white basket trio birch bark woven lisa kostelak

Basket Making — Lisa Kostelak Perfects an Ancient Art

baskets rattan organic cedar rushes woven lisa kostelak

Surrounded by grasses and trees, a series of hand-woven baskets by Colville, WA, artist Lisa Kostelak, celebrates the natural world.

Once upon a time, and not that long ago, there was no plastic. For thousands of years of human history, if people wanted to carry something around, from babies to drinking water, they wove a basket. It took, and takes, skill, patience, and an eye for artistry to create a useful basket.

“I have been making baskets for 35 years,” says Lisa Kostelak of Colville, WA.

“I made my first basket in a craft store in a mall in Florida, when I was in just the right place at the right time.

“Though I had been interested in learning for a long time, it was hard to know where to start in the old, pre-Internet days.”

dandelion birch bark rattan woven basket artisan lisa kostelak

It’s about two-inches high. This little basket is woven from dandelion stems, birch bark, and rattan. By Colville, WA, artisan Lisa Kostelak

Today’s technology worship aside, one of the best ways to learn a craft that employs our hands, hearts, and brain is from an actual person who learned how to do it from another actual person. And it is for this reason that Kostelak, who taught herself painstakingly through books and a tremendous amount of trial and error, passes on what she knows through teaching small, personal classes. Basket Making 101, contrary to what we’ve been told all these years, is not an easy A.

Basket Making 101 Is Not an Easy Class

“I learned to weave using rattan, which is a readily available material from Southeast Asia. It is lovely to work with, and I still use it to make many baskets.

“Over the years I have expanded, using material that I forage locally, including cedar bark, tules or rushes, birch bark, bear grass, red osier, even dandelion stems. I am always on the lookout for stuff to weave with.”

white basket trio birch bark woven lisa kostelak

They’re graceful, elegant, yet connected to the earth. The bark-based handles of this trio of baskets adds the perfect finishing touch. By Colville basket weaver Lisa Kostelak.

So it’s not just a matter of unpacking a cardboard box of materials and following a sheet of directions. For Kostelak, basket making involves a solid knowledge of plants and their environment, as well what to harvest, when and how, and what to do with it afterwards to prepare it for weaving. (Show of hands here: who in the room has even heard of “red osier” or “tules,” much less knows how to identify and gather them?)

“I forage anywhere — my backyard, where I’ve planted willow, juncus, red osier, to weave with. I also use my fruit tree pruning, among other garden plants.

“My tules, or rushes, I get from a friend’s pond. We have a nice visit, then cut rushes and load them into my van.”

Sustainable Thinking

For cedar, she gets permission from a private landowner to select a tree that is damaged and will need to be taken down. Once it is cut, she strips off the outer bark, then peels the inner bark or cambium layer, which she coils up and cures for a year before soaking and cutting it into strips for weaving. On hikes through the Colville National Forest, she looks for bear grass, birch bark from dead trees, scouring rush, and whatever else catches her eye.

white basket woven handle lisa kostelak artisan

The basket itself has something to say about its final shape and form. By Lisa Kostelak, artisan weaver from Colville, WA.

“I always ask before harvesting live material,” Kostelak says, because an essential part of making baskets — by real, regular people throughout history — has been working with the environment, not against it. In today’s arena of industrial, profit-driven, multi-billion, even -trillion, dollar corporations, this respect for, and awareness of, sustainability is becoming as lost as the knowledge of making baskets.

“I love working in 3D, with shapes, textures, and colors, making something that is functional and beautiful,” Kostelak says. Her studio, she adds, was formerly known as the family room. With the kids grown and flown, she has commandeered the entire space, with foraged materials stashed everywhere.

“I love spending time there, with the music turned up as loud as it goes, just getting into the rhythm of the weave.”

Baskets Are Timeless Technology

Kostelak sells her work through area shops and regional craft shows, and her wares have found homes from Seattle to San Francisco, from New York to Florida, from Nova Scotia to New Zealand. There is no end to creative inspiration, she says, because the materials themselves are dynamic, redolent of life, tactile, and almost demanding to be touched, handled, interlinked and intertwined.

“I get new ideas while I work. Sometimes I get an idea from the colors or textures of material stored together. Sometimes I dream a basket, and write it down when I wake up.”

The skill, and the baskets, transcend time, and there is a rush (no pun intended) to creating something that artisans have been making for far, far longer than industry has churned out plastic bags and petro-chemical products. There’s a human touch that endures from one age to the next.

This is good to remember the next time we overhear someone scoffing that a class is as easy as Basket Making 101. We can be free to retort,

“Have you ever actually woven a basket? It’s not as easy as you think.”

Wenaha GalleryLisa Kostelak is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from April 20 through May 17, 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.

 

Life Is Made for Living — Cat Paintings by Steph Bucci

cat life romance love kiss hug feline steph bucci art watercolor

Life is about relationships with one another. Cat Kisses, original watercolor painting by Steph Bucci.

Some people say life begins after high school. Others insist it really begins after retirement. But life, which goes on whether we choose to jump into it with joy or not, progresses forward when we move, learn, breathe, experience, get out, experiment, turn off the TV, take chances and just plain, well, live. When we wait, and wait, and wait, we don’t get to the things that we really want to do.

And that’s a waste of human creativity.

Artist Steph Bucci discovered this years ago when she found herself repeating the same sentence to her husband, Bud:

“When we retire . . . I want to learn watercolor.

cat dance life joy balance watercolor steph Bucci

Life is a dance that teaches us to balance. Cat Dance, original watercolor painting by West Richland, WA, artist Steph Bucci.

“I don’t know why I relegated the idea to a retirement pastime, or what kept me from pursuing it earlier.”

Why Wait? And Wait, and Wait?

But life, which was moving forward, invited her to join on the journey. With retirement far off in the horizon, she found herself with a home decor project to complete now.

“We felt some existing artwork no longer worked as well in its space.

“When costs for a replacement piece seemed high, Bud — always my great encourager and steady ally — said, ‘I think you can do it!'”

She did some research, bought paint, experimented on 4×6 practice canvases. She made mistakes, learned from those mistakes, and kept at it. Little realizing how different working on mini-canvases is from the 42 x 60 piece she was aiming to create, she refused to give up. Eventually, she finished the project, successfully.

“The painting still hangs in the living room, and my long-term desire to try watercolor was launched.”

A self-motivated student who learns best by reading and imitating, Bucci has worked in watercolor, batik watercolor, mixed media, colored pencils, markers, and acrylics. Describing herself as a minimalist, the West Richland, WA, artist paints out of a studio consisting of a small desk in her guest room, a couple shelves in the closet, and a petite, highly portable pochade box she made from two wooden cigar boxes, which hold her limited paint palette of eight colors, plus a tube of white gouache.

Small Space, Big Living

In this small space she works on big things, including illustrations for two children’s books about a rescued Golden Retriever named Gus. The first book in the series won three awards, including the Royal Dragonfly and Moonbeam, recognizing exemplary work in both editorial content and illustration.

Pinks cat mouse flowers friends feline watercolor art steph bucci

In many of her cat paintings, Steph Bucci incorporates a small mouse with and around the cat. Pinks, original watercolor painting by Steph Bucci.

Bucci approaches each project, each new technique, with an energy that carries her through, up, and over the learning curve. For a year, she focused on stylized cat paintings, experimenting with subject matter and composition, and incorporating, in many of the images, a small mouse.

“My dad’s pet nickname for me as a child (I’m petite) was ‘Mouse,’ or ‘Miss Mouse.” Early on in my painting experience I decided to include a mouse in my cat images as a pointer to that dear memory.

“The Mouse doesn’t make an appearance in 100% of the paintings, and her shape and style vary, but she’s getting more consistent. She embeds a touch of ‘Father’s Love’ in my images in a way I experienced it as a child.”

cat mouse life abstract friends together collage steph bucci watercolor feline art

Cat and mouse in the game of life — Cat Mouse Abstract, original watercolor painting by Steph Bucci.

Indeed, in all her work, the image of a Father’s love is always in the background. It is what inspires her to create, with everything she creates, beautiful things that are to be used and enjoyed.

A Father’s Love, and Creativity

“I believe appreciation of beauty and creativity is placed in all human beings by our Creator . . . and that it pleases Him when we use the abilities He’s given to express His creation in a meaningful way.

“I also think it pleases Him, as it does me, when I try to develop skills of expression. He enjoys my practice and my outcomes, and He’s really the source of all the creativity and skill.”

And no doubt He is also pleased that Bucci has chosen to live her life, as opposed to just waiting things out, as she discovers more about the world she lives in when she continues to explore it.

“Painting has brought me into contact with a wonderful new world of friends, people who have enriched my life, amazed me with their giftings, and encouraged me to branch out,” she reflects.

“I am so glad my husband encouraged me to take the plunge into the art world.”

Wenaha GallerySteph Bucci is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from March 9 through April 5, 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.

 

 

water dance swan bird painting impressionist relaxed not uptight

Not Uptight but Relaxed — Impressionist Paintings by Carol Betker

water dance swan bird painting impressionist relaxed not uptight

The Water Dance, original oil painting by Carol Betker. Relaxed and calm — you can’t get more opposite from uptight than that.

When you jump out of an airplane with a parachute, you have a pretty good idea of where you’ll end up: on Earth. It’s the process of getting there that you can’t predict. Unnerving? Yes, but that’s also part of the adventure.

For artist Carol Betker, starting each painting is akin to jumping from the plane: she knows what she wants the finished painting to look like, but the process of getting there is flexible, dynamic, even mercurial, more so because she paints Alla Prima, a method by which the artist applies wet paint on wet paint.

blue springs horse equine water wading impressionist painting carol betker

It’s a relaxed splash and plash through the water in Blue Springs, original oil painting by Kennewick artist, Carol Betker

“It’s a method that allows fresh brushwork,” the Kennewick oil painter says.

“I often feel in the beginning of all the creative messiness like I’m sky diving. I know I’ll land eventually, but I have to learn to enjoy the process and not get uptight.”

On Her Feet and Behind the Easel

Betker describes her style as loose, impressionistic, expressive, so she can’t be uptight when she’s behind the easel.  Her background as a public school art teacher (she retired in 2010) means that she has worked in, and taught, many mediums: from pottery to printmaking, and in the painting realm — watercolor, acrylic, oil, charcoal, pencil, and more. For years she worked in acrylic, with which she describes having a love/hate relationship.

“Acrylics are easy to clean, odor free, and dry quickly.

“On the other hand, drying quickly can inhibit the blending of edges which I like in my work. So I’ve been leaning toward oils in the last five years. I am intrigued with how oils blend in the wet on wet technique.”

landscape not uptight relaxed breathe peaceful impressionist painting carol betker

Who could feel uptight in a landscape so calm, so peaceful? Breathe, original oil painting by Carol Betker.

Working out of her dining room studio, where she paints pretty much every day, Betker explores subject matter from florals to landscapes, from pet portraits to the human face. If she doesn’t have another painting planned when she finishes her latest project, she doesn’t worry — or get uptight — but rather, relaxes into free fall.

“I think every successful person knows that, if you just show up, that’s half the battle.

“Showing up at the easel — not waiting to be inspired, but simply showing up every day — well, you will BE inspired as you begin.”

Remember the Camera

Exhibiting her work in multiple venues around the Tri-Cities and Prosser, Betker has garnered collectors in Washington and Oregon, as well as Missouri, Virginia, South Carolina, and Canada. She names Richard Schmid, Jessica Zemsky, and Dreama Tolle Perry as artists whose work and technique inspire her. She also credits her education at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, WA, where she received her B.A. in Art Education.

With a husband who loves photography, and with her own trusty Canon Rebel camera nearby when not in hand, Betker says that she reaps the benefit of having more images than she could possibly paint. Her main problem is remembering to bring the camera.

garden flowers color path happy plants carol betker impressionist painting

It’s a place for a quiet and gentle stroll. Color My World, original oil painting by impressionist painter, Carol Betker.

“I can’t tell you how many shots I’ve missed by leaving it behind.

“Judging from sales, though, even using a shot taken at 60 miles per hour through a windshield is usable as inspiration. I love a challenge!”

The image she photographed from the moving car, she explained, was “a spectacular Dogwood tree in full bloom with a little picket white fence, and parts of a white house peeking through. My husband was driving, and for some reason he doesn’t like to stop every time I see a great shot. But it did turn out, as the painting I created from the photo sold very quickly.”

Relaxed, Not Uptight

Betker looks for a feeling in her reference image: the turn of a head, glance of the eyes, a ray of light dancing across the surface of the landscape. When she isn’t in a moving car, she finds inspiration closer by, at a more leisurely pace:

“I enjoy the endearing expressions of my tortie calico cat, Missy, as I maneuver around, camera in her face.”

Seize the moment. Land on your feet. Make sure the parachute is packed. Let go of being uptight. Don’t forget the camera. And show up every day.

Along with art, Betker taught these life lessons to her students at Finley and Burbank schools during her teaching career, and the reason she could do so is because she lives by them herself. Painting art and living life both take imagination, creativity, a willingness to work, and an appreciation of joy. The result is well worth the act of jumping out of the plane.

“I’m in a good spot in my art where more times than not I am finding satisfaction in my work,” Betker says.

“I’m not going for perfection but rather for being authentic — capturing the Creator’s little treasures that come into my view.”

Wenaha GalleryCarol Betker is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from February 9 through March 8, 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.

 

 

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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.

 

kneeling woman green ceramic pottery figurative statue collista krebs

What’s Important? Then Do It — Pottery by Collista Krebs

cowboy bull important pottery ceramics western collista krebs

The texture, the feeling, the form of the pottery work is as important as its visual presence. Cowboy and Bull, original pottery sculpture by Collista Krebs.

If something is important to us — really REALLY important — we somehow find time for it. Given that we are human and not omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent, this commitment means that something else has to go by the wayside, but the exchange, we feel, is worth it.

For Collista Krebs, the choice came during nursing school, when one of her classmates announced that she was leaving the program. The colleague had just taken a ceramics class and decided to pursue pottery instead of nursing.

kneeling woman green ceramic pottery figurative statue collista krebs

In a state of gentle repose, a seated woman is graceful and relaxed. Original pottery sculpture by Collista Krebs.

“Right then and there I made up my mind: ‘I am going to do that too, only I am going to become a nurse first,’ and so I did,” the Colbert, WA, pottery artist says.

“After getting a BSN, I enrolled in a community clay class, and depending on my job, children, injuries and travels, I have always carved out time for clay.”

Time and Practice Are Important

That time has not always been a wild foray into creativity, along the lines of what we would see glorified in a movie. In real life, Krebs has worked as a ghost potter and “clay slave,” both experiences important to honing her skill through hard work and repetition.

“A ghost potter is someone who throws someone else’s shapes and signs the work as coming from that gallery,” Krebs explains.

A clay slave, she adds, loads and fires kilns, makes glazes, and does “other unglamorous jobs that only a true clay junky would find exciting.”

cows daisies flowers important time collista krebs pottery ceramics

An important part to the day is sitting and thinking, as do these ceramic cows with daisies, by Colbert potter Collista Krebs

Years of this work developed her skill with both handling clay and designing, and she now runs her own business, Jupiter’s Clayworks. She specializes in high-fire stoneware that is reduction fired, a technique that her husband dubs high stakes gambling for potters.

“I will take three months’ worth of work and put it into the kiln and cross my fingers. I’m hoping that the bottom of the kiln reaches the correct temperature before the top of the kiln overfires and destroys the glaze.”

When you fire clay up to temperatures of 2,400 Fahrenheit, she adds, things stick to the shelves or get bumps or pockmarks — “all sorts of things.

“I have come to love these blemishes. They are texture, stories, experience gained by fire.”

Unique and Individual Are Important

Each piece is unique, as is the creator. And this is important, as it should be, Krebs believes, because art, like its creator, reflects the individual — his or her outlook on life, experiences, likes and dislikes, interpretation of the world surrounding. To elucidate, Krebs described an experience that “rocked her world,” one that now permeates her work as a potter:

ceramic pottery bats wall hanging collista krebs artist

A series of ceramic bats by Colbert artist Collista Krebs hangs on the wall

While at Boston University Hospital, Krebs interviewed a young, suicidal blind woman and asked her to describe something that she was proud of. The woman responded that she was proud of her ability to dress well, going into great detail about her fashion talent.

“I was thankful that she could not see my face, because my first thought was, ‘Man, someone is really messing with this woman because she looks terrible!’

“But with further exploration, she revealed how she had been totally blind since birth, and how she dressed for sound and texture. How she ‘looked’ to people with vision had absolutely no influence on her decisions.”

Different textures rubbing together made distinctive sounds — bells on her purse and crumpled up chip bags sewn into her pockets warned of pick pockets.

“Ever since that encounter, I have asked myself, Would a blind person like my work? Does it feel good and balanced? Is there texture? Could one conjure up a tale after holding it in their hand?

“Personally, I think that even sighted people should ask themselves these questions.”

New and Innovative Are Important

She is always trying new things, Krebs says — both in how she thinks, and what she does. Success is determined by an assortment of factors, most of which, ironically, can’t be seen.

“If my work feels good and rings true when flicked with my finger, I consider it a success.”

That’s important. Important enough to take time to do.

Wenaha GalleryCollista Krebs is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from December 1 through December 31, 2020.

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.

 

 

Take Me Home

Lighting, Drama, Color — The Watercolor Paintings of Cheryll Root

Winsome, furry, cute, waiting to be cuddled — Take Me Home, original watercolor painting by Cheryll Root

The people we envy says a lot about ourselves. Obvious candidates are wealthy people, powerful people, incredibly good-looking people.

These three factors, however, aren’t what attract the attention of Cheryll Root, a watercolor artist from Troy, ID. The people she envies are . . .  zookeepers. Not because they’re rich, influential, or handsome, but because they work with exotic animals.

“I have a passion for painting animals — I LOVE them!” Root says. “If I lived near a zoo now, I’d love to volunteer there.

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Olivia, original watercolor painting by Cheryll Root

“One of my favorite shows is ‘The Secret Life of the Zoo,’ where they take you behind the scenes with the zookeepers and the animals they care for.”

The animals don’t have to be exotic, incidentally. Furry, cute, winsome, noble, adventurous, cuddly will do; just not a snake, though. If there were a position, paid or unpaid, for a “puppy and kitten petter,” Root would gladly apply, but as it is, she finds satisfaction in painting animals, as well as landscapes, floral scenes, and still lifes ranging from tea cups to cowboy boots.

A Doodler from Childhood

An active member of the Palouse Watercolor Socius, where she has served as secretary for numerous years, Root describes herself as a doodler from childhood, when she drew on all the margins of her mother’s piano music books. (Family legend reports that she also drew on white walls with crayon, but Root has no conscious memory of this.) She enjoys the painting challenge of keeping the whites white without using masking fluid. She also tackles the darkest of values, which have a tendency, in watercolor, to dry lighter than one thinks they will. Her goal is to create a work that stops the viewer, attracts their attention, and invites them to step closer and take a long, reflective look.

dayton depot train station cheryll root watercolor

Dayton Depot, original watercolor painting by Cheryll Root of Troy, Idaho.

“I hope my artwork treats the eyes to color,” Root says. “I also like to paint work that has some mystery, or some whimsy, to it.”

Dramatic lighting, vibrant color, intriguing shadows — these elements call out to Root, and in taking reference photos for her paintings, she looks for this triad. While she does paint plein air, she prefers studio work, even if the space where she works is not what most artists would desire. But it works well for her.

“I use my office, and the space I work in is rather cramped. But I do have good lighting and a nice view out the window (we live in the country on Moscow Mountain on 50 acres).”

Small Space, Big Output

A still life of pottery, Arizona Pots, original oil painting by Cheryll Root.

When she and her husband first moved to the area from Seattle, Root envisioned using a shop located in a large outbuilding. It has a wonderful view, lots of space, and great lighting. But what it doesn’t have is running water or heat. And as a less than positive bonus to what it does have: there are mice. And while it’s true that mice are animals — furry, cute, winsome, and potentially cuddly, they’re not on Root’s list of studio companions.

“Being a city girl at heart for all those years, I took the comfort of the house, even with its lesser studio space.”

Because ultimately, what matters is what comes out of that studio space: the finished paintings. Root has shown her work at galleries throughout the Pacific Northwest, as well as at juried shows by the Idaho Watercolor Society and the Palouse Watercolor Show, the latter a five-state juried exhibition. In 2016, her painting “Pears” graced the cover of Good Fruit Grower Magazine, reaching subscribers in all 50 states and 50 countries. The space where she works may be small, but the work that she gets done there is big with potential.

“I am always looking to learn more, improve technique, and create work that elicits emotion from the viewer, as well as reflecting my passion for color, and the vibrant world in which we live.”

Wenaha GalleryCheryll Root is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from October 20 through December 14, 2020.

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 Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

 

casey weekender leather bag pozzitive

Leather Lux — Handcrafted Bags by Betsy Pozzanghera

casey weekender leather bag pozzitive

Created from two repurposed leather jackets and decorative belt buckles, the Casey Weekender features, in its interior, material from a mission style love seat.

Do you know how sometimes, someone wants to give you a gift and they don’t know what to give? So they wrap up money and say, “Buy something fun that you really want. Don’t you dare pay  bills with this!”

Several Christmases ago, Betsy Pozzanghera’s mother-in-law did just that. And Betsy, quite rightly, did NOT pay bills with the money, but took a leather making class. After successfully sewing her first bag from a pattern and purchased leather hide, she began developing her own patterns and designs.

kirsten leather cowboy boot bag pozzanghera

Cowgirl boot tops make two exterior pockets on The Kirsten, handcrafted leather bag by Betsy Pozzanghera

“Once that first bag was completed, I wondered if I could use my old leather fashion boots as part of another bag,” the Spokane, WA, artist says. “The next bag after that, I used material from an old leather jacket.

“Then I really got the re-purposing bug.”

And so her business, B. Pozzitive Bags was born. (Betsy, by the way, is the “B” in the company name.)

Re-purposed Leather

“The majority of my creations use 90-100% repurposed leather (jackets, boots, horse tack, belts, etc.),” Pozzanghera says. “There are so many of those items, and if I can rescue them from the landfill, I will.”

Because the materials that she uses for each bag is unique, so also is each finished leather creation. Blue, brown, purple beige; suede or smooth; embellished with pockets, applique, buckles, and snaps — each bag is one of a kind and utterly distinctive. Often, the re-purposed materials themselves dictate what the finished creation will be.

Karol turquoise suede leather handcrafted purse pozzanghera

The Karol is crafted from a turquoise blue, suede leather jacket.

“Each jacket (or boot, or . . . ) is unique and tells me its story. I get my inspiration from them one at a time,” Pozzanghera explains.

“I’ve cut one part of a bag from a jacket only to decide it is not right for that bag.

“Sometimes I see two or three bags in one jacket, so I make them one after another. But there are some jackets that have been in my closet for years, awaiting inspiration.”

Leather Is Not a Forgiving Fabric

Sewing with leather, she adds, is challenging, because the material itself is not forgiving. Once you punch, poke, or sew a hole, that mark is there forever. On the positive, or, er, pozzitive side, the material is strong, whether it’s super soft and pliable or hard and stiff. (She prefers soft and pliable.)

emaline african deer hide bag purse pozzanghera

This version of the Emaline bag is crafted from African deer hide, a suede jacket, and a leather sample from a furniture store.

Over the years, Pozzanghera’s studio space has grown as the number of sewing machines she uses increases. Working out of a room in the basement of her house, she started with one machine, a portable cutting table, and an ironing board. Now, 200-square feet later (and she’d like more room), she has four sewing machines. Two are “regular” machines for standard fabric. One is for sewing canvas and light leather. The fourth, her new baby, is “huge, heavy, and can sew through an inch (yes, one inch!) of leather.”

Custom Projects Are Especially Meaningful

Some of Pozzanghera’s favorite creations are those fashioned as custom projects. Many of these use items from a family member, Dad’s old cowboy boots, for example, and result in a functional art piece that increases in meaning and memento every time it is held and handled.

Pozzanghera has sold her leather bags throughout the Western U.S. and Canada, and one is in Australia with a college student at Wollongong University. She has shown her work at festivals and art shows all over Washington, as well as in Idaho and Nevada.

That Christmas gift from her mother-in-law, the money that didn’t go to pay bills, has gone a long way. So . . .  the next time someone doesn’t know what to get you, and they give you money, and they say, “Don’t you DARE pay the bills with this,” don’t pay the bills with it. Instead, go do something fun, and pozzitive.

 

Wenaha GalleryBetsy Pozzanghera is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from October 6 through November 2, 2020.

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 Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

 

rodeo bull western art animal cattle cow tanna scott

Horse and Cattle — The Oil Paintings of Tanna Scott

rodeo bull western art animal cattle cow tanna scott

Rodeo Bull, original Western Art oil painting by Kennewick painter, Tanna Scott

More than once, when artist Tanna Scott has shown her horse and cow paintings at an art festival or show, someone begins to cry.

The first time this happened, the Kennewick Western Artist was befuddled and perplexed. But she’s gotten used to it, and nowadays, when a viewer stands in front of one of her works and weeps, she knows why.

“I paint with lots of emotion,” Scott explains. “I care about each painting.

two horse animal equine rodeo painting tanna scott art

You can almost see the dust fly as two horses rear up in Tanna Scott’s original oil painting Two Horses.

“Usually, the painting has a story or the buyer comes to me with a story. Some stories are very emotional: the buyer associates the painting with a loved animal.”

A Horse That Was a Friend

One time, an impassioned viewer approached a horse painting and began to tear up. Scott walked over to talk to her, and together the two looked at the horse. The woman then told Scott about a most beloved horse that had just passed away. It looked exactly like Scott’s painting.

Another time, a man gravitated toward a painting of a roan horse. He told Scott that the horse in the painting was his dad’s horse.

“I replied the painting must look like his dad’s horse,” Scott says.  “He said, ‘That horse IS my dad’s horse!’

“He told me that he had to purchase that painting for his dad, who was very sick with cancer. His horse stands on the top of a hill each morning and looks down on the ranch.

“By that time, we were all in tears. I was so happy he was able to take the painting home to his dad.

“That painting has a home.”

While no one wants to provoke someone to cry or be sad, Scott recognizes the power of animals in people’s lives. Raised as an only child on ranches in Texas and California, Scott bonded early to horse and cattle. As a young child, she sat on the fence and drew what she saw. Later, when her dad took her to rodeos, she fell in love with the dirt and action, the grit and courage of the rodeo world, and continued to draw and paint. Every artwork, somehow, incorporates and integrates the world of the Cowboy:

longhorn cow cattle livestock farm ranch tanna scott oil painting

Stately and majestic, a longhorn cow stands bold and proud. Longhorn, original oil painting by Tanna Scott.

“With my oil paintings, I support the Cowboy way of life — Past, Present, and Future.”

Teaching Art

For 25 years, Scott worked as a librarian and teacher at Eastgate Elementary in Kennewick, where she integrated art into her social studies curriculum. On the side, she taught art to students after school. Since retirement in 2017, Scott has added adult teaching to her schedule through the Kennewick Community Education program.

Scott has shown her work in various venues throughout the Pacific Northwest, including the Western Art Association show (Ellensburg, WA); the Bonanza Art Antiques and Gourmet Expo (Pendleton, OR); and the Pendleton Cattle Barons Celebration Weekend.

purple horse equine animal ranch rodeo tanna scott art

Purple Horse, original oil painting by Tanna Scott

She is a member of Cyber Art 509, a cooperative of artists from the 509 area code who exhibit their work in businesses throughout the area.

Describing her home as her studio, Scott paints on a table in her kitchen, and fills the walls with works that are drying. Sometimes, she runs out of wall space and leans a work on a chair, but that shouldn’t stop people from visiting.

“Just move the painting out of the chair and sit down.”

Emotion Connects the Viewer with the Horse or Cattle

It’s all part of life: animals, action, relationships, memories, and like life, there are happy moments and sad moments. But what matters, Scott believes, is emotion: it is the glue that connects the viewer with the artwork.

“When a buyer identifies with a painting — when it resembles their animal or reminds them of a wonderful memory of an animal — it means so much more to them. And to me.

“I paint with feeling and want the animals to have character.”

Wenaha GalleryTanna Scott is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from September 22 through October 19, 2020.

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 Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

 

pottery mugs production glazes pat fleming kennewick

Pottery Thoughts — Pat Fleming Creates as He Meditates

pottery mugs production glazes pat fleming kennewick

An array of pottery mugs, featuring a variety of shapes, sizes, and glazes, by Kennewick potter Pat Fleming

He teaches, paints, digs clay in out of the way places. And, over an art career that spans 54 years and counting, Pat Fleming has thrown a lot — LOTS — of pots.

“Back in the day,” the Kennewick potter remembers, “the local art community held several annual art exhibits and demonstrations at the local mall.

“While demonstrating at the mall during one of those regional art exhibits, we were approached by a buyer from The Bon about producing pottery for their store. I accepted.”

pottery wheel bowl production pat fleming

Each pottery piece, whether made as production pottery or a one-time-only piece, requires the time, attention, and skill of the potter

And therein Fleming, who at the same time was teaching art in the Kennewick school system, entered into the world of pottery production work. His pottery at The Bon attracted notice from Cole’s Plant Soils, Inc., which distributed his wares throughout the Western U.S. He also collaborated with local restaurants to provide coffee mugs, candle holders, serving items, planters, and ash trays. (“Remember them?” Fleming asks).

Along with that, he adds, his work has been distributed in Japan, Hong Kong, Germany, France, and Spain.

Nowadays, Fleming has scaled down on production work, but maintains two commercial customers for whom he makes stoneware. He also takes commissions from individuals. Intriguingly, he finds the process of production pottery to be not frenetic, but calming.

Meditative and Calming

“Doing production work is meditative,” Fleming explains.

“One cannot concentrate on the process of throwing a pot with a thoughtful shape without concentrating.

“Doing that makes all the worries and concerns of the day disappear. It would appear to the uninitiated as drudgery, but is actually the opposite.

“It is the nature of craftsmanship to require concentration to the point of excluding everything else.”

From soup bowls to serving bowls, from mugs for hot drinks to vessels for wine, potter Pat Fleming is constantly experimenting with techniques and form.

For years, Fleming has been digging clay for his pottery from local areas, starting at the Ringold area at the Columbia River. He later moved to spots around Othello, Prosser, and the Walla Walla River Basin.

Fleming uses the dug clay it by itself as earthenware, or incorporates with fire clays purchased from local building suppliers. He also blends it, along with local soil and wood ash, into signature glazes. These range in color from ochre to brown, black to iron red.

Wood Ash Makes Innovative Pottery Glazes

“The coloring of most of my glazes comes from the iron in the soil, clay, or wood ash,” Fleming says. “I rarely use chemical colorants, and have limited their use to cobalt for blue and copper for green.” One of his more innovative resources for ash, aside from that collected from the Mount St. Helens 1980 eruption, is from Fleming’s barbecue pit.

“When firing a wood kiln, the wood ash flows through the ware chamber and settles on the pots to form its own natural although spotty glaze.”

Like many artists who become experts at what they do, Fleming loves to teach what he knows, and what he knows about a 12,000-year-old craft is significant. In 1971, he began his teaching career at Kamiakin High School in Kennewick, and though after 33 years he theoretically retired from teaching, he never really did, and has been called back numerous times. He also instructs through numerous community venues.

Teaching Is His Passion

“Even though I really enjoy making functional and non-functional ceramic objects, teaching is my real passion,” Fleming says.

“One of the most rewarding positions was at Coyote Ridge Correction Center for Walla Walla Community College. The convicted felons were the most willing and motivated students ever.

“After Covid19 goes away, I will return to Kennewick Community School where I teach drawing and painting.”

Because a teacher, like an artist, never stops. Why should they? They’re creating, learning, innovating, giving, with the result that their job isn’t really a job at all.

“As I look back on my 54 years of art in one way or the other being my livelihood, I wonder how I could have been so lucky,” Fleming muses.

“I wish I could do it all over again.”

Wenaha GalleryPat Fleming is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from September 8 through October 2, 2020.

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.