Japanese Wrapped Stones rocks cane calm denise wagner

Japanese Wrapped Stones — Calm and Design by Denise Wagner

Japanese Wrapped Stones rocks cane calm denise wagner

Using cane in both natural and dyed colors, Denise Wagner creates both traditional and self-designed wraps on rocks.

If you have ever skipped rocks across the river, you know that not just any stone will do. It needs to be flat, smooth, of a particular heft and weight.

Denise Wagner, a Kennewick, WA, artist who specializes in Japanese Wrapped Stones, is well aware of what the perfect rock looks like. The major difference between her and the rock skipper, however, is that the LAST thing she’ll do upon finding that perfect stone is hurl it into the water.

“I like to find stones that are oval and somewhat flat so they will lay well in a display,” Wagner explains.

“The stones I find come from all over. I take walks, bike rides, and strolls around the Columbia and Umatilla Rivers, and that’s where I find my rocks.”

Japanese wrapped stones design form denise wagner

A trio of Japanese wrapped stones by Denise Wagner showcases different colors of cane and finished designs.

So what, exactly are Japanese Wrapped Stones?

They are rocks, wrapped in natural cane, using Japanese basketry and knotting techniques. These wraps can be extraordinarily complicated or deceptively simple, but the resulting fusion of rock and cane exudes a sense of peace, calm, and tranquility within intricacy of design. Wagner, a licensed home health care provider, first encountered the art form through a “wonderful gentleman” she met while working at an independent living facility.

Wrapped Stones Caught Her Eye

“He noticed my looking at his wrapped rock and was eager to teach me. So we made an appointment for a lesson in the activities room.

“I brought the Starbucks coffee, and he brought his friend and his box of tools and tricks. It was there that I wrapped my first rock.”

Japanese wrapped stones wood platter design denise wagner

Rocks, cane, and wood — Denise Wagner takes natural elements and crafts them into an art form.

And she was hooked. After that first lesson, Wagner went home and practiced on all kinds of wraps, both traditional designs and ones that she thought up on her own. Using natural cane that she either leaves its organic color or dyes to a desired hue, Wagner creates groupings of stones on wooden or ceramic platters. The compendium of shapes, forms, and design synthesize into a coalescent medley of mood.

Again, calm is the word, and it’s an appropriate one. Because in order to wrap rocks in the first place, you have to be calm.

“You need plenty of patience,” Wagner says.

“Setting up, preparing, wrapping, re-wrapping when it comes undone, drying, spraying — it’s a process. In order to fully focus, I need to be free of distractions and in a creative mood.”

red cane japanese wrapped stones rocks denise wagner

Soft red balances with varying shades of gray in this collection of Japanese wrapped stones by Kennewick artist Denise Wagner

Rocks, and People

In many ways, working with the rocks is like working with people, she adds. You simply can’t rush through the process, and if you even try, you’ll lose out on something beautiful.

“As a licensed home care provider, I work with all kinds of seniors.

“Like working with my clients, wrapping stones takes patience. Each stone is unique. Some are smooth and easy to work with, and some are a bit rough around the edges.

“These stones have been around a long time, and I just imagine the stories they could tell. The stones’ stories would be just as interesting as those of my clients, except with my human clients, I DO get to hear the stories!”

Rocks around the Region

Wagner has shown her Japanese Wrapped Stones at the Indigo and Blue Shows at Drewboy Creative and Gallery Aglow at Gallery at the Park, both in Richland; the Serene Abundance Studio in Florence, OR; and the East Benton County Historical Museum in Pasco, WA. Working from her dining room table, she uses the cane itself for tension, tightly grasping the end as she makes the first wrap. The last wrap she tucks into the back, holding down with a bit of glue. The resulting design is sprayed with sealant and left to dry.

It’s very important to keep the finished wrapped stones out of wet or damp places such as outdoors or bathrooms, she says, as the moisture can cause the cane to relax, loosen, and unravel.

For Wagner, rocks, like people, aren’t simply things you pick up and throw away. They’re individual, unique, and capable of becoming works of art. You just have to take the time to look at them, work with them, and see their potential.

Wenaha GalleryDenise Wagner is the featured Art Event artists from July 13 through August 9.

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.

painted-rocks-jacquelyn-silvester-dayton-random-kindness

Painted Rocks: Spreading Joy and Encouragement

painted-rocks-jacquelyn-silvester-dayton-random-kindness

A series of painted rocks by Dayton artist Jaqulyn Silvester, who has been painting rocks for more than 25 years — long before today’s trend.

Rocks, these days, really rock.

Long overlooked because they’re so ordinary, humble rocks are newly feted as works of art that carry an inspiring message.

painted rocks dayton smith random kindness art

Focusing on the light — a series of lighthouse themed painted rocks by Dayton rock artist Mary-Jeanne Smith

“I love the idea of putting little random gifts of art out into the world, to bring joy to a stranger,” says Mary-Jeanne Smith, a resident of Dayton who has been painting rocks, and hiding them throughout the community for others to find, for a little more than a year. She is one of thousands of people around the nation who have joined the painted rocks grass roots movement, inspired by life coach Megan Murphy from Massachusetts. In 2015 Murphy wrote “You’ve got this” on a rock and left it on a beach in Cape Cod. After a friend found it and told her how the message had lifted her spirits, Murphy started the Kindness Rocks Project, encouraging others to paint “random acts of kindness” on rocks and leave them out for others to find.

Painted Rock Facebook Groups

“I painted my first  rock, a dragonfly, in 2016 and it was so terrible I put it away and decided rock painting was not for me,” says Ashly Beebe, also from Dayton. Two years later she discovered and joined a Facebook rock painting group from Dayton and participated in its monthly challenges which honed her skills and techniques. Now she hides her rocks throughout town, focusing on busy streets and parks — especially in and around statues — because she wants people to find them easily.

“The best place I have hidden rocks was all over my mother’s garden when I went home to visit,” Beebe says. “It was so fun hearing her find them all weekend long and she still displays them.”

painted rocks felice henderson dayton random kindness

Silhouette magic — painted rocks by Dayton artist Felice Henderson.

Part of the rock painting movement is posting found rocks on the local Facebook rock painting group, and many cities and geographical areas host one of these. Rock painters regularly check their local groups to see who has found their rocks and where, delighting in the stories and the smiles.

“The pictures I see posted of children finding my rocks have been particularly heartwarming,” Smith says. “They look so happy and proud, holding up their found rock. Knowing that my little random gift brought a smile is a lovely reward that keeps me painting more rocks.”

Hiding the Painted Rocks

For Dayton resident Felice Henderson, hiding the rocks is as much fun a painting them. On family walks through town her two children, 9 and 4, decide the final hiding place, which is sometimes really really obvious (the four-year-old’s choice) and sometimes not. Henderson remembers their own discovery of a special rock while vacationing on the coast, and it drove home to her how meaningful the ordinary rock has the potential to be.

“The rock we found was painted with the ashes of a deceased 2-year-old mixed into the paint,” Henderson remembers. “Her name was Cami Grace. Her mother painted the rocks with her ashes to have others find them and take them all over the world, since Cami died before her time and never got to travel.”

hummingbird painted rock ashly beebe dayton artist random kindness

A touch of spring and hope from a painted rock by rock artist Ashly Beebe of Dayton

That story pierces the soul. Others are more lighthearted, such as Walla Wallan Nathan Martnick’s reason for starting to paint rocks in the first place.

“I did it initially with the intent of impressing a most beautiful woman who paints rocks, but then I realized I actually enjoyed painting rocks.” He also likes hiding them, and while he recognizes the need to make the hiding place not too difficult, sometimes the temptation is strong:

“One of the more unique spots I’ve chosen is an umbrella hole on a patio table.”

“I once hid a rock in the pocket of the Waitsburg Founding Fathers’ statue,” Waitsburg rock painter Sonya Taylor says. She gravitates toward a “theme” when it comes to hiding places, with Jubilee Lake designated for nature images like kayaking, ducks, and fishing, and the Dayton General Hospital Therapy Department housing her Pokemon rock during last year’s Halloween theme.

Finding Painted Rocks

“I don’t hide rocks super well,” Dayton resident Savonnah Henderson (Felice’s sister, to whom she credits the introduction to rock painting), says. “I WANT people to find them and enjoy them.”

That’s what it all comes down to: taking an ordinary item; transforming it into a thing of beauty; and placing it someplace where a total stranger will find it. The combination of all these elements is what keeps many people painting and hiding rocks. It’s an individual mission of spreading kindness, encouragement, and goodness.

“I love creating something beautiful that someone else can find,” Felice Henderson says. Or, as Beebe sums it up,

“I feel so grateful to have found not just a hobby, but a piece of my heart, and to share that as a random act of kindness with others.”

Wenaha GalleryRock Artists is the Art Event from Monday, January 28 through Saturday, February 23 at Wenaha Gallery. A number of regional rock art painters are displaying their work — in plain site — at the gallery. Rocks will be available for purchase for $10 each.

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.