All humans make plans, but frequently forget something most important: the only thing certain about life is that it’s uncertain.
Or as poet Robert Burns — not Shakespeare, not Einstein — put it, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
For artist Barbara Coppock, the last thing on her mind when life hit hard was Burns’ musings “To a Mouse, on Turning up in Her Nest with the Plow,” but she, like the mouse, found that plans she made for the future could change, drastically, in a microsecond.
Plans Change Fast
After her daughter and son graduated from high school, the Clarkston, WA, artist ordered a small printmaking press to pursue intaglio etching. As she had done with many other art mediums, Coppock planned to research and work with this new venture until she had learned all the ins and outs of the method. It would be a slow, enjoyable process, upon which she would focus all her concentration.
“Around that time, my husband Bill was in an auto accident which left him paraplegic,” Coppock remembers. “Medically, he required full time care, which meant I would be home.”
In addition to being caretaker, Coppock needed a plan, a means of making money that allowed her to remain by Bill’s side — and that’s where the printing press came in.
“The answer was right in front of me: printmaking,” Coppock says. “As I was working out the intricacies, Bill was regaining use of his right hand by working on framing for my etchings.
“It proved to be a win-win, giving both Bill and me a way to support ourselves.”
The couple outfitted an RV so that Bill could travel. A friend who showed work at the C.M. Russell show in Great Falls, MT, introduced directors to Coppock’s work, and they invited her to the prestigious annual event. While at the show, Coppock attracted the interest of various galleries, and in a short time was represented by more than 20 — in Great Falls, Missoula, Helena, Ennis, Bozeman, Billings, and Lewistown. On the Oregon Coast (“I never saw the ocean until I was an adult — love at first sight,”) Coppock picked up galleries in Cannon Beach, Newport, and Bandon.
Following a Dream, and Planning out Each Day
From the mid-80s, through the 90s, and until 2008, Barbara and Bill worked as a team, at one point selling more than a thousand etchings a year through Coppock’s network of galleries.
“Art was good to us, and we were able to follow a dream,” Coppock says.
“It was very hard to realize that Coppock Etchings were being collected, some across oceans. Several collectors had amassed over 60.
“What in the world do you do with 60 etchings?”
Though they were able to travel only a few weeks each year, Coppock planned and used the time well, focusing on the subject matter of an area to develop a niche portraying homesteads, towns, local landmarks, and landscapes. Believing that the land we choose to care for, and the things we build upon it, define us, Coppock created images connecting viewers to the space with a simple glance.
“This look at the past helps us to understand those who were here before,” Coppock explains.
It was a good time. It was a memorable time. But it was a finite time, and like all such times, came to an end — in Coppock’s case, quite abruptly.
Plans Change, Again
“This amazing lifestyle lasted til Bill’s kidneys failed, the market crashed, and thankfully, I qualified for Social Security,” Coppock says. “All this happened in 2008.”
Almost overnight, plans changed, and Coppock went from selling in 20-some galleries to five, the rest having failed in the economic downturn. Dialysis for Bill and regular trips for treatment cut into the hours Coppock needed for the time intensive etchings. Like the mouse in Burns’ poem, Coppock found her life turned upside down.
“So I learned how to make jewelry.”
A Time, a Season, a Plan
And she told herself that there was a time and season for everything, and this particular season belonged to Bill. In 2015, when Bill passed away, Coppock found herself, again, looking at an uncertain future and figuring out how to interact within it. She moved from Montana to Clarkston, WA, to be close to family.
“So here I am, rebooted.
“I was at the top of my game when the unplanned hiatus came calling in 2008. I have a lot of unfinished editions and artist’s proofs that need to find home.
“The big bonus is Southeast Washington is filled with subjects calling my name.
“Retire? No need.
“Most folks retire to do what I do every day.”
Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail email@example.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.