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happy place necklace earrings murano lampwork glass bead jewelry venita simpson

Murano Glass — The Lampwork Jewelry of Venita Simpson

happy place necklace earrings murano lampwork glass bead jewelry venita simpson

Happy Place, lampwork Murano lampwork glass beaded necklace and earrings by Richland jewelry artist, Venita Simpson

It started out as a palette full of wood and screws and instructions, delivered from Costco. By the time Venita Simpson had finished with it, however, the 80-square foot storage shed had turned into a fairy tale cottage, its inside painted cheery yellow, the path leading up to it bedecked with flowers, windows and glass door inviting in light and view.

desert sand necklace earrings jewelry murano lampwork glass beads venita simpson

Desert Sand, necklace and earrings set by Richland jewelry artist Venita Simpson, featuring handcrafted lampwork beads from Murano glass.

“It’s a sanctuary to leave the world behind and become the artist I dreamed of being for a long time,” the Richland jewelry artist says of her DIY studio. A computer programmer for more than 30 years, Simpson turned to glass jewelry making in 2006 as a mental antidote to the rigidity required by high tech. Now retired from programing, Simpson spends uncounted hours in her studio sanctuary, fashioning her own one of a kind beads using Murano glass from Italy and a flame torch.

Lampwork Murano Glass Beads

Employing a technique called lampwork, Simpson melts the glass at temperatures reaching 1200 degrees. She then forms the molten glass into shapes by using tools and hand movements. The beads are then placed in a kiln to anneal, or gradually cool.

“Working with molten glass requires a steady hand, attention to detail, and a healthy respect for a 1200 degree torch,” Simpson says. “Mixing colors and chemistry of glass results in wonderful reactions in the glass.”

You only burn yourself once, she adds.

sandstone turquoise desert earrings necklace jewelry lampwork murano glass bead jewelry Venita Simpson

Sandstone Turquoise Desert, necklace and earring set by jewelry artist Venita Simpson of Richland, WA, featuring handcrafted, lampwork Murano glass beads

After creating a series of beads using lampwork from the Murano glass, Simpson assembles the finished pieces, generally consisting of necklace and matching earrings, in a spare room in her home. Seasonal colors drive her design and color choices, and she showcases the finished work at Girls Night Out parties in her own home of that of others.

Murano Beads at Girls Night Out

“I’ve sold my work at craft fairs, but I really enjoy explaining my process in a more casual setting,” Simpson says. “I love bringing people into my studio so they can see first hand how the glass is melted. Girls Night Out is a way to bring women together in my home, to enjoy each other’s company, network, and have a great glass of wine.”

The glass that forms the basis for Simpson’s unique accessories is made only in Murano, Italy, a Venetian island that has specialized in the process for centuries. The beads adorn not only the necks and ears of  varied clients — “I like to travel and have been known to sell my jewelry right off my neck to a flight attendant or two!” — but also those of children battling a serious illness, through a program called Beads of Courage at the Children’s Hospital in Orange County, CA.

dreamy blues necklace earrings murano lampwork glass beads jewelry venita simpson

Dreamy Blues, necklace and earring jewelry set by Richland artist Venita Simpson, featuring her handcrafted lampwork, Murano glass beads

“Each time the child goes in to receive a shot, an appointment, surgery, x-rays etc., they are able to choose a bead and add to their necklaces to show how each milestone gave them hope,” Simpson explains. “Some of these treatments were painful episodes, but each bead told a story of the brave children and their courageous achievement.”

Since moving from California to the Tri-Cities, Simpson has also donated her Murano lampwork glass beads to Beads Behind Bars at the Benton Franklin Juvenile Detention Center, which, in coordination with Allied Arts of Richland, provides incarcerated juveniles a creative outlet in learning to make jewelry.

murano glass lampwork bead jewelry necklace earrings Venita Simpson

Natural Wonder, necklace and earring set by Richland jewelry artist Venita Simpson, featuring lampwork Murano glass beads

Right Brain Left Brain

In between her career in computer programming and retirement, Simpson took time off to earn her certificate in commercial and residential interior design, and for several years freelanced and did side jobs in a field that used what she calls the right side of her brain. But finances called her back to full-time programming, and her left brain demanded total attention. With retirement, her full brain joins with hands and heart as she enjoys the slower pace of the Pacific Northwest, four definite seasons, and freedom from corporate life.

“Programming makes you very rigid in that you have to test for every scenario, test for every system hiccup, and document each step,” Simpson says of her former life. “I was process oriented, following strict specifications to complete tasks, so it’s been challenging to come out of the box sometimes.

“But since retirement, I’m making great progress with my imaginative side of my brain. Using both sides of my brain has become an asset, firing up both burners, so to speak.”

It’s a jewel of an opportunity.

Wenaha Gallery

Venita Simpson is the featured Art Event artists at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, August 13, 2018, through Saturday, September 8, 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.

 

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.

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