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Artists flock to studio spaces: Wild Arts Festival benefits the Portland Audubon Society

By Janet Eastman
The Oregonian

How do artists create a space to work? It's not easy. A studio takes money to rent and outfit with equipment. Just ask the five professional artists whose garden pieces will be displayed at the 34th Wild Arts Festival, Nov. 22-23 in Northwest Portland's Montgomery Park.

Artists flock to studio spaces: Wild Arts Festival benefits the Portland Audubon Society

Shannon Buckner http://www.bentproductions.com/ Shannon Buckner's "Cupid's Thorn" steel sculpture with oil-based paint for metal is 6 1/2 feet high and 3 feet wide ($1,200).

How do artists create a space to work? It's not easy. A studio takes money to rent and outfit with equipment. Just ask the five professional artists whose garden pieces will be displayed at the 34th Wild Arts Festival, Nov. 22-23 in Northwest Portland's Montgomery Park.

People attending the event, which benefits the Audubon Society of Portland, will see that these artists' work is inspired by nature. Many of the pieces incorporate natural materials. Selling their art has allowed them to expand their workspace.

Still, there were obstacle they had to overcome to have a place in which to spread out and work.

"The biggest obstacle in making space to create art was the tricky balancing act of providing for my family while transitioning from craftsman/fisherman to artist," says Gunter Reimnitz, a full-time artist living with his wife and two children in Port Townsend, Wash.

Reimnitz's childhood was infused with art, wildlife, wilderness and hard labor. He worked aboard a salmon seiner, fishing commercially with his family near their home in Kodiak, Alaska. Later, he earned a degree in sculpture at the San Francisco Art Institute but he says his identity and artwork -- such as a "Song Bird" ornament made of steel ($75) -- have been strongly influenced by his Alaskan roots.

Artist Ian Beyer took welding classes while in college in 2008 and he soon found clients for his metal sculptures of birds, fish, spiders, aliens and dragons. His "Weeping Flower" is made of steel and spoons ($49). He now travels to 15 shows a year, primarily in Oregon and Washington.

"I like the idea that my sculptures will be around for several lifetimes," says Beyer, who didn't have to sacrifice too much to find a workshop. He converted half of his mother's barn into a welding shop. "Without the barn space, making art in town would be a challenge," he says.

Jay Crowdus is a graphic artist and his wife, Madeleine, is a fine artist. Together as Rusty Birds,  they make individual bird sculptures, like a Carolina wren ($9) to an owl ($18). "Birds of a Feather," 11 different birds grouped together ($147.50), is made of steel treated to have a rusty patina and mounted on a tree stump.

They also make small animals and designs for trellises, picks and flower stakes.

The couple has been married 33 years and they started working in their backyard. When it rained, they moved under the porch. The next year, they carved out space in a storage building and then in a barn. Then they rented a shop large enough to expand. Incremental advances, they say, has been challenging, fun and exciting.

Lindsay Scott was a public school shop teacher for 33 years, where she shared her passion for design and creating with her students. Her copper pieces vary in design and function. She makes rainchains, sprinklers, misters, feeders, birdhouses and outdoor showers. A Gourd Birdhouse with copper leaves is 16 inches by 18 inches by 28 inches ($130).

First, she was a woodworker but she gave up her well-outfitted woodworking shop to pursue metalwork. "Woodworking and metalworking don't mix due to torches and flames," she jokes. "My interests as a metal artist forced a decision to give up my woodworking space."

Shannon Buckner is a pastel artist and textile print designer who transitioned to sculpture 17 years ago. She is often inspired by seed pods and insect bodies. "My work explores our interconnection with nature," she says. "Using traditional blacksmithing techniques, I create hand-forged steel sculptures of mythological plant species to portray this idea and ignite one's imagination."

An example is her 6 1/2-foot-tall "Cupid's Thorn" steel sculpture ($1,200).

Her biggest obstacle was living in a city with high rents for industrial shop space. "After taking welding classes, I continued to work full time in property management and rented a small space within a large shop," she says. "I was finally able to acquire enough tools and equipment to have a functioning space."

Over time, that space became too small. Fortunately, the artist who occupied most of the shop moved out and she says she risked everything and took over the entire space to become a self-employed artist.

"I overcame that obstacle with courage and perseverance," she says.

There was another thing in her way, a very heavy one, that almost stopped her: She had to move a 2,000-pound steel table into the shop. "That was a huge obstacle too," she says. "A forklift and good friends helped me overcome that one."

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