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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.

 

 

candy nuts toffee chocolate mama monacelli gift basket

Candy Is Dandy — Artisan Sweets by Mama Monacelli

candy nuts toffee chocolate mama monacelli gift basket

From sweet candy treats to savory nut snacks, Mama Monacelli says, “Eat caro, cara, eat!”

It’s no secret that most people don’t like to see photos of themselves. (Especially candid ones!)

But most people do not have the unique situation that Nancy Monacelli has. The Walla Walla candy maker, who creates artisan toffees, brittles, chocolates, and snacks, needed an image for her packaging logo, and, in her own words,

english toffee candy chocolate mama monacelli

The English Toffee candy that started the flunking of Mama Monacelli’s retirement.

“I couldn’t abide the thought of looking at my own face all day.”

So, she and her graphic designer put their heads together, and went looking for a suitable face.

“I told him I wanted an older, Italian-looking, ‘How you gonna get a wife; you’re so skinny,’ kind of woman,” Monacelli recalls.

“He found a public domain image and said he thought he had just the thing if I didn’t mind being associated with a perfect stranger. I told him, if she was perfect, what more could I want?”

It Started out as Christmas Candy

So Nancy, as she is packaging up her many handcrafted treats for sale, does not have to face her face. And she can focus on what she really gets excited about: making candy using recipes that she has developed over decades.

“Basically, my business started as ‘the Christmas candy,” Monacelli explains.

“For years, I made baskets for family, friends, and co-workers, as well as to take to gatherings to donate to events. My kids told me for decades that I should ‘sell this stuff,’ so I finally listened to them.”

chocolate candy bark flavored sweet snack mama monacelli

Nine flavors and counting: Mama Monacelli works on new candy innovations in the winter

At the time, Monacelli was winding down a 30-plus-year career in general manufacturing, manufacturing software, and consulting, and she thought that candy making would be a pleasant diversion for her upcoming retirement. In 2017, less than four months after she made this decision, she was not only licensed and running, but well beyond the dabbling or hobby stage. She found herself with a business that was taking on a life — and a very robust and growing one — of its own.

“Basically,” Monacelli wryly observes, “I flunked retirement.”

Expanding Offerings

Now, Monacelli spends her days at the Blue Mountain Station in Dayton, where she operates a commercial kitchen in back and retail store in front. Fridays and Saturdays from spring through fall, while husband Richard minds the candy shop, Nancy heads to the Walla Walla and Richland Farmers Markets. In the winter, she focuses on new product development. This is an endeavor that not only stretches creativity, but the waistband as well.

bobpop candy snack popcorn mama monacelli

Bob the family dog was instrumental in the naming — and the research and development — of Monacelli’s candy popcorn treat, BobPop

“I generally do new product development in the first quarter of the year, when things are slower, so I tend to gain weight after the holidays, unlike most folks,” Monacelli says.

“There is a fair amount of trial and error, as you might guess, and my family are my guinea pigs. They really like the batches that I declare to be failures!”

Through the years, Monacelli has developed an array of flavors, building upon the signature English toffee candy that led to her initial flunking of retirement. She has added to that Maple toffee, nine flavors of chocolate barks; two brittles; seven “enhanced” almond snacks, and BobPop, a sweet and salty popcorn treat, “with a zing.”

Bob the Dog and Candy Tasting

“For the popcorn snack, I did the R&D in my home kitchen and our dog, Bob, was the preferred guinea pig — he really likes the stuff. So, around the house, we started referring to it as BobPop.

“When I was satisfied with the recipe and ready to go into production, we tried and tried to come up with another name. Failing, we just left it at BobPop, the only product that is named after a pet!”

With each of her candy and snack products, Monacelli is adamant that the ingredients be “real.”

Keeping that in mind, she seeks out the best she can find, locally when she can. There are no artificial flavorings or ingredients.

“The decision to use real, high quality, fresh ingredients is consistent with our approach to food and life,” Monacelli says. “Our chocolates are dairy and soy free; all of our products are gluten free. We are very careful in our sourcing, and sensitive to dietary issues.”

nancy mama monacelli snack maker dayton wa

Look closely, and you can see what Mama Monacelli really looks like

In addition to selling her artisan candies through her retail site and the Farmers Markets, Monacelli offers her products at specialty shops from Chelan to Glacier National Park. She has participated in the Prosser Balloon Festival and Walla Walla Fairgrounds Enchanted Christmas Market, and looks to keep expanding, just . . . not the waistline.

The Woman Behind the Face

So — what does Nancy, Mama Monacelli, really look like? That’s a mystery that is best solved when you meet her in person. But even if she doesn’t look like the woman on the package, she is, most definitely, Mama.

“The name was my daughter’s idea.

“I have five children, four step-children, a foster daughter, countless ‘spares,’ and now their children (12 and counting). So the ‘Mama’ moniker has been well used.”

Maybe, just maybe, Mama didn’t flunk retirement after all.

Wenaha GalleryMama Monacelli’s Candy is the featured  Art Event from January 27 through February 22 at Wenaha Gallery. A large selection of chocolates, toffees, and BobPop, will be at the gallery. Samples will be available.

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.

Not Just Your Standard Birdhouse: the Art of Papa Jon’s Fly Inns

Ladybug Cottage bird house by Papa Jon's Fly Inns

An amply sized, glorious ladybug sings of spring, all year round. Ladybug Cottage by Papa Jon’s Fly Inns.

For sculptors Jon and Marilu Bryan, art is for the birds, literally.

The Dayton couple, who operate under the name of Papa Jon’s Fly Inns, create hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind birdhouses that look like something one would keep on a special shelf in the living room, but are fully functional outdoor homes for wildlife, designed to handle wind, weather, and wet.

“They’re made to be outside and for birds to really use,” Jon Bryan says, “but I have people who  plug the holes in them so birds can’t get in. Some people put them all over their houses as decor — in the kitchen, in the living room. We have Realtors who put them in houses that they’re showing.

“Other people put them outside and let me know about the different birds that have nested in them.”

Designed for small birds, the house shells are built out of premium, long lasting cedar topped by a hand-hammered, galvanized metal roof, which is insulated to protect birds from the heat. The entrance holes are sized to invite in small nesting birds, like chickadees or finches, but keep out predators and “undesirables,”  like starlings.

“We don’t want anything to get in to hurt the eggs or the chicks,” Jon says. “I did a lot of research about making a birdhouse that is usable by birds. I wanted to make sure that the materials were friendly to the birds, as well as the design.”

That being said, his part is the easy one, Jon insists, crediting his wife and business partner, Marilu, with creating — by hand — the decorations that festoon the houses, adornments that are carefully chosen and arranged to portray a particular subject matter or motif: There are coastal-themed birdhouses, complete with shells from the sea, driftwood from the beach, and Marilu’s quirky interpretation of a pelican. A farm-themed house features real straw, artfully strewn around a cow and a chicken.  There are trains, frogs, cactus, and a moose. One piece, a particularly tall edifice entitled Flying High in the Vineyard, features a tiny table with miniature wineglasses and a dainty loaf of French bread.

Standing in front of an array of these avian domiciles, the viewer understands the quandary of whether to hang the work up outside, for the birds to enjoy, or keep it inside, where human decor preferences prevail. One hopes that a happy compromise be established, and as it is recommended that the houses be brought in during the winter months, peace between species should prevail.

Flying high with wineglasses birdhouse by wenaha gallery artists papa jon's fly inns

Look on your left, and see if you can spot the wineglasses, the little bottle of wine, and that bird-sized loaf of bread. Flying High in the Vineyard by Papa Jon’s Fly Inns.

Started nine years ago as a means of supplementing their retirement, Jon and Marilu’s part-time project quickly grew into one that can take all the time they’re willing to give to it. Initially, they exhibited in art fairs and garden shows throughout the Northwest, but since moving to Dayton from Olympia five years ago, they have scaled back, and keep busy enough fulfilling orders from people who find Papa Jon’s Fly Inns at their Etsy shop, or who discover them at Wenaha Gallery in Dayton.

Over the years, Jon and Marilu’s’ birdhouse sculptures have won numerous awards, including Best of Show at Allied Arts Art in the Park in Richland and the Apple Blossom Festival in Wenatchee,  and Judge’s Choice at Issaqua Salmon Days and the Chelan Fine Arts Show.

Oddly, or maybe not, the couple does not keep their birdhouses on their own country property, adjoining the Touchet River a few miles out of  town.  One would think that the birds would be delighted with such a setting. Jon agrees, but explains, “I’ve kept a few birdhouses up at our place in the past, but I don’t tend to do that now because I end up selling them.”

So birds at his place, unfortunately, must scrabble together a home on their own, without a table, wineglasses, and a loaf of bread.

“Our art is created with a sense of humor and light heartedness,” Marilu says. “There’s a sense of adventure: life and art should be fun and colorful.”

Gallery artists at Wenaha Gallery in Dayton, Jon and Marilu Bryan of Papa Jon’s Fly Inns are the featured Pacific Northwest artists for Art Event, a three-week showcasing of their works, beginning Monday, March 31, at the gallery. Bryans’ Art Event runs through Monday, April 21, 2014.

Wenaha Gallery,  located in historic downtown Dayton, Washington,  is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, 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; phone 509.382.2124; e-mail art@wenaha.com.