Finding art in Gilpin studios

The Second Annual Gilpin Art Studio tour was one of the few
scheduled events for last weekend that was not cancelled. It was a
brilliant two days for those who joined the self-guided tour that led them
to back roads they have never been on, to studios that displayed work some
of which has never been seen before.

The best part of the tour is seeing how and where the artists
work, how their art melds with the decor of their home, how they choose the
rooms with the best light, the soft, non-shadow producing ambient light
that sneaks into the corners and reflects on glass and tile and counter
tops. One can feel how much a part of their life is contained in the rooms
in which they work. An artist always feels more at ease showing work in an
atmosphere they know rather than an exhibition in a unfamiliar building.
The artist is in his or her element and eager to share their creative
process.

The Gilpin Art Studio Tour begins in mid-county. In Rollinsville
the Wild West Mercantile was to have hosted Jon Parker’s Chain Saw Art, but
he moved out before the tour. Tim Underwood, the mercantile’s owner,
scrambled to find another artist and lucked out with Jerome Schalz, who
works in a shop in mid-county. Schalz is a log furniture artist and his
work is not only uniquely glowing and natural but it looks so comfortable
one wants to flop onto the polished wood, lean back and watch the world go
by. His swinging bench and armchairs were built for a a good-sized person
and Underwood said the furniture fit him just fine.

The second studio in Rollinsville was found on Patricia Ave where
Tanya Unger displayed her mixed media work. She says she uses aromatherapy
as part of a healing process as she composes her three-dimensional abstract
but recognizable creations. “I sit with essential oils and develop the
artwork from the feelings that emerge. At one point I felt stuck and I
talked to an aromatherapist who suggested lime oil, which helps people
looking for new beginnings.”

Tanya developed a process for combining three dimensional objects
on a two dimensional canvas using a balloon. She forms the shape and covers
the balloon with plaster of Paris coated gauze. After 10 years of dryness,
the scent of the oils recovered her desire to express herself. She had been
an artist since she was 16 years old and relished getting back into the
studio.

Her work is hauntingly rich with meaning that is wrapped into the
objects on the canvas. She chooses her color according to what she is
saying in the piece. One may find her work on Facebook but, she says, it
is awkward to sell in three-dimensional form. She offers prints and cards
on line.

A large eyeball is startling realistic. An up close look reveals
an iris made of tiger’s eye beads soaked in sandalwood oil and emphasized
by eyelashes of copper filaments. In another work she buries 20 sapphires
in the juniper branches. Her work provokes the viewer to look closer and
deeper for the surprise objects that lend their aroma and aesthetic into
the parts of the whole that tell many stories.

Heading south, looking for a Highway 119 address, one discovers
Gail Watson’s Birdwood Lodge Bed and Breakfast which opened a year ago.
Tiered gardens and lounging patios spread out from the building, a large
two-winged structure at the end of wide stairs. Surrounding the lodge is an
atmosphere of rustic elegance, with everything seeming to in exactly the
right place.

The center of the building contains Watson’s living quarters and a
suite with a private patio is located on each side, offering a sublime
retreat from the world, a perfect place for visitors wishing to feel the
serenity of a mountain hideaway.

Watson says let me show you my press room and upon entering one is
stopped in awe at the large shiny press, a dark red wheel facing the entry.
This is her prized press, a 1889 Chandler and Price, complete with polymer
plates and a platen. She purchased the press in 1989, 100 years from its
creation. She received a grant to obtain bookmaking equipment. With this
antique press, Watson creates artists’ books, weeding invitations and
greeting cards.

As visitors arrived, almost every one of them exclaimed, “I never
knew this was here.”

The next stop was up Lump Gulch Road, to Rebeccah Joyce’s quilting
studio. She has lived in the log house at the end of a dirt road for six
years and set up her long arm quilting machine. Her quilts are diverse in
subject and works of art in essence. Fairies that would brighten a girl’s
bedroom. They are vividly bright and cheerful, a work of art that would
enhance any room. Her catalog of quilts may be found at Mountain Joy
Quilts.com.
st quilt and quilter
Continuing south, one arrives at Roy’s Last Shot, a well-known,
popular restaurant that is an ongoing work in progress. A picture of the
original building depicts a one-room shack. Now the building is an
architectual wonder, with turrets and decks, addition upon addition and
with plans for many more. Inside, the dining rooms are filled with Roy
Stewart’s artwork, paintings of native lore, cowboys and animals, all with
a touch of humor and clarity. Of course, one can’t miss his 9,000 plus shot
glasses from all over the world, sparkling in windows, on shelves, behind
glass, creating a collage of reflections and words.
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Roy points to a painted slab of wood, his latest work named
Colorado Christmas depicting two hippie buses and a pine forest infested
with marijuana plants. As the dining rooms filled with patrons, the outside
deck was filled with the bluesy sound of G’Jai Jook Joint band delivering
powerful emotionally charged blues. The scope of Roy’s imagination knows no
boundaries. You just never know what he is going to come up with next.

The next stop up the road was Dorothy Connors Pottery Studio and
one look at the shelves and counters filled with clay and brushes and
colors and bowls and mugs, you knew she was serious about her work. Her
summer schedule was filled with art shows and fairs and she is constantly
replenishing her inventory. Her winter projects are works in progress.
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Dot is a former elementary school teacher, working in a bilingual
school in the projects. Science was her subject and she did this for 12
years. She had always been interested in pottery. When she took pottery
classes in college, she would lose her sense of time. “Being a potter is so
good for me, otherwise I would be cranky 24 hours a day.”

A turn onto Service Berry Lane brings one to a garage filled with
light, most of which glowed through dark moose on paper shades. Here we
find Willie and Roger Lickey, a husband and wife team, both woodworkers.
The Lickeys have lived in Gilpin County for eight years.
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Willy said that when they moved in, the movers liked Roger’s
walking stick so much that they decided to make more. They went so fast
that the Lickeys just kept making them and then branched out to lamps and
shelves and just about anything that can be crafted out of branches. “I
guess you could say we rescue wood,” said Willy.

The tour closed at 4 p.m. and time allowed for one more stop
before it was too late. Dana Jones has her studio on Meadowlake Drive. Her
rooms are covered in quilts of all sizes and design. Jones was the Gilpin
County Library Artist in Residence last summer, teaching people of all ages
how to design and construct a quilt. She has been a quilter for 10 years
and teaches at quilt shops. She has also been the editor-in-chief of
Quilters’ Newsletter.

Jones sat on a couch with a half-finished quilt spread over her
lap, squares and circles and triangles dancing all over the room,
surrounded by shelves full of fabric, different textures and patterns just
waiting to be turned into a work of art.

By then it was too late to visit the artists’ studios in the
southern part of the county. The Gilpin Library brings in new artists and
art all the time; Bambi Hansen, a candlemaker, creates one of a kind
candles that make perfect gifts for just about anyone; the Gilpin Clay
Studio in the Gilpin County Recreation Center proudly displays the work of
the students and masters; Gigi Lamont exhibits her Raku art sculptures a
combination of earthy ceramic and metallic pieces; Forrest Anderson
exhibited his Wabi Pottery in Virginia Canyon.

Watercolor artist Virginia Unseld is well known in the area and
has participated in shows all over the Front Range. She has chosen as the
artist-in-residence at Caribou Ranch where she will paint for six days. She
was selected as one of five artists to be offered a residence at the
Caribou Ranch Open Space. Over 90 applications were submitted. She was told
she should be proud of herself. “There was strong competition in all
mediums.”

The artist-in-residence program allows each artist and one
accompanying adult to stay one week in a restored barn at Caribou Ranch to
work on their craft. Each artist is required to donate a piece of work to
Boulder County that is representative of their stay at the ranch. This work
will be displayed in a county building.

Unseld has painted western landscapes since she moved to Colorado
in 1978. She is a signature member of the Colorado Pastel Society and the
Colorado Watercolor Society. She taught art in public schools for 30 years
and built a studio at her home in Gilpin County. She now paints full time
and has won numbers Best of Show awards and Award of Excellence from
Southwest Art Magazine.

Her pastel paintings capture the dramatic light of early morning
and evening as it plays on the Colorado landscape.

On October 5,6,12 and 13, the artists of Magnolia will hold their
Open Studios Tour from noon to six each day. The work of Vivian Long, David
Bahr, Richard Hurst, Marilyn Pinaud and Steve Homsher will be exhibited in
their studios.

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