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Pottery Mom — Functional Clay by Merrilyn Reeves

huckleberry pottery ceramic bowl merrilyn reeves

The leaves and fruit of the Northwest’s wild blueberry are a signature embellishment on Merrilyn Reeve’s Huckleberry Bowl.

Not many women in modern USA boldly call raising a family a career, but potter Merrilyn Reeves isn’t afraid to do so. Years before she embarked upon a second career that is now 33-years in progress and counting, she raised four children on 17 acres in a remote area of rural Idaho. Their nearest neighbors were six miles away. The radio worked in the car, not the house. The deer that interacted with the family’s laying hens, goats, and cattle had to contend with a “rifle packing momma who had to feed her kiddos.”

The last thing on her mind, at that time, was throwing pots.

“Keeping dirty things clean (faces, bottoms, clothes, floors, dishes), food on the table, and clothes on little bodies occupied most of my time and energy,” the Plummer, ID, artist says. It wasn’t until she was on a vacation with her still-young family to Yellowstone and chanced to observe a professional potter plying his craft, that pottery first entered into her heart and hopes.

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Through the years, Merrilyn Reeves has developed her own special formulas for the glazes she used on her pottery. Blue Rice Bowls with Chopsticks.

“I was mesmerized as I watched him skillfully turn that lump of clay into a recognizable vessel. He was amazing and I was very taken with the process and result.”

She Gave the Pottery Wheel a Whirl

A few years later, she took a class where she sat down at the wheel for the first time, and, literally, gave it a whirl.

“I wore a suit — a poor choice for a pottery class! Prior to that day, the thought that I might be an artist had never entered my mind. I could not imagine doing anything passable with a paint brush.”

Since that memorable day in 1988, Reeves has created hundreds of pots using a wheel very similar to the one on which she threw her first pot. She also experiments with hand building and alternate throwing forms, using porcelain, stoneware, and earthenware clays in a variety of applications. The learning curve, like the wheel itself, is constantly turning, and each project is an opportunity to learn more about the medium: Moisture content in clay varies widely, and if it’s too firm or too soft, it won’t throw right. Glazes, too, are finicky, and must “fit” the particular clay, with both expanding at about the same rate to result in a good, durable glaze without major defects.

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Grass, leaves, and flowers are a favorite embellishment of Merrilyn Reeves to either paint onto the pottery or incorporate via organic materials. Oval Grass Bowl by Merrilyn Reeves.

And despite what Reeves thought, she did learn to use a paintbrush, frequently embellishing pieces with images of leaves and flowers.

God’s Creation Provides the Finishing Touches

“God’s creation provides much inspiration for my pots, particularly in the finishing touches,” Reeves says. “When I need an idea, I am apt to take a walk and see what is growing in the area. The grasses and weeds I collect just may end up on the next generation of my pots. Many items from nature are fun to play with, whether leaves, whole plants, stones or sea shells.

“I have to say that bugs don’t make the grade, and have never ended upon on a pot. Yet.”

Reeves specializes in functional ware, defining each piece as possessing a purpose, which, in part, is determined by the person who “adopts” it.

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Images of wheat embellish a series of pottery mugs by Merrilyn Reeves.

“My goal is to enrich the lives of others with my pots,” she explains. “I give my best to each pot, hoping that it will encourage and brighten someone’s day and life.”

Be Fair and Do What’s Right

This way of approaching pottery, she adds, is an extension of her world view, which is that God created the earth, and He has a plan for each person in it.

“For me His plan included pottery, and He gave me the skill and aptitude for it.

“I guess this is not a popular stance these days, but it should always be in style to do what is right. We should do the best job when making items for others to ‘adopt,’ charging a fair price, and dealing honestly with others. I hope that shows in my work.”

Reeves works from a free-standing studio, separate from the home she shares with her husband Waverley and their two black labs, Rosie and Sasha. The four children resulted in 14 grandchildren and five great grandchildren. The initial pottery class resulted in a business, Wildwood Pottery, where Reeves hand-crafts each piece from start to finish, including the all-important smoothing of the foot so that the finished pot will be kind to any furniture surface it rests upon. It’s these little things, Reeves believes, that aren’t so little after all — whether they are children being raised by a career mom or whether they are one of her signature huckleberry bowls.

“I give careful attention to each step of the process,” Reeves says.

“A person purchasing one of my pots reaps the investment of many hours of my time and care.”

Wenaha GalleryMerrilyn Reeves is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from October 5 through November 1, 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.

 

cabin homestead idaho house watercolor gottschalk

Watercolor Wonder: Art by Cathy Gottschalk

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A weathered old house captures a homestead moment in the Idaho countryside. Original watercolor painting by Cathy Gottschalk

They say that first impressions are lasting impressions. And while this tends to be true, it isn’t necessarily the best thing. Sometimes, many times, it’s beneficial to re-evaluate how we feel about a person, place, or thing and see if, with time and wisdom, we think differently.

Painter Cathy Gottschalk of Deary, ID, discovered this about watercolor, which, ironically, is now her preferred medium. But it didn’t start out that way:

“In high school, I had a wonderful art teacher who exposed us to all types of mediums. I played around with acrylic, oil, and pottery, just to name a few.

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Quiet and peaceful, a group of Waxwing birds perches atop the branches. Resting Waxwings, original watercolor painting by Cathy Gottschalk

“But when she introduced our class to watercolor, I quickly gave up on this VERY frustrating loose medium in which the paper curled, the water ran, and the paints blended. I was completely overwhelmed.”

And yet she remained fascinated by watercolor, gravitating toward it through the years in galleries or at local fairs, wondering how it was possible for the artists to control the water and the paint.

“Many years later, at a Christmas show, I came across a display of beautiful and controlled watercolors by a well-known artist in Moscow, ID. I visited with him and learned that he taught classes as well. I was finally ready to give this medium another try. My husband contacted him and arranged for a few private lessons for my Christmas gift!”

Diving into Watercolor

That was it. She was hooked. In addition to being a more patient person at 50 than she was at 15, Gottschalk also learned what a difference high quality paint, paper, and brushes make. She dove headlong into the medium, experimenting with different brands of materials, subject matter, and technique. After her class with the professional artist, she joined the Palouse Watercolor Socius and Idaho Watercolor Society, where she continues her life-long journey of learning through interaction, collaboration, and informational critique with the artists there.

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Cows have a way of communicating by simply staring at you. Mooooove Over, original watercolor painting by Cathy Gottschalk

“At the monthly Palouse Watercolor Socius meeting, we have a show and tell or a critique time before adjourning,” Gottschalk explains.

“This can be scary, informative, as well as confidence building. Another painter may see a problem area that you did not notice or your work may help inspire your friends to try a new technique. It is my favorite part of our meeting, besides the group lunch afterward.”

Gottschalk paints both in her studio and outside in plein air, and appreciates each method. One of her favorite aspects of the latter is the camaraderie with other artists as they scout for new locations, chat while working, and, of course, eat lunch together. Learning happens through face to face interaction, and different people, with different ideas, keep us out of ruts, ditches, and mental carpeted cubicles:

“Seeing what my friends in our group select to paint, most often in the same location, is fun and inspiring.”

Lighting and Weather

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An inviting view complements a duo of inviting chairs in Cathy Gottschalk’s original watercolor painting, Please Have a Seat

One of the biggest challenges with plein air painting, Gottschalk adds, is the weather and the lighting. She starts painting in the morning when the colors are vivid and the shadows are long. Three hours of concentrated effort later, all the shadows have moved, the light is overhead, or the clouds have rolled in. One way or another, the landscape has changed.

“It’s usually time for lunch then, and the bees have gathered and the temperature is hot. My inspiration may have become perspiration, and it’s time to quit for the day.” She packs up and goes home, hoping her next planned excursion will have similar lighting.

Recently, Gottschalk has discovered a new source of reference material for her paintings: old family photos. She enjoys bringing old black and white images to new life by painting them in color.

“I do small sketches and experiment with colors to find the effect I’m looking for. The biggest challenge I have using these old photos is the poor quality of the photos itself.

“However, this is also a wonderful experiment in stretching my ability to improvise, to make up what I think a blurred object is.”

Challenge

Challenge: that’s what it’s all about. What frustrated her at 15 fascinates her now, and wherever she sets up her easel — in the studio, in the middle of a creek, or on her back deck overlooking her own private Idaho — Gottschalk continually experiments, learns, tries and fails, tries and succeeds, and keeps moving forward. In the near future she plans to create her own website, try out guache, play with oils, and vary her watercolor technique. She paints what makes her happy, and is gratified when what results makes others happy as well.

“As long as I’m enjoying whatever medium I’m using, then I’ll continue to produce paintings and gain more confidence as an artist.”

Wenaha GalleryCathy Gottschalk is the featured Art Event at Wenaha Gallery from September 21 through October 18, 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.

 

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.

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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.

 

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Plein Air Complexity — Watercolors by Jan Vogtman

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Sundance, plein air watercolor landscape painting by Jan Vogtman

Plein air painters get used to all sorts of weather. Because of the nature of their studio — outside, in the plain air — they operate without a roof over their heads. Unless, of course, they choose to bring one of their own.

“During the Paint du Nord Quick Draw competition in Duluth, MN, we painted in a huge rainstorm,” watercolor artist Jan Vogtman remembers. “The competition lasted two hours, exactly — they blow a horn to start and stop.”

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Bob’s Pond, plein air landscape painting by Jan Vogtman.

Told to paint what she saw, Vogtman took the challenge literally.

“My painting shows all the artists painting around me with colorful umbrellas.”

Another time, the Troy, ID, painter joined three plein air artist friends out in the wilderness, keeping watchful eye as a memorable storm took an hour to build up.

“When the wind and rain came, we huddled in the car, ate lunch, and had a few beers. But the storm had no intention of stopping anytime soon, so we gave it up and went home.”

Even Vogtman’s trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, had its moments. While the weather was grand during the Andy Evansen watercolor workshop she took there with a friend, sunny skies disappeared on the way back.

“We got stranded in Seattle during the Big Blizzard and got home two days later than planned.”

Not Just the Weather

Weather inconsistencies, however, are so much a part of plein air painting that one comes to accept them as constants. So is the issue of travel. Because landscapes do not transport themselves to the artist’s studio, it’s up to the artist to transport herself. And for Vogtman, who lives on Moscow Mountain, four miles from the nearest city of Troy (population 600), getting together with plein air artist friends for an afternoon of painting often involves significant time in the car.

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Exhibit Bee, watercolor painting by Troy, ID, artist Jan Vogtman

“Because I live rural, my travel time is normally one hour each way.”

Vogtman discovered watercolor 24 years ago while working at the University of Idaho. Side by side with students barely out of high school, she took as many university level art classes as she could while maintaining a full work load. Plein air she discovered in 2009, and since then has competed in regional plein air competitions as well as the event in Duluth. She is a member of the Palouse Watercolor Socius, the Idaho Watercolor Society headquartered in Boise, and the Northwest Watercolor Society in Seattle.

All A’s in Art, Not Math

And while art is something she was interested in from a very early age, it was not something she was able to focus on until she was an adult and had a “real career” in the business and academic worlds. That’s just the way things were when she was growing up, even though all her A’s in school were in art, and not math.

Vogtman recalls the time she entered a drawing competition sponsored by the Minneapolis Art Institute in her hometown.

“I was maybe around 12 years old — and when I saw this competition in the newspaper, I entered. I think the amount of the prize was $250, which had to be used for classes.

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Palouse Falls, watercolor painting by Troy, ID, artist Jan Vogtman

“My parents could not afford to send me then or at anytime for art education. I was told I could not collect the award.”

She went to school to become a secretary. In a career spanning 36 years, Vogtman worked up to Executive Assistant to the Vice President of Northern Europe for the Control Data Corporation in Minneapolis, and later, upon moving to Idaho, served as the Coordinator of the Executive Speaker Series, reporting to the Dean of Business and Economics at the University of Idaho. On retiring in 2000, she challenged herself to dive into the art world, returning to the passion of her childhood.

The Hobby That Became a Business

In addition to plein air, Vogtman paints in her studio, a daylight basement of her home where furry forest friends peek through the window and watch. Most recently, she has added teaching workshops to taking them herself, conducting an introductory course for 20 students at the Center for Arts and History in Lewiston, ID. She has had a studio at the Artisan Barn in Uniontown, WA; earned her merit membership with the Idaho Watercolor Society upon being juried into three annual shows; and served as treasurer of the Palouse Watercolor Socius.

What started out as a hobby has become a business. And what’s perfect about that is how the non-art experience blends and melds well with the brush work of paint.

It’s unexpected, and not something that could have been predicted when she exchanged an art scholarship for business school. Life, though, like weather for the plein air painter, is never static. The best stories — and often paintings — involve the stormy days.

Wenaha GalleryJan Vogtman is the Featured Art Event from Monday, July 29, through Saturday, August 24 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.

 

 

 

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Ceramics Dynamics — The Pottery of Kassie Smith

Ceramics Artist Teaches with Passion

By the time she was 17, ceramics artist Kassie Smith was done — absolutely DONE — with school, and wanted nothing to do with college.

So, in one of life’s unique twists, the Moscow, ID, artist found herself completing eight years of higher education, resulting in a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Studio Arts from the University of Idaho. She stayed on to work as a ceramics instructor. A short time later, she moved to Washington State University, where she joined the ceramics department there. When she isn’t at WSU, she’s the Dahmen Barn, an artisan instruction and studio co-op in Uniontown, where Smith both teaches and manages the pottery studio.

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Rocket-themed ceramic bowl, bottom view, by Kassie Smith of Moscow, ID

“I realized there was nothing I could do with my life without a degree,” Smith explains, adding that since childhood, she has always wanted to work with clay and glass art. The turning point came when she met an artist at a Baltimore gallery who created an “alcohol reduction” process similar to Raku.

“He took time to explain the process and connect with me, a 17-year-old rebellious creative soul who wanted to completely abandon academia, on a very human level. His passion was evident. After that interaction, I gave up the quest for glass art and focused solely on ceramics.

“I have kept his passion and philosophy, seeking to use my work and research as a way to connect with people, and hopefully spark a similar passion in others.”

Functional — and Beyond Functional — Ceramics Art

One of Smith’s specializations is functional pottery: she creates custom ceramics ware for local restaurants. She also focuses on female empowerment — both as a female entrepreneur and artist serving as a role model for other women, as well as with the specific subject matter she chooses.

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Smiling Teeth Mugs by Kassie Smith of Moscow, ID. The gold tooth in each features real gold.

“The content of my art often has imagery relating to the female body — either with objects that suggest a relationship or forms that allude.

“Most of my work is meant to be introspective, but recently I’ve been getting louder and more bold, getting closer to a ‘statement.'”

Although she has dug and processed her own clay — a process she calls both fun and incredibly labor and time intensive — Smith generally orders a pallet with 1,950 pounds of material. It’s cost effective. It also requires a lot of storage — in both its raw state and in the finished products.

“There’s never enough space,” Smith says, describing one of the many challenges of the ceramics lifestyle.

“Build shelves, fill shelves, need more shelves.”

The Benefit of Challenges

Finding enough space is just one challenge, or as Smith prefers to call it, life benefit. Another challenge/benefit is clay itself, because the material is a never-ending source of wonder. It adds a scientific element to the art that demands constant learning and experimentation.

“Clay is a fickle material, and all clays are different,” Smith says.  “Firing clay is an art form in itself.

“I am a super nerd for glaze chemistry. There is never enough time to run all the experiments I’d like. I could spend the rest of my life on glaze chemistry if I didn’t get tired of wearing a respirator.”

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Rocket-themed pottery mugs in red tones by Kassie Smith

Another challenge involves waiting, something every ceramics artisan spends more time doing than they’d like.

“Waiting for kilns to cool down is challenging. I want to see the things NOW!!!

“Patience . . . ”

Smith has shown her work at the Wallowa Valley Festival of the Arts in Joseph, OR, as well as at the Moscow Farmer’s Market, every Saturday from May through October.

She shuttles her work in progress between three studio spaces. One is at WSU, one at her home in Moscow, and a third at the community pottery studio at the Dahmen Barn. Logistical planning for transporting ceramics is a nightmare, she admits.

“And I break things.

“But having three studios keeps me on my toes.”

Clear as Mud

Learning, teaching, researching, experimenting, creating, even the interminable waiting. It’s all part of being a ceramic artist, well worth all the extra schooling it took to get here. Whether in classroom or studio, Smith is where she wants to be, doing exactly what she wants to do.

“There are very few things I’d rather do than be elbows deep in the mud.”

Wenaha GalleryKassie Smith is the Featured Art Event from Monday, July 15, through Saturday, August 10 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.

 

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Quilting with Precision and Love — The Fabric Art of Patricia Bennett

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Showcasing the quilting and design skills of fabric artist Patricia Bennett, a selection of pot holders comes in many colors and designs

Be creative, be precise, and be patient.

It’s not bad advice for anyone to heed, but if you quilt, it’s crucial.

“Quilting is one form of art that shows mistakes if the piecing is not perfect,” says Patricia Bennett, a textile artist who created her first project — a full gathered skirt — on a treadle sewing machine 58 years ago. Falling in love with sewing from the first moment her feet hit the pedals of the treadle, Bennett has been sewing  since fabric cost $.49 a yard, and she has taught herself, step by step, every inch and yard of the way.

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Christmas Lover’s Knot place mat set by Idaho fabric artist Patricia Bennett, showcasing design, piecing, and quilting skills

“I was determined to learn to sew,” the Bayview, ID, artist says. “When I was putting myself through college — majoring in elementary education — I didn’t have money to purchase store-bought clothes. So I rented a sewing machine, started with simple patterns, and the rest is history.”

Sewing, Quilting, and Creating with Love

After her husband bought her her  first sewing machine 50 years ago, Bennett created matching outfits for him, her, and the couple’s two daughters. She later made bridesmaid dresses for each of her daughters’ weddings (“but not the wedding gowns — that would have been too much pressure!”), as well as numerous quilts for family wedding and baby shower gifts. Upon retirement from a teaching career that spanned pre-school to sixth grade, Bennett immersed herself full time in sewing, marketing her work as Cotton Creations: Handmade with Love, which, in addition to quilts, focuses on home decor items like table runners, pot holders, place mat sets, coasters, and tote bags.

Participating in craft fairs throughout the Northwest, Bennett enjoys chatting with customers about her products and sewing in general, and finds that many people want to learn how to quilt, but don’t know the next step.

hawaiian flower placemat set gift quilting patricia bennett sewing

Hawaiian Flower Place Mat set by Patricia Bennett, combining design, color, piecing and quilting — all with precision and expertise

“I always suggest that they start with a small project such as a pot holder, because something like a large bed quilt would cost a great deal of money for the materials, and might discourage someone as it takes a lot of time and patience to finish a quilt. I also suggest that they take a class.”

Through the years, Bennett herself has taught many sewing classes, both formal and informal, and wherever she goes, she finds her teaching skills in as much demand as her  stitchery. And she is most happy to oblige.

Teaching Quilting Wherever She Goes

“I taught my preschoolers to embroider their initials using yarn on burlap.

“I taught sewing when we lived in Virginia to a group of ‘student wives,’ whose husbands were in graduate school at Virginia Tech.

“Teaching 4-H sewing was a challenge, and it was such fun to see the finished outfits in the fashion show at the county fair in Moscow, ID.

A selection of colorful tote bags — featuring an eye for detail and a skill in quilting by Patricia Bennett– beckons the visitor to Wenaha Gallery.

“And when we were in Santiago, Chile, for six months while my husband David taught on a sabbatical from the University of Idaho, I taught quilting to eight Chilean women in the neighborhood: ‘kilting,’ as they pronounced it. Several of these women now have small shops where they sell their creations.

“The day we made table runners, they told me they called them ‘table roads.’ The challenge of teaching with my limited Spanish and hand motions was a great deal of fun.”

Working from a glass-walled studio facing Lake Pend Oreille, Bennett confesses to being unable to throw away fabric, even the smallest scraps, but because she likes to work within a color theme when she makes a set of items, she is unable to use up those scraps in crazy quilts. Helping to solve this problem are her 13 grandchildren, many of whom have learned (or will learn) to hand sew with leftover pieces. Like Bennett herself, all beginners start somewhere: the more they practice, the more perfect they get, and the more perfect they get, the better the finished result.

Quilting Consists of Three Steps

“Quilting really consists of three separate steps, when you’re making a finished wall hanging or quilt,” Bennett explains.

“First is the cutting, which must be accurate, then the piecing is putting the top together (again, carefully and accurately), and finally the quilting is actually putting the front, batting, and backing together by either hand quilting, tying, or machine quilting. The sewing on a quilt is using a 1/4-inch seam allowance!”

baltimore albumn quilting embroidered wall hanging patricia bennett christmas fabric art

In addition to beautiful quilting, the Baltimore Album Christmas wall hanging by Patricia Bennett also feature exquisite embroidery

Creativity, precision and patience: these, plus time, have resulted in a lifetime of developing a skill that gives to every person with whom Bennett shares. She’s come a long way since that first gathered skirt, but she hasn’t forgotten her beginnings. To remind her of those days and that project, Bennett purchased a treadle machine at a New Hampshire auction.

“I don’t sew with it, but it is a nice piece of furniture in my sewing studio, reminding me of my first sewing project.”

Wenaha GalleryPatricia Bennett is the Pacific Northwest Art Event artist from Monday, December 3 through Saturday, December 29, 2018. 

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.

 

farmhouse winter country quilt landscape catherine little

The Quest to Quilt — Fabric Art by Catherine Little

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Farmhouse in Winter, a country landscape art quilt by textile and fabric artist Catherine Little

Many people, when they undertake a project unlike anything they’ve ever done before, prefer to go gently, starting small, picking up skills, and learning from little mistakes that are quickly fixed.

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Ocean Fish Placemats, art quilt home decor by textile and fabric artist Catherine Little of White Bird, ID.

And then there are those who take a flying leap over the crevasse, convinced that one way or another they’ll make it to the other side. Quite often they do, even if they had to spend a few tense moments dangling over the abyss, feet flailing and hands clawing the edge. It makes for a memorable event.

So it was for quilt artist Cathy Little who, long before she was a quilt artist or even dreamed of becoming one, dabbled in drawing and painting. With marriage, work, and kids she set these aside and focused on sewing: clothes for her daughters, curtains for windows, and pillows for the couch.

The First Quilt Was the Biggest Quilt

“After the kids were grown and gone, I thought about painting again, but then my oldest daughter convinced me to make a quilt for her as a wedding gift,” says the White Bird, ID, textile virtuoso.

It wasn’t just any quilt: California king-sized, and log cabin style requiring hundreds upon hundreds of inch-wide strips, all of which had to be cut, arranged, and accurately sewn to fulfill the design. Oh, and it was quilted by hand, spread out on the living room floor inside of a giant embroidery hoop.

rose beige crib quilt vintage fabrics catherine little

Rose and Beige Crib Quilt, incorporating vintage 1930s style fabrics, by White Bird fabric artist Catherine Little

“For a first time quilter, it was quite a challenge.”

Understatement is the first word that comes to mind.

But apparently, Little enjoyed the leap, and arriving on the other side she saw the possibilities:

“More marriages and many grandchildren later found me making lots of pieced quilts, using various blocks and patterns,” Little explains. “After 9/11, I began making small memory quilts for children who lost a parent at the World Trade Center or Pentagon.”

Applique and the Art Quilt

It was while making these memory quilts that Little discovered applique, which opened, in her words, the sewing room door to a technique that developed into art quilts, many of them focused upon wildlife and the landscapes it inhabits. Living out in the country, Little takes photos of her animal and bird neighbors, transfers the photos into drawing form, then creates a unique, original design resulting in a one-of-a-kind wall hanging or home decor, embellished by permanent fabric paints and machine embroidery.

sage grouse bird wildlife art quilt catherine little

Sage-grouse, art quilt by fabric and textile artist Catherine Little of White Bird, ID

One noted project, commissioned by a couple who are avid hunters, is a triptych featuring every game animal and bird found in Idaho.

Another project, Picturing Idaho’s Past, took first place in a quilting competition and incorporated objects, pictures, and books,  all related to Idaho’s history. Little created a fabric hutch, patterned after furniture that belonged to her husband’s grandmother, and then appliqued the historical images within.

“I did get a bit carried away with that project, and hand wrote on the back of the quilt a history of Idaho using the state shape to outline the text in permanent fabric ink.”

Fabric, Fabric Everywhere & Just Enough Space to Quilt

Adding to her repertoire of textile skills, Little learned to freeform quilt on her sewing machine, and complements the quilting to the applique. Using primarily batik fabrics for their vivid colors, she turns out wall hangings, coasters, placemats, hot pads, memory quilts, and tea cozies, as well as pieced-block baby quilts in 1930s, vintage-style fabrics. She especially enjoys special order commissions, as the final project is markedly unique to the client requesting it.

Loving what she does, her only complaint is the size of her sewing room.

“With boxes of fabrics, shelves of patterns and books, drawers of threads, three sewing/quilting machines, and an old dining room table to sew on, there is barely enough room to get around.”

It is a definite improvement, however, to folds of fabric spilling out all over her living room, and a long ways forward from that first ambitious, grandiose, California king-sized quilt. Well worth the leap, Little’s willingness to cross the crevasse, was a big — not a little — jump forward and beyond.

 

Wenaha Gallery

Catherine Little is the featured Art Event artist at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, April 23, 2018, through Saturday, Saturday, May 19, 2018.  

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.

autumn sunflower floral mixed media photographic art gay waldman

Digital Revolution — The Enhanced Photographic Art of Gay Waldman

autumn sunflower floral mixed media photographic art gay waldman

Autumn Sunflower, mixed media photographic digital art by Spokane artist Gay Waldman.

The great thing about the digital revolution is that Gay Waldman can now wash clothes in her laundry room.

For years, the Spokane artist — who creates digitally enhanced photographs through Adobe Photoshop, Corel Painter and Nik Software  — set up a darkroom in either her bath or laundry room so that she could build collages and enlarged images of her abstract/representational fusion art.

autumn gold trees woods forest digital art gay waldman spokane

Autumn Gold Sentinels, digital photographic art by Spokane artist, Gay Waldman — celebrating the world of nature with an abstract twist.

Leaping into the Digital Revolution

“I am very fortunate to have taken the leap into the digital world in 1994,” Waldman says, explaining that she build upon computer skills in marketing and bookkeeping to  achieve prowess in photo-restoration. As the Internet improved, so did her abilities, to the point that she eventually built her own computer to meet the unique digital needs of her art. She also dismantled her physical darkroom and turned to professional photo lab processors for her printing needs, allowing her to focus exclusively on multimedia photomontage that integrates the light, color, texture, and form of natural images.

“My photographs record reality and are the starting point of all my images,” Waldman says. “When I depress the shutter, the image is captured, and I will use it at a later date as a component in a new work of art.”

Digital Art: More Than Pressing Buttons

It’s much more than pressing a button or clicking on a few keyboard keys, she adds, with even seemingly simple images requiring a good eye, technical prowess, and experience stemming from years of exploration and experimentation. Originally trained as a painter, Waldman also employs traditional media such as colored pencils, pastel, acrylic paint, and oil to add detail and color, resulting in a mixed media melange that encourages the viewer to pause a moment, absorb the image, and make a connection with form in color, line and shape.

women's medical center gritman moscow idaho gay waldman digital photography art

In the reception area of the Women’s Imaging Center of Gritman Medical Center in Moscow, ID, four of Gay Waldman’s digital photographic artworks add a glow of color and form.

“My artwork making is a never-ending, intuitive journey of my fascination of the relationship between organic object and man-made objects,” Waldman says. “I love the intricacy of leaves, tree patterns, flower petals, vines, how light falls everywhere, shadows, horizons, water, and all sorts of growth.”

Endless Ideas

Never far from a notebook to jot down ideas which exhibit no sign of stopping, Waldman draws upon a vast collection of photographs taken through the years to develop concepts expressing an appreciation for design.

“Art making is my addiction: I crave the exploration and the creative process of manipulating images, and my passion is to push my photographs into images that expose my originality.”

why we live here public art installation spokane convention center gay waldman

“Why We Live Here,” Gay Waldman’s public art installation at the Spokane Convention Center.

Waldman sells her work through galleries, her studio, her website, and at Northwest festivals including those in Boise, Seattle, and Coeur d’Alene.  A permanent collection of 24 of her works hangs in the Women’s Imaging Center of Gritman Medical Center in Moscow, ID. Additional public art includes “Celebrate Our City,” a five-panel installation at the Wells Fargo Building in Spokane, as well as “Why We Live Here,” an 85-foot wide by 20-foot tall mural at the Spokane Convention Center.

This latter project, which Waldman identifies as her most notable to date, involved a two-year process of applying, presentation, designing, and engineering, and the benefits have been enormous. Most gratifying is when individuals enter Waldman’s booth at an art festival and recognize her work from a public installation.

“When they meet me, it provides them a connection between the art and the artist.”

Samba garden floral flower digital photographic art gay waldman spokane

Samba Garden, a digital array of flower blossoms and petals by photograph enhancer Gay Waldman of Spokane, WA

An Artist before the Digital Age

Like many highly creative people, Waldman has wanted to be an artist for as long as she can remember, and has never forgotten her kindergarten teacher’s comment on a report card — “Gay might be a great artist one day!” Her unique niche in photography came about because of a lack of time: upon graduating from the university and working many, many jobs to get by, Waldman found time and money short for painting. When she was approached about exhibiting her artwork at a special show, she supplemented paintings with photographs she had taken with the intent to paint someday. The next gallery show was all photographs, incorporating mixed media and collage, and a career was born.

“At that time, I didn’t realize photographs would be the foundation of all my artwork.

“My artwork and I keep growing with every exhibit, festival, and commission.

Pleasantly Busy

It’s a lifestyle that keeps an artist consistently but pleasantly busy, and while there may not be enough time to fold clothes in neat, organized piles, it’s nice to know that they don’t have to share space with bins of liquid chemicals. And while any given day looks remarkably different — from photographing to interior design consulting, from providing custom framing services for other artists to participating in an invitational, juried show, it’s all about art — and that’s worth spending time on.

“I am completely captivated with making art, because it’s the only thing in my life where I have total control of the outcome.”

Wenaha Gallery

Gay Waldman is the featured Art Event artist at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, April 9, 2018, through Saturday, Saturday, May 5, 2018.  

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.

Beauteous watercolor flowers dream colors barbara janusz

Dream Job, Dream Home, Dream Life — The Paintings of Barbara Janusz

Beauteous watercolor flowers dream colors barbara janusz

Beauteous, original watercolor by Barbara Janusz capturing the dream scape of flowers

She bicycled from Portland, OR to Portland, ME.

Rode and camped in a horse-drawn wagon, traveling from farm to farm in Ireland.

Hiked the high Sierras.

abundance watercolor river stream nature barbara janusz

Abundance, original watercolor by Barbara Janusz, celebrating the dream scape of landscape

Traveled in and through Morocco, the United Kingdom, Greece, Italy, Spain, Poland, Mexico, Canada and the United States.

And stood in the midst of an opening art reception in her honor, in Paris, France, without knowing a word of the language.

Like Dorothy of the Wizard of Oz, Barbara Janusz has journeyed to magical places and experienced memorable adventures. And like Dorothy, the lifetime professional painter asserts that there’s no place like home.

“I have traveled extensively during my lifetime, but there’s no doubt my heart just soars with creativity when I’m home in the Pacific Northwest,” the watercolor artist says. “It’s alive and full of life.”

denali watercolor dream alaska barbara janusz landscape

Denali, original watercolor by Barbara Janusz, escaping to the dream real world of Alaska

Janusz’s Studio by the Lake in Hope, ID, overlooking Lake Pend Oreille, has a few advantages over Aunty Em’s farm in Kansas, and Janusz draws daily inspiration from a rock cliff sculpture, an onsite pond and waterfall, and forested, flower-bedecked grounds.

“I paint on the studio grounds feeling blessed each and every day,” Janusz says. “I can say I really do live the ‘Artist Dream.'”

Not only through her paintings — which emerge from a vision to communicate the poignant beauty of nature — does Janusz share that dream. Upon moving to Idaho from California in 1991, Janusz began teaching watercolor workshops on her two-acre parcel, setting up large tents next to the waterfall. She also hosts catered events for collectors — in her personal Garden of Eden or at the homes of collectors — showcasing her latest works.

“My new paintings are revealed at the exhibition, giving the collectors first choice to own one before they are exhibited to the public,” Janusz explains.

fly fishing clark fork watercolor dream painting Barbara Janusz

The Clark Fork, original watercolor, part of the fly fishing series by Barbara Janusz

Janusz has exhibited her work in solo and group exhibitions throughout the U.S., as well as at an invitational exhibit with four other artists at the Centre Internationale d’Art Contemporain in Paris where, thankfully, a personal interpreter stood at her side during the opening reception. Numerous awards include the Gold Medallion Award at the Rocky Mountain National Exhibition; the Ruth Elliot Award from Women Painters of the West; and Best of Show at the Westwood Center of the Arts, Westwood, CA. She has been affiliated with the Art Works Gallery of Sandpoint since 1995.

To Janusz, however, painting is much more than acquiring an impressive resume of exhibitions and collections hosting her work. Each painting is a visual orchestra, one incorporating chords of color and symphony of form, inviting the viewer to experience emotion and movement.

“A completed painting is a form of universal consciousness where all human experiences are somehow touched because of our own connections with nature,” Janusz says.

“When viewing the painting, there is a feeling of being a part of the cosmic order.”

The complexity of nature is mirrored in Janusz’s chosen medium, watercolor, which she describes as “rich in colors and enduring.

swan tundra watercolor dream bird painting barbara janusz

Tundra Swan, original watercolor painting by Barbara Janusz, dream swan in the beginning of flight

“The challenge of watercolor is to create a painting by using layers of color, a wide range of values and contrast, while keeping in mind the white of the paper.

“The benefits of watercolor are its beautiful luminous effects.”

When creating a body of work, Janusz selects a theme and explores it thoroughly before moving on to another, nature-related subject. She has plumbed the depths of Waterfalls, Lily Ponds, Fly Fishing, and Flowers; her series on Water Paintings, entitled Water: The Spirit of Life, included imaginary locales as well as real ones, reflecting her philosophy of painting from memory, from reference photos, and from her imagination.

What is most important in capturing the full impact of nature, Janusz believes, is being fully present with an open heart and mind, open to all possibilities.

“One stroke leads to the next: the act of painting comes out of the now.

“This openness is not by effort, but by letting go.”

It is through this letting go, this recognition that one does not know or understand all there is to know and understand, that the artist — and the viewer — come to a greater awareness of truth.

“I believe we are on this planet to learn lessons.

“One of the lessons I am learning is, it is not what I do: it’s knowing I am.

“The painting is not me; it is the love that is expressing through the painting.”

Wenaha Gallery

Barbara Janusz is the Featured Pacific Northwest Artist at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, June 5 through Saturday, July 1, 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.

Morel Mushrooms in bronze by Wenaha Gallery artist Andy de la Maza

Mushroom Love — Bronze, Stone, and Metal Sculpture by Andy de la Maza

Morel Mushrooms in bronze by Wenaha Gallery artist Andy de la Maza

Morel Mushrooms in bronze by Wenaha Gallery artist Andy de la Maza

In the world of dangerous work, “professional artist” doesn’t rank up there with “loggers,” “deep-sea fishermen,” or “commercial airline pilots,” but that’s not to say that it doesn’t have its moments.

“I’ve been stalked by cougars, I’ve had bears come up to me and the people around me freak out,” says Andy de la Maza, a Walla Walla sculptor who works in bronze, metal, and stone. Lest one wonder just what kind of studio de la Maza inhabits, he was in the field at the time. Wilderness hiking plays a major part in his collecting specimens to be used in his art, which incorporates petrified wood, geodes, stone, bone, and one of de la Maza’s favorites, mushrooms.

Bronze Chanterelle by Wenaha Gallery artist Andy de la Maza

Bronze Chanterelle by Wenaha Gallery artist Andy de la Maza

“I love mushroom hunting,” de la Maza says, adding that he — like many people the world over — relishes the quest, one he has been avidly pursuing for more than ten years. So enamored is he of the shape, form, variety, and beauty of the humble fungus that he “immortalizes them” by casting them, at Walla Walla’s T. Hunter Bronze, into life-size metal sculpture, exquisite for detail and accuracy of replication.

“It’s hard to get a casting of mushrooms; they are so delicate,” de la Maza explains. “It’s taken a lot of knowledge of the mushroom’s unique characteristics, as well as practice in casting it, with a good dose of luck on my side.”

Some of that luck has to do with more than figuring out how to capture the essence of a fragile organic item without mutilating it in the process. Like most mushroom hunters, de la Maza enjoys eating what he finds, and is acutely aware that there are risk factors to the activity. Indeed, an old Czech adage observes:

All mushrooms are edible. Some of them only once.

In his personal experience, de la Maza concurs.

Trove of Valhalla metal mask by Wenaha Gallery artist Andy de la Maza

Trove of Valhalla metal mask by Wenaha Gallery artist Andy de la Maza

“I poisoned myself several years ago eating a false morel, but instead of running the other way and quitting, I went out and started buying books.” Bit by bit he educated himself in what was false and what was real, what was edible and what was . . . not. His repertoire of bronze mushroom sculptures includes fittingly titled pieces such as “King Bolete,” “Chanterelle,” “Morel,” and, more ominously, “Death.” It’s nothing to be afraid of: you just don’t eat it.

In regards to fear, de la Maza maintains a poised attitude toward danger, preferring to see it as an essential, and expected, part of adventure. In addition to regular encounters with wild creatures (“You know, every time somebody sees a bear, they freak out, but you just kind of look at them and they turn around”), de la Maza often finds himself, literally, between a rock and a hard place:

“There is nothing quite like pounding into a glass cliff face, trying to extract a piece of petrified wood.

King Bolete bronze mushroom by Wenaha Gallery artist Andy de la Maza

King Bolete bronze mushroom by Wenaha Gallery artist Andy de la Maza

“It’s quite laborious, and satisfying at the same time. I bring a piece home to my cutting room, make a slice, and see the natural beauty inside.”

Much of this natural beauty, which remains hidden until the artist’s eye and hand bring it forth, is remarkably nearby, with de la Maza scouring the Washington, Oregon, and Idaho mountains for their treasures; the Mattawa Saddle Mountains, a day trip away, are a rich source of petrified wood. Nearby Idaho is easily accessible by auto, but the real finds require some, or actually a lot of, walking.

“Some of the places in Idaho are brutal. The sign says it’s two miles up, so it must be two miles up and two miles back, but hiking it feels like four miles up and two miles back.

“The harder it is to get to, the better the material you find generally is.”

Even home has its hazards, with de la Maza’s studio and living space frequently blending one into the other.

“My work is on my kitchen table. Throughout the entire house. In the yard, in buckets, in the cutting room . . . on window sills, in piles I trip over on the floor.

“It’s my lifestyle.”

He hikes. He sculpts. He researches. He scrabbles over rocks. The fusion of thinking with action results in artwork that celebrates the shape and dimensionality of life itself.

“I strive to capture the beauty of these found objects. I’m looking for a window into nature, that can be added to the chaos of civilized living.”

Wenaha GalleryAndy de la Maza is the featured Pacific Northwest Art Event artist from Monday, April 25 through Saturday, May 21.

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.