North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

Art in nature the theme of local exhibit


November 6, 2008

The Ken Baxter Senior/Community Center was transformed into an art gallery Saturday, November 1, for the second annual Artistry in Nature exhibit. Incredible examples of artistic talent in a variety of materials and media were on display, all created by students from the center's Gourd, Driftwood, Woodcarving and Watercolor classes.

Arline De Palma, the driftwood arts instructor, explained the philosophy behind the sweeping works of art made from found materials. "We listen to the wood-literally. The squeaks and squeals of a tool tells us when we've reached good wood," she said. "The artists never force a shape out of wood. We remove the cacophony and reveal the natural rhythm and flow of the wood."

Indeed, the objects on display were evocative of familiar shapes while maintaining a unique natural perspective. Rich Alverdes, one of the participating artists, explained that the group meeting at the center uses the LuRon method, which doesn't allow carving into the wood.

Alverdes' wife Teri agreed. Also a driftwood sculptor, she first discovered examples of the art at a craft show in Sequim. When she saw that classes were offered at the local senior center, she signed up and has been a devoted practitioner ever since.

The local group, which meets Thursdays from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. at the Ken Baxter Senior/Community Center, is affiliated with Northwest Driftwood Artists. Classes are open to all skill levels and newcomers are welcome. A $5 weekly fee pays for use of the space, and a beginner's tool kit is only $10 to $12.

"We use inexpensive tools like scrapers, files, picks and brushes-even toothbrushes," said Sue Banks, a fellow student and teacher-in-training. "It's a fairly inexpensive hobby that is also great therapy."

Also on display at the center were beautiful decorative gourds created by students of Evie Scribner. Scribner has been a fan of gourd art for 10 years, and when she moved to Washington state five years ago, she discovered an online "Gourd Patch" and eventually began teaching classes at the center.

Members of the Washington State Gourd Society, Scribner and her students use many different methods to enhance the natural vessels that have been put to practical use for centuries.

"It's not a hobby, it's a passion," said artist Kate Franchimon. "We love the naturalness of the objects. It's up to the gourd to tell you what to do with it."

Artisans use dyes, woodburning techniques, delicate carvings and beadwork to decorate the shapes. Like the sculptors who work with found wood, gourd artists say the craft is affordable. Class members pay $5 per week, and most of the tools used are salvaged from kitchens and shops.

The gourd class meets Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to noon at the center, and novices are always welcome. A different project is tackled each month, and members proceed at their own pace.

Wade and Barbara Faries are into wood. Although both are members of Quilceda Carvers, the Faries use very different techniques for their artwork.

Wade Faries is a creative carver with an obvious sense of humor and an eye for details. His award-winning figural carvings are incredibly lifelike, sporting sly grins and realistic accessories that are works of art in their own right. A female scarecrow, hair bow askew, takes a rest from painting a wooden fence, her straw hair and stuffing made from delicate bamboo shoots. The miniature paintbrush and paint can are individually carved with meticulous care.

Faries also coaxes whimsical structures out of cottonwood bark with the skill and logic of an engineer combined with the artistry of a master carver. With tiny stairs, cross-hatched windows and half-timbered walls, the miniature homes grow out of the rough cottonwood bark as if they always existed there.

Fairies' wife Barbara wields a woodburner to create sketches of wildlife, fairies and flowers on wood plaques. Some of her designs are painted with watercolor pencils to add depth, then framed as wall art.

The wood carving class, which Wade Faries helps teach, meets Fridays from 9 a.m. to noon. The class is free and generally sees 12 to 14 woodworkers in attendance. Faries also teaches a class at Glenwood Mobile Home Park, where he and Barbara reside.

For more information about classes at the Ken Baxter Senior/Community Center, call (360) 363-8450. The center is located at 514 Delta Avenue, at Comeford Park in Marysville.


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