NOW some people say I simply ate too much white paste in elementary school, but I think it all happened much earlier. I prefer the tale that I splashed into the doctor’s hands with a twinkle in my eye and a paint brush in my hand. And so my world of artistic mischief began.
As a wee bit of a child, I dribbled and dabbled…although rather in the ‘abstract’. Thankfully I grew out of diapers and my ‘abstract period’. As I grew, my creative spirit thrived in the atmosphere my artistic family provided. Inspiration and a multitude of materials were readily available. I began drawing, sculpting, painting and creative writing for which I received several awards at the Grand Rapids “Youth Talent Exhibit”.
As I progressed, a natural next step was to join brushes with my mother, who was already an illustrious talent. Together, we painted decorative panels, barn boards and tavern signs, displaying them at many summer art festivals. Our artsy partnership earned us a write up in the Grand Rapids Press, a two woman show at the GR YWCA and a lifelong creative bond.
Time to go to work! My first real job was at Baker Furniture, then followed by John Whiddicomb. At both companies, I painted furniture in the style of Chinoiserie. The delicate technique was a good fit for “the tickler”, a name given to me for my attention to detail. With gold leaf, metal powders and raising paste, the pieces came alive. I also was charged with the prestigious job of designing some of the decorative patterns that were painted on the furniture. It was fun to read the tags and see where in the world my work was going.
While painting Chinoiserie had it’s rewards, rosemaling certainly won in the fun department. Rosemaling is Norwegian folk art, a wonderfully free flowing and colorful decorative art form. I was inspired by my mother who was a national gold medalist in the art and I was taught by Sigmond Aarseth of Norway.
For the next several years, with all this exposure to art forms and my inborn creative energy, I basically painted everything and anything that would stand still (OK, maybe just a few moving objects), selling at shops, art fairs and holiday shows. I designed and built many of the pieces that I decorated. (I admit to only a “friendship” with my strong/handsome, 6 ft. tall, band saw.)
When the ‘romance’ was over, I took a job as a graphic designer doing work for both local and worldwide companies. Promoting companies through the use of my design has been very gratifying, not to mention the sweet reward of seeing my work in print. On a freelance basis, I have continued to do a variety of advertising work including award winning web site design, earning me a splendid feather for my cap.
Enough about my wardrobe, let’s get back to decorating furniture. This time for a renowned folk furniture artisan, well known for his use of authentic styling, tools and finishes. Here I have been able to draw upon many of my furniture and folk art experiences. With our winning combination of talents we produce pieces filled with warmth and character.
One of my favorite styles of decorating is “trompe l’oeil” which means ‘fool the eye’. The idea is to paint something realistically enough to demand a second look and yet with just enough whimsey to let you in on the joke. I have painted chickens-a-laying on cabinet doors, fine china laying on a bench, a kitten curled up on a chair, rabbits in a pen (tool chest) and a flock of geese on a wall guarding an entry. My eyes twinkle when people can’t resist touching the chicken wire to see if it’s real. This technique lets the little kid in me come out to play.
Along the lines of ‘trompe l’oeil’ is marbleizing, the art of painting something to look like marble. Recently, I was commissioned to “marbleize” pillars at a local winery. I have also marbleized such things as desktops, mirror frames and walls. With techniques I developed using feathers, sea sponges and layers of washes, the look and depth of marble emerges.* (I knew that ‘feather’ would come in handy!)
I love painting with the look of 3 dimensions, but sometimes you just feel like a little ‘true’ 3 dimension and what better material than wood. There’s nothing like working with wood and creating something substantial with your hands. Through the years, I have designed and constructed several pieces of furniture ranging from benches to breakfronts. But most recently I have ‘played’ with twigs, both birch and maple, making everything from foot stools to queen size beds.* Living in the woods has offered me a constant supply of natural wood materials to experience. Each winding vine or twisted twig sets my creative juices flowing.
Also from the land, there is stone. And in my world, that means more inspiration. Ever since my early childhood summer romance with a “Petoskey”, stones have been a ‘grounding’ force in my life. It feels to me as if they have a soul. Hold one in your grasp and you can’t help but feel it. If only stones could talk, what mysterious tales they would tell. Having been one of my favorite things, it is of particular joy that I can use them to create. I have built stone bird houses, ‘real’ masonry stone lamps and even a few stone masonry walls. (Many of these works can also be used effectively as anchors.)
While taking a bit of a side step from my ‘Capone’ era, I began to ponder using smaller specimens to make smaller creations based still on my love of stone. Yes, and then came jewelry* and I couldn’t be more thrilled. It is a whole new world to explore. I am working with a material I love and one that is so versatile the possibilities seem limitless. I sure took the long route getting here, but I have arrived and it just doesn’t get better than this. My strongest creative focus has always been the use of ‘found’ or natural materials. It is gratifying to take something raw and wild and develop it to enhance its natural beauty. And no medium can do that better than stone jewelry.
My journey has exposed me to many mediums, which has been both fascinating and challenging. Along the way, I have learned the possibilities and limitations of each.
And as I learn the intricacies of each one, it further expands the possibilities of the others. It is a never ending evolution that keeps me inspired. No matter the medium, when the creative juices are flowing, it is a truly euphoric state. I am grateful every day for the talents I have been given. Creativity fills my life and gives me purpose.
*As seen in Traverse Magazine