Rock and Stone — The Sculpture of Sandra Matthews-Sarve

perfect pair birds stone carving sandra sarve

A Perfect Pair, stone carving by Sandra Matthews-Sarve of Walla Walla.

We see them every day.

Most of the time we walk by them, ignore them, overlook their existence. There are so many of them; they are so common, so ordinary, so completely lacking in what we consider value, that we accord them little attention or respect.

They’re rocks.

carved rock by road mother child sarve carving

Rock by the Road, mother and child, by Sandra Matthews-Sarve.

“We live on a rock. This planet is a rock,” says Sandra Matthews-Sarve, a stone carver from Walla Walla. “But most people take rocks for granted. They ignore rocks.”

Not so Matthews-Sarve. Finding new life for unexpected or undervalued items has always been an interest for the artist, who has made wall decorations out of old frying pans and kitchen decor from discarded blocks of wood.  She turned her attention to rocks four years ago when she became curious about engraved stones. She made a few, found she liked working with stone, and eventually transitioned from engraving to sculpting.

The Value of Rock

“Years ago, part of the reason I gravitated initially toward discarded items was because they were cheap materials,” Matthews-Sarve explains.

“It was a time when I was single and very poor, but loved to make things.

“But I also realized my attraction to discarded items was making something considered useless into something useful — and maybe even beautiful again.

“I enjoyed looking beyond the expected uses of objects and finding their other uses. Rocks are just another item most people consider useless and ignore or toss aside.”

petal soapstone carved rock pot sarve

Petal Soapstone Pot by Sandra Matthews-Sarve of Walla Walla.

In the world of rocks, there are rocks, and there are rocks. Because humans like to classify, rocks, like other items, find themselves being described as valuable and worthless, essential and unnecessary. Matthews-Sarve sees worth beyond the labels, and works with rocks across the spectrum.

Of course many of us, when we hear of stone carving, immediately think of marble, alabaster, soapstone — the cream of the rock world. They are, indeed, a delight with which to work, Matthews-Sarve affirms. She likes their hidden unpredictability. Cracks and fissures, small pieces of gravel and other material hidden in the stone come into play as she is carving, chiseling or angle grinding.

And while she may enter into a project with a particular result in mind, the stone itself joins in the decision process with its natural shape and buried blemishes.

“One must always be ready to change direction and sculpting plans when working with stone,” Matthews-Sarve says.

She Does Not Limit Herself

Normal carving stones like marble, alabaster, and soapstone, however, can be hard to find, she adds, so as an artist, she does not limit herself.

“It isn’t laying around on the ground. It has to be mined. So it can get expensive to buy it.

“But your average everyday rock is just waiting by the side of the road, or in a river, on a hillside, most anywhere.”

dancer carved stone garden ornament sarve

Dancer, carved stone garden ornament by Sandra Matthews-Sarve

Like its more valuable cousins, ordinary rock also contains hidden unpredictabilities, cracks and fissures, surprises that the sculptor discovers through trial, error, practice, and work. Matthews-Sarve and her husband, Kevin, enjoy exploring the regional roads of the nearby hills, discovering  and picking up rocks along the way. Generally, she creates garden ornaments from these finds.

“Most of the ordinary rocks are basalt — we have a lot of that around here. But some of them seem a little softer and muddier than basalt, and I’m not sure what they are. So I just call them Blue Mountain Roadside Rocks.”

Matthews-Sarve’s studio is outside, alternating between her garage and driveway. Angle grinding, chisel and hammering are driveway projects. Work done with a dremel, file, riffler, and rasp locates itself in the garage or under a canopy. In bad weather, she brings small pieces, like refrigerator magnets, into the kitchen. Projects range from large garden sculptures to tiny little plant pots, and each spends time in her hands and under her eye. The challenge, and reward, lie in finding and shaping beauty, teasing it from the raw, often stubbornly difficult, materials, whether those materials are deemed “valuable” or not.

Intrinsic Value

It’s not a difficult metaphorical jump from rocks to other things, and from other things to people. Matthews-Sarve is especially conscious of this, having worked with and around a disability much of her life. She knows from experience that value judgments are just that, and true understanding takes a willingness to look beyond the surface to the depth beneath. And that’s why she’s willing to look.

“I enjoy making art out of beautiful stone, but I also enjoy making art out of common roadside rocks.

“Most things can be useful or beautiful.

“Sometimes we just need to look beyond the expected uses, and beyond the normal ideas of beauty.”

Wenaha GallerySandra Matthews-Sarve is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from January 26 through February 22, 2021.

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

 

maple burl clock wood pendulum time leonard mcreary

Time to Create: Clocks by Leonard McCreary

maple burl clock wood pendulum time leonard mcreary

Maple Burl Clock with Pendulum, an elegant way to keep time, by Leonard McCreary

Time.

With the advent of a New Year, it is always a . . . timely subject. Like the air we breathe, time is not something that can be conglomerated, hoarded, or created out of nothing. No matter who we are, or who we think we are, we are given a limited supply.

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

He makes clocks out of them.

clocks wood maple walnut time leonard mccreary

An array of clocks in maple and walnut, by Leonard McCreary

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

Clocking Time in the Workshop

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

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

The wood itself is integral to determining the shape of the finished clock. A cross section cut from the felled tree, each clock reflects the unique shaping that time and weather, environment and circumstances played upon the stem and main wooden axis of the tree. One looks like a bursting star in walnut; another, burled maple, features a swinging pendulum in the midst of a hole in the wood. Still another looked so much like the state of Washington that it wound up being so.

maple burl wooden clock time leonard mccreary

Shaped like a heart, a maple burl clock shows a richness of texture and color, reflecting the life of the tree. By Leonard McCreary

Working out of a shop at his home, McCreary says that the sanding process is time intensive, and when he has brought the shaped piece to a state of perfection, he coats the wood with resin to add a shine.

Each Tree Is Unique

In addition to clocks, McCreary continues to make tables, and later added birdhouses to his repertoire. For years, he sold his work at the Saturday market in Salem, as well as a clock store in Sisters, OR. He wouldn’t describe his clock-making as a labor of love, because it’s not so much work as creative joy. Each piece is as unique as the tree from which it comes, and what it eventually results into being is the result of a “conversation” between McCreary and the wood. Trees, like people, are most interesting when they are most individual.

It is time well spent, McCreary feels. Now retired from logging and road building, he enjoys focused time on creating clocks, and appreciates that there is no hurry about the process. Time is something well worth savoring, appreciating, and using for good purposes.

How we spend it, makes a difference.

Wenaha GalleryLeonard McCreary is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from December 29, 2020, through January 25, 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.

 

rainbow trout fish carved wooden sculpture art tom schirm

Fish Tales: Wooden Sculptures by Tom Schirm

When Tom Schirm tells a fish story, it’s not your usual Big One That Got Away tale.

Schirm, a habitat biologist for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in Columbia, Garfield, and Asotin counties, has spent 35 years of his professional career protecting fish and wildlife. For this reason, many of his fish stories have to do with poachers. Lately, however, an increasing number of his tales have to do with the more pleasant topic of woodcarving. Schirm uses his knowledge of fish, their habitat, and their unique markings, and turns this into sculpture.

golden trout fish wooden sculpture tom schirm

Golden Trout, wooden fish sculpture by Walla Walla artist Tom Schirm.

It all started in the mid-1990s when Schirm was working as a game warden in Wyoming.

Fishing for a Hobby

“A girlfriend asked if there was anything I would like to do as a hobby besides hunt and fish. Since I chased poachers, and dealt with hunting and fishing in my job all the time, she thought some other hobby might be good.”

So . . . Schirm decided to carve fish. He started with a book, bought by the girlfriend, by Bob Berry, considered the father of the fish carving art form.

“I played around with it for many years, but started to get serious about improving and carving more compositions in 2008,” the Dayton artist says.

Using both hand and power tools, Schirm works with exotic sounding woods like tupelo, jelutong, or basswood. Prized for their softness for carving, they are also prone to splintering. This adds to the challenge and beauty of the final work, Schirm says.

Scraps Schirm converts into rocks and other habitat components. The finished markings – a detail to which Schirm pays assiduous attention – he hand paints and airbrushes in acrylic paint.

Depending upon the sculpture size, each lifesize fish takes anywhere from 60 to 200 intense, careful, concentrated hours. Working primarily on commission, Schirm has sold works to collectors throughout the Pacific Northwest, as well as Wyoming and Iowa.

Rescuing a Prized Catch

“I remember one buyer who came to me with a damaged taxidermy mount of a big Smallmouth Bass his father had caught many years before,” Schirm says.

“Most of the fins were broken or missing, and his father had thrown it away.

“He took it from the garbage and asked if I could replicate it in wood, and do a composition including the lure his father had caught it with.

“It was about a 7-pound Smallmouth Bass. I broke two saw blades and nearly burned up my band saw cutting such a thick fish shape out of the block of wood.

“However, it turned out well, and his father was surprised and happy.”

white sturgeon fish wooden sculpture tom schirm

White Sturgeon, wooden fish sculpture by Walla Walla artist Tom Schirm

Five years ago, Schirm tested the waters, so to speak, of woodcarving competitions, and the result has been one to please both fisherman and artist. At his very first competition, the Artistry in Wood Show in Kennewick, Schirm walked away with First Place in Class, Best of Division, and the People’s Choice Award.

Shortly thereafter he entered national shows. In 2017 at the World Fish Carving Championships, sponsored by the leading taxidermy journal, Breakthrough Magazine, he garnered first, second, and third place prizes. This spring at the same competition, Schirm’s Westslope Cutthroat Trout took the Open (Top Level) Decorative Lifesize, Third in the World Award.

Westslope cutthroat trout sculpture tom schirm

The Westslope Cutthroat Trout wooden fish sculpture, winner of multiple national awards, by Tom Schirm

“One Special Fish”

The prizes for the Westslope Cutthroat Trout are especially meaningful because of another fish story in Schirm’s repertoire. Created for a colleague, the sculpture was meant for the colleague’s wife who had always wanted such an artwork, but unexpectedly passed away before it could be completed. Schirm borrowed the piece back for the 2018 and 2019 competitions.

“That’s one special fish,” the sculpture’s owner says.

Over the years, Schirm has carved 103 fish, and he is nowhere near being done – neither with the carving nor the entering of competitions. His next major goal is to win Judge’s Choice and Best of Show at a future World Fish Carving Championship.

But his constant goal, with each and every composition, is to re-create a snapshot in time of the fish within its natural environment.

“I want to show the beauty of nature and the complexity of creation,” Schirm says.

“My goal is to create the finest examples of fish sculptures I can.

“I enjoy it when someone thinks a composition is a real fish, or when a customer smiles with happiness when they receive their fish sculpture.”

Those are fish stories well worth telling.

Wenaha GalleryTom Schirm is the Featured Art Event from Monday, June 17, through Saturday, July 13 at Wenaha Gallery.

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.

 

victorian dream santa christmas holiday gourd sculpture art sheryl parsons

Christmas Cheer — The Holiday Gourd Art of Sheryl Parsons

christmas gourd paper mache santa claus sculpture sheryl parsons holiday art

Santa Claus in gourd and paper mache, celebrating the whimsical aspect of Christmas, by Joseph, OR, artist Sheryl Parsons

When we are children, life possesses a magical fantasy interspersed with reality. This juxtaposition, seamless in the mind of a child, colors our memories and affects the adults we eventually become. For this reason, adults who are wise learn from children as much as they teach them, often by getting “down” to their level.

“My mother was a fabulous artist who loved to share her talents with me,” says Sheryl Parsons, a Joseph, OR, artist who specializes in folk art holiday sculpture made from gourd, polymer, and clay.

autumn harvest christmas holiday santa sculpture sheryl parsons artist

Autumn Harvest Santa, hand-crafted Christmas holiday gourd sculpture by Joseph, OR artist Sheryl Parsons.

“She would get on the floor with me when I was little and show me how to create shape and definition in the pictures we colored in my coloring books. She taught me basic sketching techniques such as shapes and human anatomy while we sat at the kitchen table. We dabbled in pen and ink, along with pastels, and she always had a stack of Walter Foster how-to art booklets around that I loved to look at.

“I dreamed of becoming as good as what I saw in those pages.”

Christmas Gourd & Holiday Folk Art

Parsons’ dream has come true in her folk art and sculpted pieces which celebrate holidays especially enamored by children, most notably Halloween and Christmas. It is testament to the child within that her work finds (adult) collectors from around the world, through her participation in major Halloween craft festivals in Petaluma, CA, (All Hallow’s Art Fest) and Bothell, WA, (Hallowbaloo), as well as selling via her Etsy shop, website, and Reasons to Believe, a year-round Santa Claus shop located in Kirkland, WA.

While art in general has been a part of Parsons’ life  since she was a child with a particularly perspicacious mother, the focus on Santa started years ago when Parsons lived in — really — North Pole, AK.

“I was a stay-at-home mom looking for a way to make some spending money when I came across the Better Homes and Gardens Santa Claus magazines full of artists from all over who used sculpting, carving, and sewing skills to create stunning Santa  figures.

northwood stump wooden santa sculpture Christmas art Sheryl Parsons Wallowa Oregon

Northwood Stump Santa, Christmas gourd art by Joseph, OR artist Sheryl Parsons

“While chopping wood one morning, I noticed that some of the slabs that chipped off when I missed the center of the logs had a shape that would lend itself to painting Santa figures on. The flat sides only needed a little sanding, and the rounded bark backs made for unique pieces.”

Christmas at the North Pole, Utah, & Oregon

Soliciting the assistance of her three children, who earned pocket money by helping their mother paint Santa ornaments and magnets made from wood chips, Parsons sold her work through the Knotty Shop on the Alaska highway.

On moving to Utah, Parsons continued her folk art sculpture, entering, winning awards, and later judging at the Utah State Fair in Salt Lake City. Relocating northwards to Joseph, Parsons now shows her gourd and other sculpture work at the art-themed town’s various galleries, and the only bad thing about her new home, from the standpoint of art, is that the gardening season is too short for her to grow her own gourds. But, actually, that’s not a problem.

“It’s funny: gourds seem to find me through friends, yard sales, and so on.

“Two years ago, an artist was moving away from the valley and gave her stash of gourds to another local artist, who then called me — and so I scored ten large bags of gourds of all shapes and sizes for free!”

victorian dream santa christmas holiday gourd sculpture art sheryl parsons

Victorian Dream Santa, Christmas holiday gourds sculpture by Joseph, OR, artist Sheryl Parsons

In addition to working with the gourd, Parsons innovates with repurposed materials, one of her favorite projects involving burnt out light bulbs or discarded glass bottles, which she covers in clay to become Santa, a snowman, or a Halloween-themed piece.

“Candlesticks, vintage tins, salt and pepper shakers, oil, cans, wood textiles bobbins — they’re all inspiration for a new holiday piece,” she adds.

As much as Parsons enjoys Christmas and Halloween, however, neither holiday is her favorite, with that accolade going to Thanksgiving, which she describes as a time to reflect on the blessings of the year past.

Celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas, Halloween

“There’s little commercialization of the day itself, so for me Thanksgiving is a time for family, and making memories, unencumbered by gift expectations.

“I take each season in turn, relishing in the delight of each, and don’t want to rush into Christmas before it’s time to — although it’s my favorite season to create for.”

The celebration of holiday seasons — Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Easter — inspire the child within, and with every hand-crafted sculpture, Parsons seeks to send a message of goodness and hope:

“For me, I want my art to be something that brings joy, peace, or pleasure to the owner or viewer,” Parsons says.

“I like to focus on the positive, whimsical, and good in life. People and nature are my inspiration: I see the hand of God in all.”

Wenaha GallerySheryl Parsons is the Pacific Northwest Art Event artist from Monday, November 5 through Saturday, December 1, 2018. She will be at the gallery in person during the Christmas Kickoff Holiday Art Show Friday, November 23, from 2 to 6 p.m., joined by Dayton painter Steve Henderson. Also at the show will be live music, artisan treats, a drawing for 3 holiday gift baskets, and up to 25% off purchases of $250 or more made on November 23 and/or 24.

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.

talented trio artists rastovich ostergaard

Talented Trio — Three Different Artists Keep it All in the Family

talented trio artists rastovich ostergaard

The Talented Trio of Michael Rastovich, LuAnn Ostergaard, and Joseph Rastovich inspire one another to heightened creativity

We’ve all heard that two heads are better than one.

But then again, too many cooks spoil the broth. And because it’s wise to take all maxims with a grain of salt, we recognize that the truth lies somewhere in between.

Numachi abstract photograph print LuAnn Ostergaard talented trio

Numachi, abstract photograph print by LuAnn Ostergaard, one of the Talented Trio family of artists

Such is the experience of the Talented Trio — a husband/wife, parent/son amalgamation consisting of Michael Rastovich, illustrator and animator; his wife LuAnn Ostergaard, digital abstract photographer; and their son Joseph Rastovich, metal sculpture artist of both home decor and public art.

The Kennewick family works, lives, collaborates, encourages, critiques, and innovates together as professional artists, or as LuAnn puts it,

“We are closely connected in our personal lives, and it shows in our collaborative, creative professions as artists. There’s a lot of cooperation. We work together to help the others with inspiration, new ideas, and methods of creating.”

Joseph agrees, wryly observing:

“Art by committee is fraught with difficulties.

“However, when the right minds come together, the synergy can create outstanding results.”

Joseph: “Powerful Brainstorming” by the Talented Trio

Crediting his parents as critical mentors in his creative career, Joseph describes “powerful brainstorming” sessions featuring (three) different perspectives, sometimes vastly contrasting, with an outcome that is often superior to the original single perspective.

metal sculpture home decor furniture lamp joseph rastovich talented trio

A metal sculpture home decor lamp by Joseph Rastovich, the youngest member of the Talented Trio

For Joseph, art has been a part of his life since childhood, growing up with full-time artist parents, and being “unschooled” in a creative environment that allowed him to have the time, freedom, and tools to create whenever he wanted. By the age of 25, he had installed 11 public art projects throughout the Pacific Northwest, in addition to creating an array of home decor wall art and furniture that he sells through various art galleries, festivals, and retail stores.

“He literally grew up with a paintbrush in his hand, and flourished as a young artist,” LuAnn says.

LuAnn: Leaving the Corporate World

She, however, experienced a different world before she entered that of a full-time independent artist. Though LuAnn comes from a long line of artists dating back to her great grandfather, she started out in a corporate work environment. The memory of a different way of doing things enhances her gratitude for the way things are now.

“After spending five years working in a windowless office with a powerful, good -paying job in the corporate world, I made the decision to take the journey as an artist,” LuAnn says.

“Some evenings, when I came out of the building to go home after work, I would see a glorious sunset and realize I was missing it. I would just stand there, reveling in it as it quickly faded away.”

chalice drawing colorful michael rastovich illustration talented trio

Chalice, original drawing by Michael Rastovich, the patriarch of the Talented Trio

She wanted to do work that she believed in, experiencing a flow of creativity in which she expressed her own ideas. Seeing the world with an intensity that caused her to notice thing other people didn’t, she wanted to bring her creative visions to tangible reality. So when she walked away from her corporate job, she never looked back: every day since then reaffirms that decision.

“I take pride and have a sense of accomplishment when completing my creative work for the day.”

Michael: A Passion for Drawing

Michael knew from a very young age that he was an artist, incorporating both commercial and independent work into his professional dossier: he does design, animation, illustration, etching, digital, and graphics, with his true passion being drawing.

“I have spent my life trying to understand our world, by drawing it,” he says. “The challenge of seeing the world, and suggesting its forms with accuracy, economy and simple tools is joyful for me.”

Michael studied under master artists Siegfried Hahn and Howard Wexler, living in an adobe hut in the New Mexico desert while honing and perfecting his skills. He has worked for a museum design company in Portland, OR, creating conceptual drawings for the creation of new museums through the U.S., and presently develops animation projects for businesses of all sizes and scope. He also custom builds the framing boxes upon which LuAnn mounts her digitally enhanced, abstract photographs.

A Trio of Talent and Collaboration

It’s all part of working together.

“As a family of working artists, we spend nearly every waking moment creating and helping each other with our creations,” Michael says. “Over the years, we have each developed specific skills, and we depend on each other for support in this sometimes challenging, but always rewarding, life as artists.”

“Holidays, weekends, and down-time are meaningless,” LuAnn adds. “You are an artist, and your life’s work is all that matters.

“You were born to be an artist, and it is your purpose in life and your life’s work — you can do nothing else.”

Wenaha Gallery

LuAnn Ostergaard, Michael Rastovich, and Joseph Rastovich are the featured Pacific Northwest artists at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, November 6 through Saturday, December 2, 2017.   The Talented Trio will be at the gallery in person Saturday, November 24 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., for a special show also featuring Kennewick watercolor artist Laura Gable.

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.

.

 

 

Wilburton Pottery

Wilburton Pottery

Art by

Wilburton Pottery

More About 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.

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.”

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.

Lauralee Northcott

Art by

Lauralee Northcott

More About Lauralee Northcott

“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.

“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.”

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.

“Our shows feature great music, cowboy poetry, and lots of humor,” Northcott says, adding that they often travel with poet/comedian Dave McClure.

“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.”

Mary Briggs

Art by

Mary Briggs

More About Mary Briggs

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.

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 is 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.”

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.

 

 

Felted wool vessels and table runners by Sally Reichlin of Olympia

Fiber Finesse — The Felted Wool Art of Sally Reichlin

Felted wool vessels and table runners by fiber artist Sally Reichlin of Olympia

Felted wool vessels and table runners by fiber artist Sally Reichlin

When Sally Reichlin was a girl of four enrolled in her first art class, she had no idea that someday, she would have incredibly strong, well-shaped arm muscles — because of art.

“I’ve had instruction in drawing, painting, ceramics, sculpture, and printmaking,” the Olympia-based artist says, but it is her present focus, fiber arts, that doubles as a fitness workout.

Felted wool vessel by fiber artist Sally Reichlin of Olympia, WA

Felted wool vessel by fiber artist Sally Reichlin

Reichlin creates wall art, table runners, and three-dimensional vessels with roving, carded wool with short fibers that she overlaps by hand, in layers — three layers for flat pieces, six for vessels. With the flat pieces, she creates finished fabric by rolling and rotating the thoroughly soaked layers with a cylindrical tool.

Back and forth. Back and forth, for two to three hours. Two, or three . . . hours.

“Felting is an art that requires patience, and it can also be physically demanding,” Reichlin observes.

To create her three-dimensional vessels, Reichlin puts away the cylindrical tool and picks up an inflatable ball. After layering the roving in alternating directions over the ball, Reichlin covers the mass with tulle and nylon netting to keep the layers intact, then immerses it all in a hot bath of water and olive oil soap, where the ball is rubbed and rotated for . . . two hours, until the fibers mesh into fabric.

“Once the layers of netting and tulle are removed, the ball is deflated, and the piece now resembles the shell of the ball,” Reichlin explains.

“It has no defined shape at this point, and it basically looks like a flat, wet sock.”

Framed felted wool art piece by fiber artist Sally Reichlin

Framed, felted wool art piece by fiber artist Sally Reichlin

But not for long: Reichlin alternately stretches the newly formed fabric by hand, kneads it, and tosses it back into the hot water bath until she likes the shape. By this time, another two hours later, the piece has shrunk by 40 to 50 percent from where it started. Once the piece is dry, Reichlin embellishes it by sewing on, by hand, glass, stone, and/or semi-precious beads, a process which takes anywhere from one to five hours.

It is good that she is, as she describes herself, “slow and determined.” She is also experimental, valuing the process as much as the finished product, which is a major reason why she knows how to create such unique art pieces in the first place: she taught herself, through hours of poring through books, watching online videos, and just doing it.

“I look for ways to be challenged, to experiment and learn from my mistakes,” Reichlin says. “If I am not getting enjoyment from the process, I stop working on that particular piece and come back to it later.

“This gives me time to think about the direction I want to take and changes I might make.”

Felted wool vessel by Olympia fiber artist Sally Reichlin

Felted wool vessel by fiber artist Sally Reichlin

Selling her creations in galleries, gift shops, and at Olympia Arts Walk, Reichlin has clients throughout the Pacific Northwest, on the East Coast, and in Denmark. For the past 15 years, she has offered private and group instruction, and her home studio, a converted one-car garage, is a model of organization with six rows of 18″ x 18″ x 18″ cubicles spanning one wall. When she isn’t working on a felt piece (with larger works, directly on the floor), she is standing at the easel, painting on canvas. Throughout the day, she is moving, standing, lifting, rolling, and going above and beyond whatever minimum amount of time is recommended for a person to exercise.

It’s all a process: learning, discovering, doing, re-doing, observing, trying, questioning, and finessing, but for Reichlin, the process is as intricately linked to the finished art piece as the wool roving is meshed and merged together. One does not get the final work of art without all the hard work — physical, yes, but mental and creative as well.

“The one thing I feel most passionately about is the importance of process,” Reichlin reiterates.

“I place more value on the process than the finished product, because it has always been my greatest teacher.”

Wenaha GallerySally Reichlin is the featured Pacific Northwest Art Event artist from Monday, December 5, through Saturday, December 30.

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!

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.