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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!

A hand-thrown pottery Brie baker, with curled handle, by Rose Quirk

Timeless Fashion: The Functional Pottery of Rose Quirk

A curved, hand-built pottery platter by Rose Quirk, Wenaha Gallery guest artist from Richland, WA

A curved, hand-built pottery platter by Rose Quirk, Wenaha Gallery guest artist from Richland, WA

Human beings are not machines.

Sounds sort of obvious, doesn’t it? While the statement would make a fine social media meme — short, punchy, rhyming, and good for a share or two and 7.5 seconds of fractured reflection — it makes a point well  worth comprehending:

Human beings are not machines.

A hand-thrown pottery Brie baker, with curled handle, by Rose Quirk

A hand-thrown pottery Brie baker, with curled handle, by Rose Quirk

And when those human beings are artists, creating items with their very human, very skilled hands, the resulting craftsmanship is not designed to be found, shrink-wrapped, in a child’s meal.

“Each piece I create is unique, handmade, and even pieces that are part of a set can be different,” says Rose Quirk, a ceramic artist from Richland who specializes in functional wheel-thrown and hand built pottery.

“Mugs are slightly different sizes; the glaze on each piece is unique and has its own personality. This is both wonderful, and challenging.”

Consider, for example, a stack of dinner dishes, she adds. They must, and do, stack evenly, but part of their singular, unparalleled charm is that they do not look like precisely the same piece, eight times over. Before approaching the wheel, Quirk meticulously weighs out the clay, apportioning an equal amount for each item. One after another a plate is shaped on the wheel, guided by steady hands that, after more than 20 years, know what “feels” right. A ruler measures and confirms the final step. The resulting dinnerware, while close in size and shape, is far from being a clone.

Fractured Fish ceramic wall art by Rose Quirk

Fractured Fish ceramic wall art by Rose Quirk

“Because each piece is hand-formed, there’s not going to be that exactness that you get in commercial pottery,” Quirk explains. “There are ways to control it without using a mold, but you can’t control it exactly,” nor should this be the driving focus.

“You can go to Walmart and buy a mug for a dollar, but when you spend $25 or $30 on a hand-thrown mug, you appreciate the aspect of its being hand-thrown.”

Such attention to detail, in conjunction with an understanding that nothing is 100 percent predictable, reflect the duality of Quirk’s professional background: a biochemist who has worked for medical and pharmaceutical firms throughout the nation, Quirk concurrently pursued her interest in pottery. Upon moving to Washington State with her husband (“I think we’re here permanently, now”), Quirk focused her attention on the art side of things.

Interior and exterior views of large pottery serving bowls by Rose Quirk

Interior and exterior views of large pottery serving bowls by Rose Quirk

“Science and art have frequently gone hand in hand for me,” Quirk says. “There is a strong correlation between the visualization skills needed to see and understand chemical elements and molecules and the art of creating a three-dimensional piece of pottery.”

Precision, experimentation, observation, research, creativity — a host of elements come to play as Quirk works in her 500-square foot home studio, where half the room is devoted to throwing and firing clay (“This can be quite messy . . . “) and the other half is devoted to finishing, including the addition of embellishments such as collage and fiber.

With an eye on food an entertainment trends, Quirk combs through Pinterest for ideas, which she then transforms into signature, trendy pieces of timeless appeal: a delicately curved, hand-formed platter to hold hors d’oeuvres and finger foods; a shallow dish for creamy Brie cheese; a gently sloping, texturized serving bowl that looks as good everyday on the coffee table as it does in the middle of a holiday gathering. The glazes are rich, warm, earth-toned, and perpetually in vogue.

Celestial Dream ceramic wall art by Richland, WA artist Rose Quirk

Celestial Dream ceramic wall art by Richland, WA artist Rose Quirk

“My art is in kitchens all across the Mid-Columbia,” Quirk says. “It is to be handled, used and enjoyed every day.”

A member of the Allied Arts Association in Richland, Quirk is a longtime board member who serves as the Featured Artist Chairperson, responsible for setting up and managing the exhibits that rotate through the facility’s 1800 square feet of gallery space. In 2015, she was honored by receiving the coveted Szulinski Award, recognizing artists who have distinguished themselves by their excellence of craftsmanship in a three-dimensional medium.

Such recognition is always positive, but for Quirk, an even greater joy is the creation of her work,  melding science with art, and finding that harmonious balance of individuality with congruity. An achievement like this, she notes, is lasting success.

“It has always been my goal to create beautiful, one-of-a-kind, functional pieces.”

Wenaha GalleryRose Quirk is the featured Pacific Northwest Art Event artist from Monday, June 20 through Saturday, July 16.

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.

Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci

Why the World Needs Artists

Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci

Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci

For those who keep up on educational buzzwords, trends, and movements, it is understandable if they question why the world could possibly need artists.

After all, STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — is where it’s at. One website, iseek.org, lays it out bluntly by saying,

“Think about key skills needed in today’s workplace: problem solving, analytical thinking, and the ability to work independently. What do they all have in common? They’re all related to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).”

Not much room for artists — and their legendary tendency toward being sensitive, moody, emotional, affective, and temperamental — there.

Statue of David by Michelangelo

Statue of David by Michelangelo

But contrary to limited, traditional thinking, art — and artists — do not operate outside of the realms of reality. Rather, they are firmly entrenched within it, and in the same way that science, and technology, and engineering, and math, seek and pursue (or should seek and pursue) truth, so also do artists.

They just  do it differently.

In the laboratory, scientists study all sorts of facts to find truth: they research air quality, and public policy is based upon their findings; they investigate germs and diseases; they explore nutrition; they even delve in the deep recesses of the human mind, and try to figure out why we behave the way we do, sometimes, unfortunately, for no other reason than to sell us a product.  (Yes, this is a simplistic overview, but so also is the limiting of intellectual human energy to four areas.)

The province of science, we are told, is to study, discover, report, and work with truth, and so high do we esteem the work of the STEM disciplines that we treat what their members say with an almost religious fervor.  If Science so declares, then it must be true.

But not all truths are able to be seen, swished about in a test tube, or neatly graphed, and these truths are the ones that artists delve in.  Honesty, integrity, compassion, beauty, patience, perseverance, determination, loyalty, peace, hope  — these are good things that are also real things, and when humans strive for them, further good things — that are not necessarily items that we can touch, or buy, or park in our driveway — abound.

Ellen Mary Cassatt with a Large Bow in Her Hair by Mary Cassatt

Ellen Mary Cassatt with a Large Bow in Her Hair by Mary Cassatt

Conversely, there are truths on the opposite end of the spectrum — envy, hate, bitterness, despair, cunning, manipulation, horror, pride, fear — that, when we pursue them, draw out the worst in us.

These are the areas, bad and good, that artists research, study, analyze, scrutinize, explore, define and communicate to the world around them. While there is a stereotype that artists are weird  people, self-absorbed and mumbling to themselves in their garret studios (and frankly, we can thank mass media and popular culture for promoting this ), many artists are as level-headed and intelligent as we accord to the STEM crowd.

Artists are the canaries in the mine, warning society when it is on the wrong track, encouraging it when it moves toward something good. They see where we are going before we get there; they identify the good truths that can be and the bad options that entice. Some artists make a point of promoting and elevating good truths so that others can grasp and understand them. Other artists are fascinated by darkness, cynicism, and despair, and their best contribution is to show us how we don’t want to be. (Not all artists, in the same way that not all STEM sorts, use their gifts for good.)

Though we insist upon doing so, we really cannot divide ourselves, as humans, into exclusively black and white, left brain and right brain, scientists and artists, because there is a little bit of both in all of us, and we need both elements. To deny one, at the expense of the other, makes losers of us all.

Life without science, applied and conceptual, would be a dark, dull place, because we humans are creative beings,  always looking to do something a better, faster, more intriguing way.

But life without art would be a cold, barren wasteland — one without color, emotion, form, touch, or, frankly, humanity — because that is what artists do: they open our eyes and our souls to our humanity.

In a society that promotes engineers, mathematicians, scientists, and technicians as the highest forms of helpers to mankind, artists are not valued for the deep and abiding contributions they make, but let us not be deceived: building bridges and developing treatments for cancer are vitally important, but so also is showing us the deep, unseen truths that transcend our five senses.

This is what artists do.


Wenaha GalleryWenaha Gallery supports art and artists by offering original two- and three-dimensional work by Pacific Northwest artists; art edition prints from Greenwich Workshops; and custom framing of treasured art pieces and mementos of our local and regional clientele.

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.

 

 

 

The Science of Art — Watercolor Paintings by Lisa Hill

Tangerine and Cream, original watercolor by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Lisa Hill.

Tangerine and Cream, original watercolor by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Lisa Hill.

When it comes to art, there is a tremendous amount of science involved.

For those who don’t believe, watercolorist Lisa Hill of Richland poses a question:

Colors of Autumn, original watercolor by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Lisa Hill.

Colors of Autumn, original watercolor by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Lisa Hill.

Why, when one mixes three primary colors in particular proportion — Phthalo Blue, Quinacridone Rose, and Hansa Yellow (even the names sound like something from a laboratory) —  is the resulting color black?

“This is a lesson on how pigments absorb or reflect certain color wavelengths of light,” Hill, who teaches watercolor as well as creates it, explains.

“Between the three paints, all the light is absorbed, almost none is reflected back to the eye, and we perceive it as black.”

And not only black can be actualized from these three colors, Hill adds, pointing out that thousands of hues result from two or three of these ideal primaries, which closely match the CMY (cyan, magenta, and yellow) of printing inks.

Hill herself creates boldly vivid, richly chromatic artwork with a limited palette of roughly five colors (none of which are white or black), but, not wanting to make things too challenging for her students, she allots them a magnanimous seven paints to manage and master.

Ripple Ellipse, original watercolor by Wenaha Gallery guest artist, Lisa Hill

Ripple Ellipse, original watercolor by Wenaha Gallery guest artist, Lisa Hill

“I teach my beginning students to make color mixing charts with these seven paints and show them how valuable the charts are as a planning tool for a painting. The color mixing possibilities are endless.”

If Hill sounds thoughtful, methodical, and organized (she adds the word, “meticulous” to the list), she comes to it from a background in dirt — planting soil, specifically — and her success in capturing flora and fauna two dimensionally is related to her first career in ornamental horticulture and landscape design.

Lost Edges, original watercolor by Wenaha Gallery guest artist, Lisa Hill

Lost Edges, original watercolor by Wenaha Gallery guest artist, Lisa Hill

After moving to the Tri-Cities from Spokane, Hill was ready for a change of pace and occupation, a watercolor class with Kennewick artist Laura Gable sparking an interest that later turned into a vocation. With the same sense of inquiry that she used in horticulture, Hill focused on being a student of art, first; then an artist; and finally, a private teacher of art based out of her dream home studio, a 700-square foot apartment Hill and her husband teased out of a second floor bedroom, with an enviable view of the Yakima River.

Student, Artist, Teacher — Hill wears all three caps seamlessly, her fervor toward her chosen medium strongly evident in her research, experimentation, zeal, and knowledge.

“I’m going out on a limb here since I haven’t painted with oils or acrylics,” Hill muses, “but I think success with watercolor techniques requires a higher level of scientific knowledge of behavior of water and light, and the mechanics of vision, specifically color and value perception.”

Blue Skies, original watercolor by Wenaha Gallery guest artist, Lisa Hill

Blue Skies, original watercolor by Wenaha Gallery guest artist, Lisa Hill

What causes the “transparency” of watercolor?

Is it possible to layer a lighter color successfully over a darker one?

How does one keep the “wet” look once a painting dries?

“Understanding how water behaves puts the artist in charge (mostly) of what happens to the paint on the paper,” Hill says. “The answers are almost always related to the water — how much is on the brush, the paper, and in the puddle of paint.”

Quiet and soft spoken, Hill nonetheless speaks with confidence, and one person who noticed was Robin Berry, a nationally known author and porcelain and watercolor artist who put Hill in touch with Quarto Publishing of London. The happy result included a series of published step-by-step demos of Hill’s work, as well as images of her paintings, in three Quarto art books.

Cereus, original watercolor by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Lisa Hill

Cereus, original watercolor by Wenaha Gallery guest artist Lisa Hill

Hill, who regularly participates in Richland’s Allied Arts’ “Art in the Park” and the Custer Arts and Crafts Shows in Pasco, Spokane, and Wenatchee, garnered Director’s Choice at the 2014 Wallowa Valley Festival of the Arts in Joseph, OR, with the winning painting, Lost Edges, featured prominently in the event’s 2015 promotional materials. She sells her original work, as well as prints and note cards, to collectors throughout the Northwest.

An unapologetic proponent of representationalism, Hill admires the skill and knowledge necessary to create abstract or vaguely realistic art, but gravitates toward realism, an area she finds uniquely suited to capture the subject matter she finds most intriguing.

“I have a lot of plant knowledge and thoroughly enjoy gardening, so it is natural that the subjects I most  love to paint are flowers and foliage.

“I don’t think I am making a statement by painting these things — I just love them.

“Maybe that IS the statement.”

Wenaha GalleryLisa Hill is the featured Art Event artist at Wenaha Gallery, 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA from Saturday, September 19 through Saturday, October 17. She will be in the gallery Saturday, October 3,  from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., to give live watercolor demonstrations during Dayton’s Art Walk.

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.