2nd Annual Gilpin Art Studio Tour Reveals True Talent
By David Josselyn
For many artists, their studio is an intimate, personal place where they open up their souls and express their desires, their passions through their hands. Artists in Gilpin County opened their studios to the public for two days this September for the 2nd Annual Gilpin Art Studio Tour on September 21st and 22nd. From noon to five the public were invited into twelve studios (due to unforeseen circumstances, Jon C. Parker and Tanya Unger pulled out of the Tour; Jerome Schalz graciously entered the Tour in Jon’s stead) in Gilpin County to see places where creativity is at its best and works of art flow from the hands of more than fifteen local artists. The Art Studio Tour is the brainchild of Virginia Unseld, “the art mom.” Virginia calls herself the art mom because she’s the one who “nags all the artists.” She wanted to let people know of the exceptional talent being kept secret among the forests of Gilpin and started the Art Studio Tour in 2012. Last year’s tour was conceptualized and put together in ten weeks and attracted about 100 visitors. This year, Virginia is hoping to see more than 100 people, but realizes that the recent flooding and highway closures will affect attendance. Virginia Unseld and Bambi Hansen will be donating 20 percent of their sales from the Studio Tour to the Boulder Flood Relief Fund. Looking ahead, Virginia wanted to let all artists know that the 2014 Studio Tour is open and encourages others to join. The 2013 full-color brochures were designed by Gail Watson.
Jerome Schalz, Wood Furniture. Jerome works out of his garage, but displayed his pieces at the Mineshaft Mercantile, formally the Wild West Mercantile, in Rollinsville. One of his works is an ergonomic chair that when sat in by someone of Jerome’s build, makes it possible for them to sit with their feet flat on the ground with the back slats hitting pressure points on the spine.
Gail Watson, Letterpress and Pastel Artist. Gail has two old fashioned printing presses that allow her to design custom books, invitations and announcements for all different types of occasions. One of her presses is a Pearl Treadle Press which was built in 1887. Gail also teaches classes on different types of book binding including the Coptic binding technique which allows a book to lay flat from any page. Coptic binding was used by Christians known as the Copts in 2nd century Egypt. Gail said that her muse is the natural world and how everything works together. Gail worked with Virginia to put this event together.
Rebeccah Joyce, Fiber Artist and Sid Lupzitz, Cloth Designer. Rebeccah has a long arm quilting machine that does 2200 stitches per minute. Rebeccah said she draws inspiration from nature, her garden, flowers and the different phases of the moon. If you look closely at many of her original pieces you can find her inspiration from the moon. She has also been experimenting with Zentangles and it has brought a new complexity into her work. Many of her fabrics come from her husband, a tie dye artist with a striking eye for color.
Willy and Roger Lickey, Woodwork. Willy & Roger are a wife and husband team, drawing inspiration from the wood itself. They collect interesting pieces of wood, mostly quaking aspen, from around their property and on hikes. Sometimes it is obvious what they are supposed to do with a particular piece, whether it is lamps, stacking games, antler racks, candle holders, or wall art, but other times a piece of wood may sit for a year or two before it becomes a finished creation.
Roy Stewart, Painter. Roy is the owner of Roy’s Last Shot where many of his paintings are hanging inside the restaurant. When he speaks about his art, his passion is evident. When asked what his muse is, his first response was “alcohol.” Inquiring further, he explained that he draws inspiration from life itself. He said that everyone has energy inside that needs to be released. Physical energy is pretty easily released; it is the mental energy that needs an outlet. Art is that release for Roy.
Dorothy Connors, Potter. Dot’s Pots is the business that Dorothy Connors uses to sell her unique pottery creations, however she does not want to be called Dot. When asked what her muse or inspiration is when she starts to create her art, she said that it is a need within her. Her studio is her church and being able to create is her heaven. While she is throwing her pieces, “time disappears.”
Dana Jones, Quilt Maker and Fiber Artist. Dana Jones has been quilting for over 10 years and uses her own designs as well as some more commonly known quilting patterns in unique fabric combinations. She often collaborates with Rebeccah Joyce (see above) and ZJ Humbach. During her travels to Japan she was inspired by the story of the 1000 cranes and created a colorful quilt giving homage to the memorial of Sadako. Dana often contributes to quilting journals & magazines, sometimes with articles and sometimes with original patterns. One of the advanced techniques that she teaches and makes her designs unique is inset circles. Dana likes to recreate story quilts such as the Underground Railroad quilts that were used to direct “passengers” to the next safe house or give a heads up to upcoming dangers. Last year, Dana was the artist in residence at the Gilpin Library.
Virginia Unseld, Painter. Virginia paints mainly with soft pastels and her style is contemporary impressionism. Similar to the impressionist artists of the 19th century, lighting plays a key aspect in Virginia’s landscapes. She often creates her pieces on the spot taking her case of pastel’s with her wherever she travels. Her car becomes a makeshift studio in the winter so she can capture some of the majestic scenery that the snow often creates in Gilpin County. She also competes in “plain air competitions” where the work she starts must be finished in the same spot; though she often takes photographs before she begins her work, so she has a future reference for a particular piece. She said that she is a painter not a photographer so her goal is to capture the scene and highlight it rather than recreate an exact duplicate. She went on to say that light inspires her; most of her paintings are created in the early mornings or late afternoons when the light and shadows are at their peak. She was the artist in residence at the Caribou Ranch this summer. She is one of the main organizers of the studio tour event.
Bambi Hansen, Candle Maker. Bambi is a recycler at heart and it comes across in the unique and beautiful candles that she makes. She uses recycled wax for the majority of her candles. She also improvises with her molds using old beer cans, Pringles cans, milk cartons, jars, etc. Some of her designs can take many hours due to the intricate layers, each layer needing to harden before applying the next. Layering candle wax is difficult, because if it hardens too much, the candle will become brittle and break at the seam, yet if it is too soft, the new wax layer will flow into the old with unintended results. She loves to experiment and says that experimentation is her muse. She is also one of the organizers of the event.
Gigi Lamont, Raku. Raku is a type of pottery that uses a different firing technique; using metal based glazes to give it a metallic finish. She uses everyday tools in her work; pizza cutters, pastry rollers, and trash barrels. She makes many of her own stamps from old stamps and things she finds in thrift stores, which gives uniqueness in her work that cannot be duplicated. Gigi’s muse is the nature that’s all around us.
Forrest Anderson, Wabi Pottery. When asked what inspires him, Forrest first admitted that he is inspired by what sells because he needs money in the bank. He then went on to say that he gets his inspiration for the colors and textures of what is around him; the mountains and land that surrounds us in this awe inspiring state. He enjoys making things that people can use every day such as stoneware sets, canisters, mugs, wine coolers and pots. Some of his pieces are made of terra cotta and others that are fired to 2300 degrees Fahrenheit in a natural gas kiln which is the temperature for stoneware. He works with different kinds of clay and materials that are found in the area, such as feldspar and copper. He works best making multiples of the same design before moving onto something different.
Gilpin Clay Studio, Ceramics, various artists. The Gilpin Clay Studio is found in the Gilpin County Community Center and plays host to many different artists and styles. There are functional pieces such as bowls, plates, platters, vases, salt and pepper shakers, and there are decorative pieces that can be used for hanging on the wall, decorating a shelf, or making your garden a happy place. There are a variety of techniques that are used as well. Bisque, raku, glazed, and pit fired are just some of the styles created at the studio. Jim Reid, one of the artists, eagerly explained some of the different techniques used and his passion was apparent as he spoke. Jim likes to use a pit fire rather than a more traditional kiln fire. The pit fire pot will take its colors from the materials that are used when burying the pot, he has used many different organic materials in his pots like seaweed, copper, salt, Miracle-Gro and aluminum foil. He never knows what he wants to make when he starts saying, “sometimes just working with the clay on the wheel, having it go up and down is cathartic, what you make becomes secondary.”