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.

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.

 

Sandra Matthews-Sarve

Art by

Sandra Matthews-Sarve

More About Sandra Matthews-Sarve

Having the ability to make an object previously plain into something beautiful is an art indeed — Sandra Matthews-Sarve has this gift, and she uses it to make beautiful carvings from stone and marble. Her sculptures can be anything from a majestic marble swan, to a hamster waiting in the bushes.

Marble Swan

In life, we sometimes find it hard to believe that we can be an artist — but in truth; everyone is an artist to some extent, we just have to learn how to find it.

Sandra uses carving and engraving as an outlet to show her true artistic talent. Nothing brings her more happiness than knowing her art made an impact on someone’s life.