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Ceramic leaf dishes by Jane Holly Estrada

Falling Leaves and Radiochemistry — The Ceramic Art of Jane Holly Estrada

Ceramic leaf dishes by Jane Holly Estrada leaves

A series of ceramic leaf dishes by Jane Holly Estrada sits atop a granite Lazy Susan by Terry Hoon

In her day job, Jane Holly Estrada is a radiochemist, dealing with a concept — radiation — that many people rightly or wrongly associate with loooooooooong periods of time.

But when the white lab jacket is hung up at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for the day, Estrada focuses strongly on the ephemeral, the temporal —  fleeting moments of transitory time in which she captures a moment in nature and transforms it into a state of permanence.

Gold bordered blue ceramic leaf (leaves) dish by Jane Holly Estrada

Gold highlights and a dotted border on an individual leaf dish by Jane Holly Estrada

Working in the field of ceramics, the Richland, WA, artist creates jewelry and shaped dishes inspired by the leaves of trees, but not just any leaves. Estrada’s window of time is a short one in autumn, after the leaves have fallen off the tree naturally but while they are still crisp enough to leave a literal impression upon clay.

“Each dish I make is created by pressing a real leaf into the clay and shaping it into a unique small dish, which is then painted with watercolor style underglazes,” Estrada explains.

“The dish is then glazed all over, fired, and painted with real gold and white gold accents.

“The final product is a mirror image of the now long-gone leaf, but embellished with swirls of color, texture, and metallic gilding.”

Set in a few clear sentences, the process seems straightforward and direct, but as with any area dealing with chemical and physical alteration — whether the matter has to do with art, science or a fusion of the two — things just aren’t that simple. Stuff happens.

ceramic and gold bead necklaces in blue and green by Jane Holly Estrada

Ceramic and gold bead necklaces in rich variants of blue and green, by Jane Holly Estrada

The biggest challenge of working with clay, Estrada says, is that no matter how careful the artist is during the process, there’s always a chance for the unexpected to occur. Work can crack if it dries too quickly, or even if it is gently bumped at the wrong time.

“Each trip through the kiln is a chance for cracking, warping, and even exploding,” Estrada adds. “Glazes can run, crawl, craze and drip — all things that can either ruin your work or make it amazing.

“Most of my pieces go through the kiln three to four times, each time a gamble.”

The upshot of it all is that even the most scientific of approaches can’t guarantee the outcome, but like life itself, that’s part of the challenge.

“The benefit is that if your work survives its creation process, it becomes a durable and lasting piece of art in a way that a more ephemeral piece of paper or canvas cannot compare,” Estrada observes.

A collection of painted rocks and mandala stones by jane holly estrada

A collection of painted rocks and Mandala Stones by Jane Holly Estrada

“Clay allows the artist to create a functional object that is equally an object of beauty.”

Estrada’s leaf-based clay dishes and jewelry imbue familiar colors of  forest, sky, and water– azure, turquoise, teal, beryl, emerald, verdigris, moss, jade — with gold and silver sparkle, resulting in an alchemy of Mother Nature with human skill and ingenuity. The finished pieces are delicate yet strong, possessing a tactility that encourages viewers to pick up, touch, hold, turn, brush, and feel.

Because each piece is fashioned from one single, unique leaf, Estrada’s artworks are literally one of a kind at the same time that they work well together as a set or a collection — in the same manner that leaves gather while retaining their individual attributes, as well as that of their creator.

“I am not a production potter, and I (like most artists) am not  looking to compete with the factories and big box stores,” Estrada says.

“My goal is to create small pieces of beautiful art that people can have in their daily lives. My jewelry is meant to be worn and the dishes to be used.”

Close up detail of glaze and gold luster of a ceramic leaf (leaves) dish by Jane Holly Estrada

Close up detail of glaze and gold luster of a ceramic leaf dish by Jane Holly Estrada

In addition to her ceramic leaf works, Estrada also paints mandala stones — smooth surfaced rocks embellished by a series of dots and color in a circular pattern. Estrada teaches the technique at Confluent, a non-profit organization in Richland that provides space and resources for community members to explore art, technology, and culture through community-based workshops and classes. She also participates in the center’s various art shows, and in the recent “Dreamers” exhibition won Best Overall piece in a public vote for her wood-substrate painting executed in the spirit of vintage post cards.

Incorporating art and science, temporal aspects and immutable, nature and fabrication, Estrada’s works are inspired by her love of water with its shifting shape, color, and ability to reflect light. And while she does not aim to make a statement, she believes that the final product is the statement itself, standing out for the time and detail that go into it.

“I’ve always loved science and trying to understand how the natural world works,” Estrada says.

“I believe that this shows through in my art.”

Wenaha GalleryJane Holly Estrada is the featured Pacific Northwest Art Event artist from Monday, January 30, through Saturday, February 25.

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!

Green Head on Rock, sculpture by Penny Michel, guest artist at Wenaha Gallery

Ancient Art of Modern Day — The Clay Sculpture of Penny Michel

Green Head on Rock, sculpture by Penny Michel, guest artist at Wenaha Gallery. Photo credit Leaman Studios.

Green Head on Rock, sculpture by Penny Michel, guest artist at Wenaha Gallery. Photo credit Leaman Studios.

Childhood memories are powerful ones. Where we lived, whom we knew, the games we played — these shape our lives as adults in unique and characteristic ways.

For ceramic artist Penny Michel, the summers spent at the grandparents left a mark that touches the work she creates today.  Born in Tunisia, a former French protectorate located in North Africa, Michel  moved with her family to the United States when she was four years old, but visited extended family every year in an ancient land, with a history rich in venerable cultures.

Sitting Lady, Clay sculpture by Penny Michel

Sitting Lady, Clay sculpture by Penny Michel

“In Tunisia, we lived near Carthage on the beach, and we were surrounded by ancient ruins and different cultures,” Michel remembers.

“Often when houses were built or renovated, ancient artifacts were found. Archaeologists were always working in the area.

“Consequently, since a young age, I have been drawn to ancient art such as the art of Mesopotamia, Greece, Oceania, and the Ottoman Empire.”

With a B.A. in art from Western Illinois University, Michel focuses on clay in various sizes and formats, from wheel-thrown bowls to hand-crafted vessels, from small sculptures for the home to large scale, site-specific commissioned pieces, but before she really got into doing her art, she got out of it first.

“After getting my degree, I didn’t work in art for about ten years,” Michel says. “I didn’t think I was ‘talented enough,’ so I took a detour into banking for awhile.”

But the detour led back to the main road, and for the last 30 years, Michel has been fashioning sculpture that is redolent of those summer days of childhood. An homage to the past, offering hints and traces from another era, Michel’s work looks like something an archaeologist would excitedly find and remove — with great care and precision — from the dig. Surface design, multiple glazing, and texturized elements combine into exotic, willowy statuettes;  layered masks; primeval fish; and human faces — set upon armatures created by local Walla Walla artist Doug  Geise — that look like mummies.

They’re haunting, mystical, fascinating, and teasingly enigmatic.

Small Green Fish, Clay sculpture by Penny Michel

Small Green Fish, Clay sculpture by Penny Michel. Photo credit Jenna Gard.

“My art work definitely has another-world quality,” Michel says. “Like it was just dug out of the ground or found in the ocean and from another world or culture.”

Michel has shown and sold her work worldwide, including to collectors in Ios, Greece, and Brussels, Belgium, and in 2012 completed the Artist in Residency Program at the International Ceramic Studio in Kecskemet, Hungary, which houses one of her pieces in its permanent collection. Gallery representation has ranged from Chicago to San Francisco and embraces her present home, Walla Walla, where she is a resident artist at Studio TwoZeroTwo in downtown Main Street.

Ice Woman III and Ice Woman IV by Penny Michel

Ice Woman III and Ice Woman IV by Penny Michel. Photo credit, Wardell Photography.

One of her larger pieces, for several years exhibited outside the Sonoma Museum of Visual Art in California, is now part of the permanent collection of the Corliss Estates on Second Street in Walla Walla. A similar piece is in the permanent collection of the di Rosa Preserve in Napa, California, considered the most significant holding of Bay Area art in the world. Set in a 200-acre park-like setting, the collection houses more than 2,000 works of art by 800 artists.

“The di Rosa preserve is one of the most beautiful art venues I know,” Michel says. “I encourage art lovers to visit it.”

In addition to creating, showing, and selling her work, Michel offers regular ceramic sculptures classes in her studio, working closely with three or four students at a time. Many have been with her for awhile, finding in their own histories a connection to the past that ties in with the present.

Art, whenever and wherever it is, never goes out of style.

“My work is heavily influenced by ancient cultures and civilizations,” Michel says. “And while texture and surface are very important to me, I do not try and make a specific statement with my art.

“I want the viewer to get what they need out of it.”

Wenaha GalleryPenny Michel is the featured Pacific Northwest Art Event artist from Monday, July 18 through Saturday, August 13.

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 at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

 

Cathedral in the Forest, fine art photography by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Patricia Fleming

“This Is What We Do” — The Photography, Painting, and Pottery of Pat and Patricia Fleming

Cathedral in the Forest, fine art photography by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Patricia Fleming

Cathedral in the Forest, fine art photography by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Patricia Fleming

At social events, we all field the question,

“So, what is it that you do?” with an expected answer of, “I am a ____,” and subsequent filling in of the blank.

Wine Glasses, original acrylic painting by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Pat Fleming

Wine Glasses, original acrylic painting by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Pat Fleming

When that query is posed to Pat and  Patricia Fleming, a husband-wife artistic team from Kennewick, WA, the answer — even a vastly simplified one — requires more than one to five words.  And even afterwards, one gets the feeling that all the blanks haven’t been filled in.

“We live in a clay house that I built from 2002 to 2005,” Pat Fleming says. That’s a good start, because the potter, who is also a painter, who is also a retired art instructor regularly returning to the classroom to part-time teach, is known for digging his own clay from a spot in Othello, WA.

The corresponding pottery he creates from this activity is truly unique, if for no other reason than that many pottery artists, as well as pottery purchasers, rarely consider the possibility of such a DIY attitude. But, as Pat points out, digging one’s own clay is not a new concept:

“My pottery statement is,  ‘See what our ancestors did for over 12,000 years, and we can still do it.’ It is cost efficient, it is possible, it is the ultimate craft.

Tulips, fine art photography by Patricia Fleming

Tulips, fine art photography by Patricia Fleming

“Also, ‘See what this stuff that I dug out of the ground can do with the guidance of a knowledgeable practitioner.'”

One thing this particular knowledgeable practitioner — whose expertise extends beyond creation of individualized pieces to the production of nationally distributed wholesale restaurant dinnerware — has done is share the wisdom base of a very ancient craft. During a 33-year teaching career at Kennewick schools, Pat led groups of students on weekend field trips to collect material.

At one point, “we had so much local clay accumulated that we never had to buy any for 12 years.”

One of Pat’s favorite phrases, and indeed the one upon which he grounds his professional career, and life, is,

“This is what I do.”

Created using hand-dug clay from Southeastern Washington, customized pottery pieces by Pat Fleming are like no other. They are literally unique.

Created using hand-dug clay from Southeastern Washington, customized pottery pieces by Pat Fleming are like no other. They are literally unique.

Pottery is one element, teaching another (“I have been called out of retirement for a fourth time”); even bricklaying, originating from work as a hod carrier when he was 14, forms a part of What Pat Does. He also paints, but in archetypal Fleming fashion, in his own way.

“I mix powdered tempera with masonry acrylic additive which I buy at Lowe’s by the gallon . . . My paintings are about everything from, ‘Look at what the light did to that wine bottle,’ to ‘Ode to Retired Bankers Everywhere.'”

Well, that’s Pat, simplified. What about Patricia?

A photographer who greets each day for its potential of perspective, chroma, and form, Patricia teases out the unique attributes of landscapes and still life, transforming everyday views into, “Stop. Look at me now,” visual monographs.

“I love the light and became interested in reflections, shapes, and shadows,” Patricia says. “Everyday items take on a whole new perspective when the sun and shadows hit them — that’s when I feel a great urgency to record the scene I am seeing.”

Yaquina Bay Bridge, fine art photography by Patricia Fleming

Yaquina Bay Bridge, fine art photography by Patricia Fleming

No Photoshopping, other than cropping, she adds. The artist’s eye directs the final view. It is a view that insists upon being seen:

“While I have sold many photographs, the one that means the most to me was a patient at a hospital who said she strolled by my photograph called Bella Beach many times, and felt a real sense of peace when she looked at it.

“She later purchased it, and I love  the thought of her looking at it in her own home. I think of her and hope she is now healthy and happy.”

When they’re not creating their own art, the Flemings focus on the work of others, cofounding Cyber Art 509 (www.CyberArt509.com), an online group of 57 artists in the 509 phone area code. Members show their work at local restaurants, shops, wineries and offices in the form of rotating exhibits.

It’s all part of what they, the Flemings, do — potter, photographer, painter, teacher, writer, marketer, artist. As Pat says,

“I don’t golf, I don’t bowl, I don’t own a boat. I paint and make pots.”

Patricia photographs and conquers the computer and the website.

It satisfies them to say, “This is what we do.”

Wenaha GalleryPat and Patricia Fleming are the featured Pacific Northwest Art Event artists from Monday, May 9 through Saturday, June 4. Pat will be showing his pottery and paintings, and Patricia will be showing her photography.

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 at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

The Master Potter’s Student — Caprice Scott and Her Ceramic Art

Wildflowers platters by Caprice Scott

There’s no fixing an exploded piece of pottery.

This is not, however, sufficient reason for the average person to give wide berth to ceramic bowls, cups, saucers, and platters. It’s not on the shelf that a piece of pottery rends itself asunder but rather, in the kiln with a temperature ranging from 1112 degrees Farenheit to 2300-plus.

Paisley Pots by Wenaha Gallery pottery artist, Caprice Scott

Paisley Pots by Wenaha Gallery pottery artist, Caprice Scott

“We’re not talking about just hot enough to burn dinner in the oven here,” College Place potter Caprice Scott, who specializes in hand-built and sculpted ceramic-ware, says.

“Working with clay is a tricky business,” she adds. “I don’t think people realize how fickle and capricious clay and glazes can be.” If the environmental humidity is low, the clay dries too fast and cracks before it even makes it to the kiln; if it’s winter in the Pacific Northwest and the humidity is high, it can take forever for the clay to dry — frequently when the potter is working on a commissioned order with a timeline. Glazes add complications to the creation process.

And that eruption issue?

“If there happens to be an air bubble somewhere in the clay, you might find your piece has exploded in the bisque kiln.”

With all the things that can go wrong, it’s astonishing that anything survives, but that it does — as well as thrive in beauty, functionality, and form — is testament to the skill of the potter. Scott, whose experience in the art arena ranges from teaching in private and charter schools to painting murals in million-dollar Colorado spec homes, turned her central focus to pottery upon her family’s moving to the Pacific Northwest six years ago.

Ceramic spoons by Wenaha Gallery pottery artist Caprice Scott

Ceramic spoons by Wenaha Gallery pottery artist Caprice Scott

Scott’s drive to learn and experiment, in conjunction with an attention to detail, impel her to create unusual pieces and collections — such as the sugar/creamer set shaped like European village houses which garnered an award at an art exhibition, or the commissioned clay box fashioned into a Dr. Who fez hat, tassel and all.

“I take delight in coming up with something no one else has done before and probably won’t ever do again,” Scott explains.

“I usually work within a theme or do a bunch of one thing for a little while. I find something new and get really passionate about it and I make as many pieces as I can for a few months, and then I move on to something new.”

One aspect that is consistent in all of Scott’s pieces is the signature at the bottom: her last name, and then the biblical verse, Isaiah 64:8, which, when one looks it up, says,

Birdies and Potteries functional ceramic art by Wenaha Gallery pottery artist Caprice Scott

Birdies and Potteries functional ceramic art by Wenaha Gallery pottery artist Caprice Scott

“You, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”

Scott stumbled upon the verse in a period of frustration, when everything that could go wrong with creating pottery (including explosions), did, and she decided to dedicate each piece to Him, as a work of His hands as well as hers.

“So when the pieces were blowing up or coming out of the kiln cracked, I was like, ‘God, Your pottery is breaking. And it’s Yours, so I guess it’s okay. If You’re okay with it, then I am, too.”

Completing a part of Scott’s journey, the verse confirmed that her work gave meaning to others as well as to herself, and she felt as if God were saying, “You, Caprice, can call me ‘My Father, the Potter.’

“I really feel this verse sums up all that I am and all that my pottery represents. Without the Master Potter, I and my work wouldn’t be.”

Scott’s work is unique, skillful, eclectic, passionate, and illuminated by imagery that celebrates the outdoor world: flowers, leaves, Native American art, and wildlife, reflecting an appreciation for nature that Scott acquired through living in Colorado, and reaffirms in the Pacific Northwest.

“I need to be surrounded by beauty. If I can’t be out in nature, I try to bring beauty inside.”

Beauty ignites.

Wenaha GalleryScott’s work is on display at Wenaha Gallery. During the Christmas season, Scott is holding a Christmas Ornament Workshop at the gallery, gently leading students (who don’t have to have any experience in pottery, because Scott does) into making a customized pottery ornament for their tree. The two-part workshop takes place Sunday, November 15 and Sunday, December 6. Cost is $55 for both workshops, with all supplies, and firing of the ornaments, included. Read more about the workshop at our article, Christmas Ornament Workshop.

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 at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

Hand thrown pottery by Roberta Zimmerman

Beautiful Lizards — The Pottery of Roberta Zimmerman at Sun Lizard Studios

Hand thrown pottery by Roberta Zimmerman

The shape, form, glazing, and decoration of Roberta Zimmerman’s hand thrown pottery pieces is inspired by Native American design

Even the most urban-based child manages to find enough dirt and water to create mud pies at least once in their lives, but for Dayton potter Roberta Zimmerman, three out of four of the sacred elements — Earth, Air, and Water — were an integral part  of every childhood summer. (Fire, she added when she was an adult.)

Hand-thrown pottery by Roberta Zimmerman

Hand-thrown pottery by Roberta Zimmerman

“I was born in Arizona, the first-born daughter of a real cowboy and a homemaker,” Zimmerman says. “We lived all over Arizona on cattle ranches and movie sets, as my father worked on all of John Ford’s western movies shot in Arizona.”

While Zimmerman’s father attended to the stuff of legends, Zimmerman focused on that legendary childhood stuff — mud pies, baked under the scorching Arizona sun. When it got too hot for inedible culinary production, Zimmerman did what any sensible child would do and ran around barefoot.

“We found Indian arrowheads just laying all over the land. Another favorite pastime was chasing lizards — it was a challenge to be fast enough to catch them!”

Such is the stuff of memories better than legends, and in Zimmerman’s life, those memories have shaped the art that she does today: hand-thrown, hand-painted pottery designed to endure (because of that Fire she added, pushing the temperature in her studio kiln to 2300 degrees Fahrenheit) as well as be used for the cooking and serving of food (definitely not recommended with mud pies).

Hand-thrown pottery by Roberta Zimmerman

Hand-thrown pottery by Roberta Zimmerman

The lizards she chased and the arrowheads she admired factor strong in the decorative inspiration she adds to her finished work, expressing her reverence for and respect of Native American art and artists.

“The works I create reflect my love of the West and the ancient people who came before us,” Zimmerman explains. “Each and every piece is thrown on the pottery wheel, so there are no identical pieces — no molds.

“The paintings are free-hand paintings, no stencils. All the glazes are lead free to be safe for dinnerware.

“It is my deep wish that folks will enjoy using these pieces I create.”

Hand-thrown pottery by Roberta Zimmerman

Hand-thrown pottery by Roberta Zimmerman

In between childhood mud pies and adult work with clay, Zimmerman’s residence in the art arena took a break as she ceded to the demands of the work world, serving 11 years as a police dispatcher and 11 years as a correctional officer at Washington State Penitentiary (she and her husband, Ralph, who also worked as a correctional officer, like to tell friends that they met in prison).

When severe back surgery in 1999 resulted in an earlier retirement than Zimmerman had initially envisioned, Ralph’s practical, yet encouraging, nature propelled her forward when he asked,

“What do you want to do?”

Pottery. The answer was out before the question was finished.

“I just always wanted to do that ever since I was a little girl,” Zimmerman says. “So I started taking classes at community college, Ralph bought me a wheel and a kiln, and I was off and running.

“I bought every book I could get my hands on and highlighted and highlighted, and just tried and tried.”

Through the years, in addition to working with white stoneware, Zimmerman has explored Raku, pit-fired, black smoked, and horse hair pottery, and she has sold her work through art fairs, regional shows, gift shops, co-ops, and at Sun Lizard Studios, the brand name for her work which she creates from her Wolf Fork home.

Hand-thrown pottery by Roberta Zimmerman

Hand-thrown pottery by Roberta Zimmerman

An inveterate learner, she has added the Internet to her repertoire of information resources, communicating online with artist colleagues in Germany, Israel, and throughout the world. Ralph, ever the encourager, owes gratitude to the opportunities technology offers, remembering the five-hour driving detour they took once in Nevada so Zimmerman could visit a potter’s studio she had heard about.

“It turned out to be a fascinating place,” she remembers.

But just as fascinating is Sun Lizard Studios, named when Zimmerman’s daughter playfully observed, “Well, Mom, you are just an old sun lizard!” In this mountain retreat, where a bear swimming in the pond or turkeys strolling through the yard replace lizards darting underfoot, the child who spent her summers slapping mud seamlessly picks up where those joyous days of abandon left off.

“Making pottery has been the fulfillment of a dream for me.”

Wenaha GalleryRoberta Zimmerman is the featured Art Event artist at Wenaha Gallery, 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA from Monday, July 13 through Saturday, August 8.

Contact the gallery by phone at 800.755.2124 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 at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.