students for success in high school, college, and career.

Necklaces earrings tunisia touch walla walla jewelry artist pamela good

Necklaces and earrings, with a touch of Tunisia, by Walla Walla jewelry artist Pamela Good

“The arts should be woven into everything we do with kids,” Good says concerning both her job and her art. “I have always believed that everyone can be an artist — you can draw, paint, make jewelry, learn to ride a bike.”

In addition to knowing how to do all of these things, Good possesses a few skills out of the American norm, one of which is speaking Arabic. This she acquired through concerted study; interacting with Tunisian family, friends, and co-workers; and co-owning Auberge de la Falaise, a Brasserie French restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Dressing appropriately for the culture by wearing a head scarf and keeping her arms and legs covered, Good avoided, during her market forays, being mistaken for a tourist, and her happiest souk day occurred when one of the vendors asked if she was Algerian.

“I laughed and thanked him and told him that I was American.

“He could not believe that I was speaking to him in Arabic, and called over people to tell them, ‘This American girl speaks Arabic!’

“They were happy and I was delighted!”

Earrings touch of tunisia walla walla jewelry artist pamela good

Earrings with a touch of Tunisia by Walla Walla jewelry artist Pamela Good

A member of the Walla Walla Art Club and Art Walla, Good enjoys the challenge of making jewelry from found objects, and while there are no souks in the Pacific Northwest, Good haunts vintage and antique stores. She also finds creative use for items immediately — although not obviously — at hand.

“Recently, I was inspired by an artist from Santa Fe who was using cork and Native American seed beads to create earrings,” Good says. “I thought of all the cork we use and then throw away after opening our wine bottles in the Walla Walla Valley, and decided to create a series of wine cork earrings — each are unique, most with sterling posts and semi-precious gems. Others include metals, wire wrap, pearls, crystals, and glass.”

They all look exotic, testament to a lifetime spent learning, traveling, and experimenting. With two or three themes going on at a time, Good finds her jewelry collections changing, evolving with her, her environment, and what she finds — here, or a quarter of the way across the planet.

“The last time I visited Tunisia was in 2012, two years after the Arab Spring,” Good says.

“The Medina and jewelry souks are exactly like they were when I had lived there from 1977-1984.

“There are a lot more imitations; prices have risen, and many old pieces are now seen as antiques, but I would return in a heartbeat!

“I love the chase of vintage pieces and am always excited to incorporate them in my work.”

Wenaha Gallery

Pamela Good is the Featured Pacific Northwest Artist at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, April 24 through Saturday, May 20, 2017.

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.

Conversation fish james christensen wenaha gallery

Seriously Fantastic — The Art of James Christensen

Waiting Tide Everyman James Christensen Wenaha Gallery

Waiting for the Tide by James Christensen

He was whimsical. He was serious.

He painted religious themes. But his trademark image was a floating or flying fish, often on a leash.

He knew his Shakespeare. And he celebrated his Everyman, too — the podgy, humpback character who represented the imperfections in all of us.

lawyer adequately attired print james christensen wenaha gallery

A Lawyer More Than Adequately Attired by James Christensen

James Christensen, the renowned fantasy artist inspired by the world’s myths, fables, and tales of imagination, left his mark on the art world, and the world in general, during his long and illustrious career of painting “the land a little to the left of reality.” His passing this January from cancer left collectors and lovers of his work saddened and bereft, as expressed by Todd Fulbright of Redmond, WA, who with his wife Jackie owns nearly 20 of Christensen’s art prints and porcelain figures:

“He will be missed by his family — a great father and husband and grandfather. For my own selfish reasons as an admirer of his work, I always looked forward to his next project.

“What a great imagination, and what fun characters he created!”

Among his many fans, Christensen’s creative genius is undisputed, but for those who had the privilege of meeting the artist in person, the experience has added even more dimension, personality, and warmth to their treasured collections.

“James was brilliant in his humor and intellect as it was ever present in his art,” says Dayton resident Lorrie Bensel, who used to gaze at Christensen’s window display at Wenaha Gallery in Dayton, and dream about some day buying one of the artist’s prints. Little did she foresee that, not only would she own  a number of those prints, but would also meet Christensen in person, during a time when the artist visited the gallery and Bensel worked there.

Pink Ribbon woman in dress james christensen wenaha gallery

Pink Ribbon by James Christensen

“He made you feel like an old friend even upon a first meeting.”

Lael Loyd, present manager of the gallery, agrees, remembering her first meeting with Christensen in 2005, which was also her very first major artist show.

“I was so nervous!” Loyd recalls. “I stayed late to clean the floors the night before the show while Ed and Pat Harri, the owners of the gallery, went to pick up Christensen and his wife Carole at the Walla Walla Airport.” Loyd’s mind raced with Christensen images, embedded through weeks of preparing for the show, and she dreaded — but still hoped for — the possibility that Christensen would pop by that night.

“Sure enough, he did!

“He walked in and immediately put me at ease. The next day, when he came in for the show, it was like we were old friends.”

Shakespeare world is a stage james christensen wenaha gallery

All the World’s a Stage by James Christensen

A talented but regular guy, as Loyd phrases it, Christensen explained to her that he had worked out a system with his wife, Carole, to “rescue” him from being buttonholed in the corner by enthusiastic fans, an occurrence which was not unusual because he didn’t know how to extricate himself without hurting feelings. When he tugged on his ear, Carole was to come over and move things along.

“At one show, James told me, a person was going into great detail telling about a dream he had, and how the artist should create a painting from this dream. After a few minutes, James tugged on his ear. No Carole.

“He tugged harder. Still no Carole.

“Finally, with both hands, he tugged frantically to catch her attention. He wasn’t sure that she hadn’t seen him the first time, but this gave me insight into his sense of humor, their relationship, and his reliance on her to help all go smoothly.”

Conversation fish james christensen wenaha gallery

Conversation Around Fish by James Christensen

Christensen, who began his career as a junior high school art teacher — slipping in freelance illustration and selling at sidewalk art fairs while raising a young family — lived to enjoy international acclaim. From winning all the professional art honors the World Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention can bestow to appearing on an episode of ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (in which he created a picture featuring a member of the family), Christensen never lost sight of the ordinary, regular person, and never doubted he was within their ranks.

“Believing is seeing,” was his philosophy, as he sought to teach people to use their imaginations to overcome the problems and stresses of living life. If Everyman could find a way, so could they.

“He will be sorely missed by many, as he touched many lives with his art and soul,” Bensel says.

Loyd agrees. “He helped me see life through a different pair of eyes.

“He will be missed, but more than that, he will be remembered and live on.”

Wenaha Gallery

Wenaha Gallery is holding a special Tribute to James Christensen Saturday, April 1, from 1 to 4 p.m., and invites all Christensen fans, long-time and brand new, to visit and view Christensen’s art. During the Tribute, as well as for Christensen’s month-long Art Event (March 27 – April 22), the Gallery will display every single Christensen artwork, porcelain, book, DVD, and puzzle in its collection, with many being discounted on April 1, only.

Also on April 1 is a special art show for Pamela Claflin of Kennewick, WA. Claflin’s richly colored oil paintings capture the unique landscape of the Pacific Northwest. The artist will be on hand to meet and greet, and free refreshments are provided.

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.

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit the gallery today!